In thinking about the differences between Soft Cinema and Tracing the Decay of Fiction, I started thinking about how the interactivity of the latter played into their relationship. Though both are database narratives that need not be seen in a certain order, Soft Cinema assigns random order to its sequences while Tracing the Decay of Fiction lets the viewer interact spacially, which corresponds to the triggering of different segments. It would seem that this interactivity would allow more freedom, and indeed most of our class preferred the second of the two database narratives, but I feel that by allowing users to interact, the creators are also placing certain limitations on themselves. When the progression of the narrative is contingent upon the viewer's engagement, the creators must cater to the viewer's desires.
While Soft Cinema is free to be crazy, Tracing the Decay of Fiction must adhere to some kind of logic that placates the viewer in order to keep them interested. For example, if in Tracing the Decay of Fiction clicking on the left side of the screen did not take you to the space directly left of your current location but instead to an entirely different world, you would probably feel less motivated to keep clicking. If more clicking leads only to more confusion, the viewer will start to associate their own involvement with their lack of understanding.
The way that the viewer can navigate spacially is a very strategic move in this piece. By organizing the narrative in terms of a cohesive mapped space, the creators allow the viewers a sense of logic. However, we have no way to control or predict which scenes we will see in those spaces, so we are still subjected to randomness, just not upset by it.
While I agree that it is a more pleasing experience to explore Tracing the Decay of Fiction than Soft Cinema, I believe that there is something to be said for art that you just observe and do not change yourself. Taking out that direct element of interactivity allows for another more internal type of interaction. When we see that something is designed for us to play with, we tend to assume that this is its primary purpose. We get too excited about the fact that we are clicking and lose touch with the fact that this experience has been engineered for us in order to spark thought. In contrast, when we see a piece of art that is completed and finalized, we know to think about it in a certain way. We wonder at why certain desicions were made by the artist, and our speculations on why the piece is the way it is become our interpretation of its purpose. When we are the ones doing the 'clicking', we start to think that we are making the desicions, when really we are only following one of the paths that the creator has laid out for us.
I don't think that this is a fault with Tracing the Decay of Fiction, but rather with the way that we read it. Like somone said in class, we feel like it is a video game rather than an art piece. This is one hurdle that interactive art will have to jump - the way that interactivity has taken on such a shallow meaning in today's culture.