On Lacuna: in elaboration of a (sort-of)manifesto

I wasn’t sure initially if I would submit to Manifesto Jam: I liked the idea, but I am not much of a manifesto writer. My work tends to be crowded with hedges and footnotes, reflective choices and spaces that aren’t always resolved. But that, in the end, is why I wrote what I did: I wanted to imagine a manifesto that was not didactic, that did not draw hard lines (between what is and isn’t a ‘lacunic interactive’; what is and isn’t an ‘interactive’ at all) and most of all could speak to much of my work without having to confine all of my work–both current and present. Hence, On Lacuna came to be. I want to elaborate here on some of my reasoning behind the points I chose to include, and how they’re reflected in interactives I make or enjoy.

*Lacunic interactives do not have to be polished to be meaningful

This assertion frees me from the implication of the postulate that a work will always be improved by more time, better CSS, etc.–that a work *without* perfection in those things *is not* good enough. I’ve long noticed that even what looks like very simple formatting is *deceptively* simple–porpentine’s early works play with both default Twine and with other features to create worlds that are very consciously constructed to not be polished–and are in fact strong for their positioning of starkness. That *is* a kind of polish, though–what about times when I want to experiment with a project and don’t want to spend eighteen hours on correct centering in different browsers?

I want to suggest something like Natalia Theodoridou’s work for thinking through this problem: excellent writing wrapped tightly around mechanics, and strong use of soundscapes to evoke a mood. The black background on white text adds to that, but by receding into the background, reader focus is drawn to other parts of the interactive. This introduces the underpinning of this point: in a lacunic interactive, polish what is meaningful; accept what is not.

*Characteristics can include: melancholy; chaos; decentralization; multiplicity; plurality; resistance; complication; text; eruptions; decolonization

I didn’t want to make an exhaustive list of topics that were or weren’t lacunic, but at the same time, there are certain aspects of narrative, history, and representation that come to mind when I think about what is lost and what haunts the margins of a text. Literary cruxes, of course, visually degraded or obscured text, blurred visuals: but also stories that simply aren’t told as often or that are lost or corrupted in transmission. “What Isn’t Saved (will be lost)” quite clearly is about lacuna and loss, but “Invasion” also touches on lacunae within memory.

*Lacunae resist one complete interpretation

A lacuna carries with it the possibilities that could exist within the sphere, and thus holds a series of impossible-to-discern multiplicities. Euripides’ Bacchae contains a lacuna of nearly fifty lines, occuring just after the moment Cadmus brings Agave to a recognition of her son’s dismembered body, wrenched apart by her hands under Dionsyian frenzy. The play resumes as Dionysus explains to Cadmus his punishment for his grandson’s hubris. We can only conjecture what brings Cadmus from mourning to exile.

But that conjecture is valuable.

*Even a complete work carries traces of other possibilities

Some lacunic works could have been implemented differently: in different engines/platforms, with different mechanics, with different styling. There is no “perfect” platform for an interactive; there is only what the author publishes. Everything else lies within the realm of the possible.

A lacunic work might not be elegantly-crafted. There might be vestigial code from previous incarnations. (This, admittedly, is probably the case for most games.) But I want to argue that code can grow, and develop, and that evolution of the code

*This is not the only manifesto that can be written about lacunic interactives

As I was writing this, I kept cringing, feeling that the positioning of the manifesto itself excluded certain interpretations of the lacunic. Shouldn’t this be a twine, with branches and fading text and actual spaces left? But that is the point of one manifesto on the lacunic: it carries within itself all the other possibilities of what it might have been. It is left as an exercise to the reader to find them.

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