Back to square one is not back to square one

The focus of my research has changed again — or more accurately, has refined itself even further, or become more fundamental. The upshot and downside is that the creative output for the research is now completely different (again). No game now, which is all right because I can put that together on my own once I’m finished with this research. Now I’m helping on a larger project. And I couldn’t be happier, to be honest. For someone who spends a lot of time writing, I spend a lot of that time in the company of others. Yeah, sure, I’ve got short stories that have been accepted, and I’ve got a couple of ideas for novels that are quietly keeping warm on the backburners of an extraordinarily large oven, but a lot of the making stuff I that I do is in the company of others. I spend at least one … Read on!

A question of home

Home is a hard concept for me, or maybe it’s just hard for me to reconcile it with the usual societal notions of home. Maybe that’s a part of growing up, learning that societal notions are rough guildelines and not strict rules, many of which are set up by people who do not have your best interests at heart. I’ve been home in the US since mid-May. I got here in time to spend the little time my dad had left, and for that I’m enormously grateful. And I was able to be here for my mom, and for me. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of months. Grieving, logistics, supporting my mom, and having a brief getaway weekend to see a ton of friends in New York City. And seeing family from Mexico! People I haven’t seen in years. Home is absolutely awesome, and home … Read on!

Evolution of research

powered by Fotopedia   So before the middle of the year hit, I was in the middle of refocusing my research from the application of polyphony to transmedia storytelling, to examining polyphony and its role in shared emergent narrative in tabletop role playing games. A friend of mine calls this a “PhD&D.” There are studies on the culture and anthropology of gamers and gaming (and when I say gaming here, I mean tabletop RPGs); there are studies on performativity in gaming, the potential of gaming in therapy, and in education. There are evaluations of gaming materials as literature. But so far, there are no examinations of narrative processes happening in a game in progress. Because polyphony posits that every voice influences the collaborative results of the interaction of those voices in a given work, and because an RPG setting constitutes a voice contributing to a game even partly based in … Read on!

Meanwhile, back in academia

One 24 hour plane trip and my white blood cells are all offended. I have come and gone to a fantastic conference (Rethinking Intermediality in the Digital Age), left with my head bursting with ideas and a notebook full of unbelievably smart and astonishing new contacts, and after landing in Brisbane one evening, heading to work the following morning, and then attending fellow DCI cohort presentations the day after that, I am fallen. Stupid cold. It’s not as bad as the lurgi before, but not for lack of trying. On the plus side, reading. On the minus side, poor reading comprehension. In early December I present a progress report of sorts for my research. There’s even a panel evaluation, so, like, no pressure or nothing. Really, I’m not terribly worried about talking. I can talk. Talking is fine. It’s putting this stuff down on paper that feels intimidating. That’s a funny … Read on!

Spoiled for choice

It’s funny, seeing as how the work I’m doing is all about choice, that I’m critical of it. I just saw an ad for RSVP, an online dating service, and the theme of the ad was winnowing down preferences. “Must like dogs. Loves to cook.” Blah blah blah. We’re spoiled for choice, and by choice. Before we could move across great distances at will or chat with strangers on the other side of the world, we had who we had, and that was about it. You grew up in your family, your town, your neighborhood, and you took the things you disliked with the things you liked. And because you didn’t have an option to get away, surround yourself with the safe and adored things of your heart’s desires — physical, political, imaginary, whatever — you had to learn how to cope. I am forgetting how to cope. I am … Read on!

Progress! Though it might not look like it.

I’ve managed a bit of a breakthrough, tightening the pacing on the story (improving the first episode significantly) and getting a much livelier sense of the characters, which is immeasurably valuable. I did it by eliminating/consolidating three characters. Reminds me of a phrase used when it comes to modern media technology: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Polyphonic stories require ensemble casts: it is the nature of the tale. But too many characters and you muddy and confuse everything, and no one remembers who anyone else is. Too few, and you have no tension at all. I’ve had to be mercenary about this story, looking at every scene from a screenwriting perspective: no wasted airtime. No wasted words, no wasted sound, no pointless scenes. But the difference here is that in a three-act film, every scene pushes the story forward on the shoulders of the main character (even though … Read on!

Things fall together Part 2

So, the good news is the reason I haven’t written about Part 2 is because I’m busy with my script. The bad news is that right now I’ve hit a really crunchy bt and I’m backing off for a moment, so here I am. Procrastinating from writing, by writing. This is a first for me. Anyway, if you take a look at the previous entry, I had three things that happened to shake me out of whatever doldrums had locked me feet down. I’ve talked about one, I’m writing about the second here, and now that I’m re-reading that post, number three may escape me because I can’t remember precisely what it was my advisor said. Anyway. Have some squiggly mind maps. The thing with a story that relies on tensions among characters for its very existence is that it needs characters. I’d been talking about bringing Neyu’s sister Pukka … Read on!

Things fall together Part 1

It always feels like this: after a good stretch of feeling at sea and nothing making sense, there’s a pivotal stretch of time, maybe a few hours, during which you begin to work, and you’ve given up feeling bad about things because let’s be honest there’s a deadline looking and folks asking questions and you have nothing left to lose. And it happens. Things fall into place. Things begin to make sense, they have a sensible extrapolation, a kind of logic about them. And you feel like you’ve got your feet on the sand again, even if you’re still shoulder-deep in water. Three things happened to make this so. I went back to Bakhtin, dug around, read up on the context of his life and the political and social circumstances of his time; I took a good, solid look at polyphony again as a structure, as a theory, as a lens, … Read on!

!!! Revelation

GAH. So I was filling up hot water bottles, getting ready to head to bed (it’s winter here, and while a Brissie winter isn’t terribly onerous, the lack of any kind of insulation where I live means it’s as cold inside as it is outside), and I was thinking thinking thinking. Polyphony. Yeah. I harp on it. Foundational theory for me. Anyway. The original scope of Neyu’s story was quite big and long. …Ignore the double entendre. It was expansive, and had like three to five parts to it divided into smaller chapters. Which is epic, and not a problem when you’re working on something for the long run. And it’s not to say that I’ll never get to those far-flung places. But I won’t get to them for this thesis. Because all those opposing and conflicting and resonating viewpoints? It’s all in the ship. It’s like I said, what, two … Read on!

Memory Makes Us

One of the things that has helped me replant my feet on the ground is Memory Makes Us, a project put together by if:book Australia. Over the past couple of months, people contributed long-term memories, anonymously, some of them with photos, some of them just text. This served as the foundation for a very audacious live-writing event in which Kate Pullinger, in full view of the public at the State Library of Queensland, composed a story of “lots of middles” for six hours. For those who were at the library, three typewriters were available for the contribution of more long-term memories which got delivered right after completion to her table as she wrote. For those unable to visit the library for the event, she composed on a GoogleDoc, where anyone in the world could drop by the web page and watch the cursor reveal letter after letter, word after word, … Read on!