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 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!

State of the state

Finding a voice sucks. Blog writing is hard. I imagine this is the case for a lot of people, but I end up trashing most of my posts in a fit of “who really cares what I have to say?” If this blog is a kind of signposting of my experience, then I’ve forgotten to take pictures of the whole first half of the trip. To be fair, it’s mostly the same — a lot of worldbuilding on the wiki, and then refining and tuning the storyline. I have some broad strokes written out already, and depending on what platforms end up getting chosen for the second half — production — I think we’ll only be able to do maybe an episode a month, including all materials. And by episode I’m not yet sure if I mean primarily an animatic, or primarily a radio-play style podcast. There’s a conference in … Read on!

Story structure: linear vs spatial

I’m not the kind of person who usually outlines or plans. I start with an opening idea or scene and just run with it. This is fine if your deadlines are loose and the process is meant to be exploratory. No harm, no foul, in poking into a dead-end idea; just back up to a previous save and try a new path. This isn’t so tenable when you’re working to a deadline. When I’ve done work for hire, I’ve used an outline; sometimes those outlines were provided to me by an editor, and sometimes it was up to me to build the structure. There’s a sense of safety in having an outline. But if your deadline’s close, then veering from the laid out plan can carry some very big problems. I’ve never written transmedia before. It’s a new mode of thinking for me. Because I’m using Bakhtin‘s concept of polyphony … Read on!