Manivich says that “Although more complex types of interactivity can be created by a computer program that controls and modifies the media object at run-time, the majority of interactive media uses fixed branching-tree structures.”
He goes on to claim that we can choose one of two perspectives regarding the use interactive media:
“…the user of a branching interactive program becomes its coauthor: By choosing a unique path through the elements of a work, she supposedly creates a new work.”
. “…the user following a particular path accesses only a part of this whole. In other words, the user is activating only a part of the total work that already exists.”
If we assume the second perspective, then, Manovich says that
“Paradoxically, by following an interactive path, one does not construct a unique self but instead adopts already pre-established identities. Similarly, choosing values from a menu or customizing one’s desktop or an application automatically makes one participate in the “changing collage of personal whims and fancies” mapped out and coded into software by companies….I would prefer using Microsoft Windows exactly the same way it was installed at the factory instead of customizing it in the hope of expressing my ‘unique identity’ “.
But now I’m confused. When does selection constitute authorship rather than use? Under perspective (ii), couldn’t we view writing this blog entry as “activating only a part of the total work that already exists”, namely this sequence of characters amongst the set of all possible characters allowed by this wordpress blogging software? Doesn’t composition of a text have a fixed-branching tree structure (I select a letter, then another letter, etc.) If so, where is the distinction between authorship and use? Can’t we view all acts of creativity as selecting some subset from a pre-existing set? When does a language become rich enough that we can use it to author new works? Structurally, how do we differentiate an authored work from a work that was simply a byproduct of use? Phenomenologically, how do we distinguish the too?