Afterword - Inside the Lid
Author's Notes


I am a VAKI or D -- Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Inductive or Deductive. I am also an INFP or J -- Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving or Judging.

I deliberately chose the word linguistic rather than literate, because literate also means "well read", "well educated", and "polished". So literate has broader and more flattering connotations than I felt was appropriate in this context. And its antonym, illiterate, is not the polarity I was seeking when trying to define the main interactive categories largely in terms of pictorial / reading or left / right brain hemispheric involvement. So, unable to find a better word to mean appreciating written language, I settled on linguistic. Inadequate words for describing language usage is an interesting limitation of the English language.

I also chose to split plot and prose, assigning plot to the auditory interactive category rather than the linguistic. This may seem an arbitrary distinction, but not only do many read more for plot than prose, many also can't tell when prose is better than average. Also, story telling has an oral / auditory origin which preexists writing, and, thus, a plot can still exist outside of writing. For instance, plots in radio, T.V. shows, and movies are experienced in the acoustical realm. So correlating IF plots with the auditory category didn't seem a stretch.

One caveat -- My theory didn't start with McLuhan, the brain probe in the introduction, or even with left / right brain hemispheric specialization. Although the last has a great deal of scientific evidence. Due to this scientific evidence, my dyslexia, and visual artistic background; I do think it is significant. However, my theory started when I started noticing the consistent sensory ways people have of expressing themselves. It also started with wondering about players' polarized reactions to games. I only brought in McLuhan, the brain probe quote, and my and my iffy friend's comments about left / right brain specialization as supporting theories for this paper -- to help bolster my argument and put it in some theoretical context. But if you have a major problem with any of these supporting theories, then simply chuck it or them out. I can't really tell you why individuals consistently seem to favor certain ways of processing information. I can only guess. But I do believe it happens and happens a great deal.

Developing this theory has, on the whole, made me more tolerant when others like an Interactive Fiction game that I dislike. Before I had a tendency to think they were either "idiots" or didn't have enough taste to know "what was good." I may still have that reaction, but much less. :-) Interestingly, my tolerance has also increased about others' differing choices / preferences about everything, not just Interactive Fiction. Arguments no longer seem just a matter of "head butting", but disagreements which often, if not usually, stem from our differing perceptions.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to Adam Thornton who helped me "unpack" (separate my gestaltic, pictorial thoughts into linear strings) the basics of this idea last year. Both his patience for enduring a barrage of heavy email, and his valuable input, are finally rewarded. Thanks also to Luc French, Stephen Granade, Michael Gentry, and Dennis Smith (Den of Iniquity) for reading this paper prior to "publication" and giving me their feedback. Special thanks to Mr. Gentry and Mr. Smith for also making quite a few editing suggestions. Note: Because Mr. Gentry was nice enough to read this paper and give me his feedback, I wanted to include Little Blue Men, 7th place in the 1998 Annual IF Competition, in the game analysis section. I also wanted to include it to illustrate how players' reactions could polarize along mainly emotive lines, but I couldn't figure out how to do that without spoiling the plot. So, since this paper was essentially done and I was ready to publish, I didn't make the attempt.

Read More About It:

When I searched the Internet for research and information about interactivity, I didn't find any. However, apparently information processing is a whole field of study, one I know nothing about. Evidentially there is a also a group of people who consider themselves "Internet sociologists", who theorize about its societal impact and meaning. I have also been told there are Internet historians who have tracked its evolution. Ignorant, I can't direct you to any of them.

Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan, however, I first read in the 1960's. A revolutionary and visionary thinker, he was an overnight sensation who was quoted far and wide. As the years passed, he fell into obscurity. Although I lost what books of his I had, he made a big impact on me and I always remembered his explanation of hot and cool media. He coined the phrases the "global village" and "the medium is the message." Rereading him for this paper I found he has even more relevance to my theory than I had recalled. If you haven't read McLuhan and want to, I recommend you not start with Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Probably The Medium is the Massage is your best choice (yes, that is massage in the title -- message is used elsewhere). Here is what McLuhan for Beginners by Terrence Gordon has to say about Marshall McLuhan:

McLuhan was an obscure Canadian professor of English until he published Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man in 1964. The paperback edition became the fastest selling nonfiction book at Harvard and other universities -- with no advertising or promotion! Understanding Media was the book that brought Marshall McLuhan to public attention as a media analyst and catapulted him to international prominence. For the next fifteen years, McLuhan lectured passionately to academics and popular audiences, engaging in all kinds of debates and forums around the world on his key theme: how technology affects the forms and scale of social organization and individual lives. By 1980, the year McLuhan died, cable TV had not yet come to the Amazon jungle. The inhabitants of the "global village" he spoke of still knew nothing, or little, about interactive television, PCs, CDs, talking books, the World Wide Web, terminal node controllers, optical dics, pocket computers, the Internet, optical fiber or laser technology.

A few years ago, when Wired , the terminally hip, "future-friendly" magazine of the computer age was hyperconceived, Marshall McLuhan was chosen as the magazine's patron saint. Wired exploded into 1996 by featuring McLuhan in their January issue. Three articles and a handsome, spare-no-expense cover were supposed to be a tribute to McLuhan. (His ghost thanks you.)

Unfortunately, the Wired articles so drastically misrepresented his teaching that many readers must have wondered: why bother with McLuhan? -- there's nothing to be gained from reading him.

With all due respect to the cyberspace cadets at Wired , Marshall McLuhan's books -- especially his seminal works, The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962), Understanding Media (1964), Through the Vanishing Point (with Harley Parker, 1968) From Cliche to Archetype (with Wilfred Watson, 1970), Laws of Media: The New Science (with Eric McLuhan, 1988) -- are enough to rank him among the most brilliant, creative and challenging thinkers of the twentieth century. And he was enough of a showman to be interesting!


Who Was Marshall McLuhan?        Marshall McLuhan & our media


Character/Temperament Types

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is from Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, copyright 1984. Also a bestseller, it is based on the Myers-Briggs personality types. And it is fun.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter II


Psycho-Cybernetics

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S., copyright 1960, was a another best seller. A self-help book as widely famous in its own day and way as Understanding Media, the author likened the human brain to a computer (instead of the other way around). It was one of the first best sellers to draw this comparison and, although having less scientific basis than some psychology books, it quoted numerous scientific studies of the time.

Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation


Dyslexia

Dyslexia means dys (bad -- poor learning or mastery) of lexia (verbal language). But it covers a whole range of behaviors. Dyslexics can have problems with: reading, writing (transposing letters), phonetic pronunciation, spelling, numbers (transposing), math, short term memory, and sequentializing (prioritizing, tracking the passage of time, and keeping appointments). Since they differ just as much as any other group of people, they range from those having mild to strong dyslexia, and from those having difficulty in all these areas to those having difficulty in only a few.

No one knows exactly how dyslexia works, ergo, what it really is. It is easier to test for its symptoms than define or explain it. Current debate includes arguments over whether it is a "disability" at all or just evidence of being predominately right-brained. (Having lived with "mild" dyslexia for a lifetime, I tend to agree with the right brain theory.) Old theories about dyslexia (many insulting) have also fallen by the wayside, because none had any scientific basis. All current research has revealed is the propensity to be dyslexic seems to reside on the sixth gene* right next to the propensity to have allergies. Thus, dyslexia may be inherited and it does seem to run in families. And, although there is no direct connection, many dyslexics also seem to have allergies.

There is a higher percentage of dyslexics among the general population than most people realize, because most dyslexics go undiagnosed. Schools in England regularly test for dyslexia more than schools in the U.S. This is unfortunate because dyslexia is easier to spot in children than adults, since adults develop compensating coping mechanisms over the years. Dyslexic children may have difficulty learning to: read, write, phonetically pronounce words, spell, tell time, memorize the multiplication tables, do math, tell their right hand from their left, and/or sequentialize their study habits and homework. No current teaching method really helps dyslexic children overcome all their difficulties in school, but they have been found to respond better to multimedia approaches because they are also multi-sensory (combining pictures and music with words / numbers). Maybe some day school systems will realize that children differ and tailor their curriculum not only to their left brain students, but also their right-brained ones.

Due to observation over time, three things have been proven. Dyslexia does not correlate with left / right hand dominance. It also has nothing to do with vision. You can find a great deal of disinformation about dyslexia on the Net, including those famous tinted glasses that supposedly help dyslexics read better by reducing the contrast between white paper and black print. Although they may help some, probably due to the placebo affect, they have no scientific basis and do not help most dyslexics. I have also found a web page by a doctor who claims dyslexia is really an inner ear problem. To reiterate, dyslexics have problems sequentializing because they don't think sequentially (usually). So they may also have problems with math and keeping track of the passage of time, etc. How language (especially written) is affected is only the most common and obvious "symptom". So please don't email me with suggestions about "correctives" (it is not correctable and, in fact, may not be a dis-ease), such as those tinted glasses. Thank you. ;-)

The third thing that has been proven is that dyslexia has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. Many dyslexics are above average intelligence. Famous dyslexics include: Hans Christian Anderson, Gustave Flaubert, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Cher, and Whoopi Goldberg.

The last link in this list is not specifically about dyslexia, it also disputes left / right brain lateralization.

International Dyslexia Association        Dyslexia - My Life

Primate Handedness and Brain Lateralization Research

* This research has not been duplicated enough yet to be considered fact.


Improving One's Writing

Well, I tried. :-) While searching for McLuhan's books, I also searched for books that would help me improve my writing. Some I found were about grammar, some were about how to write. Writing the Natural Way, by Gabriele Lusser Rico, copyright 1983, is a creative writing book. Designed for "dry" writers who want to write in a more unstilted way, it attempts to teach them how to call on the creativity of their right brain, instead of just the literal sequentiality of their left. The author shares her right brain techniques to create / access imagery, metaphors, verbal rhythms, etc. She also suggests vignettes as a way to approach wholeness in one's writing. Not a lot of help to me, as it turned out, but I have no argument with her right brain techniques. It also covers brain hemisphere specialization in great detail. So I recommend it to any "lefties"out there who want to write more creatively. Interestingly, I noticed she also quoted Psycho-Cybernetics, but without giving it direct credit (quoted much of the same research quoted by Maltz).

I needed help with sequentializing and grammar. These are the best "leftie" books I have found.


The Elements of Style , by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Woe is I:  The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English , by Patricia O'Conner

Words Fail Me:  What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing , by Patricia O'Conner

Table of Contents    Appendix - Bottom of the Box Solution