|Janet H. Murray|
|Known for||Digital Media|
|Notable work(s)||Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, The New Media Reader, Inventing the Medium|
Janet Murray is a professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Before coming to Georgia Tech in 1999, she was a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives at MIT, where she taught humanities and led advanced interactive design projects since 1971. She is well known as an early developer of humanities computing applications, a seminal theorist of digital media, and an advocate of new educational programs in digital media.
Work and contributions
Janet Murray design projects include a digital edition of the Warner Brothers classic, Casablanca. In addition she directs an eTV Prototyping Group, which has worked on interactive television applications for PBS, ABC, MTV, Turner, and other networks. She also works extensively as a member of Georgia Tech's Experimental Game Lab and is an advisor to Georgia Tech's Mobile Technology Group.
Murray's major book is Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, which asks whether the computer can provide the basis for an expressive narrative form, just as print technology supported the development of the novel and film technology supported the development of movies. She provides an optimistic answer. Murray’s analysis rests on an understanding of the computer as a medium of representation with a distinct set of properties. She argues that the computer is procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial, and that it affords three characteristic (but not unique) pleasures: immersion, agency, and transformation. She defines interactivity as the combination of the procedural and the participatory property which together afford the pleasure of agency. She connects research work on artificial intelligence with cultural forms such as games, movies, literature, and television. Murray’s main point is that the new computer formats expand the possibilities of expression available for storytelling.
Murray was a guest writer for Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort The New Media Reader, an anthology of articles on the new media which Janet was the first of the two introduction in the book called "Inventing the Medium." She talks about why Douglas Engelbart is important to the new media. Janet compares and contrasts Jorge Borges's "The Garden of Forking Paths" to Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think", explaining the similarities and differences between the humanist approach and the scientific approach to digital media. Murray emphasizes that Borges is fascinated by the arbitrariness of language itself, whereas Bush interprets the world not as an imprisoning labyrinth, but a challenging maze waiting to be solved by an appropriately organized and clever team effort (Wardrip-Fruin, 3). She talks about the pros and cons, plus the philosophy of both Borges and Bush, as an introduction to the rest of the articles in The New Media Reader. In addition, she defines the representational power of new media into these four categories: its procedural, participatory, encyclopedic, and spatial properties, with the encyclopedic capacity having the most significance in influence (Wardrip-Fruin, 6). Finally, she goes through the history of hypertext, video games, and World Wide Web.
Murray’s work has been referenced by game designers, interactive television producers, filmmakers, and journalists. It has been criticized from opposing directions, by writer Sven Birkerts as a threat to print culture (in HotWired magazine and in a televised debate) and by ludologists as an inappropriately literary approach to games (Game Studies vol. 1 no. 1).
- Spring of 2000, American Film Institute named Janet Murray their Trustee as she is also a mentor AFI Digital Content Lab.
- Her projects from digital media curricula, interactive narrative, story/games, interactive television, to large-scale multimedia information spaces.have been funded by IBM, Apple Computer, Annenberg-CPB Project, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation , the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation.