Conversation with A/P Maite: On interactive fiction, Singapore undergraduates and the Camino de Santiago

By Oh Han Siang, Year 2, CNM

Associate Professor Maria T. Soto-Sanfiel gave a talk on the impact of interactive audio-visual narratives on audiences’ psychological responses, at CNM on 2 April 2014.

Speaking in a charming Spanish accent, AP Maite revealed in her study of Spanish students interacting with the 1998 BAFTA Film Award nominee – “Run Lola Run”, that providing viewers with a choice in deciding the progression of the movie plot, results in greater identification with the characters.

While viewers experienced a higher intensity of emotions such as guilt if they felt that their choices resulted in a sad ending, the study nonetheless shows that the narrative plot remains more influential on audiences than the affordance of interactivity.

At the end of her two-hour talk, A/P Maite graciously granted this writer time for a short interview

How did your interest in the field of interactive fiction first developed?

Maite: It was in the year 1991 when I was doing my PhD. My supervisor then in Canada was working on a smart system in a cable provider, whereby many different cable channels were showing the same programme but each channel was slightly different. Audiences had a sense of perceived interaction with the channels. That was the very first interactive system in the world and it greatly attracted my attention.

You are currently doing a cross-cultural study on the differences between Singaporean and Spanish students’ responses to interactive fiction and you seem to focus quite a lot on cultural orientations. Could you highlight cultural differences you noticed between Singaporean students and their Spanish counterparts?

Maite: Well, this is my personal view. Singaporean students are very respectful; more respectful than students in Spain! You all are very well-educated from a civic point of view; you respect laws and rules. In the train, for example, you do not disturb other passengers. And Singaporean students are devoted to their studies – Spanish students do not study as much as Singaporean students. Spanish students are more extroverted.

Are there any negative points about Singaporean students?

Maite: Well, Singaporean students are very concerned about earning money. Spanish students are not that really concerned with money. I mean money is nice to have but Spanish people are more concerned with living a good life. So Spanish students go to school not so much for future income but to really learn and be more cultured.

Any recommendations for places to visit in Barcelona or outside it, in Spain?

Maite: Barcelona is a small city but it has everything – the beach, mountains, musicals in Broadway, beautiful ancient buildings, so I would really recommend you to just walk, walk through the city and get lost in it. Outside of Barcelona, in Spain, there are lots to see as well. The north of Spain is beautiful and the southern parts too. Spain is really beautiful. The Spanish King once called Spain, the place where the Sun never sets because Spain is so big that no matter where you are, there will be a place where it is still daylight. Spanish food has so much variety and is all so delicious. The food in the south of Spain in particular, has Arabic influences because in the past there were Arabs in Spain so we Spaniards actually have some Arabic blood flowing through our veins! There’s  a place in Spain, which I think everyone should be visited. The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage trail leading travellers from France all the way to Santiago in Spain. You should definitely consider backpacking through the Camino de Santiago. I recommend one month or 21 days. The path of the Camino de Santiago actually follows the stars and is steeped in Catholic tradition. You get to meet everyone from everywhere backpacking through the trail and it is quite cheap as well. You stay in the hostels along the trail and they charge minimal fees for the one-night stay. I backpacked through the Camino de Santiago  with little else besides the shirt on my back. But really, the whole of Spain is wonderful.

Associate Professor Maria T. Soto-Sanfiel is from the Audio-visual Communication and Advertising Department at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, in Barcelona, Spain. She is on a visit to Singapore till early June.

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About Gulizar Haciyakupoglu

A PhD Candidate at Communications & New Media Programme, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
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