INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES, NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT University of Toronto, October 23-25, 2014 Proceedings Editors: Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger
ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 (Image copyright: Marina Camargo; used by permission)
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
Table of Contents – 2
Table of Contents…………………………………………………………………………………….2–3 Contributors…………………………………………………………………………………………...4–7 Essays…………………………………………………………………………………………........8–152 Abbot, Daisy, The Glasgow School of Art. “Old Plays, New Narratives: Fan Production of New Media Texts from Broadcast Theatre”……………………………………………………………..8–18 Alzamora, Geane and Lorena Tárcia, University of Minas Gerais. “Proposed Methodology for Transmedia New Story Analysis: A Comparative Study of The Great British Float Project and The Great British Property Scandal: Every Empty Counts (2012) in the UK”………………..19–27 Antunes, Rafael. Universidade Lusófona. “Blue Pencil: Experiences in Transmedia”.……28–36 Ciancia, Mariana, Francesca Piredda, & Simona Venditti, Politecnico di Milano. “Shaping & Sharing Imagination: Designers and the Transformative Power of Stories”………………….37–46 Cooley, Heidi Rae, Duncan Buell, and Richard Walker, University of South Carolina. “From Ghosts of the Horseshoe to Ward One: Critical Interactives for Inviting Social Engagement With Instances of Historical Erasure (Columbia, South Carolina)”…………………………………..47–53 Fallon, Kris, University of California, Davis. “Streams of the Self: the Instagram Feed as Narrative Autobiography”…………………………………………………………………………..54–60 González-Cuesta, Begoña, IE University. “I-Docs and New Narratives: Meaning Making in Highrise”……………………………………………………….....................................................61–69 Hadler, Florian and Daniel Irrgang, University of Arts, Berlin. “Nonlinearity, Multilinearity, Simultaneity: Notes on Epistemological Structures”…………………………………………….70–87 Jordão, Aida, York University. “Inês de Castro on YouTube: Re-gendered Narratives”…..88–94 Lenzner, Ben, University of Waikato. “Emerging Forms of Citizen Video Activism: Challenges in Documentary Storytelling & Sustainability”……………………………………………………..95–100 Lim, Sandra, Ryerson University. “Xapiri: at the Juncture of History, Experience, and Technology”……………………………………………………………………………………....101–106 Paakspuu, Kalli, York University. “Off the Wall with Shchedryk”………………………….107–112 Rodrigues, Alexandre Coronato, and Roselita Lopes de Almeida Freitas, ESPM. “Collective Authorship in Real Time”…………………………………………………………..113–121 Sweeney, David, The Glasgow School of Art. “Crossing Boundaries”……………………122–127 Trindade, Isabella. York University. “In-Between: Between the Concrete and the Virtual, Between the Physical and the Imaginary”…………………………………………………….128–136
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Wolfe, Kateland, Georgia State University. “What’s Missed When No One is Misunderstood? Understanding Whose Agency is Increased Thanks to Interactivity”………………………137–144 Xu, Janice Hua, Holy Family University. “Telling the Stories of Left-Behind Children in China: From Diary Collection to Digital Filmmaking”………………………….................................145–152
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
Contributors – 4
Contributors: Daisy Abbott is an interdisciplinary researcher & research developer based in the Digital Design Studio at Glasgow School of Art. With an MA(Hons) in Theatre, Film & Television Studies and an MSc in Information Technology, Daisy has experience on a range of interdisciplinary research projects combining digital technology with the arts and humanities. Her current research focuses on interactivity, 3D visualisation methodologies, and issues surrounding digital documentation, preservation, and interpretation in the arts and humanities, in particular relating to interactive narratives, digital representations of ephemeral events, performing arts, digital heritage, digital and participatory culture, and interaction design. Geane Alzamora holds a PhD in Communication Studies and Semiotics at the Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC, São Paulo, Brazil). She is a professor in the Graduate Program in Social Communication/Department of Social Communication at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG, Minas Gerais, Brazil), a researcher at the Center for Convergence of New Media (CNPq/UFMG, National Research Council at UFMG), and collaborator in the National Institute for Science and Technology for the Web. Rafael Antunes. Born in 1969 in Lisbon, Rafael is currently a PhD student at Universidade Lusófona, while maintaining a professional activity in the TV channel SIC. He has a MA in film studies from the Universidade Lusófona. He attended the SZFE-University of theatre and film arts, in Budapest, Hungary, where he took several specialization courses. He as directed several short films and documentaries and transmedia projects. Duncan A. Buell is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of South Carolina. He has written three books and more than fifty research papers in number theory, document and information retrieval, parallel algorithms, and computer architecture. While at IDA he was project manager for the Splash 2 reconfigurable computing project, one of the first successful ventures into the use of FPGAs as a programmable “CPU” in what is now known as a reconfigurable computing machine. He has recently turned to research areas in digital humanities, including critical interactives and text mining. He and Dr. Cooley have been co-investigators on two NEH grants and one internal grant in digital humanities. Marina Camargo’s work focuses on everyday life perception and how it can be subtly altered by dealing with its representation. In her research process, both conceptual reference and material research are equally important to define whether the work will become a photograph, a video, an installation, a projection, a website, a typography, or a collaborative project. Camargo has a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts (UFRGS, Federal University in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2007), a postgraduate degree in Visual Culture (UB – University of Barcelona, Spain, 2004), and lived in Germany in 2010-2011 with a DAAD grant for visual artists, studying with Peter Kogler at ADBK (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich). In 2012, she received a grant from Fundação Iberê Camargo for a residency at Gasworks, in London. http://www.marinacamargo.com Mariana Ciancia is PhD Student at the Design Department, Politecnico di Milano, Italy. Her research activity deals with new media and participatory culture, with the aim of understand how multichannel phenomena (crossmedia and transmedia) are changing the processes of production, distribution and consumption of narrative environments. Heidi Rae Cooley is an Associate Professor of Media Arts in the School of Visual Arts and
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Contributors – 5
Design at the University of South Carolina. Her book, Finding Augusta: Habits of Mobility and Governance in the Digital Era, considers how mobile technologies both instantiate norms for the governance of populations and constitute persons as expressive and socially connected subjects. “AUGUSTA App,” the book’s digital supplement, will serve as a laboratory for exploring the book’s argument. In 2010, Dr. Cooley served as Co-PI and facilitator for an NEH-funded Humanities Gaming Institute; she subsequently served as co-PI on an NEH Level 2 Digital Humanities Grant that funded the development of a serious game that explores early modern social history and as co-PI on an internal grant that funded the development of “Ghosts of the Horseshoe.” Alexandre Coronato Rodrigues. In 1986, Alexandre Coronato performed works in computer programming in the private sector. From the 1990s onward, he combined his knowledge of photography, design and computer working for several multimedia producers and in 1996 formed his company, Graph 5, providing creative, print production, and photography services. Since 2002, he teaches computer graphics and multimedia at Miami Ad School, ESPM, and in 2010 he graduated in Digital Media from the University of Southern Santa Catarina, specializing, since in 2012 in Film, Video and Photography: multimedia production at the University Anhembi Morumbi. Since 2011, he teaches Graphic Production and Digital Production in Social Communication at ESPM Sao Paulo. Kris Fallon is the Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor in Digital Culture at UC Davis. His research focuses on non-fiction visual culture across a range of platforms, from still photography and film to data visualization. His essays on digital technology and documentary have recently appeared in Film Quarterly and Screen, and are forthcoming in several edited anthologies. Begoña González-Cuesta has been working at IE University since 2000 and is currently the Dean of IE School of Communication. Her research and teaching interests are centered on visual narratives, storytelling and representation, focusing on the aesthetic, cultural, anthropological and ethical dimensions of contemporary screen works, in the areas of contemporary cinema, non-fiction film, art film, advertising, and new audiovisual formats. Her current research is focused on images as a means of creating thought. She believes in the need to study the ethical and aesthetic implications of audiovisual representations of marginal realities and conflicts. Florian Hadler (M.A.) teaches Media and Communication at the University of Arts in Berlin, pursues his PhD at the University of Arts Berlin and the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, and works as a Digital Strategy Consultant for different clients. Recent Publications include G – Geheimnis. Eine Einzelstimmung, 2014, and “Der nackte Kandidat. Zur Semantik von Natur im Dschungelcamp,” in Arkadien oder Dschungelcamp, 2014. www.flohadler.com Daniel Irrgang (M.A.) is the scientific supervisor of the Vilém Flusser Archive, a scientific assistant of Professor Dr Siegfried Zielinski, chair for Media Theory at Berlin University of the Arts, and a researcher in the project Archaeology/Variantology of the Media, where he is coeditor of vol. 4 and 5 of Variantology – On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies and of the German anthology of the series. www.flusser-archive.org, www.gwk.udk-berlin.de/personen/irrgang Aida Jordão is currently an instructor in the Theatre Department and the Portuguese Studies Program of York University. She holds a PhD from the Centre for Drama, Theatre and
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Contributors – 6
Performance Studies, University of Toronto with the thesis, “Inês de Castro in Theatre and Film: A Feminist Exhumation of the Dead Queen,” and is also a graduate of the Acting program of the Drama Studio, U.K. Aida’s theatre practice as an actor, director and playwright includes popular theatre, feminist plays and Theatre of the Oppressed. Aida has worked worldwide creating original theatre, notably in Toronto (Nightwood Theatre and the Company of Sirens), Portugal (Teatro O Bando), and Cuba (Teatro Escambray). Publications include “(Re)Presenting Inês de Castro: Two Audiences, Two Languages, One Feminism” in Revista de Estudos AngloPortugueses (18), and “Playwriting in Canadian Popular Theatre: Developing Plays with Actors and Non-Actors” in Canadian Theatre Review (115). Ben Lenzner is a photographer, filmmaker, storyteller, and educator. Born and raised in New York City, he taught for many years at the International Center of Photography. In 2005, he was a recipient of the AIF Clinton Fellowship for Service in India. He is a graduate of the Ryerson University MFA program in Documentary Media. He is equally at home bicycling through the island of Manhattan, roaming the bustling streets of New Delhi, or climbing Mt. Taranaki at dawn. Currently, he is completing his final year as a PhD candidate in Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato. Sandra Lim research interests include the aesthetic experience and practice of documentary films, and the potential of artists’ documentary for urban analysis and critique. Originally from Canada, she completed a PhD in Art, Design and Moving Image in 2013, from the University of Brighton in the UK. She currently lectures on Politics and Film at Ryerson University in Toronto. Roselita Lopes de Almeida Freitas. As an artist, under the pseudonym ROSE FIGUEIREDO, she is a collaborator in Museum ID+C. Laboratorio of digital culture, Museography and Hypermedia at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain; post doctoral student in Digital Design Technology Intelligence and PUC of São Paulo, Brazil; Ph.D. in Media Studies and Media Production, journalism department at ECA, USP and Master of Science in Communication in Image and Sound at ECA/USP (2000). Extensive experience in Radio and Television, where she work as a director. Since 2004, she teaches Image and Sound in Social Communication at ESPM Sao Paulo. Kalli Paakspuu earned her doctorate from the University of Toronto in Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice in Education. An award winning filmmaker, theatre director, writer, educator and new media creator, she teaches film and cultural studies at York University. Her films have been broadcast on P.B.S, C.B.C., TVOntario, Bravo and other networks. At the Canadian Film Centre she was a co-creator of the interactive installation, “World Without Water”, exhibited at the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver in 2010. Her current projects include the documentary “1921 – The War Against Music” and the interactive documentary “Moment of Contact” based on her doctoral research. Francesca Piredda is assistant professor at the Design Department of Politecnico di Milano and teaches at the School of Design. She is a member of IMAGIS research group and of DESIS International Network. Her research deals with Communication Design, audiovisual language and new TVs, focusing on collaborative processes and transmedia strategies for brand communication and social innovation. David Sweeney is a lecturer in the Glasgow School of Art's Forum for Critical Inquiry, specialising in popular culture. Recent publications include the essays 'I Spy: Mike Leigh and
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Britpop' in Devised and Directed by Mike Leigh (Bloomsbury, 2013) and 'From Stories to Worlds: The Continuity of Marvel Superheroes' in the Summer 2013 issue of Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media. He presented the paper ‘Comic Books in the Age of Digital Reproduction’ at BRAFFTV 2013. He is currently working on book chapters about the comic book writers Warren Ellis and Mark Millar. Lorena Tárcia is a former journalist at Globo TV, professor of Online Journalism at the University Center of Belo Horizonte (Brazil), PHD student in Social Communication at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG, Minas Gerais, Brazil), with doctoral internship at the Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona. Researcher at the Center for Convergence of New Media (CNPq/UFMG, National Research Council at UFMG) and collaborator in the Era Transmedia Group in Brazil. Isabella Trindade is a PhD Architect with professional experience in Brazil, France and Spain. She is a Professor and a researcher at Catholic University of Pernambuco in Brazil (on leave), and currently she is teaching at Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication & Design (FCAD) in Toronto. Her main research focus is based on the architecture and urban space as an extension of the importing and exporting of models and cultural exchanges in an interdisciplinary analysis. Author of several articles, including some about the interfaces between movies and architecture. Simona Venditti is currently PhD student in Communication Design at Politecnico di Milano. Her research activity deals with Digital Storytelling, audiovisual language and participatory processes and practices for the engagement and empowerment of local communities. Kateland Wolfe is a second-year PhD student in rhetoric and composition in the English department at Georgia State University. She has been teaching composition classes for the last three years, and has given several presentations on interactive fiction and gamification in the classroom. She has a short piece published in Communication Research Trends on interactive fiction and its intersection with Walter Ong scholarship. She is interested in understanding how the compulsory need to understand each other in communication limits and strengthens agency in particular situations. Janice Hua Xu (Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is Assistant Professor of Communication at Holy Family University, Pennsylvania. Her research interests include cultural studies, media globalization, and television studies. She has published in Journalism Studies, Media, Culture, & Society, Telematics and Informatics, and contributed chapters to several books on Chinese mass media.
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
OLD PLAYS, NEW NARRATIVES: FAN PRODUCTION OF NEW MEDIA TEXTS FROM BROADCAST THEATRE Daisy Abbott, Digital Design Studio, The Glasgow School of Art, The Hub, Pacific Quay, Glasgow [email protected]
Suggested citation: Abbott, Daisy (2014). “Old plays, new narratives: fan production of new media texts from broadcast theatre.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: When a theatrical performance is digitally broadcast live to cinemas, the limitations of temporal and spatial specificity are removed and the theatrical experience is simultaneously opened up to a wider audience and inherently altered. One such production, Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse, 2013-14), starring an actor with a particularly enthusiastic online fan community, was broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live, where fans recorded it on digital devices, extracted clips and produced animated gifs, which they captioned to reinterpret the play, sharing them online, removed from their original context. The transformation of theatre texts to cinemas to social media platforms raises exciting questions related to how fans interact with culture both as consumers and as producers of new media texts. How do the different transformations (technical and actively fan-produced) affect both the narrative and the cultural experience? How do new texts function as surrogates for, and extensions of, the ‘official’ narrative, as well as new interactive narratives in their own right? This paper addresses these questions in the context of a specific theatrical event as it crossed the boundary from a live, colocated experience first into cinema, and then into interactive hypertexts and memes. Drawing on theories of fandom and participatory culture, as well as post-Web 2.0 analyses of Internet behaviours, the paper examines fan production of new media texts and how they both transmit and transform the source narrative via interpretation, re-interpretation, and misinterpretation. Broadcast theatre as a transmedia narrative When a live event is filmed and broadcast to remote audiences, the very nature of the cultural experience is changed. In the case of National Theatre Live (NT Live), the process of filming a play and its transmission via satellite to multiple cinemas is sometimes de-
scribed in terms of a ‘stage to screen’ transformation, or as a conversion from a theatrical form to a cinematic one. However, whilst the technology of delivery of any cultural product most certainly affects the content, it is problematic to consider live broadcasts within a cinematic framework. With their live broadcasts, NT Live aims to emulate the ephemeral,
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 communal experience of theatre in the cinema, however it is acknowledged that the cultural experience is not a simulacrum of theatre, but an experience that is enhanced in some ways and inferior in others (NESTA, 2011). These broadcasts are neither theatrical nor cinematic, and instead fit closely into the post-cinematic framework outlined by Steven Shaviro in his 2010 book, Post-Cinematic Affect. Shaviro notes the radical difference between indexical cinematic space that seeks to simply document a live event, and a highly constructed “post-cinematic mediasphere” of a cultural product that spans several forms of delivery (p.67). NT Live events are widely advertised before the screening, through a combination of print and digital media comprising posters, flyers, trailers, interviews, production photos, rehearsal photos, and behind-the-scenes articles. This publicity (intended to build an audience for the remote screening, which takes place towards the end of the theatrical run) sits alongside the play’s epitext, that is, the usual apparatus of the theatre industry including publicity and reviews from the performances that have already taken place. The live screenings contain a mixture of advertising, still images of the play the audience is about to see, textual information about the play and the cast, live footage of the audience in the actual theatre space, pre-recorded documentary, live interviews, and, of course, the play itself. The advertising varies from screening to screening and is typically focused on future NT Live broadcasts, or plays by the same theatre company which are not being broadcast, however, screenings can also include advertising for live broadcasts from museums (e.g., British Museum, 2014) and a combined screen advert/mobile app which encourages users to “play along with the big screen” on their phones to earn rewards (CineMe, 2014). Like live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera (2014) before it, an NT Live screening (see Figure 1) conforms closely with the ‘Super Bowl Dramaturgy’
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framework identified by Paterson and Stevens (2013), which compares the strategies of televised live sports events to the live broadcast of theatre. This model is inherently hypermedial, post-cinematic, and self-reflexive. Audience is used to convey a sense of place and liveness whilst liveness and authenticity are themselves complicated by attempts to capture them, and the live event is itself shaped by the process of broadcasting it. The remediation of theatrical events into a contemporary “media ecology” (Shaviro, 2010, p.7) creates a new cultural product with a new narrative, without any sense of hierarchy between the different sources of the content (for example, pre-recorded documentary and live interviews placed alongside the onstage content). Furthermore, the surrounding context of the live screenings (with all the extra material screened alongside the play) and the epitext (for example pre-show teasers and discussions amongst communities) adds to the extension of this narrative far beyond the original play. Therefore, to consider NT Live broadcasts as theatrical, cinematic, or even televisual would be to misunderstand the ways in which these structures create an extended narrative across many media, platforms, and communities. The contemporary masters of the transmedia narrative are Marvel. The Marvel multiverse is a shared fiction comprising the mainstream Marvel universe alongside all its variations and parallels from Marvel media, most significantly comics and films, but also including toys, videogames, television, roleplaying games and more. Each new official narrative from Marvel is designed to take its place within the Marvel multiverse and contribute towards the overall transmedia narrative. Three films from the Marvel cinematic universe were instrumental in the growing celebrity of actor Tom Hiddleston, who played Loki in Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), and Thor: The Dark World (2013). Hiddleston quickly became a firm fan favourite and examples of fan production featuring Loki
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 (including fan fiction, artwork, memes, and remixed content from the films) are common in Marvel fan communities. When Hiddleston was cast as the title character in the Donmar Warehouse production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus in 2013 (which was to be broadcast by NT Live) it was in the context of a large number of big-name stars playing Shakespearean characters on stage in London (cf. Madison, 2014) and the Donmar producers were keen to emphasise his (considerable) Shakespearean credentials, presumably to dissuade accusations of ‘star casting.’ Nevertheless, a large number of Hiddleston-as-Loki fans were attracted to Coriolanus precisely because of the actor’s involvement, and this community of audience members are not only enthusiastic and social media savvy, but also active consumers and producers of cultural content related to their favourite actors – no matter what the role. Marvel fans tend to be expert readers of transmedia narratives and, as stated by Jenkins, “Fans have always been early adopters of new media technologies: their fascination with fictional universes often inspires new forms of cultural production […] Fans are the most active segment of the media audience, one that refuses to accept simply what they are given, but rather insists on the right to become full participants” (2006, p.135). Fan production related to Coriolanus began before the play opened, sharing and remixing official publicity which continued throughout December 2014 and January 2015, whilst the performances of the play in London inspired reviews and commentary (from fans who could attend) and jealousy (from those who could not). During this time, buoyed by both official publicity and fan engagement, anticipation of the NT Live broadcast grew. Notably, this play conformed to the pattern of televised sporting events in that, despite widening access to the mediatised version to a much greater audience, this created a heightened sense of prestige and exclusivity for tickets to the ‘in the flesh’ event (cf. Paterson & Stevens, 2013, p.158).
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Immediately following the NT Live broadcast on 30th January 2014, fan production focused on reactions and reviews of the play itself, alongside (and relatively swiftly subsumed by) remixes of images and clips from the high quality live stream which had been shared illegally online. Active reading of a transmedia narrative “sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption” (Jenkins, 2006, p.98) and teasers from both fans and NT Live were instrumental in driving up demand for access to Coriolanus in any (and all) forms. The level of demand is demonstrated by the insistence of fan requests for a DVD of the play to be released (not a product which currently forms part of the NT Live distribution model), and the largely unapologetic sharing of illegal copies of the live stream. The transmedia nature of this text itself contributes to the sense of fan entitlement to access and participation, ironically reflecting the theme present in Shakespeare’s text (and explicitly mentioned in the pre-play documentary which formed part of the screening) that Coriolanus, by engaging with the people, becomes himself public property. New narratives Whilst some fan sharing of content from the live stream of Coriolanus appears to serve as a relatively simple surrogate for attending an official (but ephemeral) screening in a cinema (clips and links to the full live stream are prevalent on various social media sites, despite evidence of the removal of some due to copyright claims by NT Live), the majority of examples move beyond simple sharing into the realm of creative production, using the live stream as the basis of content. Fan production can be considered in three main categories: summarising and interpreting the narrative; sampling the original and separating elements of content into standalone cultural objects; and using the live broadcast as inspiration for wholly original content.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Summarizing and re-interpreting Coriolanus A summary of the play is provided by Tumblr user Daasgrrl (2014); it distills the narrative down to a concise but very accurate 23 lines of dialogue whilst also wryly commenting on the fan complaints that many reviews posted online were giving away the play’s ending – her summary begins with a warning: “Contains spoilers for a 400-year-old play.” Numerous other fans post pseudo-reviews with very personal interpretations, often explicitly acknowledging and linking different fandoms (in addition to Hiddleston, the play also starred Mark Gatiss and Alfred Enoch, familiar to many viewers from Sherlock and Harry Potter, respectively, each of which has its own extremely active fandom [Fauchelevant, 2014]). Reinterpretations of the narrative also appear in non-textual forms, for example YouTube videos comprising re-edits of the Coriolanus live stream that focus on one aspect of the story with a complementary pop song soundtrack (e.g., Broadwayluver222, 2014) – a form popular with Loki fans. Fan remix videos typically aim to use music to heighten the emotional (or comedic) impact of a re-edited sequence of visuals, which emphasises or comments on a particular aspect of the narrative (cf. Russo & Coppa, 2012). However, by far the most popular format for fan production from Coriolanus is the animated gif. This format has been a mainstay of social media for some time, but only recently has it become the subject of serious study. A MIT Media Lab research project called Mapping the Emotional Language of gifs provides the following definition: “An animated gif is a magical thing. It contains the power to convey emotion, empathy, and context in a subtle way that text or emoticons simply can't” (Rich & Hu, 2014). One re-interpretation uses a series of gifs from single scene within the play to represent the overall theme of Coriolanus’ relationship with his mother, Volumnia (see Figure 2).
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This playful series combines still images subtitled with direct quotes from the text of the play with animated gifs that reinterpret a central conflict into the language of social media – in the third panel, Volumnia throws up her arms in anger and the caption spells out “ASFGHJKL!!!” As a representative of both the scene and a major overall theme of the narrative, this sequence is extremely effective in its translation of both narrative and emotional meaning across media platforms. Creating standalone cultural objects Other forms of fan production eschew the translation of meaning from the original narrative in favour of a fragmentation of the live stream into separate, standalone cultural objects. These can take the form of single moments, sampled and edited from the live stream, or a collection of different gifs, related not to the meaning of the narrative but to the curatorial preferences of the poster (for one example, see hard-on-for-hiddleston, 2014a). The technological characteristics of animated gifs create a particular aesthetic. Firstly, they are silent, separating visuals from the meaningful dialogue of the play. This, in itself, invites creative captioning to reinvent meaning (although some examples are sampled from a captioned version of the live stream, with the subtitles preserved by the fans). Secondly, animated gifs are limited by the technological apparatus used to create and display them. Some graphics programs have a limit on the number of frames that can be included, and even where this limit does not exist, the size of a file intended for online delivery via blog posts creates a functional limit for the number of frames that can be included for a reasonable download rate. Furthermore, it is extremely rare for browsers to display the frames of an animated gif at a rate that matches the original video. The dimensions of an animated gif are also limited by considerations of file size and the width of the content pane in the intended delivery platform. A common result of these technological characteristics is the creation and sharing of animated gifs, which tend to be
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 small-sized images with under thirty frames, which typically play slower than the original frame rate, on an infinite loop. Furthermore, fan production on blog sites such as Tumblr tends to include multiple animated gifs within one post, arranged in sequence like the frames of a comic book (see Figure 3). This fragments the live stream at a micro level, presenting a series of slow motion elements that demand close attention and emphasise the visual aesthetic of the scene. Sequences of this form are typically focused on Hiddleston’s face or body, emphasising visual pleasure over narrative meaning. Sequences of a scene where Coriolanus washes his wounds are particularly common as derivative works sampled from the live stream of the broadcast. Interestingly, this comic book aesthetic (frames separated by white space, as demanded by the technological characteristics of sequential animated gifs) is sometimes incorporated into a single image itself (e.g., compare hard-on-for-hiddleston, 2014b & 2014c) (see Figure 4). It is not unusual for fandoms to focus on gay relationships (‘slash’) in creative production as the treatment of the kiss between Coriolanus and his enemy Aufidius at the beginning of the second half of the broadcast demonstrates. Captioned images and uncaptioned animated gifs of this moment were widely circulated on various social media platforms. Separated from its narrative context and used as a stand-alone cultural product, “The Kiss” (as it quickly became known across the fandom) was often misunderstood. The scene in the play showed a wary Coriolanus slightly disbelieving of events and his awkwardness provokes humour from the audience. As a separate, fan-produced artifact, the kiss is generally presented and read in a much more ‘slashy’ context. Examples show the live stream cut down to a clip that does not show Coriolanus’ reaction but includes the audience laughing (I_am_tony_stark 2014), cropped and edited to remove part of the body language context, without sound (Queen-and-
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colfer 2014), and posted with explicit titillated reaction gifs (Tom-nippleston 2014). New meanings are derived from these works that were not present in the scene and a more overtly slash interpretation is deliberately promoted (even where other posts demonstrate that the producers are well aware of the original context for the kiss). Original cultural content inspired by Coriolanus Coriolanus also inspires original content, often emphasising and developing the slash relationship between Coriolanus and Aufidius or mixing the fiction of the play with ficitonalised reality. A popular fan fiction site, http://archiveofourown.org/, shows nearly 400 fanfics about Coriolanus, of which over half were written or updated since the Donmar Warehouse production opened in December 2013; Hiddleston’s Coriolanus is also heavily featured in original art posted on http://www.deviantart.com/, the majority of which is clearly created from official publicity photographs from the Donmar production, or from still images from the NT Live live stream. Original art posted within the Hiddleston fandom on Tumblr focuses on the slash relationship. Tumblr and spreadability A large feature of fan production is the way it is shared and curated across social media. Tumblr is home to a particularly active Hiddleston fandom, amongst a variety of other media fan communities and their creative activity. Rather than a blogging platform, Tumblr focuses on short-form ‘microblogging,’ and as such the technological framework foregrounds sharing (reblogging) and annotation over long-form original content (cf. Fink & Miller, 2013). Tumblr mechanisms for approval and sharing also appear more similar to fanfic sites such as http://archiveofourown.org/ (featuring Notes; Likes/Kudos; Reblog/Share), rather than to long-form blogging platforms or other popular social media. This focus on sharing and curation is apparent in many of
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 the accounts that explicitly display their fandoms in their usernames and descriptions, with users acting as collectors and redistributors of fan-produced works, as well as participating in creative production themselves. Henry Jenkins refers to this type of content as ‘spreadable.’ “Spreadability” refers to the technical resources that make it easier to circulate some kinds of content than others, the economic structures that support or restrict circulation, the attributes of a media text that might appeal to a community’s motivation for sharing material, and the social networks that link people through the exchange of meaningful bytes.” (Jenkins, 2013, p.4) The concepts of spreadability and ‘stickiness’ can be usefully applied to fan production of cultural products derived from unauthorised sharing of a live theatre broadcast. A theatre play is ‘sticky’ content in that it, by necessity, co-locates its audience in one time and place to consume that content. Whilst NT Live broadcasts remove the necessity for the audience to be co-located in just one particular venue, they emulate the scarcity model of theatre and strongly retain an appointmentbased broadcast distribution method. Fan produced content, on the other hand, is driven by strong engagement with the media text, widely distributed within a sense of shared fandom, and enhanced by the technological characteristics of its delivery platform. It is easily discovered, available for free and ondemand, shared and collected with trivial effort, and evocative of the wider social structures that make production and sharing pleasurable. The tension between the authorised ‘sticky’ model of Coriolanus and the unofficial ‘spreadable’ content is keenly felt in both the fan activities that wish for further access to high quality cultural products, and NT Live itself, which resists the free, on-demand model in favour of an ephemeral, communal cultural experience.
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As Jenkins notes (2013, p.27), spreading material literally and figuratively remakes it, creating new narratives for new purposes, and this process changes the perceptions of media consumption and production. As the above examples demonstrate, fan-produced works interpret, develop, misrepresent, and re-create the authorised narrative of Coriolanus. However, whilst fan remixing of cultural content existed long before the digital age, it is also clear that the very mechanisms of distribution also contribute to the reconstruction of narratives, and that this is not only the domain of fan producers. Microblogging, animated gifs, and social media apparatus all affect the cultural products that they deliver, but the reframing of Coriolanus as a transmedia narrative began long before its appropriation by fans. NT Live’s process of conversion of a theatre text into a hypermedial form, and its delivery within a highly constructed surrounding context, creates a cultural experience that resists stickiness and contributes to demand for both spreadable content and the right to participate in the production of new narratives. The tensions between these models of distribution go far beyond issues of economics and piracy, they are embedded within the media form itself.
Figure 1: Simplified structure of NT Live broadcast of Corolanus, 30th January 2014.
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Fig. 2: series of edited images from Coriolanus (animated versions available from hiddleslokid, 2014)
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Fig. 3: animated sequence showing fragmenting the live stream at micro-level (live stream by NT LIVE (2014), image sequence by fromhiddleswithlove (2014))
Fig. 4: single animated gif showing added frames (hard-on-for-hiddleston, 2014c)
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 References Branagh, K. (Director) & Feige, K. (Producer) (2011) Thor. United States: Marvel Studios British Museum (2014). Vikings Live. (Live broadcast exhibition interpretation). Retrieved 25th Aug, 2014 from http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibiti ons/vikings/vikings_live.aspx Broadwayluver222 (2014, 23rd April). Coriolanus(Tom Hiddleston)/Virgilia--Don't th Deserve You. Retrieved 9 Sep, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f929VDhEl Q CineMe (2014). Retrieved 25th Aug, 2014from http://www.cini.me/ nd
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I_am_tony_stark (2014) Instagram post. Retrieved th 10 Sep, 2014 from http://instagram.com/p/jz0wBBr_aq/ Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture. New York: New York University Press Jenkins, H. (2013) Spreadable Media. London: New York University Press th
Madison, K. (2014, 4 Feb) Soapbox Moment: What's in a (Famous) Name? A Chorus to this History. Retrieved 25th Aug, 2014 from http://thirtyeightplays.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/so apbox-moment-whats-in-famous-name.html NESTA (2011). NT Live (Research report). Retrieved 1st June, 2014 from http://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/nt-live
Daasgrrl (2014, 2 March). Coriolanus--A Summary Retrieved 25th Aug, 2014 from http://daasgrrl.tumblr.com/post/78212342553/co riolanus-a-summary
Paterson, E., & Stevens, L. (2013) From Shakespeare to the Super Bowl: Theatre and Global Liveness. Australasian Drama Studies, (62), 147-162
Donmar Warehouse and NT Live (2014) th Coriolanus. (Live broadcast (30 January th 2014), ‘as live’ broadcast (11 March 2014)).
Queen-and-colfer (2014, April). Just another th fangirl. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2014 from http://queen-andcolfer.tumblr.com/post/78761667368/speakingof-homoerotism-mmm
Fauchelevant, C. (2014, April). My 6:20 am review of Donmar’s “Coriolanus”. Retrieved 25th Aug, 2014 from http://lark-rather-thandove.tumblr.com/post/77268553589/my-6-20am-review-of-donmars-coriolanus Fink, M., and Miller, Q. (2013). Trans Media Moments: Tumblr, 2011–2013. Television & th New Media 1527476413505002. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2014 from doi:10.1177/1527476413505002 th
Rich, T. & Hu, K. (2014) GIFGIF: Mapping the Emotional Language of gifs (research project), th MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 9 Sep, 2014 from http://gifgif.media.mit.edu Russo, J.L. & Coppa, F. (2012). Fan/Remix Video. Transformative Works and Cultures, (special th issue) (9). Retrieved 9 Sep, 2014 from doi:10.3983/twc.2012.0431
Fromhiddleswithlove (2014, 26 Feb) It Takes an th Ocean Not to Break. Retrieved 9 Sep, 2014 from http://fromhiddleswithlove.tumblr.com/post/7794 6508695
Shaviro, S. (2010) Post Cinematic Affect. Winchester: O Books.
Hard-on-for-hiddleston (2014, April). On With the th Show. Retrieved 9 Sep, 2014 from (a) http://hard-on-forhiddleston.tumblr.com/post/77957288850 and (b) http://hard-on-forhiddleston.tumblr.com/post/79357744378 and (c) http://hard-on-forhiddleston.tumblr.com/post/80495156074
The Metropolitan Opera (2014). Live in HD. th Retrieved 8 Sep, 2014 from http://www.metopera.org/metopera/broadcast/o n_air.aspx
Hiddleslokid (2014, 10 Feb). Shakespeare knew. th Retrieved 9 Sep, 2014 from http://hiddleslokid.tumblr.com/post/7622836234 8/shakespeare-knew
Taylor, A. (Director) & Feige, K. (Producer) (2013) Thor: The Dark World. United States: Marvel Studios
Tom-nippleston (2014, 31 Jan). Do you get the th gist of how I’m feeling. Retrieved 10 Sep, 2014 from http://tomnippleston.tumblr.com/post/75194510075/didyou-get-the-gist-of-how-im-feeling-dont Whedon, J. (Director) & Feige, K. (Producer) (2012) The Avengers. United States: Marvel Studios
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
PROPOSED METHODOLOY FOR TRANSMEDIA NEWS STORY ANALYSIS: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE GREAT BRITISH FLOAT PROJECT AND THE GREAT BRITISH PROPERTY SCANDAL: EVERY EMPTY COUNTS (2012) IN THE UK Geane Alzamora, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil [email protected]
Lorena Tárcia, University Center of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil [email protected]
Suggested citation: Alzamora, Geane and Lorena Tárcia (2014). “Proposed methodology for transmedia news stories analysis: a comparative study of The Float Project (2009/10), in Brazil and The Great British Property Scandal: Every Empty Counts (2012).” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-09939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: The study of transmedia in journalism is still evolving. Although news organizations around the world have been spreading stories through different and complementary platforms and screens, this does not necessarily constitute use of transmedia concepts. Usually, the same story is simply distributed across multiple screens. Transmedia news reporting, in our view, would involve expansion of content and engagement of the audience, instead of repetition and propagation. This article studies examples of possible applications of the transmedia concept to news report, by examining The Float Project (Flutuador), in Brazil and comparing it to a potential model of engagement, The Great British Property Scandal: Every Empty Counts (2012) in the UK. The theoretical framework is provided by Henry Jenkins (2006), Carlos Scolari (2009), Kevin Moloney (2011), Renira Gambaratto (2013) Alzamora and Tárcia (2012) and proposes an evolving analytical model as a methodology for understanding transmedia applied to news features. The study points to major investments in building potential transmedia news reports by Globo Networks and suggests the necessary involvement of other departments and institutions to achieve full engagement and social relevance, as occurred in the UK project. From a monomediatic practice to a plurimediatic perspective Until the 1980s, all different media were constituted as independent production units.
Journalists were trained to work in print, television, or radio media. Newsrooms of media conglomerates such as Globo Networks, for example, were physically separated, with their
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 own teams, equipment and routines. The reports were produced independently in each medium, i.e., each one had their agendas, routines, languages and modes of production and distribution. The monomediatic practice was anchored in the transmissive logic that outlined the mass media at that time. Each vehicle was seen as a privileged center, which operated autonomously from the point of view of production, circulation and storage of information produced on behalf of the media corporation. From the 1980s, and more specifically the mid-1990s, this picture began to change. New technologies and communication policies contributed to the foundations of what we now know as media convergence, which configures other communicational logic. This logic seeks to integrate the production and circulation of information of media corporations in a plurimediatic perspective, incorporating them to a new communication environment that includes new forms of circulation and the social media universe. It is not possible to clearly identify who first connected the word convergence to the communication technologies (Gordon, 2003), but the researcher Ithiel de Sola Pool contributed to its popularization by launching, in 1983, the book The Technologies of Freedom, which describes the convergence of modes. “Conversation, theatre, news, and text are all increasingly delivered electronically. […] These mergers of electronic technology are bringing all modes of communications into one grand system” (Pool, 1983, pp. 27-28). However, even earlier, in 1979, Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), already referred to the overlapping of circles labeled as "Broadcast and Film Industry," "Computer Industry" and "Printing and Publishing Industry," scheduled to occur in 2000. With his speech, he toured the United States and raised millions of dollars in financial support for construction of the MIT Media Lab in 1985.
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The popularization occurred with the arrival of the World Wide Web in the mid1990s, and became common sense after the merger of AOL and Time Warner, announced in 2000 (Gordon, 2003; Fidler, 1997). Finally, remember Gordon (2003), companies started to practice the convergence of content between TV and newspaper, which was initially called the cross-promotion or cross-media. The beginnings were sheepishly called programming or integration of weather tips from the TV in the newspapers. In this period, however, the term most commonly used for this connection between companies was "synergy." In 2003, Henry Jenkins launched the book Convergence Culture in the United States, in which he connected several parallel and interconnected phenomena, constituent of a new economic, industrial, cultural and behavioural functioning model of society and media companies, understanding Convergence as […] a word that describes technological, industrial, cultural and social changes in the ways media circulates within our culture. Some common ideas referenced by the term include the flow of content across multiple platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, the search for new structures of media financing that fall at the interstices between old and new media, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kind of entertainment experiences they want. […] media convergence refers to a situation in which multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them. Convergence is understood here as an ongoing process or series of intersections between different media systems, not a fixed relationship. (Jenkins, 2006, p. 282) For Bauer (2005), although there is no consensus on its meaning, convergence re-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 fers to "a mix of barriers and/or reduction of differences between firms or industries. This mix can occur at many levels, from a partial intersection to the complete elimination of differences, and consequently the fusion of formerly separate sectors" (BAUER, 2005, p. 62). This author defends the possibility of a loose convergence or a deep convergence. Jambeiro et al (2011) consider that in both cases, it is a process linked to capitalist practice that turns out to be in many cases “an opportunity to maximize the accumulation of capital" (p.53). We believe that market and technologies are linked, and work in line with the expectation of establishing and attending a dynamic flow of consumption of cultural products. The creation of new devices is constant, and the same works for the search of new business and monetization models. Nevertheless, the attempts to capture the scattered attention of the so-called prosumers are bringing important and effective changes in the media and journalistic environment that deserve attention. In the world of entertainment and journalism, these changes vary in time and space. Kolodzy (2006) considers that the concept carries the proposal to join forces for a better quality journalism, which is not always consistent with the actions of the companies when they use the convergence label. Like Jenkins (2006), Kolodzy points to reception as a determining factor in the convergence process. The increasingly frequent habit of consuming several screens simultaneously, or not, would lead to the expansion of options for those seeking news. We must highlight the fact that varied forms of access to information through multiple media is not something new. What is presented as differential is the need for the journalists and the productive system to seek the best ways to tell a story considering the characteristics of each media surpassing what we are calling monomedia practice.
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Convergence, says Kolodzy (2006), requires flexibility and adaptability on the part of journalists. It also requires thinking like the audience already thinks, in multiple media and platforms. It means to understand and experiment with new ways of production, distribution and circulation of news. Based on the logic of convergence, the plurimediatic perspective that we call transmedia journalism emerges. Transmedia Journalism There is growing conceptual confusion around the media and journalistic universes when we talk about media convergence. Terms like Multimedia Journalism, Crossmedia, Intermedia, Transmedia are aggregated to form this semantic galaxy. Transmedia storytelling is relatively recent and was used by Henry Jenkins (2003), for the first time in the journal Technology Review in 2003, when he stated that “Each particular product is an access point to the franchise as a whole" (p. 135). Access to a movie and its derivatives should be autonomous, i.e., it is not necessary to consume all the products like games and comics, to understand the context of the work. In relation to journalism, the confusion is even bigger. Domínguez (2012) warns of the risk of putting new labels on old practices. It is, according to this author, an elastic term with a wide variety of theoretical proposals. Scolari (2013), for example, argues that all journalism is transmedia. In his words, journalism "was born transmedia." He justifies it by the fact of an event to be first reported by radio [and today, internet], then by television, followed the next day by the newspaper and weekly magazine. The engagement, he says, would be in phone calls and in letters sent to the newsrooms. If all journalism is transmedia, we must question the necessity and validity of the adjective. Wouldn’t be enough to talk about journalism? In an attempt to organize their use, Alzamora and Tárcia (2012) depart from epistemological discussions about the defini-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 tions of discipline, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary to rethink the relationship between media, multimedia, intermedia and transmedia universe of news. Thus, for these authors The intermediatic prospect [...] must refer to forms of production and circulation of information that are established at the intersection and complementarity of different media environments. In this case, there is no shift or change in the media framework. That is, the information content is presented in a complementary way, for example, in the context of television, radio and newspaper printed in an integrated process in which each medium contributes to their specific production of combined information. (Alzamora and Tárcia, 2012, p. 31) In the same perspective, the concept of transmedia presupposes [...] not just media complementarity, although this is an important feature of the process, but mainly displacement of the characteristics traditionally marked by media environments. Thus they constitute reticular areas of miscegenation between genres and formats of digital media connections. The transmedia journalism constitute the interstices of the intermedia network, it is not possible to characterize it as specific to any environment alone. (Alzamora and Tárcia, 2012, p. 31) Moloney (2011) emphasizes the application of the Fundamental Principles of Transmedia Narrative named by Jenkins (2009) to journalism. For this author, the news would have the characteristic of transmedia expansion, i.e., a story can become viral to be shared by users or be explored in detail, officially or through social networks. It also allows for the possibility of the continuity or seriality to explore the characteristics of each medium
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and keep the audience's attention for a longer period. The diversity of views, represented in fiction by different characters and other angles of a history, would be innate to the principles of journalism and include, increasingly, the point of view of the public. Immersion in news would be provided through alternative forms of narration. Extrability, real world and inspiration to action are consistent with a public service journalism, which invests in real actions for troubleshooting. Journalist Margaret Looney (2012) proposes five tips for transmedia stories. 1. Keep content unique: rather than repeating the information on different platforms, use different parts of a story to match a platform’s strength and maximize user experience; 2. Provide a seamless point of entry: make sure whichever platform you’re using gets readers to interact in a very simple way; 3. Partner up: projects are often complex and require the involvement of other companies, producers or professionals; 4. Keep it cost-effective: there are expensive projects, but it is possible to make transmedia cheaply, for example by introducing social media to extend the story; 5. The story is no. 1: many creative tools may do more harm than help. Always put the story first. Thus, we agree with Porto and Flores (2012), for whom "the essence of transmedia storytelling is in the field of longer news features, thus to its wealth of content and narrative construction, as well as the time of production of this genre, which allows a better textual architecture" (p.12). These guiding principles of transmedia journalism evoke the perspective of media convergence. From these assumptions, we will seek to analyse the series of articles called Float Project, produced by Globo Television Network in 2009/2010 and The Great British Property Scandal project: Every Empty Counts (2012) by Channel 4.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Proposed methodology for transmedia news stories analysis As previously proposed, our goal in this article is to outline an analytical model to be applied to potential transmedia news features, seeking to methodologically contribute to the understanding of the concept of transmedia applied to journalism. We present an initial model. Other issues and layers of understanding can and should be included in this proposal, adapting it where necessary, as proposed by Gambarato (2013). We depart from previous contributions made by Moloney (2011), Jenkins (2009), Looney (2012) and Scolari (2012), plus the proposed structures analysis transmedia proposed by Gambarato (2013). In her paper, Gambarato (2013) aims to outline ”essential features of the design process behind transmedia projects in order to support the analytic needs of transmedia designers and the applied research in the interest of the media industry, considering analysis as a crucial aspect of the design process” (p.89). This is made by posing a series of questions divided into ten topics. We make an adaptation of this methodology to analyse our two cases. 1.Premises and purposes a. What is the project about? What is the central theme? b. What is the main journalistic genre? What is the editorship? c. What is the principal media? Print, radio, television, web ? d. What is the ultimate goal of the project? To inform, engage, entertain, educate? 2. Audiences a. What are the audiences for the story? Who are the viewers / users / readers? b. What kind of story attracts this public? c. What are the screens and devices used by the target audience? d. What draws the audience to the project?
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e. Are there other similar projects? What results were obtained by them? 3. Sustainability and Marketing a. What is the business model? (open platforms, freemium, premium mix?) b. Who are the sponsors? What is the budget? c. Does project have a brand? Is it commercially exploited? 4. Media platforms and languages a. What languages are involved? (Audio, video, text, photography, computer graphics, newsgame, website, application) b. What technological devices are needed for the project? (TV, radio, consoles, tablet, smartphone, newspaper, book, website) c. How does each device contribute to the project? What is its function? d. What distinguishes each platform? e. What are their limitations? f. Are all platforms needed? 5. Sources and characters a. Who are the primary and secondary sources? What are the approaches used with these sources? b. Does the story have characters? How many? Are all present in the main story? Are they added later? c. What other points of view can be aggregated to reach new audiences that otherwise would not be achieved? 6. Extensions and developments a. Does the story continue? In the same media? b. How is public curiosity activated to desire more detailed information? c. What kind of additional content can be generated? d. Does the story extend into further actions? e. As the story expands through the media, how does it maintain its continuity? f. How to keep the audience's attention for a longer period?
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 7. Engagement a. What makes the story to spread virally? b. How does it motivate users to share the news features on their networks, reaching bigger audience? c. What can be gained by engaging the audience into the journalistic production process? d. Does it generate alternative forms of storytelling? Which ones? f. What are the mechanisms of interaction? g. Does the process include conversation with the audience? Are users answered? h. Does the project seek engagement of other institutions? i. Is there any form of immersion in the project? Are commercial products and actions connected to it? j. Can viewers/users/readers incorporate elements of the news features in their lives? k. Is there an ultimate goal for the project? How to measure it? l. Is there the use of social networks? Is there a strategy for it? m. Is the remix by the audience officially incorporated into the project? n. Is there a reward system for participation? The Float Project In 2009, Globo television channel, based in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, launched a series of news features entitled The Rivers of São Paulo to study the general conditions of the rivers and their environment. Soon the Tietê River became central theme due to its bad conditions and importance. The editor had the idea to throw into the river one PET bottle with a GPS inside, allowing the audience to see on a map where the bottle would be retained. The feasibility of this experiment was dropped after the first test. The Department of Journalism and the team from the Research and Development Engineering Department at Globo TV then teamed up to improve the original idea. They decided to build The Float device from scratch.
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The equipment was developed in partnership with the Institute for Technological Research of São Paulo. The process of development involved operating systems and naval robotics components capable of ensuring security during filming and to send remote data collected from the river. They also decided to send with the device a “guardian” to take care of the equipment and to monitor daily rates of oxygen in the water. The chosen professional was Dan Robson, a well-known adventurer who accompanied The Float for 500 km using a kayak (see Figure 1). In 2010, the Float Project was turned into a franchise, deployed in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, three major Brazilian cities. The project received an award by the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in the special award category, as recognition of its social relevance and technological innovation. 1. Premises and purposes The project dealt with the investigation of rivers in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. The central theme was the pollution of rivers. The journalistic genre was the news feature and the editorship was City/Environment. Although the TV was the main media, internet, radio and the newspaper of Globo network also reported about the project, albeit in a disjointed manner and without prior planning. The purpose of the TV station, with the series of reports, was to inform, educate and engage people in the recovery of rivers. 2. Audiences In São Paulo, the focus of our analysis, audience of the local channel SPTV is formed mostly by people aged 18-49 years (46%), followed by 36 % of people over 50 years. The program has been losing audience in recent years. The newscast ended 2012 with an average of 23.3 points (each point equals 60,000 households in Greater São Paulo). On the web, most of the public is also aged between 18 and 49 years of age (76%). The
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Float Project added readers from newspapers and radio. However, it is necessary to consider the lack of a measurement to so-called social TV and the impact of the project on the various media involved. The traditional way of measuring audience by points cannot cover the entire spectrum of a transmedia story. For this reason, we cannot estimate the total audience reached by The Float Project. 3. Sustainability and Marketing The expedition lasted 32 days. It was released on 1 September 2009 and crossed more than 30 cities. More than one hundred professionals were involved, including safety technicians, film reporters, rescue teams, helicopters and engineers. The initial budget was 25,000 dollars, but the final cost was about 125,000. Altogether, 150 news features were produced during two months of the project in São Paulo waters. The whole project was open to viewers for free on commercial television. In terms of marketing, Globo Television turned it into a franchise and the eco-athlete Dan Robson even launched his own glass brand based on his visibility during the project. 4. Media platforms and languages The news features about the float widely used videos, photos, infographics and web sites. There were no applications or newsgames related to it, in spite of the great potential. It is necessary to consider that in 2009 there were not as many applications widely used in Brazil as there are today. To learn about the project, possible technological devices were broadcast TV, radio, tablets, computers, newspapers, and smartphones and yet there has not been a distinct language for mobile media. In production, however, the GPS was highlighted because it allowed the real-time geolocation float all the way. It was not possible to see a clear transmedia strategy from the initial planning, but the transmediality occurred naturally with the use of Twitter mainly by reporters and staff involved. On Twitter, the hashtag used was #flutuador.
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5. Sources and characters There were multiple primary and secondary sources, since the number of news features was very large. Engineers, sanitarians, politicians, environmentalists, population living by the river and students were among the sources. External characters were also aggregated, like the paddlers who joined Dan Robson during the journey and people waiting along the river to see the float. As a curiosity about the expansion of the project in Brasilia, Globo has promoted shows with singers and a special appearance of Globo reporters in the closure of the project in 2012. 6. Extensions and developments The project had broad ramifications and eventually became a sort of franchise. It has already been implemented in Rio de Janeiro, Distrito Federal and returned to São Paulo for another edition. However, the station in the new editions, did not change the hedging strategies. Instead, they increasingly restricted the news features to TV and website. An interesting strategy to turn the public's curiosity and get them to delve into the information were the lectures held in schools by Dan Robson and reporters. However, as stated earlier in this article, other additional content could have been generated with the use of social media, mobile applications and newsgames. 7. Engagement There was no viral dissemination of The Float Project, although several news features can be found on the internet in blogs and other online sites even in the traditional competing media such as the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo. People posted photos on social networks, but the range of spontaneous release did not reach significant levels and was not encouraged by Globo. Maybe if Globo had invested in this aspect, the results had appeared. The station staff, however, was limited to interview the people who waited for the float by the river in several cities.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 The engagement with students who visited the reporters during their work in the river and the visits to schools were an important way of involving the audience. However, it was possible to find negative reactions on the social network Orkut, the most accessed by Brazilians at the time. This was a result of the overexposure and excessive stories on the same theme, about 150 in 2009. On YouTube, a conducive environment for posting videos and comments, the bulk of publications were made by Dan Robson. The news feature published had an average of a thousand views and rare comments. However, it is necessary to consider the restrictive copyright policy by Globo Network, which determines the exclusion of their videos from that channel when posted by the audience. The project generated practical actions such as the removal of carcasses of cars that were floating in the river and which were discovered during the expedition. Furthermore, Globo won the international International Broadcasting Convention Award in recognition of social relevance and technological innovation of the Project. The Great British Property Scandal: Every Empty Counts In 2011, Channel 4, in the United Kingdom, launched a series of special programs to investigate the British housing crisis and discuss alternative solutions, encouraging audience participation via mobile application. The goal was to engage people to report empty properties they knew of, and lobby government and local councils to have a low-cost loan fund for the owners of empty homes who were struggling to refurbish their properties. The response to the campaign by the TV station was staggering: • 100,000 petition signatures within a week of launching The Great British Property Scandal campaign • Over 118,200 supporters in total
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• Over 7,900 empty homes reported - many of which have been brought back into use • £17 million allocated for new national lowcost loan funds • George Clarke, who had the original idea and hosted the show, was appointed Independent Empty Homes Advisor to the Government More information about the whole project can be found in their website. What we want to point out in this article is the capacity of Channel 4 to engage the audience in its project using the Internet and mobile phones. This is something that Globo Television was not able to do, keeping its project restricted to a transmissive perspective. Final considerations We are still far from a definitive conceptualization of Transmedia Storytelling and even more distant from its setting and significance in the journalistic universe. In Brazil, we live through a dramatic period of layoffs in newsrooms, which will affect further trials and innovations in this field. A transmedia story does not need to answer all the questions suggested in this methodological outline. Those are merely suggestive paths. Not all projects involving multiple platforms will have the backing of big companies like Globo Television and Channel 4. What counts is the determination to try new ways of telling stories and, above all, engaging audiences. It is not about financial support, but the freedom to create and experience. Eleven years after Jenkins (2003) forged the concept, academics and the market have embraced it and turned it into a buzzword. Projects multiply and show new creative possibilities for journalistic production, as exemplified by Localore, Economics Personified, and History's Next Draft. Those are important examples for further analysis and to continue expanding and testing this proposed methodology for analysis of transmedia news features.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
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Figure 1: The Float device and its guardian Dan Robson. Source: Globo TV References Alzamora, G., & Tárcia, L. (2012). Convergência e transmídia: galáxias semânticas e narrativas emergentes em jornalismo. Brazilian Journalism Research, 1, pp. 22-35.
Jenkins, H. (2009). The revenge of the Origami Unicorn. Fonte: Henry Jenkins: http://henryjenkins.org/2009/12/the_revenge_of _the_origami_uni.html [July, 5, 2013]
Bauer, J. (2005). Unbundling policy in the United States players, outcomes and effects. Communications & Strategies , 4, pp. 58-82.
Kolodzy, J. (2006). Convergence Journalism: writing and reporting acorss the news media. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefied.
Dominguez, E. (2012). Periodismo transmedia. (U. O. Catalunya, Ed.) Revista de los Estudios de Ciencias de la Informacion e Comunicacion.
Looney, M. (2012). Five tips to transmedia storytelling. Media Shift. Available http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/01/5-tipsfor-transmedia-storytelling030/ [July, 5, 2013]
Fidler, R. (1997). Principles of Mediamorphosis: understanding new media. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Pine Forge Press. Gambarato, R. (2013). Transmedia Project Design: Theoretical and Analytical Considerations. Baltic Screen Media Review, 1, pp. 80-100. Gordon, R. (2003). The meanings and implications of convergence. Em K. Kawamoto, Digital Journalism: emerging media and the changing horizons in journalism. Oxford: Rowman&Littlefield Publishers. IBOPE. (2013). Mídia expande atuação na medição de social TV. Rio de Janeiro: Ibope. Acesso em 16 de June de 2013 Jambreiro, O., Ferreira, F., & Barros, C. (2011). A convergencia como condicionante de regulação das comunicação. Compolítica, 1(1). Jenkins, H. (2003). Transmedia Storytelling. Moving characters from books to films to videogames can make them stronger and more compelling. Technology Review. Jenkins, H. (2006). Cultura da Convergência. São Paulo: Susana Alexandria.
Moloney, K. (2011). Porting Transmedia Storytelling to Journalism. Master Thesis. Denver: University of Denver. Pool, I. (1983). The technologies of Freedom. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Porto, D., & Flores, J. (2012). Periodismo Transmedia. Barcelona: Fráguas. Scolari, C. A. (2013). Transmedia para alem da ficção. Belo Horizonte: Centro Universitário de Belo Horizonte.
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
BLUE PENCIL: EXPERIENCES IN TRANSMEDIA
Rafael Antunes, Universidade Lusófona, Lisbon, Portugal [email protected]
Suggested citation: Antunes, Rafael (2014). “Blue pencil: Experiences in Transmedia.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: This article aims at analyzing and discussing the proposed objectives and outcomes of a transmedia project that was run in partnership with CICANT/Universidade Lusófona, in Lisbon, Portugal, and the Portuguese media group Impresa, as part of an European Commissionfunded project named CIAKL – Cinema and Industry Alliance for Knowledge and Learning. The Blue Pencil project had as its main objective the development of a transmedia narrative that grouped different platforms and technologies, which included intersections inside the narrative within the genres of entertainment and education. Taking as its central theme the censorship in Portugal during the Estado Novo, the narrative extends into a short fiction film, a documentary, a site with archive material, an online game that challenges writing on freedom of the press, an online store, and a school program, in partnership with the network of school libraries, to launch the debate of censorship in schools.
Introduction Technological developments brought about several transformations in the ways we communicate and tell stories. In this context, challenges to the production of narratives vary, one of them being how can we fulfill audiences expectations in an ever more screenfragmented environment. We tell stories across multiple media because no single media satisfies our curiosity or our lifestyle. We are surrounded by an unprecedented ocean of content, products and leisure opportunities. The people to
whom we wish to tell our stories have the technology to navigate the ocean and can choose to sail on by or stop and listen. Technology and free markets have allowed unprecedented levels of customization, personalization and responsiveness such that a policy of “one size fits all” is no longer expected or acceptable. Telling stories across multiple media – transmedia storytelling – allows content that’s right-sized, righttimed and right-placed to form a larger, more profitable, cohesive and rewarding experience. (Pratten, 2011)
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 In this context, it puts up the challenge for the production of narratives that could meet the expectations and lifestyle of the audience, and asks how well are media corporations prepared to respond to sophistication of narratives and changes of the behaviours of the audience. What new kinds of narratives are emerging to meet the expectations and lifestyles of the audience? The transmedia approach is such a powerful storytelling technique because it enables the user to became involve in the material in a extremely deep way and sometimes in a manner that eerily simulates a real - life experience ...By spanning a number of media, a project can became far richer, more detail, and multifaceted. (Miller 2008) The Blue Pencil project took place between October 2011 and December 2012. The project aimed to develop not just a transmedia strategy, but also a historical approach to censorship in Portugal and aesthetic, artistic and commercial concepts. For the development of the Blue Pencil project, a study was made for a transmedia narrative that had censorship as the central theme. The premise was to create an object of entertainment with educational crossings to make a historical contextualization of censorship during the Estado Novo in Portugal. We don’t want to leave this work on a theoretical analysis of the possibilities of transmedia narratives, but to implement a project that would meet the initial premise, for which a protocol between the Universidade Lusófona and Impresa group was established for the concretization of the project. The proposal develops a transmedia narrative that adds different platforms and technologies that have narrative and dramatic crossings. Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own
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unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. (Jenkins 2007) From a central core consisting of a short fiction film based on real facts, the narrative spans to a documentary with personalities that were pursued by censorship, and to a website with archive material, a selection of books with the respective censorship and connection to the Universidade Lusófona online store, and an online game that challenges the writing on sensitive issues related to censorship. The process of creating and producing the project began with the planning and organization of information to build a coherent universe that creates streams of consumption across the various platforms of the project. The screenplay of the film and the documentary were worked to create classical narratives, but at the same time they contained elements that made narrative bridges with other platforms. Based on the book O Que a Censura Cortou, by José Pedro Castanheira, edited by Expresso, we worked on the screenplay of the film and the documentary in a way that retained a connection between them. The objective was to create two scripts, in which censorship that was included in a fiction film was related to the documentary through the stories of the interveners. This process proved to be very productive in introducing new fictional elements as they related to the script of the documentary, and vice versa, making the narratives stronger and more coherent. The necessity of having scripted narratives that contribute to the whole while being more than the sum of their parts opened doors for the audience to get involved in the project. Another of the requirements was to create separate narratives that could be consumed individually without affecting the consistency and integrity of the narrative. The website was another of the platforms used to provide a context through documents and biographies, to complete the information conveyed in the movies. The material that could not be included in the movies even though it was related to the events narrated in the film and
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 documentary went onto the website, to allow the audience to find out more information about the events. The site also has links to the online store, where all the books discussed in the film, together with censorship of them, are available. With the aim of developing convergence between media and in order to propose a business model that creates synergies between businesses by attracting new investors and financiers for the project to enable the participation of the audience in the text, we developed a game that allowed the audience to write text on the topic of media and censorship, trying to overcome an algorithm that censors certain keywords. The game provides the player the perception and requirement to write in a censorship regime. To attract participation in the game, we developed a contest where the best texts were selected and published in an eBook. This also resulted in a project with the school library network that took the theme of censorship to schools, encouraging students to reflect on censorship. The project reached more than 600 schools and has received 104 works about censorship from various schools. In a transmedia project, the narratives are autonomous, but refer to the same universe, all narrative and dramatic bridges need to be considered before execution of the project, so that it maintains its coherence and can create flows between platforms. Table 1 presents some of the narratives bridges designed to make the connection between platforms.
Display of teasers to promote television project (SIC , SIC Noticias).
Launch of the Facebook page. During execution, photographic material was collected from the various phases of the project for this purpose.
Launch of the site.
Release of books in the Online Store of Universidade Lusófona.
Launch of José Pedro Castanheira’s text Confidential Mario Bento in the digital version of Express magazine.
Launch of the game and contest.
Presentation of the project group Impresa and Universidade Lusósfona for the school libraries.
Releaseof the fiction movie on television (SIC).
Launch of puzzles on the Facebook page.
Screening of the documentary on a cable channel (SIC Noticias).
Debate on freedom of the press (Turin theatre).
Best submitted articles published in Express magazine.
Launch of Kobo eBook
Project entered into festival circuit.
DVD, Express, Online Universdade Lusófona;
Implementation The project is based on an exhibition agreement between the Universidade Lusófona and the Impresa group. In transmedia storytelling, planning release dates is essential to the coherence of the project, and necessary to get the audience to follow the narrative through the various platforms. Each platform has its own release, with narrative hooks and links to lead consumers to the next contents on the same platform or on alternative platforms.
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Objectives of the project •
Stimulate a consumer base that follows the narrative through the various platforms.
Reach a committed, active, and participatory audience.
Encourage participation and content creation.
Reach a wider audience that disseminated by various platforms.
Prolong the life of the content.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 •
Increase the audience on platforms that have been losing competitiveness.
Distribution of effort and cost for several platforms.
Finding new financing and business models.
Create an experience that can be rewarding for advertisers, partners, producers and consumers.
Conclusion Among the key concepts for the realization of the Blue Pencil were the convergences that the project had established, serving as a working model and study for future projects of this nature. The project made synergies between companies, where economic convergence was established, benefiting both the project design phase as well as the promotion and display. Transmedia storytelling reflects the economics of media consolidation or what industry observers call “synergy.” Modern media companies are horizontally integrated – that is, they hold interests across a range of what were once distinct media industries. A media conglomerate has an incentive to spread its brand or expand its franchises across as many different media platforms as possible. (Jenkins 2007) The project emphasized the synergy achieved with the Impresa Group for consulting the files of Expresso magazine, which served as the foundations for both narrative fiction and documentary to, providing documents that have been integrated in all extensions of the project. The project was designed to be viewed on multiple platforms, leaving the university with their implementation for various platforms and Impresa with the display and promotion. Collaboration with ZON was also essential, through initiatives for the promotion and development of new multimedia content, helping with funding and providing a theatre for the premiere of the project on April 23rd.
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The premiere was thought to be not only an event to present the project, but at the same time to mark the April 25th revolution of the carnations. The event achieved all the project’s goals, having been attended by 350 people, and having been reported on in various organs of national press. As established during the planning of the project, it was launched across multiple channels, with teasers that promoted all extensions of the Blue Pencil (film, documentary, website and game) universe with presented on various platforms. The project has grown organically, to be distributed across multiple platforms, where each narrative was autonomous while contributing to the same universe. The film was exhibited on the open channel SIC on April 24th, making a bridge for the documentary, which aired on April 25th in SIC Notícias. For analysis of hearings, annexed, we note that the movie displayed in SIC achieved a 15.9 share, surpassing the share of RTP with 3.7, behind TVI with a 21.2 share, demonstrating that a product of fiction can compete with reality shows and talk shows that were displayed at the same time. More significant was the result achieved by SIC Noticias, with the screening of the documentary, which managed 1.2 percentage points more than usual for the same time display. These results prove the convergence between the two platforms, with and increasing audience reached by the migration of the public, who followed the narrative to another platform. There was also a significant increase in participation in the game on the website, proving further convergence results. The project will also fulfil your educational goal, with a debate organized following the screening, featuring Professor José Bragança de Miranda and Dr. José Pacheco Pereira on censorship and its mechanisms in Turin theatre. The school project with SIC Esperança, for presentation of the documentary in various schools, aimed to introduce the theme of freedom of press, and reached 600 schools, drawing 104 participations of the schools. The Blue Pencil project demon-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 strated, through its practical results, that transmedia narratives in different technologies and platforms do not compete with each other, and that all media are present and well established in society. Technologies and traditional platforms can coexist with new platforms. In these narratives, the relationship between platforms and technologies is intensified through adding and creating a more rewarding experience for consumers. The Blue Pencil project is an academic, non-commercial purpose, but aimed to show that we can find new ways of funding and business models with content available on greater number of platforms and with longer exposure to advertisers, attracting new audiences for platforms that have been losing competitiveness. The Blue Pencil project also succeeded in proving the importance of collaboration between businesses and the University, through the agreement signed between the University and the Impresa group.
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The University can develop proposals for contents that are then tested in various media, contributing to the study and research of new content that may offer solutions for media companies. The power of transmedia storytelling lies in its cohesion, and integration between various platforms. The characters portrayed, as well as parts of their history, reemerge on multiple platforms. On each platform, the narrative benefits from what the platform does best in terms of expression and communication. Thus, the transmedia narrative is focused on linking complementary elements, each of which is conveyed by the complementary platform that best enhances their expressive features, opening pathways to a shared universe.
Letter with a questionnaire for the Express newspaper about May 28, 1926
Re-enactement of the seizure of the letter by Colonel Saraiva.
Mário Soares and Francisco Balsemão speak about the episode of the letter that was lost for 39 years
The letter of Mário Soares and the reply of Balsemão Francisco, 39 years after, can be consulted Can be consulted the news that came out in the newspapers in 1926 with the implementation of the new regime and censorship
Censorship of the raid the house of José Pacheco
Re-enactement censorship news of the raid on Expresso
José Pacheco Pereira talks about the episode of the raid on his home by PIDE
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
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Pereira Books "Madam Me" and "New Portuguese Letters"
Colonel Barros Lopes finds that his wife read forbidden books in his absence.
Maria Teresa Horta speaks about the process of seizure of books
Considerations of Livro “Novas the Censors about Cartas the books can be Portuguesas” consulted
Punishment proof of page of the newspaper Expresso
Re-enactement of the telephone conversation between Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the director of the previous examination, Mario Bento, imposing the punishment
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa describes the episode that made the regime punish the newspaper Expresso
“Confidências de Book "New Mário Bento” Portuguese Interview of Mário Letters” Bento to José Pedro Castanheira from Expresso
Table.1. Narrative bridges between platforms
SIC - Lápis Azul (Filme) Média
5 Para a Meia-Noite
24:51 - 25:32
SHARE SIC TVI
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
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Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
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SIC Notícias - Universo - Audipanel Descrição
Lápis Azul (Documentário) (5ª Feira)
Lápis Azul (Documentário) (R) (6ª Feira)
Aud.Média (000 telespect.)
Aud.Total (000 telespect.)
Média PH DU (01 a 23 Abr-13)
Diferenças Média Programa para PH
Média PH DU (01 a 23 Abr-13)
Diferenças Média Programa para PH
Additional Tables. Audiometric data acquired from GFK on the dates of the Blue Pencil project screening on the TV channels SIC and SIC Notícias
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 References Jenkins, Henry. http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_stor ytelling_101.html. March 22, 2007. http://henryjenkins.org. Miller, Carolyn Handler. Digital Storytelling: A creator's guide to interactive entertainment. 2008. Pratten, Robert. Getting started in a transmedia storytelling. 2011.
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
SHAPING AND SHARING IMAGINATION: DESIGNERS AND THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF STORIES Mariana Ciancia, Francesca Piredda, and Simona Venditti Design Department, Politecnico di Milano, Italy [email protected]
, [email protected]
, [email protected]
Suggested citation: Ciancia, Mariana, Piredda, Francesca, and Simona Venditti (2014). “Shaping and Sharing Imagination: Designers and the Transformative Power of Stories.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: Changes in business and social environments have led society towards a complex landscape in which the relationship between mainstream media and participatory culture is completely changed, with a consequential blurring of boundaries between public and virtual space. As audience media habits are changing, a digital vision of reality is rising and engagement practices are evolving. As a consequence, there is the need for a new design methodology based on different skills working together. It is then necessary to adopt a disruptive approach to overcome the contemporary complexity, assuming storytelling activities, narrative practice and relationships among people as driving force for innovation. The paper describes the cases of Imagine Milan (2009-2012) and Plug Social TV (2013ongoing), in which we tested listening and expressive tools, and communication strategies in order to activate a dialogue among communities. On the one hand, there is the aim of experiencing audiovisual languages through different narrative formats. On the other hand, we explored the use of stories in a collaborative process, spreading the narrative worlds across different channels. The aim of this paper is to describe our design approach, merging together tools and skills from different areas: communication design strategies as participative methods are linked to codesign actions; branding strategies, coming from the advertising field, as tools for identity development; audiovisual language considered as a cultural interface for listening to reality; transmedia practice as cultural paradigm able to involve audience into meaning-making processes; ultimately, social media advocacy is used to build relationships between virtual and real communities.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Introduction The contemporary mediascape (Appadurai, 1990) is witnessing the emergence of phenomena that foster the sharing of meaning-making processes between producers and audiences, shaping society and influencing media habits. Due to the evolution of social interconnections through digital technologies, with a consequential blurring of boundaries between public and virtual space, it is necessary to encourage processes of mutual understanding among widespread communities of interest and practice, in order “to spark the imagination of many” (Reboot Stories, 2014). Nowadays communicative environments surround us and we can experience the breakage of the “fourth wall,” the metaphorical barrier between audience and the action that unfolds on stage (or on screen), keeping reality separate from the fictional world. This dramatic convention is allowing the viewers to enjoy those narrative universes even though they don’t correspond to reality’s logic (suspension of disbelief). A disruption of the fourth wall, used to allow the audience to develop metafiction reflections in the theatrical and cinematographic fields, has become one of the key features of multichannel phenomena: crossmedia and transmedia systems break the fourth wall in order to make the audience entering the stage and take an active role in the story. Therefore, we have been witnessing a paradigm shift toward a networked culture (Jenkins, Ford & Green, 2013) in which media and languages that have broken their historical isolation, allow a more dynamic use of stories. This context is making audiences more and more knowledgeable as well as eager for information, which is spread across several devices and channels. Thanks also to technological innovation, which has become an important feature for how we envisage our future, people are putting together different
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messages, which stem from everyday life, in order to shape the collective imagination. In this scenario, people are dealing with an interconnected social sphere in which they are “no longer dependent upon the particular forms of dialogue to which we have grown accustomed and new forms will have to be developed” (Burnett, 2011). More than ever, the audience now has become aware of its key role in the contemporary mediascape both as consumer and producer. Paul Saffo (2010, pp. 25-26) refers to members of the audience as creators, “[...] ordinary, anonymous individuals with a new role in this economy. [...] an economic actor who in one and the same act both creates and consumes.” As a development in the communication field, the conveying of stories across multiple media and the spreading of engagement practices are leading to a scenario in which “consumption becomes production; reading becomes writing; spectator culture becomes participatory culture” (Jenkins, 2006a, p. 60). These groups of people not only make use of static content, but also take possession and transform information through the negotiation of meanings. The main consequence of this is the spread of new content and the activation of new knowledge: “Content does not remain in fixed borders but rather it circulates in unpredicted and often unpredictable directions, not the product of top–down design but rather of a multitude of local decisions made by autonomous agents negotiating their way through diverse cultural spaces” (Jenkins, Li, Krauskopf & Green, 2008, p. 42). Within the design community (both researchers and practitioners) the topic of storytelling in the realm of social innovation represents a hot debate: the DESIS Philosophy Talks (www.desisphilosophytalks.org), an initiative aimed at enhancing the dialogue between practice and theory, between design and philosophy, is dedicating a series of seminars to this topic and a publication collecting those reflections is forthcoming. The main questions raised are
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 about making the best use of storytelling within the context of design for social innovation: can storytelling lead to the construction of a higher quality public domain? How can we exclude a manipulative character in the way we make use of storytelling? How can we, as designers, tell the stories from the margins of the mainstream of society and help its potentialities to be fully expressed? Now more than ever, we believe that communication designers have a key role in leading the linking of actions and relationships, able to support the audiences in the creation of new content and knowledge and in the construction of meanings through the practice of storytelling. The transformative power of stories Since the dawn of mankind, stories allowed people to build and share the meaning of their common experiences, to communicate and to structure the surrounding reality. Nowadays, the way the audience can tell stories is changing thanks to developments in technology and media, so the transformative power of stories in shaping and sharing the imagination of many can be as powerful as possible. Evolution and remediation (Bolter & Grusin, 1999) are creating new possibilities in media consumption, allowing the audience to experience new forms of storytelling and languages, modifying the relationship between mainstream media (top-down) and participatory culture (bottom-up or grassroots). The main consequence is the spread of communication environments characterized by story worlds in which the collaboration of producers and audience is leading to a “social construction of reality” (Berger & Luckman, 1966). In this reality, the circulation of stories and narratives through several channels and devices is engaging more people than ever, affecting audience’s identity, aesthetic and behaviour (Ryan & Thon, 2014). In accordance with Ahmad & Thompson (2009, p. 1) we think of “storytelling as a means to sharing knowledge, building trust, and cultivating iden-
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tity”: we believe in stories as agency for change. According to Davenport (2005, p. 2), “Storytelling relies on the combined human strengths of memory, imagination, and communication. The forms and methodologies of storytelling allow us to sift through and make sense of happenings in our own lives and in the lives of others. Whether drawn from representations of reality or shaped as fantasy worlds, stories tap into and represent the collective psyche of our culture. For the human being, story-making and storylistening are both a pleasure and a privilege”. Designers have a double role: as storylisteners they collect potential stories from testimonials and repertoires, as storytellers they organize information into an experience by providing a point of view. Each designer, of course, has his particular background, works in a particular context and brings his particular culture. He should look at stories that are on the margins of the mainstream, bringing them to take part to the social discourse. Design is an intrinsically futureoriented practice (Koskinen, Zimmerman, Binder, Redström, Wensveen, 2011) as it has the role to move from the existing situation to a preferred one (Simon, 1969). Thanks to digital technologies that have enabled new ways of communicating and building relationships among people, memories and willingness, design could claim the role of a “futural epistemology” (Willis, 2013) based on innovative dynamics of storytelling: real time versus past time versus future foresight. Stories through time have always unlocked the potential to create communities of shared interests, to aggregate common beliefs, to explore contexts and places. Stories have allowed us to travel both back in time and in the future. By creating a story with all its components (actors, context, plot, script, etc.), we can envision how the things are or the way things
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 could be, and allow others to take part in our own vision. Designers take charge of the role of configuring forecast making them actually arguable and ready to be put in practice. To prefigure brand new facts, making them visible and highly imaginative at the same time, means to translate them into project proposals. To shape possible worlds is essential in order to manifest them and trigger imagination: it is a process of continuous interaction between images and their manifold interpretations that starts off a dialogue among stakeholders within the collaboration process. Only imagination can activate new knowledge. On one hand, then, imagery as a catalogue and as a cultural and trans-cultural archive of themes, figures and common habits, feeds scenarios and future insights; on the other hand, scenarios regenerate imagery, orient the design culture and configure its dynamic character and its transformative power (Piredda, 2008). As tools that designers have to collaborate with communities and among peers to establish pathways of change, stories set a common ground for discussion, engage and move people. They allow people to make tangible the way they experience the world. The more designers represent ideas and proposals as rough and kaleidoscopic, the more they invite people to use their own imagination in order to position themselves and to plot their own way to action. We have put into effect the idea of storytelling as a social experience (Bernardo, 2014), since 2009, involving young designers (students) of the School of Design (Politecnico di Milano) and citizens of Milan city area. Below we are presenting the cases of Imagine Milan (2009-2012) and Plug Social TV (2013ongoing). The main idea is on the one hand to experiment the power of audiovisual storytelling (languages, genres and formats) as tools for shaping imagination; on the other hand, to dive into the potentialities of transmedia systems, investigating the use of stories in a
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collaborative process, spreading the narrative worlds across different channels and sharing imagination. We have been designing “experiences that are socially inclusive and which have the power to bring people together through common interests and goals” (Bernardo, 2014, pp. 116-117). Shaping imagination: Imagine Milan youtube.com/user/imagislab, facebook.com/imagislabpolimi
Imagine Milan is an educational and research project started in 2009, which involves professors, researchers and students of the School of Design of Politecnico di Milano. The aim of this research is to experience audiovisual formats to promote dialogue and social innovation, focusing on the potentialities of audiovisual storytelling and its tools. The experience so far conducted was located in different areas of the city of Milan, having ten groups of young designers exploring one neighbourhood each, meeting people and places. Over the years we have been dealing with different topics (from sustainable mobility to social issues) and areas obtaining a kaleidoscopic portrait of the city as it is and envisioning how it could be if some good practices would become leaders of a sustainable transformation. Imagine Milan represents an experiment of the contribution that communication design can give to the dialogue about possible worlds and sustainable innovation. In particular, audiovisual formats are proving to be complex artifacts both as expressive languages and, from the production processes point of view, as products, which can trigger networks of expertise and knowledge towards representation and mediation. The first phase – Listening – has the aim of exploring the urban area. Young designers collected and documented case studies and best practices through video interviews with citizens, city users, associations, craftsmen and companies; through editing historical and contemporary iconographic repertoires, useful
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014
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to reconstruct the memory and social imagery of the place. Output of this phase is the miniDOC: a brief audiovisual format (five minutes) able to tell the most important aspects emerging from the previous research and analysis work.
We should, then, go beyond the use of video as a mirror of the community itself that provides testimonials: we should translate its imagery into a powerful and effective narrative world that comes from the local but claims to fit into a mainstream (White, 2003).
The second phase – Envisioning – provides an epistemological and aesthetic contribution to envisioning a sustainable future. Output is the Scenario that visualizes and enacts abstract concepts for activating negotiation tables and conversations among stakeholders. In fact, researchers, young designers and stakeholders were involved in public presentations and workshops at the Urban Center in Milan for discussing topics and pathways of collaboration towards possible solutions.
Sharing imagination: Plug Social TV
The third phase – Promoting – promotes a sustainable city life, its values and benefits through a typical advertising output: an audiovisual short format – advertising/commercials – (thirty seconds). The promos were distributed on urban screens (outdoor, on metro and buses), on line (YouTube), podcasting and broadcasting on local television channels. The communicative effectiveness of the videos, designed and produced for Imagine Milan, works on the synergy among different formats and genres, each of them is consistent with specific strategic goals. By acquiring and recombining this catalogue of images, values and lifestyles, design is able to define expectations and needs and to orient the individual choices. Audiovisual genres, as realistic and fantastic registers of representation, refer to the “archaic universe of doubles” (Morin, 1982): they contribute to an accurate portrait of reality or to a fictional construction of the world, according to an epistemological model of sense making, which has its own technical, aesthetic and linguistic tools for translating and making knowledge explicit.
www.facebook.com/plugsocialtv The project Plug Social TV started with the purpose of integrating audiovisual tools, practices and artifacts in a participatory communication system, using new media and narratives as parts of a transmedia strategy for identity building and community engagement, considering stories as the driving force to support and amplify active communities' initiatives. Plug Social TV is the result of a participatory design process in which citizens and students worked collaboratively to tell different stories of the same neighbourhood, located in a suburban area of the city of Milan. We considered the urban context as a general topic, focusing on people's needs, in order to build more liveable neighbourhoods. The project's participants were students of the School of Design of Politecnico di Milano and groups of people of a local community, as well as citizens’ associations and other local actors, which were involved in participatory activities and workshops. Considering the whole process, we worked with about fifty students and thirty members of the local community. Nine teams of students and citizens worked on the definition of different story universes (plots, characters, locations, actions). These were conceived during a first phase of exploration of the local context and analysis of its inhabitants' perception; then, the narrative universes were further developed in workshops and collaborative in field activities, set up by the students themselves, and amplified by the transmedial world (contests, games, events, exhibitions, etc.). Each story universe was then re-elaborated and rearranged in
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 order to create episodes for a web series, which represents the centre of the expanded experience. Using a transmedia system, we were able to integrate audiovisual storytelling with user engagement through Social Networks, including partnerships with local actors and retailers, in order to create a story world, which is both product and creator of community identity. In this context, Social Media have ‘the potential to transform the methods of dialoguing, decision-making, information sharing, and relationship building in the community building [process]’ (Lachapelle, 2011, p. 2). This potentiality is bound to the effective participation of citizens in the discussion: ‘social media platforms enable organizations to connect with people, share intimate stories, create conversations [...] and build ever-expanding communities of people who share common interests’ (Geneske, 2014). Therefore, the more people are effectively joined by common interests, the more they are actively participating in the discussion: we are dealing with a reiterative process in which technology does not create participation but it is able to support and amplify what is already present. As final artifacts of the design process, web series have their own plot, characters and genre (noir, reality, mystery, talk shows – we can consider them as formats), but they are all connected to the local identity: there are formats which have real people as main characters and tell stories that are directly connected to their personal experiences; other formats are more fictional and it is necessary to have a deeper knowledge of the historical background of the local context, in order to get the connection between fiction and reality. The nine web series are collected on Plug Social TV, a web TV based on digital channel and social media, which uses Facebook as the main platform for sharing and spreading audiovisual contents and that constitutes a place of dialogue and interaction
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between students, citizens and the community itself. The use of social media, specifically Facebook as the main channel, gives users the possibility to interact not only with textbased information, but also with visual information, audio and video content (Zaglia, 2013). Through this kind of interaction we are able to get qualitative information about the engagement, along with quantitative data coming from the insights: in their comments, users highlight the most meaningful matters, giving feedbacks about the social experience of seeing themselves as the main characters of a common story and sharing it with their personal audiences on social media. Through the use of narratives it is possible to highlight issues and opportunities of a community which recognizes itself in the story universe: students and citizens are both characters and producers, storylisteners and storytellers, who work collaboratively to turn into fiction their own personal experiences. Social dialogue among different actors it is then activated by self--recognition processes in which the audience become the character of a story which contributes to build a mythology of everyday life: a narrative world that reifies the values of the community and simultaneously sets them as universal. A summary and a proposal We are activating projects at a hyperlocal level and we are collaborating with local communities, with the aim of exploring the potentialities of transmedia systems beyond entertainment industry and mainstream productions. This makes us able to speak directly to local stakeholders and evaluate the impact of transmedia practices in the medium-and-long term. What kind of impact do these practices have from a social point of view? Does engagement bring changes in community’s perceptions and behaviours? Which stories and story-worlds work better to mirror local identity? How can stories lead to changes and transformations?
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 How do narratives interact with everyday life of individuals and communities? Narrative practices, as collaborative actions between designers and communities, are based on the act of listening. Referring to Imagine Milan project, the audiovisual artifacts for the Listening phase represent the very basic and fundamental act that designers practice in order to collect stories, expectations and wishes from the community as tiny tales from everyday life. They are capable of stimulating social conversation and horizontal feedback loops within the community itself: a self-reflective discourse that is based on visual translation and envisioning. The Imagine Milan project has started a process of exploration of tools and audiovisual expressive forms, able to integrate the cultural humus and the personal experiences into interpretation paths that are addressing restricted and close communities of users: “Even the most robust visual language is useless without the ability to engage it in a living context” (Lupton & Cole Phillips, 2008, p. 10). Hence, communication design can provide an epistemological and aesthetic contribution to envision our future. We are seeking semifinished artifacts and systemic formats for translating complex insights and tales, towards an “audiovisual design thinking.” In the case of Plug Social TV, web series, as audiovisual products, are addressing the neighbourhood and city institutions as focus targets, but processes and practices that generated those stories can be considered as the most meaningful aspects for people outside the community. As a cultural activator (Jenkins, 2006b), Plug Social TV is able to set up the conditions for people engagement in meaningful experiences; as a transmedia system, we can consider this project as a format made of practices and partnerships whose scalability at a higher level can put together social and economic values.
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So, on the one hand, the use of local resources as partnerships, product placement, sponsorships, service providing, stakeholders’ engagement, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing initiatives, can be considered as a model for managing activities and producing contents. In fact, putting the project into practice requires a large productive effort that is possible to face thanks to the collaboration between design students and citizens. On the other hand, this collaboration could lead to a low quality aesthetical standard of the final result: it is then necessary to support the audiovisual product with the documentation of the process, which can communicate and value the social context in which the project takes place. This documentation is intended as a meta-tale, a story within a story, which is itself part of the transmedia system. Furthermore, we should analyse the points of view through which the narrative world is developed, and the perspectives through which people experience this world (Rampazzo Gambarato, 2012, p. 75). The way the community understands its role in the narrative world differs from the strategic positioning: how do people relate to that world and its representation? Which fictional and social role do people interpret? The main consequence is that there are no single disciplines able to comprehend the complex nature of societies (Burnett, 2011): the contemporary mediascape needs new approaches capable of facing changes in media habits. More than ever, the shift toward the multichannel paradigm is establishing itself in the intersection between digital technologies and new production and distribution processes. In this scenario, the concept of engagement has become the battlefield between mainstream media and participatory culture. Therefore, it is possible to recognize two opposing forces: the corporations that imagine participation as something they can control, and the audience that claim the right
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 to participate in the meaning-making processes of culture (Jenkins, 2006b, p. 169). The contemporary society finds itself at a very important turning point. On one hand there are tools, digital technologies and networks that broaden audience participation; on the other hand, media companies restrain this widespread creativity because they don't know how to engage with this new type of audience (Jenkins, 2006b, p. 138). Both the Imagine Milan and the Plug Social TV projects are facing the developments related to audience, technologies and engagement processes within a complex social sphere where “[...] the social and cultural conditions for the creation and communication of ideas, artifacts, knowledge and information have been transformed” (Burnett, 2011). For this reason, we adopt a disruptive approach, assuming storytelling activities, narrative practices and audience engagement as key elements, fudging the boundaries of four different fields: Branding and Communication Strategies, Audiovisual Storytelling, Transmedia Practice and Social Media Advocacy. Both the research experiences were characterized by the use of Brand and Communication Strategies, coming from the advertising field, as tools for identity development. We take professional roles, skills, responsibilities and tools from marketing and advertising domains and we use them to analyse the social environment with an actionresearch approach. We develop in field activities and ask the students to work in teams made of five key roles. The Project manager is in charge of the management of the design process, and project leader has a general strategic overview of the entire project, according to the concept of director-designer (Anceschi, 2001; Bollini, 2004). The Creative director and content strategist represent the contemporary creative duo in which the first is leader of the visual design, and the second is a new kind of copywriter able to shape and deliver content through a multichannel environment. The movie specialist uses audio-
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visual language to create compelling stories and develops empathic relations with the audience. Audiovisual language is considered as a cultural interface (Manovich, 2001) for listening to reality. Thanks to the Imagine Milan research project, we explored the use of formats and media and we identified three audiovisual outputs that allow designers to observe and to listen to their surrounding reality, to envision new possible futures, and to promote stories, by engaging with the audience in all the different steps of the design process. Due to the rising number of multi-modal devices and the high number of messages conveyed across media channels, people are facing a lack of mutual understanding. This is why we understand that putting an audiovisual artifact online is not enough, and it is necessary to find forms of communication able to catch the attention of the audience by directly engage with people. We identified Transmedia Practice (Dena, 2009) as a possible approach able to support the construction of a human landscape, allowing audiences to access content in a different way, and leading meaning-making towards becoming a collaborative and participatory process (Bakioğlu 2009, p. 319). Within Plug Social TV experience, transmedia practice is used to construct narrative worlds, spread through different media channels (analogical and/or digital), and to encourage citizens to take action and develop activities for their community (Jenkins et al., 2013) in. In synthesis, working within the realm of transmedia allows us to concentrate on the three key features that structure this phenomenon: storytelling, new media structures and audience (social) engagement. In the end, Social Media Advocacy is able to build relationships between virtual and real communities: we set up a system made of different web channels and social media in order to reinforce the online community, giving people of the neighbourhood a digital place where they can have discussions and give feedback.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 This complex system of communication artifacts, tools and practices is based on stories and venues, exactly the humancentred activities in which design can make a decisive difference, bridging the past and the future, triggering imagination, envisioning and re-framing values. In other words, designers apply for playing the role of directors of participation. References Ahmad, Arshad, & Thompson, John. (2009). Tale-‐telling organizations: using stories to create collective change. URL: http://www.mcmaster.ca/stlhe/3M.council/Tale-‐ telling%20Organizations.pdf [September 12, 2014] Anceschi, Giovanni. (2001). La fatica del web, Il Verri, 16, 24-‐30. Appadurai, Arjun. (1990). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. Theory, Culture & Society, 7(2), 295-‐310. Bakioğlu, Burcu S. (2009). The business of storytelling: production of works, poaching communities, and creation of story worlds (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT). (3373494). Berger, Peter L., Luckman, Thomas. (1966). The social construction of reality: a treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City NY: Anchor Books. Bernardo, Nuno. (2014). Transmedia 2.0. How to create an entertainment brand using a transmedial approach to storytelling. Lisbon-‐Dublin-‐London: BeActive Books. Bollini, Letizia. (2004). Registica multimodale: Il design dei new media. Milan, IT: CLUP. Burnett, Ron. (2011). Transdisciplinarity: a new learning paradigm for the digital age? Critical Approaches to Culture+ Media [web log]. URL: http://rburnett.ecuad.ca/2011/12/27/transdisciplin arity-‐a-‐new-‐learning-‐paradigm-‐for-‐the-‐digital.html [September 12, 2014] Bolter, Jay David, & Grusin, Richard. (1999). Remediation: understanding new media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Davenport, Glorianna, (2005). Desire versus destiny: the question of payoff in narrative. Position statement: for Caixa Forum Metanarrative[s]?
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Conference, Barcelona, Spain. URL: http://ic.media.mit.edu/people/gid/papers/DesireV sDestiny2005.pdf [September 12, 2014]
Dena, Christy. (2009). Transmedia practice: theorizing the practice of expressing a fictional world across distinct media and environments (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ELMCIP Geneske, Jay (2014). Digital storytelling for social impact. URL: http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/blog/digital-‐-‐ -‐storytelling-‐-‐-‐social-‐-‐-‐impact [September 12, 2014] Jenkins, Henry, Ford, Sam, Green, Joshua. (2013). Spreadable media: creating value and meaning in a networked culture. New York: New York University Press. Jenkins, Henry, Li, Xiaochang, Krauskopf, Ana Domb, & Green, Joshua. (2008). If It doesn't spread, it's dead: creating value in a spreadable marketplace. URL: http://convergenceculture.org/research/Spreadabili ty_doublesidedprint_final_063009.pdf [September 12, 2014] Jenkins, Henry. (2006a). Fans, bloggers, and gamers. Exploring participatory culture. New York: New York University Press. Jenkins, Henry. (2006b). Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press. Koskinen, Ilpo, Zimmerman, John, Binder, Thomas, Redström Johan, Wensveen, Stephan. (2011). Design research through practice. From the lab, field, and showroom. Waltham, MA: Morgan Kaufmann. Lachapelle, Paul. (2011). The use of social networking in community development. CD Practice. URL: http://comm-‐ dev.org/images/attachments/070_CD%20Practice% 202011n1%20Revised%20A.pdf [September 12, 2014] Lupton, Ellen, Cole Phillips, Jennifer. (2008). Graphic design: the new basics. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Manovich, Lev. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Piredda, Francesca (2008). Design della comunicazione audiovisiva. Un approccio strategico per la ‘televisione debole’. Milan, IT: FrancoAngeli. Rampazzo Gambarato, Renira (2013). Transmedia project design: theoretical and analytical
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 considerations, Baltic Screen Media Review, 1(2013), 81-‐100
Reboot Stories. (2014). 5 Learn Do Share. Los Angeles 2014. URL: http://learndoshare.net/publications/books/ [September 12, 2014] Ryan, Marie-‐Laure, Thon, Jan-‐Noël. (edited by) (2014), Storyworld across media. Toward a media-‐conscious narratology. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. (eBook). Saffo, Paul. (2010). The creator economy. In B. Moggridge, Designing Media (pp. 23-‐26). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Simon, Herbert A. (1969), The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Willis, Anne-‐Marie. (2013), Editorial: design, politics and change, Design Philosophy Papers, 1(2013). URL: http://www.desphilosophy.com/dpp/dpp_journal/j ournal.html [September 14, 2014]. Zaglia, Melanie E. (2013). Brand communities embedded in social networks. Journal of Business Research, 66(2), 216-‐223.
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
FROM GHOSTS OF THE HORSESHOE TO WARD ONE: CRITICAL INTERACTIVES FOR INVITING SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT WITH INSTANCES OF HISTORICAL ERASURE (COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA) Heidi Rae Cooley, School of Visual Arts and Design, University of South Carolina [email protected]
Duncan Buell, Computer Science and Engineering, University of South Carolina [email protected]
Richard Walker, Computer Science and Engineering, University of South Carolina Suggested citation: Cooley, H. R., Buell D., and R. Walker (2014). “From Ghosts of the Horseshoe to Ward One: Critical Interactives for Inviting Social Engagement with Instances of Historical Erasure (Columbia, South Carolina).” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). A plaque stands at the front gates of the University of South Carolina’s historic Horseshoe in Columbia, South Carolina. It has enjoyed that location since being placed there by the Columbia Sesquicentennial Commission of 1938. The plaque reads: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA CHARTERED 1801 AS THE S. C. COLLEGE. OPENED JANUARY 10, 1805. ENTIRE STUDENT BODY VOLUNTEERED FOR CONFEDERATE SERVICE 1881. SOLDIERS’ HOSPITAL 1862-65. CHARTERED AS U. OF S. C. 1865. RADICAL CONTROL 1873-77. CLOSED 1877-80. COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND MECHANIC ARTS 1880-82. S. C. COLLEGE 1882-87. U. OF S. C. 1887-90. S.
C. COLLEGE 1890-1905. U. OF S. C. 1906. FAITHFUL INDEX TO THE AMBITIONS AND FORTUNES OF THE STATE. Commemorating the “ambitions and fortunes of the state [of South Carolina],” the plaque serves as a reminder of the legacy of the collegiate institution and its connections to a larger history of nation and Southern values. Reading closely, one might notice the institution’s not surprising antebellum political leanings: “Entire student body volunteered for confederate service 1881.” Likewise, one might consider the changes in the institution’s name: South Carolina College, University of South Carolina, College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, with an eventual return to University of South Carolina. But what one
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 might gloss over – perhaps because of its ambiguity – is the mention of “Radical control 1873-77,” and the immediately following statement, “Closed 1877-80.” To what does “radical control” refer? Who or what would have been considered “radical” – under what circumstances? And why the subsequent closure of the university? Of course, one might draw the conclusion that there is a causal relation between the two events: that which was “radical” led to, or even necessitated that the university close for three years. And one might even pause to consider possible reasons for such events. But arriving at any conclusion or simply positing hypotheses requires that one take the time to read the plaque’s text, and most visitors to campus do not take the time to do so. In fact, students and faculty – for the most part – have no knowledge of the plaque’s contents and meaning; they may not even “see” it. Consequently, they neither formulate hypotheses nor draw conclusions. The challenge for those who would present the entire history of the university becomes this: how to draw attention to the ghosts whose reference lurks in the text of the sesquicentennial plaque? How best to make visible the unacknowledged history of enslaved labor that made possible the site now known as the historic Horseshoe? What other instances of historic erasure give foundation to the university landscape? Ghosts of the Horseshoe and Ward One are critical interactive applications that offer two distinct yet complementary examples for how questions such as the ones just posed might be addressed on site and in real time. In what follows, we offer an account of each application and its context. Subsequently, we provide a theoretically informed discussion of how these projects elicit “empathic awareness” and, by extension, inspire a sense of responsibility for a past that remains unacknowledged – one that has ensured the existence and expansion of the physical campus of the University of South Carolina– Columbia.
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Historic Erasure I: Slavery and the Historic Horseshoe Ghosts of the Horseshoe (Ghosts) is a mobile interactive application that endeavors to bring into view on mobile networked touchscreens (iPad in the first versions) the largely unknown history of slavery that made materially possible the physical site that is the “heart” of the University of South Carolina: the historic Horseshoe. Ghosts deploys game mechanics (i.e., ludic methods), as well as Augmented Reality and GPS functionality, in order to generate awareness of and questioning about what otherwise seems ordinary: a grassy space at the center of a university campus. Ghosts organizes content into three distinct but overlapping themes: (1) architectural ghosts (e.g., razed outbuildings); (2) human ghosts (e.g., un/named enslaved persons); and (3) the historic wall that delimits the Horseshoe grounds. Content pertaining to these three threads is called-up according to four time periods: 1801-1820 (early institution); 1821-1840 (institutional growth and the building of the wall); 1841-1860 (late antebellum institution); and 1861-1880 (the institution during the Civil War and through the Reconstruction period). Ghosts’ root screen interface is an 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the South Carolina College campus. A compass rose appears atop this map and indicates in real time the geo-locative position of the participant (or “interactant” hereafter). As the interactant traverses the Horseshoe grounds, previously faint fingerprint icons populating the map interface grow increasingly more visible, indicating that the interactant is near a content point. Content points open onto audio, textual, and visual information pertinent to a particular building or, in the case of the historic wall, an architecturally significant feature. In some instances, interactants listen to, for example, the voice of “Henry” (a real figure, whose history is partly known) as he details his existence as a slave at South Carolina College – his purchase, his escape, his capture, and his subse-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 quent sale. In other instances, interactants confront digitized historical documents indicating the cost of “hiring” an enslaved person, whose identity might be indicated by a name (e.g., “Anna”) or by category (e.g., “washerwoman,” “boy”). And in other instances, an historic photograph of an outbuilding (i.e., slave quarters) appears in the landscape where it would have existed (had it not been torn down) overtop the device’s real time camera view. (Of course, it is worth noting that the sibling outbuilding still stands –unidentified – at the left flank of what is now the President’s House.) Should an interactant venture beyond the Horseshoe campus proper, she will encounter opportunities to learn about historic preservation. The wall (ca. 1835-36) that encloses the historic Horseshoe is suffering from general deterioration and weathering, disrepair, and defacement. University Archivist Elizabeth West and University Architect Derek Gruner together have secured funds to preserve the historic wall – which was originally built to confine students to the campus grounds. Ghosts features a Citizen Archeology function that allows interactants to document instances of deterioration, damage, etc., in order to support the preservation efforts of West and Gruner. As an interactant moves along the Horseshoe perimeter, she is invited to focus more concertedly on minute details of the wall’s structural status: crumbling mortar, splintering bricks, poor repointing, invasive foliage, eye-screws, etc. In keeping with the Ghosts logic, fingerprint icons direct interactants to points of concern. Now such icons, when activated, inform the interactant of kinds of deterioration. Moreover, she is invited to take photos of instances of deterioration, etc., and contribute those images to a backend database that will parse all incoming images for easy assessment by West and Gruner. Ghosts of the Horseshoe endeavors to encourage a shift in attitude with respect to the historic Horseshoe, its relation to the University of South Carolina, and the institu-
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tional and socio-cultural politics that are responsible for what exists as a surprisingly intact “landscape of slavery.” We acknowledge that its approach is subtle; we avoid direct accusation. That is, Ghosts is not interested in leveraging claims against the past or the current institution that enjoys what the past has made possible. Instead, it uses juxtaposition to underscore convenient omissions or revisionist interpretations of a history that remains unfamiliar, unacknowledged. For example, as one nears the sesquicentennial plaque (discussed above), Ghosts signals that new content is available via the Augmented Reality functionality. When one raises the touchscreen device and focuses the camera on the physical plaque, an overlay appears onscreen and supplants the plaque in real time. Now the interactant reads: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA CHARTERED 1801 AS THE S. C. COLLEGE. ENSLAVED LABOR RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSTRUCTION ON AND MAINTENANCE OF CAMPUS 1801-1965. OPENED JANUARY 10, 1805. FIRST MAJORITY AFRICANAMERICAN PUBLIC COLLEGE 1873-77. CLOSED 1877-80. COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND MECHANIC ARTS 1880-82. S. C. COLLEGE 1882-87. U. OF S. C. 1887-90. S. C. COLLEGE 1890-1905. U. OF S. C. 1906. FAITHFUL INDEX TO THE AMBITIONS AND FORTUNES OF THE STATE. Now modified, the text states: “Enslaved labor,” “First majority African-American public college,” and “Closed.” The enumeration of historical occurrences works suggestively. The site being commemorated is the result of enslaved labor; it became the first majority African-American public college in the US during Reconstruction; it was closed and reopened as a completely different institution, and remained resegregated until 1963. There is no mention of the institution’s confederate affiliations or that it reopened in 1880 as an all white agricultural college. While these exclusions might very well be interpreted as in-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 stances of counter-erasure, they serve to emphasize the ways in which race and racial politics are fundamental – indeed, foundational – to USC’s identity as a public institution. Historic Erasure 2: Urban Renewal and Ward One The University of South Carolina did not reintegrate until 1963. The university’s website describes this moment of political significance in the following way: “On Sept. 11, 1963 Henrie D. Monteith, Robert Anderson and James Solomon became the first AfricanAmerican students to enroll at the university in the 20th century; in 1965, Monteith became the first African-American graduate, earning a B.S. in biochemistry” (http://www.sc.edu/about/our_history/). A single compound sentence celebrates the fact of integration and the successful completion of a degree by an African American student: a tidy but perfunctory account that glosses over an eighty-six year history of prohibited access based on race. And perhaps not drawing attention to this history of exclusion seems somehow reasonable. But the very same years of segregation saw African Americans employed by the university. They maintained the facilities and grounds; they worked as custodial staff, emptying trash and sweeping floors; they prepared and served meals to students and faculty. And a majority of these employees lived in neighborhoods around the campus. Collectively, these neighborhoods comprised a voting district known as Ward One. Ward One emerged in the late nineteenth century. Situated between the boundaries of present-day Pickens, Huger, Heyward, and Gervais streets, about one square mile in area, Ward One grew into a bustling, predominantly African American business and residential area. By the early twentieth century, Ward One residents had developed their own culture and built their own institutions. Having faced the daunting challenges of racial segregation, two world wars, and the Great
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Depression, the downtown community boasted churches, schools, businesses, and civic organizations. African American residents owned property and held prominent positions in the community. But established Ward One families began to relocate to more upscale areas of town and the state – even the country; they sold their homes. Incoming inhabitants could not afford to own, so they rented. New property owners – in most cases, well-established white citizens – proved disinclined to maintain their rentals. And in the late 1950s, The Columbia Housing Authority, under the direction of housing commissioner Joseph E. Winter, officially designated Ward One to be a “blighted” area. Ward One is not the only community to suffer the consequences of policies that resulted in the eviction and displacement of African American families. Across the United States mid-century (ca. late 1940s-1970s), cities pursued projects of urban renewal and revitalization. These initiatives functioned to identify areas of impoverishment for subsequent demolition and rebuilding. In Columbia, SC, this meant a drastic overhaul of the area around USC: alleys and streets disappeared; homes were bulldozed; churches – like Union Baptist and Jones Memorial – relocated across town; and schools and businesses closed down. In the wake of demolition, USC expanded its campus, purchasing the newly available land – a practice that has analogs nationwide, including, for example, Indiana University – Purdue University, Indianapolis; University of Chicago; University of Michigan – East Lansing; Stanford; and University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Where once homes, a baseball field, businesses, schools, and churches stood, one now sees USC’s Koger Center, Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center, and Greek Village. And while plaques mark where, for example, the Celia Dial Saxon School used to stand, few passersby pause long enough to read about the historical relevance of the sites so-marked.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 In response to such glaring omissions of history, we are developing a mobile application and a complementary interactive website that invite participants to consider both the local and national policies and politics that fueled urban renewal in Columbia, SC and elsewhere in the country. Called Ward One, the project focuses on how matters of race have functioned to reconfigure the institutional landscape of USC (from its inception as South Carolina College in 1801). Moreover, the project suggests how other similar landscapes in the US likewise “benefited” from federally sanctioned redevelopment – or revitalization – efforts that displaced black communities. By raising questions about how local, state, and federal efforts succeeded in eradicating “blighted” areas, the project makes visible an oft-ignored history that is national in scope. Using the affordances of both touchscreen and desktop interfaces, Ward One mobilizes local news footage, photographs, and other archival materials that serve as evidence of the historic place and its demolition, as well as the site’s initial appropriation by the City of Columbia and the Columbia Housing Authority and its subsequent acquisition and transformation by the University of South Carolina. It features Ward One community representatives, who offer narratives of forced relocation and efforts to protest such acts of “progress.” These reflections and memories of those who refuse to forget offer a counter-narrative of cultural renewal. In this way, Ward One endeavors to harness the spirit of the Ward One community, which lives on in the stories shared by and ongoing efforts of people who remember a time when they called Ward One home. At the same time, it places these local stories in the larger context of mid-twentieth century “reconstruction” that was enabled by discourses of “poverty” and “slum life” and the “bourgeois imagination” (Mullins and Jones, 2011, p. 34) that rationalized such discourses and the legal instrument of eminent domain by which private property was appropriated.
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The Ward One mobile application, in its first instantiation, features the historic Palmetto Compress building, an early 20th century (ca. 1917) cotton warehouse that recently escaped plans for demolition that will be renovated and will house a museum that the Ward One Organization will curate. The corners of Blossom and Huger, where the warehouse sits, serves as the point of departure for the app, which will follow an initial set of individual itineraries (e.g., as determined by Ms. Mattie Anderson-Roberson and Deacon Arthur F. Jones, former residents who are active in the Ward One community organization). Incorporating audio-visual media, the app will follow these former Ward One inhabitants as they traverse the former Ward One terrain. Interactants will see where once stood Ms. Mattie Anderson-Roberson’s childhood home stood; she will follow Deacon Jones through alleys where he played chess. The interactive website frames these local stories in the context of national urban renewal and tenement reform initiatives. Toward Empathic Awareness, Critical Interaction, and Social Engagement The state of South Carolina boasts a population of 4,625,364, approximately 28% of which is African American (2010). By contrast, the state’s flagship research university has a student body of only 11% African American/Black (http://www.forbes.com/colleges/university-ofsouth-carolina-columbia/). Neither Ghosts nor Ward One will change these statistics in any direct or immediate way. But in tandem, that is, as a suite of interactive applications, they might very well inspire in others an “empathic awareness” of how race matters to a “sense” of responsibility for a past whose politics still bears on the present. We cannot change the past. And, with tensions still high, because race is still the primary divisive issue, at least in the South if not the entire United States, reconciliation and understanding are unlikely to result from “preaching.” We argue that the most produc-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 tive means to secure social engagement can be by means that are subtle and evocative. Ghosts and Ward One attempt to show that “bodies are not merely texts or performances but flesh and bone, histories and entanglements, suffering and illness, capabilities and desires, life and death – in short, bodies are material and not just materialized” (Casper and Moore, 2009, p. 16). The records that survive of the enslaved persons who made the bricks and built the buildings and Wall of the USC Horseshoe are predominantly records of labor, contracted for and treated entirely as a commodity. We have attempted with Ghosts to engage the interactant with the reality that these enslaved persons were persons, to make her aware that the buildings and Wall are perhaps all that remains of their lives and work, and that the we should be reminded of the (almost) intentional erasure in the record of their presence on campus. Moving from Ghosts to Ward One, we find ourselves not with a paucity of information about the individuals who will populate the interactive narrative but with a surplus. Our task here is to re-create in the new medium the stories and the sense of community that is still felt by the former residents. The task is made harder by the need to select a small number of narratives to be presented from the very large number that could be presented. On the other hand, the task is made easier by the fact that former residents are involved in the development of Ward One. Their stories can be told in the first person. Their sense of community can be felt in the give and take of their discussions among each other. The official historical record is one of urban renewal to eliminate blight, with the university as the benefactor expanding (for the most part, only recently) into the land area made available by the displacement of that community. The community itself is still present, more than forty years later. Ward One endeavors to elicit an empathic awareness in its interactants in order to cultivate reconciliation along and across the
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color line and, by extension, across campuscommunity divides. It endeavors to make all of us aware of the human cost of decisions – federal and local – whose result seems only to be modern buildings. Finally, we acknowledge the role played here by the new medium, by the mobile platform that permits both Ghosts and Ward One to present the history to the interactants. These are interactive presentations of history, with all the emotive power of imagery, audio, and the sense of being present on the location where the history took place. In this regard, we endeavor, as Monica J. Casper and Lisa Jean Moore assert, to “reveal, resituate, and recuperate” those people whose stories, indeed whose bodies, in the instance of the historic Horseshoe, have fallen victim to historical erasure (Casper and Moore, 2009, p. 15). It is worth reminding ourselves that race and reconciliation are – 150 years after the end of the Civil War, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and 50 years after the Civil Rights Bill – still enormously troubling issues for the United States. It is time to acknowledge that “The act … of focusing on [those whose voices have been muted] in a critical way … is an ethical responsibility” (Casper and Moore, 2009, p. 15). References Buell, D. A., and H. R. Cooley. (2012). Critical Interactives: Improving public understanding of public policy, Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, 32, 486-493. Casper, Monica J., and Lisa Jean Moore. (2009). Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility. New York and London: NYU Press. Cooley, H. R., and D. A. Buell. (2014). Ghosts of the Horseshoe, a Mobile Application: Fostering a New Habit of Thinking about the History of University of South Carolina's Historic Horseshoe. Annual Review of Cultural Heritage Informatics, 1, 193-212. Mullins, P. R. and L. C. Jones. (2011). Archaeologies of Race and Urban Poverty: The
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Politics of Slumming, Engagement, and the Color Line, Historical Archaeology 45.1, 33-50. Weyeneth, R., et al. (2012). Slavery at South Carolina College, 1801-1865: The Foundations of the University of South Carolina. URL: http://library.sc.edu/digital/slaveryscc/ [September 15, 2014].
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
STREAMS OF THE SELF: THE INSTAGRAM FEED AS NARRATIVE AUTOBIOGRAPHY Kris Fallon, UC Davis [email protected]
Suggested citation: Fallon, Kris (2014). “Streams of the Self: The Instagram Feed as Narrative Autobiography.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: This article offers a working draft of a larger qualitative analysis of the popular smartphone application Instagram. It offers a reading of the ubiquitous contemporary form of self-portraiture, the selfie, locating its origin in the longer evolution of digital photography into a form of social media. Though its function as a basic self-portrait and signifier for our various social profiles appears straightforward, it has somehow become the ‘face’ of online sociality and subjectivity, a portrait of the promise and peril of our online existence. And yet, a closer look at the various feeds and streams in which the selfie appears reveals that it is one genre amongst many, no more or less common than a variety of landscapes, still-lifes, and other modes of photographic observation. Taken together, these various views of the world reveal an emplaced mode of image-driven autobiography, one far more complex and nuanced than a straightforward meme would appear to be. “With smartphone in hand, we can now share with others how our narcissism looks to us. The selfie chronicles a counter-Copernican revolution…everything once again revolves around us.” (Guengerich, 2014) Of the myriad of cultural objects generated by the rise of ubiquitous digital media, few are perhaps more loathed than the selfie. The simple act of taking one’s own picture and distributing it via social media to varying spheres of the public is apparently symptomatic of any number of social and individual ills. It has been deemed the paragon of social narcissism, an emblem so to speak of our wider social tendency to get lost in ourselves. It is also a symptom of mental illness and risk for sui-
cide, an overwhelming indication of a lack of a sense of self (Wollaston, 2013). Generationally, they seem to be the cultural mark of the so-called me-generation (or more accurately, the ME-ME-ME generation), the crop of digital native millenials who grew up overly supported by protective parents, coddled and with plenty of self-esteem (Perman, 2013). Even the act of taking the selfie, posing with one’s arm stretched in front of oneself, has become an object of scorn. The comedian Jena
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Kingsley ironically voiced this revulsion by creating a ‘no-selfie-zone’ in Central Park and handing out fake tickets to hapless violators as park ranger (Thomas, 2014). On the one hand, the anger and condemnation generated by the selfie is perhaps understandable, if not entirely justified. As a sub-cultural trend that has reached the mainstream, selfies provide a convenient scapegoat for a conservative free-floating social scorn that identifies various signifiers as indications of a wider cultural decline. They are an easy answer to the perennial rhetorical question “You know what’s wrong with the world today?” Their strong connection with mobile technology and social networking further implicates them in wider concerns about the fetishization of gadgets and the ill-effects of living through one’s screen. The selfie is a poster child for the sort of insularity that Sherry Turkle describes in Alone Together (Turkle, 2012). On the other hand, however, the connection between the selfie and the level of self-centeredness that a diagnosis of narcissism would imply is paradoxical. The impulse to share the selfie with the world is a gesture of broadcasting the self for the world to see, not a closing off of the self. Indeed, it invites a level of inter-action between participants, the audience and the subject, that we might classify as a form of interactive media. Moreover, isolating the selfie ignores the broader spectrum of images that we capture in and alongside of them, and indeed the narrative threads that emerge within and between images as they form a larger stream or feed. And finally, as image capture becomes a common cultural practice it alters the relationship between the self and the world, inviting one to view the world, if not photographically, then at least as it might be photographed. These interactions with the world and others seem to obviate the apparent self-centeredness and narcissism that at first glance motivates the gesture of staring at one’s image in a screen and recording that image for the world to see. Far from
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appearing frozen or captivated by one’s appearance, I would like to offer instead that the selfie comprises one part of a dynamic, unfolding interactive narrative socially authored by the self and the wider world. In his influential Language of New Media, a book perhaps more influential for stimulating debate than settling it, Lev Manovich stipulates that new media are not, among other things, interactive (2001, pp. 70– 75). Calling it “The Myth of Interactivity,” Manovich rejects the term on the grounds that it is both too general and too specific. In a general sense, all media are interactive in that the user is always an active participant in the meaning-making process. More specifically, he reserves the term interactive new media for those works which directly solicit user intervention in order to function. For him, these are but one type of a wider constellation of objects that constitute the field of new media. Interactivity is neither a new, exclusive quality initiated by new media nor is it a quality universal to all new media. Manovich’s dismissal of interactivity offers a useful starting point for considering the selfie as interactive narrative because it simultaneously demonstrates the need to consider the selfie within a longer tradition of autobiographical photography, but also because, as we will see, he significantly underplays the productive power of interactivity as a myth that emerges when digital photography becomes a widespread form of Social Media through apps like Instagram (another of Manovich’s ‘myths’ about new media; 2001, pp. 68–70). The selfie of course preexisted the camera phone, but the emergence of the camera phone is instrumental to the selfie’s evolution into a form of interactive narrative. Indeed, the series of media traces left behind by social interaction constitute a form of interactive media, a transcript of a conversation conducted in media form. While Manovich can of course be forgiven for not predicting the rise of social media, part of what the history of digital photography demonstrates is the need to
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 move beyond general categories and theories of analog vs. digital and toward a more focused consideration of the spheres and practices that emerge and fade as quickly as the trend of the selfie likely will. Adam Levin’s thoughtful discussion of the selfie unearths a great deal of the predigital history of the form, tracing it back through early self-portraits and linking it, for him, most directly with the polaroid. (“The Selfie in the Age of Digital Recursion,” n.d.) For Levin, the recursive relationship between “selves, selfies and the [digital] ecologies they inhabit” exhibits a type of interactivity between culture, individuals and specific forms of technology. Photography has always demanded and documented certain performative behaviors of its subjects (e.g., the pose) which in turn alter social norms about how to not only behave in front of a camera but how to behave in general as well. The historical evolution of the technology for photographing the self recursively shapes the evolution of the self that is photographed, and vice versa, in a process that mimics the species/environment relationship in biological evolution. While Levin’s discussion unearths the media ecology in which the selfie evolves and thrives, it overlooks the importance, or perhaps the appropriateness, of still photography as the vehicle for this particular form of self/media interaction. Still photography was in many ways the first mass market form of mass media. As Patricia Zimmerman has demonstrated, the emergence of Kodak’s roll film in the 1880s and its $1 Brownie camera at the turn of the century pushed photography from a specialized technology practiced by professionals to a widespread group of amateur hobbyists that we would now refer to as ‘users’ (Zimmermann, 1995, p. 32). The move to market photography to a mass public, in modern terms democratizing or consumerizing the technology, makes it an important precursor to the emergence of user generated content over the last decade. Indeed, the push within social media to allow for mass content
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sharing relies of course on the ability of the masses to create and distribute content easily and cheaply. Tools like the Brownie, and eventually the Polaroid, solved the first part of this equation, while their handheld descendent, the smartphone, solved the second. It is difficult to overstate the impact of social media and mobile technology on photographic practice, not to mention the industry behind it. While the break between analog and digital photography generated a great deal of scholarly and popular discussion about the ‘nature’ of photography and the fate of indexicality, the break between the digital camera and the cameraphone is equally dramatic. Since the emergence of the iPhone in 2008, Apple has claimed that it makes the world’s number one camera, and Kodak and Polaroid have both gone into bankruptcy. As Heidi Rae Cooley points out, the move toward “mobile screenic devices” troubles the easy distinction between amateur/professional (now everyone can ‘publish’ their work) and alters standards of aesthetics and subject matter. (Cooley, 2004a, 2004b, 2005) Cooley’s account of early mobile imaging, published presciently in a pre-iPhone era, argues that users of early cameraphones and other handheld devices participate in a form of “selfevidencing”, incessantly capturing fragmentary and ephemeral images of experiences and objects in their environments “tactile vision.” While this produced an accumulation of autobiographical fragments to emerge, these collections operated according a database driven logic rather than a narrative logic of linear cause and effect. Looking back at these early mobile devices and the social practices they engender, one is reminded, however, of the speed at which technologies change, and the recursive social behaviors that alter alongside them. Cooley’s descriptions of PDAs, moblogs, and other bygone practices offer a look back at forms that were perhaps more primitive but also more radical in their approach than many
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 contemporary standards. While current devices may capture, edit and upload with a prowess only dreamed of by their predecessors, the resultant images and the streams they populate appear to be moving in a retrograde fashion toward more traditional aesthetics and a more rigidly linear forms. The emergence of social media platforms for sharing images, first on the computer and then through the smartphone, turned these early freewheeling experiments into a more standardized, mainstream practice. Flickr emerged in the early days of social networking as a platform for users to upload, share and comment on one another’s photos. While previous sites like Ofoto and Snapfish had enabled users to upload digital and analog images into albums for printing or sharing via email, Flickr was built as a community driven site from the beginning, allowing novel combinations and collections of images to emerge. Instead of treating user uploads as private material that it was storing and managing the way a web-based email account is handled, Flickr approached them as parts of a massive, open user-generated database of content. This approach opened up new perspectives while closing down others. The fragmentary, catalogic approach that Cooley described found a perfect compliment in Flickr’s bottom-up system of organization through user generated tags. This enabled categories and collections to emerge across users, creating a multi-perspective, multi-authored media text, what Jose Van Dijck refers to as a form of “connective memory” (Dijck, 2011, p. 411). But as Susan Murray points, the move from stand alone photoblogs to a site based on the contributions and interactions of its users produces a norming effect where an identifiable group aesthetic emerges (Murray, 2008, pp. 155, 159–160). While the Flickr aesthetic may bear little resemblance to the traditional studio or snapshot aesthetics that emerged in the analog film era, it is nonetheless appears to be a
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move away from the diverse experimentation of the earliest mobile approaches. The collective nature of sites like Flickr creates a space in which the individual is put under erasure by the weight of the group. Like a search on Google images, Flickr collections might offer a collective perspective on an event or subject, but they aren’t any one person’s perspective. They are more Wikipedia than Op-Ed page in the views they offer. This creates an interactive text in that all authors are simultaneously audience members (and vice versa), but it works against any type of linear progression or individual narrative. Murray points out that isolating an individual user’s profile reveals an “autobiography or diary by layering an ever changing or growing stream of photos on their page” (Murray, 2008, p. 155). Nonetheless this feels counter to the general thrust of the site. Instagram, on the other hand, conceived of and launched in a post-Facebook, postiPhone moment, flips the group/individual hierarchy. Unlike Flickr and other photosharing sites intended to be the final destination for images that had traveled from camera to computer to website, Instagram emerged on the mobile iOS platform as a way for users to quickly edit photos shot on their iPhones and share them to other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Rather than a large pool of curated images tagged by users according to specific subjects, the core of Instagram is the image stream and the strong connection between any image and an individual’s profile wherever it might eventually end up. With the introduction of the front facing camera on the iPhone 4 and other competing devices on the Android platform, the selfie, as we currently think of it, was born, creating what can be considered a nascent form of interactive autobiography in the process. In contrast to Flickr’s disparate autobiographical fragments, Instagram’s emphasis on the photo stream, and its ‘instant’ appearance on other social media timelines bind it more
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 firmly with a traditional notion of individual identity, temporal linearity and serial progression. While Nathan Hochman and Lev Manovich recently pointed out the inherent fuzziness in Instagram’s presentation of this timeline (e.g. there are no timestamps), it remains nonetheless bound to a fixed temporal progression (Hochman & Manovich, 2013). Outside of the #hashtag, a self-tagging system borrowed from Twitter, there is no way to sort or search images on Instagram other than the default timeline of the photostream or one’s feed. And while the #hashtag loosely resembles Flickr’s more robust tagging feature, it operates on the logic of the meme which it was intended to capitalize on and facilitate. As spontaneous trends which emerge and either catch on or fade away, memes are a transitory, amorphous collection of practices that have no single author. This would seem to put memes at odds with the strong identity connection that I am claiming Instagram engenders. Indeed, as Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli has pointed out, memes associated with the group Anonymous are intended to destabilize established categories of individuality, collectivity and recognizable identity (RavettoBiagioli, 2013). Instagram memes, of which the selfie trend is a prime example, are the polar opposite. Rather than acting as a cover to shield one’s identity, trending hashtags are often used to raise one’s profile or collect additional followers. Participation in memes like #bestofsummer are opportunities to distinguish one’s individuality even as they signify participation in an ephemeral collective. Instagram emphasizes the ‘me’ in meme, as it were. This push toward greater visibility on the site further enhances the autobiographical potential of the timeline. One actively and consistently populates one’s stream (an individual user’s contributions) in order to remain an active presence in the feed of one’s followers (the flow of images comprised of contributions by the group one follows). The push to “feed
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one’s followers” gives the images the same ephemeral, disposable feel that many have noted is so at odds with the processes of freezing time associated with analog photography (Murray, 2008). And yet, these frequent updates also add to the permanent size of the individual photostream, giving additional depth to the record of one’s activities and experiences. While the focus is always on a permanent sense of ‘now’ the by-product is a more complete documentary record of one’s output arranged from past to present. Arranged in the default grid view, this record offers a type of timelapse portrait of one’s activity. One can even imagine that an account comprised exclusively of selfies literally works as a sort of timelapse progression of aging. The interplay between the feed and the stream is where the reciprocal give and take of Instagram enables the type of interactive exchange at work on Flickr. Users see the work of others, adapt their own in direct or indirect response to it, and post images seen in turn by others. The result over time is that many of the images begin to take on a homogenized aesthetic, an effect only exacerbated by the inclusion and widespread use of the app’s filter function. But the ability to alter these images nonetheless places them into a more expressive register than analog and even more traditional digital photography. The manipulative effect of using Photoshop editing tools in contexts such as photojournalism and fashion to alter what the camera recorded continues to be a source of anxiety amongst the viewers and creators of these images (Ritchin, 2010). But in Instagram, one expects the images to be manipulated. The app invites users to apply filters and crop the image before sending as one of the procedural steps for posting. Rather than hiding the alterations, filters loudly proclaim their presence through the excessive nature of their appearance. It is significant that these tools for the most part limit themselves to altering qualities like color, exposure, tone and framing rather than the less overt forms of
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 alteration like cutting and pasting, blemish removal, etc. The filtering process introduces an affective, expressive dimension to the image. This decreases its documentary value as an un-altered record of what existed before the camera, but increases its capacity to capture the desires and moods of its author. Filtered images do not claim “this is how it looked” but rather “how I wanted to it look” or “how I felt it looked.” The net effect of the interface and the tools that Instagram provides is that someone’s stream can reveal an interesting, if idiosyncratic portrait of the person. Its most active high profile users are often professional photographers who use the platform as an outlet away from, or an avenue into, their paid work. In such cases the feed offers us an impression of their aesthetic sensibility. For others, Instagram is merely a way to push lightly edited individual or group photos to Facebook, thereby curating a feed that chronicles personal relationships and individual experiences. Looking through these portraits may tell us who the person is or who they want to be, the things they like or what society tells them they should be like. It would of course be foolish to generalize about the nature of this portrait or place too much weight on the documentary evidence it is capable of providing, but it can offer us alternative perspectives and ways of being that may differ very much from our own. By inviting us to share our selves, photographically, with the world, Instagram is part of the moment that produced the selfie. The ubiquity of image making spawned by the camera-phone has enabled social media to function to some extent as ‘socialized media’: inviting alternative, image driven forms of social interaction even as it profits large corporations through the free labor of its citizens. This type of push-pull between community and commodity (or, community as commodity) has always haunted photography, marketed throughout much of the 20th century as a way to preserve
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memories and those ‘Kodak moments’. At once a tool of artistic expression and state surveillance and control, photography offers a complex historical lineage as it moves onto new platforms powerfully capable of both extremes. A cynical reading of filtering one’s appearance and experiences for an amorphous audience of others would argue that these tools simply allow users to imperfectly replicate the look and feel of advertising images or parrot the surface appeal of celebrity culture. A more generous reading might argue that these tools open up the process to a broader set of practitioners, allowing them to engage in a creative play of identity and self-expression, what Amelia Jones argued was a “technology of embodiment” in more traditional self-portrait photography (Jones, 2002). Once again we find the same mix of authenticity and commodification at work that has run throughout the history of photography, a potent combination that Instagram has apparently not escaped. References Cooley, H. R. (2004a). “Identify”-ing a New Way of Seeing: Amateurs, Moblogs and Practices in Mobile Imaging. Spectator, 21(1), 65–79. Cooley, H. R. (2004b). It’s all about the fit: The hand, the mobile screenic device and tactile vision. Journal of Visual Culture, 3(2), 133–155. Retrieved from http://vcu.sagepub.com/content/3/2/133.short Cooley, H. R. (2005). The autobiographical impulse and mobile imaging: Toward a theory of autobiometry. In Workshop Pervasive Image Capture and Sharing: New Social Practices and Implications for Technology at Ubicomp (Vol. 5, pp. 11–14). Retrieved from http://www.ht.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~tailor/ubicomp/mirr or/ubicomp2005web/Ubicomp%202005/www.sp asojevic.org/pics/PICS/autobiographical_impuls e_and_mobile_imaging.pdf Dijck, J. van. (2011). Flickr and the culture of connectivity: Sharing views, experiences, memories. Memory Studies, 4(4), 401–415. doi:10.1177/1750698010385215
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Guengerich, G. (2014, January 31). Galen Guengerich: “Selfie” culture promotes a degraded worldview. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/galenguengerich-selfie-culture-promotes-a-degradedworldview/2014/01/31/cb444130-8942-11e3916e-e01534b1e132_story.html Hochman, N., & Manovich, L. (2013). Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media. First Monday, 18(7). doi:10.5210/fm.v18i7.4711 Jones, A. (2002). The “Eternal Return”: Self‐ Portrait Photography as a Technology of Embodiment. Signs, 27(4), 947–978. doi:10.1086/signs.2002.27.issue-4 Manovich, L. (2001). The Language of New Media. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press. Murray, S. (2008). Digital Images, Photo-Sharing, and Our Shifting Notions of Everyday Aesthetics. Journal of Visual Culture, 7(2), 147– 163. doi:10.1177/1470412908091935 Perman, C. (2013, August 24). Are Millennials really the “Me” generation? Retrieved September 18, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business /2013/08/24/millenials-time-magazinegeneration-y/2678441/ Ravetto-Biagioli, K. (2013). Anonymous Social as Political. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 19(4), 179–195. Ritchin, F. (2010). After Photography. New York; London: W. W. Norton & Company. The Selfie in the Age of Digital Recursion. (n.d.). Retrieved September 5, 2014, from http://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/portfolio/the-selfie-inthe-age-of-digital-recursion/ Thomas, E. (2014, August 19). We Just Wish This Selfie-Free Zone Existed IRL. Retrieved September 5, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/19/selfi e-free-zone-prank-jenakingsley_n_5689176.html Turkle, S. (2012). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (First Trade Paper Edition edition.). New York: Basic Books. Wollaston, V. (2013, August 23). Selfies are “damaging”. Retrieved September 18, 2014,
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from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article2401017/Selfies-damaging-leave-youngpeople-vulnerable-abuse-claimspsychologist.html Zimmermann, P. R. (1995). Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film. Indiana University Press.
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
I-‐DOCS AND NEW NARRATIVES: MEANING MAKING IN HIGHRISE Begoña González-‐Cuesta, IE School of Communication, IE University, Madrid [email protected]
Suggested citation: González-Cuesta, Begoña (2014). “I-Docs and New Narratives: Meaning Making in Highrise.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: Digital media make it possible to move from a conventional storytelling medium to other avenues that allow open stories to be told, maintaining the traditional basis of narratives while also adding other elements that enrich and deepen storytelling innovation. Therefore, it is important to analyze how the characteristics of digital storytelling work together in order to create meaning through new narratives. Recent documentary projects show how new ways of telling stories involve new ways of relating meaning and form, multiple platforms, and strong interaction and engagement from the side of the viewer. Interactivity and participation change the way in which a story is told and received, thus changing its nature as a narrative. In order to delve deeper into this field, I will analyze Highrise. The Towers in the World. World in the Towers, by Katerina Cizek. This is a complex project produced by the National Film Board of Canada, a multi-year, many-media collaborative documentary experiment that has generated many projects, including mixed media, interactive documentaries, mobile productions, live presentations, installations and films. I will develop a textual analysis on part of the project, the interactive documentary Out My Window, by focusing on its ways of meaningmaking and the specific narrative implications of the relationship between meaning and form. The project is ambitious: Cizek’s vision is “to see how the documentary process can drive and participate in social innovation rather than just to document it; and to help re-invent what it means to be an urban species in the 21st century.” (http://highrise.nfb.ca) Digital media, audiovisual narratives, and documentaries The “call for papers” of this conference brings into focus the need to reflect on interactive narratives and digital media, especially on the ways in which individuals and societies represent themselves on these screens, and the
ways these representations deal with their identities at a creative, social and political level in a globalized context. These days, two elements of our communication ecosystem converge: the growing interest in non-fiction digital narratives from both crea-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 tors and consumers and the enormous impact digital media has on the way stories are told and received. In most of the cases of digital media narrations, the traditional basis of storytelling remains, but new elements are added into the mix, such us interactivity, use of multiple media, the transmedia dimension in some cases, etc. This new environment, the digital media ecosystem, allows creators to develop innovative ways to represent reality – innovations that in some cases have to do with a deeper and richer approach to the topics. Digital media make it possible to move from a conventional storytelling medium to other avenues that allow open stories to be told, maintaining the basics of narratives while also including other aspects that enrich and deepen storytelling innovation. Some of the questions that arise in this context include the following: What is the process and what are the consequences of meaning-making in digital narratives? Does it have to do with a different way of relating meaning and form? Is it connected to the use of multiple platforms? In what ways? Does it allow a strong interaction and engagement from the side of the viewer? Is interactivity changing the way a story is told and received, therefore changing its nature as a narrative? Does it generate a different notion of authorship? What are the consequences in terms of meaning-making? In brief, digital media are giving us great opportunities to rethink the notion of narrative. Moving more specifically into interactive documentaries or web documentaries, it is important not to forget that the bases of documentary creation remain and are still present in new projects, but taking different shapes, as expressed here: The documentary impulse has a long history; practitioners are, it seems, still driven to preserve, show, report, explain, persuade and advocate. But it is also an impulse that is constantly seeking new
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avenues, new ways of capturing the social-historical, or ‘treating’ actuality and new ways of connecting with an audience. […] Documentary has always had an experimental dimension with first filmmakers and now digital documentary makers adopting and adapting emerging technologies and generating new documentary forms. (Nash, Hight, & Summerhayes, 2014, p. 1) Innovation is one of the key words related to this kind of documentary. And it is especially significant in the way meaning is created in interactive documentaries. Sandra Gaudenzi (2014) says: While in linear documentaries meaning was created by framing shots and editing them together, in participatory interactive documentaries meaning is shared and layered: there is the meaning of the individual clips (not controlled by the interactive documentary author), the meaning of the interface (normally conceived by the author) and the meaning of the browsing (the narrative route and associations generated by the user, while jumps between videos). The challenge therefore lies in playing with those layers to create a richer meaning, while avoiding the trap of internal contradictions.” (p. 138) Highrise and Out My Window: a brief description Along these lines, I decided to analyze a very interesting project, Highrise, by Katerina Cizek. I consider this work extremely stimulating for the following reasons: it explores new ways of telling stories in an interactive, digital and collaborative way; it deepens into the life at the margins, exploring how human life in these spaces is richer than some stereotypes could suggest; and all this is done by exploring new ways of searching for meaning, thinking about some dimensions of reality, and doing it by creating audiovisual works in which
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 the most radical relationship between content and form is essential. I will start by describing this work and its context. Highrise is a documentary project directed by Katerina Cizek, at the National Film Board of Canada. In fact it’s a multi-year, many-media collaborative documentary experiment that has generated many projects, including mixed media, interactive documentaries, mobile productions, live presentations, installations and films. All these experimental projects are available on a common website: http://highrise.nfb.ca. Each sub-project has a meaning of its own and can be experienced independently from the others, but all together they form a rich, diverse, complex, and orchestrated approach to vertical living in the contemporary world. All of them approach a common topic: what is human life like in residential highrise buildings. Highrise was launched in 2009 and now includes the following projects: The Thousandth Tower, Out My Window, One Millionth Tower, A Short History of the Highrise (in partnership with The New York Times), and the director’s blog. I will focus my analysis on the web documentary Out My Window, produced in 2010. It also took the form of an interactive exhibition. The previous and first project, The Thousandth Tower, was focused on the city of Toronto. In this second project, Cizek wanted to explore vertical living around the world. She didn’t want to approach the life in big cities, famous for their highrise buildings such as New York, Tokyo or Paris, but decided to look into the medium cities and their suburbs. Using social media, she found 13 subjects in different countries in the world, interested in sharing their experiences and lives through this digital documentary. The work was shot in Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Havana, Sao Paulo, Amsterdam, Prague, Istanbul, Beirut, Bangalore, Phnom Penh, Tainan, and Johannesburg. Out My Window received the inaugural IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling. In
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April 2011, it was awarded with the International Digital Emmy Award in the category of digital program: non-fiction. In April 2011, the web documentary was nominated for a Webby Award for Best Use of Photography in the Websites category. On May 10, 2011, Out My Window received the New Media Award at the One World Media Awards. This is a snapshot of the main interface of Out My Window (see Figure 1). The work is described on the website as follows: One Highrise. Every view a different city. This is Out My Window – one of the world’s first interactive 3600 documentaries – about exploring the state of our urban planet told by people who look out on the world from highrise windows. It’s a journey around the globe through the most commonly built form of the last century: the concrete-slab residential tower. Meet remarkable highrise residents who harness the human spirit – and the power of community – to resurrect meaning amid the ruins of modernism. With more than 90 minutes of material to explore, Out My Window features 49 stories from 13 cities, told in 13 languages, accompanied by a leading-edge music playlist. (OMW Website, http://interactive.nfb.ca/#/outmywindow) Representation, meaning making and marginal realities The most relevant questions raised by Highrise have to do with the concept of representation and its consequences on meaning making, in this case about marginal realities. The project raises some questions that directly touch one of the most relevant aspects of our contemporary cultures. I will develop now some ideas about what audiovisual works can do in today’s media ecosystem to understand human life by representing in a particular way marginal realities with the goal of thinking about them and having a real impact on individuals and socie-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 ties. Afterwards I will go into some details of Cizek’s conception of documentary, relating these general ideas to the reflections and objectives she has expressed as being the basis of her creative endeavor. A crucial issue nowadays is the role of images in the construction of our worldview. In this paper I am taking into consideration a topic that has to be confronted, both from the academic and from the creative world. In order to build our present and our future as citizens involved in the creation of our culture, we need to think about reality as something that we "imagine" in the most radical sense of the word: reality as something that somehow is built when images about it are created. And I think we have to make a joint reflection between academics and creators, putting together and crossing these two possible approaches to the complex and fascinating fact of generating images of reality in order to think about it. The audiovisual media are increasingly influencing our contemporary society; this is one of the key ideas that lies at the heart of the reflection raised by this conference. Language allows us to know and understand the world, creating culture; and the language of the 21st century is audiovisual, digital and multimedia. The way we communicate, think, and build our representations of reality involves the creation of audiovisual and digital works. It is therefore essential to know in depth the language and the culture that is generated, to learn how to read and write these images. In a changing and complex world such as ours, it is necessary to know how to think, analyze, address reality in multiple dimensions, and understand and manage the languages, including visual language. Going deeper into the visual language, our understanding of reality will grow and, therefore, our skills for analysis, interaction, flexibility, creativity, aesthetic awareness, engagement, and critical thinking will be developed. We are not just in possession of some new
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tools, but those tools are generating new languages, new messages, new ways to receive those messages, and new forms of influence. In this context, a discussion about the consistency of these visual representations of reality is necessary. We face the longstanding dichotomy: are images a means for knowledge or a sham that anesthetizes our senses? We have to approach critically the forms of representation of reality. Obviously, we are far from believing that realism is like that image of the "mirror that strolls along the way." We know about the need of "building visual elements" so that realism becomes significant. Thus, it appears necessary to stop and think about the images and focus on the images that “think.” It is necessary to reflect on the ways of developing deep thoughts in contemporary art. Jean-Luc Godard coined – and often used to refer to the cinema – the expression "a form that thinks." Any form of art can be a device that serves as the means for thought. I am suggesting an approach to contemporary poetics in different areas of creation, conceived as ways in which thought is materialized, therefore considering artistic work as an epistemological and hermeneutic way to create meaning. The best contemporary art is set up as a place for re-creation of the sense of reality, as a gateway to the real in depth. Our analytic perspective therefore focuses on studying the audiovisual creations in which the search for meaning is in their heart. In this regard, it is crucial to note that the reflective audiovisual thinks through its own materials; it doesn’t illustrates with images a previously constructed thought. The audiovisual thought generates a reflective process in the images and the sounds; the hermeneutical dimension lies in the heart of the work (González Cuesta, 2006). To consider the image as a window to the world, as a place of transparency, would be an extremely naïve conception. From the
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 parameters of contemporary thought, we consider more appropriate an approach to the image from a certain opacity: the image is not a space of safe transition to a reality which is given us to see, and no more. We have to stop in front of the image and, looking closely, we will find its meanings, with an in-depth approach to the real. I refer to this in regard to a reflection by Josep Maria Català on "the complex image," the image conceived as a space in which reality is revealed phenomenologically and hermeneutically deepens its meaning – an image that builds knowledge, that leaves behind the "epistemology of reflection" to address the "epistemology of inquiry:" The ‘complex image’ breaks the mimetic link that images traditionally had with reality and replaces it with a hermeneutical link: instead of an epistemology of reflection, an epistemology of inquiry is proposed. Images no longer passively reflect the real, but go after it […] It doesn’t mean that images are a simple tool to build the real, but indicates that reality, in order to be really significant must be uncovered and that the complex visualization is an effective way to do it. (Català, 2005: 642-643) It is, therefore, necessary to analyze creative thinking in the audiovisual work. The real image that seeks to be a creative-thinking image does not merely reflect reality as if it were a mirror image. As Català says, to show something is not necessarily to help to understand that reality. In order to make meaning out of the images, something has to be done: It is not about producing a copy of reality, neither about showing what remains after the surrender of copying it, but to reveal through the visible a hidden dimension of reality: in the paintings of Bacon, the world is reborn through forms. (Català, 2005: 37) One of the most important debates today is about the role of images in the construction of our world. In a context in which
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the saturation of images is growing, we can reach the paradoxical situation in which images don’t let us see, don’t let us look into what we need to know. In the era of proliferation of television channels, mobile phones and screens to access any image, in the world of YouTube, of security cameras that record everything, of the desire to transform into banal images any facet of existence, of teenagers recording the beatings they give to their school mates to have a moment of "glory" on the Internet, of the time when we seem to get used to seeing landscapes of desolation and broken bodies by violence – it is necessary to consider this issue. The most complex dimensions of reality are often left without a representation that addresses its complexity. Such images, rather than making meaning about reality, are denying visibility to deeper realities. We should reflect on the ethics of the missing images. Against this, the creative images can be effective tools to foster a dialogue on these realities, beyond the monologue generated by the mass media; creative realities can critically challenge the hegemonic and dominant images. Nowadays, new modes of realism in image creation are emerging, involving new ways of engaging with reality. Following the issues raised by Ángel Quintana (2003), beyond the easy and sentimental speeches, beyond the "shy realism" that works only on the mimetic dimension of images, some works address a "strong realism" or "critical realism,” the construction of an ethical perspective on the issues in need of it. In short, I consider necessary the study of contemporary image-thoughts that work on margins. It is about knowing how to formally construct these image-thoughts and why to generate reflections on those marginal situations. It is important to address one of the great debates in our culture: the role of images as a cultural construction. Sometimes the more complex layers of reality are left outof-frame, relegated as nonexistent by the media. It is more and more necessary to reflect
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 on the representation of margins. We need to think about what realities are left aside by the hegemonic representations, what marginal realities are addressed by the image-thoughts and how they are constructed to provide support for reflection, and finally how imagethought is a way of critically challenging the status quo. There’s a need to consider the ethics and poetics of the representations of the conflicts generated in the margins of reality. The margins, the borders, the thresholds, the limits have to be addressed. The framework of the concept of “border” or “limit” in our analysis rests on a philosophical foundation, a theoretical basis that I consider extremely firm yet disturbing: the philosophy of the limit of the great Spanish philosopher Eugenio Trías, especially and essentially his conception of humans as beings that live on the border, and his understanding of creation as a symbolic space where the richer ways of living takes place on the frontier. Particularly relevant is his work Los límites del mundo, (1985, Barcelona: Destino). Reflections about representation, meaning making and marginal realities regarding Out My Window I already said that the most relevant questions raised by Highrise have to do with the concept of representation and its consequences on meaning making, in this case about marginal realities. And it is also important to underline the idea that this project touches some of the most relevant aspects of our contemporary cultures: representation, search for meaning, margins. The main interface of Out My Window could work as a perfect metaphor of the ideas I have been developing so far. By approaching a two-dimensional representation of a building, we can go further and enter into a whole and diverse life that is behind. The interface works as the threshold through which reality in its complexity can be reached. “On the outside, they all look the same. But inside these
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towers of concrete and glass, people create community, art and meaning” (OMW website). This is how it works if we think about this project from our perspective, the users’ point of view. But, at the same time, and maybe more importantly, by designing this interface Cizek is placing the focus on the other side: the eyes of the inhabitants of those spaces. Their homes “are represented” and they look at the world from those spaces. “What do people see out their own windows? I didn’t want to just look into people’s homes; I wanted to work with residents to see their experiences from their point-of-view. Their windows onto the world” (OMW website). The interactive dimension of this work, helps to mirror the different points of view when approaching how life is at the highrise buildings around the world. An important source for understanding the reach and depth of this project can be found in the texts created by Cizek and presented on the website of Highrise, and more specifically on the website of Out My Window. The explanations developed by Cizek on the website, reveal the broad scope of the theory of documentary implied in Out My Window. Some of the general ideas I expressed about contemporary audiovisual creation relate to the reflections and objectives expressed by Cizek as being the basis of her creative enterprise. “The idea was simple: to build a virtual highrise, with each floor housing a different global city. But the process behind the idea was a fusion of many conversations I had been having with our technological, creative and editorial teams,” says Cizek on the website about the interface design. And the way to express this idea touches upon another relevant aspect of this work: the intention of having conversations with different groups in order to develop a deep reflection about this reality. Conversations were held at many different levels and collectives: conversations with the people living in the highrise buildings, academic conversations, conversations about
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 documentary, and conversations with the new media world. The participatory aspect lies at the core of this work. And, at the same time, Cizek maintains the idea of coordinating the construction of this text, of orchestrating the conversation. Many different options can be taken regarding authorship in interactive documentaries. In this case, as Sandra Gaudenzi explains after interviewing Cizek: The material is not even user generated, it is subject generated. When I asked Katerina Cizek her views on UGC she replied ‘I am not interested in UGC, I want to maintain an authorial role’. She is the facilitator, and as such she maintains the authorship of navigation, which she considers as a type of content. What she opens to collaboration is the voice given to the subject. She accepts subject-producers. (Gaudenzi 2014, p141) There is an ethical perspective in understanding participation and authorship in this way. As Craig Hight says about interactive documentaries: “Editing, in other words, is not simply about representing a reality, but actively interpreting it for an audience (Oldham 1992, p. 133), and thus is also at the core of the ethical dilemma inherent to documentary practice (Cizek 2005, pp. 174-178).” (Hight, 2014, p. 223) In the description of this work, we can find the following statement: “Meet remarkable highrise residents who harness the human spirit – and the power of community – to resurrect meaning amid the ruins of modernism” (OMW website). It seems that for her, the best way to find the meaning of human life and the sense of living in community amid today’s confusion is to approach real stories of people living their lives in an actual search for meaning. Cizek’s vision is “to see how the documentary process can drive and participate in social innovation rather than just to document
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it; and to help re-invent what it means to be an urban species in the 21st century.” The goal is ambitious, but it is in line with the best documentary tradition, envisioning the representation of reality as a way to understand and change the world. In this case the focus of attention is placed on a growing model of living: “It’s a new species of urban. The world’s cities are actually growing fastest at their edges. At the fringes. The margins. The suburbs” (OMW website). And it is explicitly mentioned on the website that this phenomenon is overlooked by politicians and the media. And for Cizek, our eyes have to turn to look into those marginal spaces, because they are not that marginal for understanding contemporary societies, and because some of the most interesting things are happening there: […] in order to understand urbanization – and that means to understand the planet because we are now living on an urban planet – we need to understand the peripheries, the edges of our cities, and that’s where the most exciting, problematic, complicated things are happening. Yet we really have no clue about how these places work, both culturally, politically, economically, at all levels. (CollabDocs) One of the main objectives of the project is to challenge our perceptions of urban experience. Cizek explains: It also made me rethink where urban ‘culture and politics’ reside. My naïve understanding of suburbs – a retreat for the middle classes – was a simplistic, outdated stereotype. The urban peripheries both horizontal and vertical are places overflowing with humanity, yet are often invisible to the drive-byeye, to the closed mind. (OMW website) I pointed out how crucial for making a thoughtful representation it is to work together on the formal and content aspects of a project. By doing that, representation moves from be-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 ing a mirror of reality to being a light that makes clearer and deeper what we are looking into. In that respect, Cizek’s statement, “Out My Window is a documentary that finds its form from the content and vice versa,” is especially meaningful. It was important to find the best way to tell how life is in the highrise buildings around the world: The fragmented, non-linear stories of Out My Window reflect the way we tell our stories. Pieces. Snippets. Small tales that, as they add up, create a collage of meaning, of experience. Together, subtly, gently, the stories accumulate into epic narratives about globalization, migration, poverty, environmentalism, reclamation, and the search for spiritual meaning. But only if you search between the seams, and sew it together for yourself as you listen. […]. We would create collages, overlappings, doublings. Many seams. Leaving room for interpretation, for the unspoken, the unsaid, the private, the personal. (OMW website). To conclude, I will reproduce here this sentence by Katerina Cizek that perfectly summarizes the spirit of Out My Window: To be human in this century is – more than ever before – to be urban. And yet we have such meagre understanding of what that really signifies. It is not about the financial capital in the downtown core. It is to our peripheries that we must look for the neglected pressing needs of the most vulnerable, for stark economic injustices, for the inspiration to change, and for the search for meaning amid the concrete. (OMW website)
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Figure 1: A snapshot of the main interface of Out My Window. References http://highrise.nfb.ca Catala, Josep M. (2005). La imagen compleja, Barcelona: Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. CollabDocs interview to Katerina Cizek. http://collabdocs.wordpress.com/interviews-‐ resources/kat-‐cizek-‐on-‐highrise/ (last visit 9/15 2014). Gaudenzi, Sandra. “Strategies of Participation: The who, What and When of Collaborative Documentaries” in Nass, Kate, Hightt, Craig and Summerhayes, Catherine (eds.) (2014). New Documentary Ecologies (Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses). Palgrave Macmillan. González-‐Cuesta, Begoña. (2006). “El cine como forma que piensa: La Morte Rouge de Víctor Erice”, Oppidum. Cuadernos de investigación, nº 2, pp. 187-‐214. Hight, Craig. “Shoot, Edit, Share: Cultural Software and User-‐Generated Documentary Practice” in Nass, Kate, Hightt, Craig and Summerhayes, Catherine (eds.) (2014). New Documentary Ecologies (Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses). Palgrave Macmillan. Nass, Kate, Hightt, Craig and Summerhayes, Catherine (eds.) (2014). New Documentary Ecologies
(Emerging Platforms, Practices and Discourses). Palgrave Macmillan. Quintana, Ángel (2003). Fábulas de lo visible. El cine como creador de realidades, Barcelona: El Acantilado. Trias, Eugenio (1985). Los límites del mundo, Barcelona: Destino.
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
NONLINEARITY, MULTILINEARITY, SIMULTANEITY: NOTES ON EPISTEMOLOGICAL STRUCTURES Florian Hadler, University of Arts, Berlin [email protected]
‐berlin.de Daniel Irrgang, University of Arts, Berlin [email protected]
‐berlin.de Suggested citation: Hadler, Florian and Daniel Irrgang (2014). “Nonlinearity, Multilinearity, Simultaneity: Notes on Epistemological Structures.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: This paper addresses three paradigms in epistemological structures that could serve as preliminary classifications enabling a systematic approach to past and current media phenomena such as hypertext, diagrams and ubiquitous computing. Nonlinearity is discussed by Vilém Flusser in the context of “technical images.”
In his own approach to go beyond linear text, Flusser and his publisher created a digital version of his book Die Schrift on floppy disk (1987), enabling the reader to jump between chapters or to rewrite the text.
Multilinearity is a concept that is revived within the diagrammatology discourse, transcending linearity through topographical ways of reading. Current examples can be found in arts and narratives such as Chris Ware’s comics, who uses diagrammatics to blur the lines between the reader and the author. Simultaneity as a technological attribute is essential to current ubiquitous and pervasive technologies and services, and draws heavily on Heideggerian concepts such as readiness-tohand and background. In this epistemological shift, the information is instantaneously organized according to the user’s needs. Each of these epistemological structures offers a different idea about receiving and creating knowledge, information and communication, paving the way for narrative and media strategies that are more and more determined by a ‘reader’ becoming a ‘user’ and a ‘text’ becoming a ‘service.’ Introduction Linearity used to be an apriority of narratives, either as negative or positive precondition for any form of text. By looking at the current history of narrative clusters and representational structures, one can easily recognize the im-
portance of linearity as an epistemological concept of perception. But the reference point of linearity loses its epistemological impact regarding the instantaneous, immediate display of data as seen in apps and services that deploy dashboards and cockpit-like interfaces.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 With big data and real time analysis, and with the arrival of simultaneity in everyday life, linearity as the reference point for the perception of content has been transcended, much like this occurred previously with non- and multilinear narrative strategies. Nonlinearity When it comes to the concept of nonlinearity in contexts of representational/medial and epistemological structures, the discourses on informatization and global computer networks – evolving since the 1970s – are particularly interesting. These discourses do not only involve technological and sociological topics, but also epistemological and philosophical implications with reference to structure and representation of knowledge beyond discursive textual forms. Even though concepts of alternative representations for displaying and gaining knowledge have a far longer tradition in the history of science: approaches to transcending “linear“ written text can be identified already in early modern or even medieval times. Examples, among others, are taxonomic diagrams, attempts to develop a taxonomia universalis, a tradition reaching back to scholastic hermeneutics (cf. Siegel, 2009; Weigel, 2003; Schmidt-Biggemann, 1983). However, the liberation of knowledge from its printed boundaries (e.g., books) due to telematics – a neologism (telecommunication & informatics) coined by Simon Nora and Alain Minc (1978) in their governmental study L'informatisation de la société – led to a renaissance of concepts on how to collect, structure, process, and communicate knowledge in ways not determined by a “linearity” of writing. These euphoric, partly utopian discourses might in some aspects appear naive to today’s reader. Nevertheless, they can provide inspiring ideas for a possible future of how we share and develop our knowledge. In fact, it is symptomatic for the emergence of groundbreaking new (media) technologies that they inspire hopes about
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their potential for changing society. The advantage of such speculations is that they take place in an early adoption period of these technologies before they become standardized by economic/strategic requirements. It is a period in which the way of development and its possibilities are not yet determined (cf. Zielinski 2002, 2011). Among influential writings of these times discussing new forms of knowledge structures, such as hypertext (Nelson 1984 ), information visualization (e.g., Card, Mackinlay, & Shneiderman, 1999), and its broader implications for society (e.g., Lyotard, 1979), Vilém Flusser‘s late work is particularly interesting, since it combines these aspects in a non-trivial interrelation. The Czech cultural philosopher developed a media theory exploring the implications of evolving telematics and computer generated visualization (Flusser, 1985, 1987). In a historical approach similar to Marshall McLuhan‘s media-historical investigations, Flusser, just as McLuhan, declared the end of writing as the dominant discursive and medial form. Similarly to McLuhan, Flusser identifies a interdependence between human cognition, society, and technological (especially medial) inventions. But in contrast to McLuhan, Flusser emphasizes the impact of linearity of written text: the invention of the alphabet enabled historical thinking beyond myth and modern science in its discursive form (Flusser, 1985). It does so not only due to its preservation of information; rather, the linear structure of writing “shapes” the human way of thinking, reasoning, arguing, etc., to become linear processes; the linear structure of the concept of time might be the most significant effect. Flusser identifies a fundamental shift of these existential preconditions in the rise of the “technical images” at the beginning of the 20th century. In contrast to traditional images, these images are generated by a technical apparatus such as the photo camera, or more advanced, the computer. But the
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 epistemological implications are more important than the technical conditions. According to Flusser, technical images do not represent objects – they “project” concepts. They “make concrete” abstract models, and thereby create something new, rather than representing existing things (for Flusser, also a photography is not a representation, but a projected concept determined by conditions of the photographic apparatus and decisions made by the photographer). In Flusser’s analyses, writing is currently transcended by operating, thinking, and communicating through technical images. This has radical effects on our forma mentis: linearity is going to be replaced by new ways of thinking, beyond discourses of cause and effect. Instead, a thinking associated with images becomes possible, reflecting the chaotic reality of the world we live in, where thinking “in probabilities” instead of linear causalities is required (Flusser, 1985). This Flusserian paradigm change is significantly supported by shifts in media landscape. For Flusser, mass media is an effect of the linear condition: a sender is discursively sending Information to receivers, without dialogic possibilities. In contrast, artifacts such as the telephone or networked computers enable dialogues between individuals. In the case of telematics, Flusser saw a possibility for exchanging technical images, for creating them together with other people. He developed this idea as a utopian concept of “telematic society” (Flusser, 1985). However, Flusser found himself in a paradoxical position. He, who claimed the end of writing, was a man of letters. An author who did not even use a computer to write his texts. According to an interview about his last publications (Flusser, 1989c), Flusser tried to transcend these linear boundaries by, first of all, experimenting with “scientific fiction” in collaboration with the French artist Louis Bec, who created speculative images (cf. Flusser, 1989a); further, by publishing a collection of essays as pre-texts, which were supposed to
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be transformed into video images (Flusser, 1989b); and finally, by a digital version of his book Die Schrift (Flusser, 1987), distributed on two 5,25” floppy disks – which is particularly interesting since it could be described as an ebook before the ebook. The floppy disk version of Die Schrift does not only provide its text in a digital form, but also enables direct navigation to selected chapters, full text search, additional information, and the possibility to actively change parts of the text by the reader – or user. The interface (see Figures 1 to 4) does not look spectacular compared with today’s standards, but at the time it was an exciting way to experience a book – and to bypass its linear structure. Thanks to a collaboration between the Vilém Flusser Archive at the Berlin University of the Arts and the University of Freiburg’s Department of Computer Science, the electronic book can be experienced online as an emulation (www.flusser-archive.org). Another project Flusser was involved in is the “Flusser Hypertext“, developed in the context of a research project on electronic books at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) at the beginning of the 90s. Based on his lecture “Schreiben für Publizieren” [writing for publishing] (cf. Flusser, 1989d), the hypertext was built in collaboration with Flusser. The team at ITAS was influenced by Flusser’s Die Schrift (cf. Wingert, 1996). Here, in a chapter on computer-based reading, Flusser discusses a new kind of reader who is actively linking information – without referring to the term “hypertext”: The future reader sits in front of the screen to call up the stored information. This is no longer a passive taking in (pecking) of information fragments along a prewritten line. This is more like an active accessing of the cross-connections among the available elements of information. It is the reader himself
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 who actually produces the intended information from the stored information elements. (Flusser, 2011, p. 153) The researchers at ITAS used Flusser’s lecture as content for the “Flusser Hypertext Prototype 2,” built on Apple’s authoring system HyperCard. It contains the audio recordings of the lecture, the transcribed text, further information Flusser implied during his lecture (including images), and space for annotations. The hypertext is built as a “T-structure”: the “horizontal” level contains Flusser’s lecture, the “vertical” levels the additional, deeper information. The structure and interface of this hypertext are particularly interesting. The pages are organized in reference to classical file cards (see Figure 5), relating to the “desktop metaphor” in order to provide orientation by referencing the physical world. The user can navigate through the horizontal level by clicking the numbered tabs, simultaneously listening to the audio recordings. Browsing to the vertical levels is possible by clicking the small squares attached to every linked word; the number of the squares indicates the number of levels. The main menu (see Figure 6) is unusual: the hypertext’s sections are displayed as a map, utilizing the concept of overlapping windows (cf. Kay, 1993). Through the element’s topological arrangement, the researchers tried to provide an overview in order to counteract the “lost-in-hyperspace” effect. At any time, the user is able to return to this “apollonic” view – the rational, controlled perspective (Nietzsche) – to regain orientation (even though the orientation has its limits, as the critical number of overlapping windows indicates). We will come back to this apollinic promise of the topological in the context of discussing diagrams. Thanks to the abovementioned collaboration, the Flusser Hypertext is available online as an emulation (www.flusser-archive.org, http://bw-fla.uni-freiburg.de).
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The Flusser Hypertext could not be completed, and reached only prototype stage. Nevertheless, as an artifact of these times it provides enlightening insights into the optimistic attitude towards this seemingly “nonlinear” new medium. This attitude was still influenced by Theodor Holm Nelson’s original hypertext concept dating back to the 70s (Nelson, 1984 ; see also xanadu.com). In the following years, the notions of hypertext and nonlinearity became deeply interweaved. The German standard book Hypertext by Rainer Kuhlen (1991) describes its subject as “a nonlinear medium between book and knowledge database” – here, nonlinearity is defined as “free navigation in complex networks”1 (Kuhlen, 1991, p. 6). But even though the Flusser Hypertext’s structure is determined by a logic of file cards – the groundbreaking paper technology for arranging information (cf. Rayward, 1975), giving the impression of loosely joined information bits, the hypertext unveils its linear structures as soon as it is used: the horizontal and vertical “T-structure” of the Flusser Hypertext makes it easy to identify this linearity. But also in cases of more complex hypertexts, and even if other media is involved (cf. “hypermedia”), a linear dimension is unveiled by the exploring user while he “threads” its content to a line. This is why we would like to suggest the term multilinearity – with all its implications – instead of nonlinearity when it comes to analyzing hypertext and similar phenomenons. Multilinearity As it turns out, even nonlinear representational structures tend to be linear after all. This very fact is reflected in the notion of multilinearity, which relies heavily on visuality. Looking at pictures, one does not follow a predefined linearity, but as soon as the visuals are not perceivable with just one look, the
1 „Ein nicht-‐lineares Medium zwischen Buch und Wissensbank. […] Sie erlauben den ‚Lesern‘ von Hypertexten eine freie Navigation in komplexen Netzwerken.“
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 gaze becomes linear, tracing view-lines on the picture, creating connections, following axes and perspectives, even gazes from figures portrayed. These mechanisms can be seen in current examples we already touched upon, like the hypertext, but they also predate the electronic age considerably. They apply especially to visual storytelling, from earliest examples of cave inscriptions to panel paintings and picture stories such as comic strips. Most of these arrange their pictorial elements in a linear order, but this order cannot be sustained throughout the reading. It is instead dissolved into multilinear dimensions, enabling the reader to switch back and forth, looking at both the overall layout and the single elements, following one’s own path throughout the narrative, lingering through space and time of the text or story. This practice becomes eminent especially in diagrams that are depicting circumstances both at once and in detail. Studies on diagrammatic aspects have become popular in the humanities. In the context of the rising interest on images as subjects of research (trying to overcome the scriptocentrism of the linguistic turn), diagrams – strange hybrids between text and image – promise an “operational iconicity” (Stjernfelt, 2007; Krämer, 2009): they unveil an invisible structure of their signified object (cf. Peirce, 1998). By manipulating the diagram, this structural iconicity enables a speculative experimentation with possible formations of the represented object. When it comes to intelligible objects (models, theories, etc.), a diagram is more than a representation; it constitutes its object by making it visible – a recursive hermeneutic operation (see Figure 7). One significant precondition of this iconicity is the diagram’s topological appearance. Even though sentential representation systems (writing, mathematical notations, etc.) also have a topological, albeit rather linear structure (written on a page, dis-
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played on a screen, etc.), the positioning and orientation of diagram elements have specific meanings: elements above might signify greater importance, element groups might signify similarity, and so on. This topological apriority – enabling an apollinic overview – can be an advantage of diagrams compared to sentential representations (cf. Russel, 1988). A similar interest in the diagrammatic comes from cognitive science. Although the referentiality of diagrams is also an important aspect, these studies focus particularly on the topological structure. One general assumption is that visuo-spatial characteristics, enabling spatial indexing (drawing conclusions from the positioning of elements; cf. Larkin & Simon, 1987), can be more effective compared to sentential representations when it comes to fast information retrieval (cf. Cheng, Lowe, & Scaife, 2001). But even though this “simultaneity of the overview” (Krämer, 2002, p. 117) is an essential aspect, the process of “reading” a diagram takes place as temporal sequence (Cheng, Lowe, & Scaife, 2001): after acquiring an overview and finding the element searched, one needs to – multilinearly – trace its relations to other elements in order to derive information from the diagram. Thereby, the often-claimed opposition of sentential and diagrammatic representations dissolves: writing, for instance, includes diagrammatic aspects, like its arrangement on a surface (Krämer, 2009); diagrams, for instance, show linear structures as soon as they are used. Hence, “the diagrammatic” and “the sentential,” or the linear, appear to be rather two poles of a scale within which representational artifacts can be arranged (Cheng, Lowe, & Scaife, 2001). It becomes clear that diagrams are not per se “better” than sentential representations; and neither is multilinearity compared to linearity. In fact, it depends on what cognitive effects should be achieved (Larkin & Simon, 1987). Sentential structures might be more appropriate, e. g., for
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 narrative formats where a storyline flow is important. And the simultaneity of diagrams might be more helpful for fast information. But in the end, it is a combination of both. A certainly outstanding application of multilinearity to narrative storytelling can be seen in the works of Chris Ware, a Chicagobased comic author who is using a diagrammatic approach to expand both time and space, enabling the reader to develop the narrative autonomously. In his most famous Book, Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest Kid on Earth, he uses several diagrams, the biggest one being a foldout map from the interior of the dust jacket. This map shows the storylines of the protagonist, Jimmy, but also includes a lot of information that is not included in the book, such as the immigration of Jimmy’s paternal great-great-grandfather and the capture, transportation, and sale of Jimmy’s stepsister Amy’s ancestors as slaves. This diagram opens up a much larger stage and historical perspective, contextualizing Jimmy’s life within a long historical sequence of tragic and lonely characters. It offers a perspective that is usually reserved for third-person narrators and enables much more immersion and depth than a linear representation could offer (see Figure 8). In order to understand what is happening here, the reader needs to gather some background information, and on top of that be able to decipher this form of storytelling. These skills are the topic of another diagram on the first page of the book, where Ware ironically tackles this “new pictorial language.” According to Ware, this particular diagrammatic grammar is “good for showing stuff” while “leaving out big words” (Ware 2000). The starting point of this diagram is one single frame that is then dissolved into different layers, explaining the mechanics and conventions at use. So while offering an explanation, it requires at the same time a reader already conversant with its idiom of symbols (see Figure 9).
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The diagram reveals the close relationship between comics and information design by using a flat, simplified cartooning style, where characters and objects resemble pictographs or ideograms (Cates 2010). The process of signification in this case is less a matter of resembling the thing they represent, and increasingly a matter of symbolic conventions. Cates points out that this “stylistic transparency” (Cates 2010, p. 98) approaches the semiotic directness of language, and that both comics and diagrams share iconic drawings as their “natural vocabulary.” He argues that “the diagrammatic potential of comics allows the pictorial space of the page to pull away from strict, camera-like storytelling into the pictorial equivalent of synopsis, analysis, or explanation” (Cates 2010, p. 100). These modes of representation follow multilinear, circular and recursive directions, which are constantly produced by the reader and therefore provide multilinear narratives while relying on icon-like symbols. Ware states that he aims for drawings so simple that “when you see them you can’t make yourself not read them” (Raeburn 2004, p. 20). This instantaneous recognition is the condition for the simultaneous reading, for the instant sensemaking that is used for the interfaces of contemporary apps and services. Simultaneity Simultaneity is not only the basic paradigm of current tracking apps and services such as the numerous self-quantification tools or web analytics dashboards and metrics, but is the precondition of general human-machine interaction on a much broader scale. If one expands the definition of narratives and of media strategies towards connecting, supplying, and rendering information, then we can look at current paradigms that dominate our contemporary experience with information, shifting from a linearity-based epistemology towards an instantaneous simultaneity. But what are the preconditions and predecessors of this simultaneity, of this instant sensemaking?
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 With technological object cultures becoming unreadable, even imperceptible, we see an avoidance of the subject as an agent of sense-making. Bot-based communication has surpassed human generated traffic on the Internet in 2013 (incapsula.com/blog/bottraffic-report-2013.html), and networked computation no longer relies on the human based, hermeneutic signification that was so central for the epoch of scripture. The network is literally and metaphorically at the core of the information, the communication and the text, connecting and reading, writing and recording without the need for human interference. This is well reflected in the paradigm formulated by Winograd and Flores in 1986, paraphrased by Hookway: “the user is ‘driving,’ not ‘commanding’” (Hookway 2014, p. 147). The best user experience is rendered when the user is not aware of himself as being the user of a program, but experiences himself as the one performing a task without noticing the mediation. The digital technology in place has lost its mechanical transparency, but kept its ability to exert instant control. Hookway traces the genealogy of these current interface paradigms back to wartime aviation and pilot plane systems developed during WWII and thereafter: “Flight is and always has been a mediated activity; even before the airplane cockpit was identified as a distinct spatial enclosure, the central problem of flight was one of establishing the mediations that would allow for the production of control” (Hookway 2014, p. 37). This production of control becomes particularly important when visibility is impaired, and it is crucial to provide instant essential information and feedback to the pilot. And in order to be instantly readable, the interface uses diagrammatic representations as simple as iconic drawings. The Kinalog Display System, which was put to use in 1959, indicated pitch and roll as relation of the wings to an artificial horizon with a simple diagrammatic relationship in order to create a
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maximum of compatibility between pilot and cockpit (see Figure 10). This paradigm of User Experience now draws from the simulation of natural interaction, from multimodal input and output such as voice, gesture or touch, from instant feedback, in order to achieve the greatest compatibility between user and machine, between reader and text. The Embodiment of the cockpit transformed into Heideggerian concepts such as readiness-to-hand and presence-to-hand, with the tacit and subconscious control of the automobile as the model for interface design (Winograd and Fernando, 1986; see Figure 11). In order to establish this unobtrusive information and control, technology needed to dissolve into the environment and become invisible itself. The most effective, ubiquitous, and pervasive computing therefore is seamlessly integrated into the ambience. The theoretical underpinning of this development again draws from Heideggerian concepts, formulated in 1991 by Mark Weiser, who is considered to have coined the term “ubiquitous computing“ and “calm technology“ as a chief scientist at Xerox Parc in the 1980s. He and his co-authors write that the most profound technologies are the ones that disappear, that integrate seamlessly into the everyday life and are no longer distinguishable from it. Whereas this idea remained more or less speculation in the 1980s, it rapidly became reality with the development of sensors, APIs and the so’called “Internet of Things,” which is still in its very early stages. But one can already see that technology becomes background (Hintergrund), becomes a second, artificial nature. With the rise of touch as the main mode of input, the interaction becomes instantaneous, natural and intuitive. And with the adaption of cockpit-like interfaces, with the usage of icons and small diagrams, of dashboards and live visualization of data, technology even remains unobtrusive when it is visible. The representation of one’s health, of one’s sleep cycle, one’s athletic achieve-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 ments and so forth with the numerous apps and services integrated into mobile devices is actually displaying data that has been invisible until now. By manufacturing this instant, simultaneous visibility of the invisible, the media itself becomes invisible, becomes backgroundable and dissolves into the environment. Real time data is no longer obtained from the mechanical devices it used to rely on in the cockpit of the pilot, but is gathered from all kinds of sources, from sensors, tracking tools and other metrics, quantifiying and measuring performance, status, activities from heart rate, body weight and sleep cycles to click-through-rates, page impressions and sales objectives, from temperature to ‘likes’ and engagement on social media. Simultaneity applies to the tools and tactics we have seen in the non- and multilinear strategies: speculative experimentation creates the represented object by making it visible with a recursive hermeneutic operation, which can be found at the core of webperformance analysis and optimization such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as well as the quantified self apps and services such as health trackers. Iconic and diagrammatic representation enables a quick and intuitive understanding of the quantified data, producing an apollinic overview and effective exertion of control. But simultaneity adds another feature: it not only allows but demands instant interaction, as it no longer provides a text that requires just passive reading, but data that deliver motives for actions and decisions. Simultaneous media can no longer be understood with the concepts of linearity or multilinearity, but needs additional consideration of the instant character of interaction that is required by the user.
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Figure 1: Welcome screen of Vilém Flusser, Die Schrift. Hat Schreiben Zukunft?, floppy disk edition. Copyright: European Photography, Andreas Müller-Pohle.
Figure 2: Main menu.
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Figure 3: Field for full text search.
Figure 4: Full text view and content menu.
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Figure 5: Content card of the Flusser Hypertext (running on Mac OS9), including “horizontal” links (tabs) and vertical links (small squares attached to words of the text). Copyright: ITAS, Karlsruhe Institute of Technologie; Apple Inc.
Figure 6: Flusser Hypertext main menu – a map with overlapping windows.
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Figure 7: Charles Darwin’s “3rd diagram” (1837), Notebook B, also known as “Darwin’s corral”. An attempt to grasp such a spatial and temporal highly abstract concept like evolution. The sketch’s branches explore a possible “structure” of the evolution of some species and the extinction of others. (Cambridge University Library, dar. MS 121, fol. 36. Reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.)
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Fig. 8: Chris Ware’s Diagram on the interior of the dust-jacket from Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth. This Map not only conceals certain details within the story and life of the protagonist, such as his hidden comic collection and some glimpses inside the life of his grandfather, but also suggests a much deeper historical background of the story, displaying both the immigration- and slave-routes from the 18th and 19th century. Copyright: Chris Ware/Pantheon
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Fig. 9: Chris Ware’s Diagram on “graphic language”, that not only explains each single line shown in the mainframe, but also – among other things – situates the moment in the history of the cosmos, locates the drawing style between realistic representation and language and shows how sound and time are constructed within the panel. Copyright: Chris Ware/Pantheon
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Fig. 10: The Kinalog Display System provides a state of augmentation to the pilot, conveying the orientation or attitude of the aircraft with respect to the earth, which is essential for impaired visibility. Image taken from the patent „Advanced flight control instrumentation and control system US 2960906 A“.
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Fig. 11: This drawing is taken from a recently registered patent from Apple Inc. and describes the simulation of physical characteristics for files and data. Files can be „poured“ like liquid from one device to the other. „Graphical Objects that respond to Touch or Motion Input. US Patent No.: 8,839,150 B2“
References Card, Stuart K., Mackinlay, Jock D., & Shneiderman, Ben. (1999). Readings in Information Visualization. Using Vision to Think. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Cates, Isaac. (2010). Comics and the Grammar of Diagrams. In: M. B. Kuhlmann, D. M. Ball (eds.), The Comics of Chris Ware. Drawing is a
way of Thinking. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. Cheng, Peter C.-H., Lowe, Ric K., & Scaife, Mike. (2001). Cognitive Science Approaches To Understanding Diagrammatic Representations. In: A. Blackwell (ed.), Thinking with diagrams (pp. 79-94). Dordrecht, Boston, & London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
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Flusser, Vilém. (2011). Writing. Does it have a future?. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. English translation see Flusser 1987.
Larkin, Jill H. & Simon, Herbert, A. (1987). Why a Diagram is (Sometimes) Worth Ten Thousand Words. Cognitive Science, 11, 65-99.
Flusser, Vilém & Bec, Louis. (1989a). Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Eine Abhandlung samt Befund des Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste. Göttingen: Immatrix Publications. English translation: (2012). Vampyroteuthis Infernalis. A Treatise, with a Report by the Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Link, David. (2010). Scrambling T-R-U-T-H – Rotating Letters as a Material Form of Thought. In S. Zielinski & E. Fürlus (ed.), Variantology 4. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies in the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond (pp. 215-266). Cologne: Walther König.
Flusser, Vilém. (1985). Ins Universum der technischen Bilder. Göttingen: European Photography. English tranlation: (2011). Into the Universe of Technical Images. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Flusser, Vilém. (1987). Die Schrift. Hat schreiben Zukunft? [Also available as digital book on two 5,25” floppy disks]. Göttingen: Immatrix Publications. English tranlation: see Flusser 2002. Flusser, Vilém. (1989b). Angenommen. Eine Szenenfolge. Göttingen: Immatrix Publications. Flusser, Vilém. (1989c). Interviewed by Angelika Stepken, broadcasted on SFB, 21.08.1989. Transcript available at Vilém Flusser Archive. Flusser, Vilém. (1989d). Schreiben für Publizieren. Manuscript for a lecture hold at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology on 02.03.1989. Vilém Flusser Archive, document number 2640. Hayles, Katherine N. (2009). RFID: Human Agency and Meaning in Information-Intensive Environments. In: Theory, Culture and Society. 26 (2-3), 47 – 72. Hookway, Branden. (2014). Interface. Cambridge / London: MIT Press. Kay, Alan. (1993). The Early History of Smalltalk. ACM SIGPLAN Notices, 28 (3), 69-95. Krämer, Sybille. (2009). Operative Bildlichkeit. Von der 'Grammatologie' zu einer 'Diagrammatologie'? Reflexionen über erkennendes 'Sehen‘. In M. Heßler & D. Mersch (Hg.), Logik des Bildlichen. Zur Kritik der ikonischen Vernunft (pp. 94-122). Bielefeld: Transcript. Kuhlen, Rainer. (1991). Hypertext. Ein nichtlineares Medium zwischen Buch und Wissensbank. Berlin & Heidelberg: Springer.
Lyotard, Jean-François. (1979). La Condition postmoderne : rapport sur le savoir. Paris: Éditions de Minuit. English translation: (1984). The Postmodern Condition. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Nelson, Theodor H. (1984). Computer Lib: You can and must understand computers now / Dream Machines . Michigan: self-published. Nora, Simon, & Minc, Alain. (1978). L’informatisation de la société : rapport à M. le Président de la République. Paris: La Documentation française. Peirce, Charles S. (1998). The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings Vol. 2 (1895– 1913). Edited by the Peirce Edition Project. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Raeburn, Daniel. (2004). Chris Ware. Monographics. New Haven: Yale University Press Rayward, W. Boyd. (1975). The Universe of Information. The Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organisation. Moscow: VINITI. Russel, Bertrand. (1988). Vagueness. In J. G. Slater (ed.), The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. Vol. 9: Essays on Language, Mind and Matter, 1919–26 (pp. 147-154). London & Boston: Unwin Hyman. Schmidt-Biggemann, Wilhelm. (1983). Topica universalis. Eine Modellgeschichte humanistischer und barocker Wissenschaft. Hamburg: Felix Meiner. Siegel, Steffen. (2009). Tabula: Figuren der Ordnung um 1600. Berlin: Oldenbourg Akademieverlag. Stjernfelt, Frederik. (2007). Diagrammatology. An Investigation on the Borderlines of Phenomenology, Ontology, and Semiotics.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, & New York: Springer. Ware, Chris. (2000). Jimmy Corrigan: The smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon. Weigel, Sigrid. (2003). Genealogy – On the iconography and rhetorics of an epistemological topos. URL: www.educ.fc.ul.pt/hyper/resources/sweigel [September 1, 2014]. Weiser, Mark, Gold, Rich & Brown, John S. (1999). The Origins of Ubiquitous Computing Research at PARC in the late 1980s. IBM Systems Journal 38. 693 – 696. Wingert, Bernd, Kann man Hypertexte lesen?. (1996). In D. Matejovski & F. Kittler (ed.), Literatur im Informationszeitalter (pp. 185-218). Frankfurt/M. & New York: Campus. Winograd, Terry and Flores, Fernando. (1986). Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design. Norwood NJ: Ablex Publishing. Zielinski, Siegfried. (2002). Archäologie der Medien. Zur Tiefenzeit des technischen Hörens und Sehens. Reinbek: Rowohlt. English translation: (2006). Deep Time of the Media – Towards an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. Cambridge MA & London: MIT Press. Zielinski, Siegfried. (2011). [... nach den Medien]. Nachrichten vom ausgehenden zwanzigsten Jahrhundert. Berlin: Merve. English translation: (2013). [… After the Media. News from the Slow-Fading Twentieth Century. Minnesota: Univocal Publishing.
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
INÊS DE CASTRO ON YOUTUBE: RE-‐GENDERED NARRATIVES
Aida Jordão, York University [email protected]
Suggested citation: Jordão, Aida (2014). “Inês de Castro on YouTube: Re-gendered Narratives.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: Since the fourteenth century, when Inês de Castro was laid to rest in her magnificent tomb in the Monastery of Alcobaça, artists have told the tragic story of the Galician noblewoman who was assassinated for political reasons and became Queen of Portugal after her death. Inês embodies beauty, love, innocence, and saudade, and figures prominently in the lusophone cultural imaginary. Plays, novels, poetry and feature films offer representations of the Dead Queen that range from tragic and defiant to sentimental and trite. In new media, the moving images that currently vie with iconic figurations of the legendary colo de garça are YouTube videos about the love of Inês and Pedro. Responding to homework assignments in Portuguese history or literature courses, primary and secondary school students engage with the love story and create new narratives – plays, animation, and videos – that attract thousands of viewers. In this paper, I consider a selection of YouTube videos made by Portuguese and Brazilian students that tell the familiar love story in a unique way, taking varying degrees of poetic license with their sources, the medieval period and the medieval woman. Some are original and irreverent while others simply glorify dead poets. Through a feminist lens, I analyse the mediated embodiment of Inês de Castro and interrogate the inflexible and hierarchical binary dualisms of man/woman, masculine/feminine, and public/private to posit a fluid conception of historical adaptation and the gendered representation of iconic figures. The representation of Inês de Castro, Portugal’s tragic medieval Dead Queen and iconic symbol of beauty, love, innocence, and saudade, in twentieth and twenty-first century cinema and video must necessarily be complicated by a feminist reading that produces pluralistic meanings to challenge the dominant masculine linear form and narrative.1 The na-
This feminist strategy is founded on the theoretical ideas of French feminism of the 1970’s (Cixous, Kristeva
tional Inesian feature films, José Leitão de Barros’s Inês de Castro (1944-5) and José Carlos de Oliveira’s Inês de Portugal (1997), are rooted in masculinist discourses originating in their respective source material and the
and Irigaray) and has developed through the postmodern period to include a non-binary analysis of class and race, as well as gender; see, for example, Luce Irigaray’s concept of “feminine language” in (1977), Women’s exile, Ideology and consciousness, no. I. pp 62-76.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 canonized history of the eternal love of Pedro I of Portugal and Inês. They are historical reconstitutions that include aspects of the popular Inesian legend – for example, Inês comes to Portugal as the lady-in-waiting of Constança, the Crown Prince Pedro’s betrothed, but it is Pedro and Inês who fall in love; after Constança’s death, they live together and have children; Afonso IV assassinates Inês because her brothers are powerful war-mongers who influence Pedro and threaten the peace with Castille; when Pedro becomes King he kills Inês’s assassins by ripping out their hearts and then exhumes Inês’s body and makes her his Queen 2 – but nonetheless revision the events and the protagonists in accordance with political and socio-cultural demands of their times. The first film, produced under a national propaganda program and a treaty of friendship with Spain is based on a contemporary novel 3 that demonizes Inês as a carnal temptress; the cinematic narrative, however, visualizes the heroine as innocent and remorseful. The second feature is based on the chronicles of medieval Kings in which Inês’s fate at the hands of powerful men is condemned; the filmmaker creates a lively and passionate Inês with sexual initiative. In both films Inês has some narrative and formal agency but, problematically, it is in death that she is ultimately empowered. Her tomb stands today as a testament to her Queenly status and the inscription on Pedro’s tomb, “Até ao fim do mundo” (“Until the end of the world”) 4 suggests they are waiting to be re-united, forever
Inês was made Queen by law but in fictional accounts her corpse is crowned and her hand kissed by the royal subjects. This aspect of the legend was first staged in Luís Vélez de Guevara’s seventeenth century tragedy, Reinar después de morir. 3 Vieira, Afonso Lopes (1939-40). A paixão de Pedro o Cru. Lisboa: Bertrand. 4 This is the popular interpretation of the phrase that is carved on the tomb; for alternative readings see Serafím Moralejo (1991), El ‘Texto’ Alcobacense sobre los a amores de D. Pedro y D Inés, in Actas do IV Congresso da Associação Hispânica de Literatura Medieval, Vol. I, Sessões Plenárias, Lisboa: Edições Cosmos.
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present in the cultural imaginary, forever hovering as metaphysical entities of the national project. Both films end in the Monastery of Alcobaça, in the nave where the tombs are found and visually declare that this is the site where Inês reigns supreme as Queen of Portugal, legitimate and Portuguese. There is, however, an emerging cultural product where Inês appears as a moving image for popular consumption that vies with the feature films as the iconic cinematic representation of the Dead Queen: YouTube student videos about the love of Inês and Pedro. On the internet, we find an abundance of Inesian videos with a great variety of figurations of the Dead Queen. In the past year alone, there were over ten blog and YouTube postings of the story of Inês and Pedro as it is imagined by students in Brazil and Portugal. Responding to homework assignments in Portuguese history or literature courses, primary and secondary school students engage with the love story, creating filmed playlets or short films. Although the image and sound quality is often very poor, I believe this is the area where the moving image and the visualization of Inês de Castro is having the most impact. Compare, for example, the number of viewings for the 1997 feature film Inês de Portugal, 38,797,5 and those for a student film with shaky camerawork, teenagers in ragtag costumes and wigs, and arias from Bizet’s Carmen as background music, 6,901.6 Multiply the last figure by ten, which is a modest estimate of school plays and films that have been posted to YouTube, and you have almost double the number of viewers of the feature film. Even acknowledging that this is a very informal poll based only on the number of viewings (ignoring the length of time they have been posted) and that viewings could be a
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2_fHIFltBQ [Aug. 21, 2014]. 6 D. Pedro and D. Inês de Castro, setting unknown but likely in Portugal. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLzYX4ZmEwY&featu re=fvsr [Aug. 21, 2014].
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 one-second visit to the page, the estimate is impressive and justifies a brief analysis of the various representations of Inês on Internet sites. In this paper, I consider a selection of YouTube videos made by Brazilian and Portuguese students that each tell the familiar story in a unique way, taking varying degrees of poetic license with their sources, the medieval period and the medieval woman. I will start with three Brazilian videos that are both original and irreverent. The first features a teenage girl sitting in her room speaking directly to the camera in close-up, and in the first person as Inês.7 She titles the video “A Minha Versão ;D” (“My Version ;D”) and in the caption states that it is an assignment in “Intertextual Relations in Portuguese Literature,” acknowledges her friends, and thanks her dog for not barking while she filmed. Her monologue is in a colloquial Portuguese, at times dismissive – and sarcastic when Constança, Pedro’s legitimate wife, is mentioned – commenting on the events in a distanced way. And although she is wearing glasses and a t-shirt, making no attempt at historical reconstitution, and adopting an offhand tone, she has the same objective as Garcia de Resende’s high medieval Dona Inês,8 who is resurrected to tell her story to the ladies of the court to prove her innocence. This Brazilian girl’s Inês laments her illegitimate status even though her father was “um nobre galego cheio de grana” (“a filthy rich Galician nobleman”), and defends the love she and Pedro shared as innocent, “Não creio que tenhamos cometido nenhum erro” (“I don’t think we did anything wrong”). This young woman also laments that “o povo me odiava” (“the people hated me”) once again placing Inês, and her private love for Pedro, in the public domain, and, as Cristina Segura Graiño suggests, transgressing the medieval gender role to which she has been assigned
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjK4LmnZY3o [Aug. 21, 2014]. 8 In “Trovas que Garcia de Resende fez à morte de D. Inês de Castro” published in 1516.
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and becoming a “bad” woman (1993, p. 54). By incarnating Inês, this teenager at once resurrects the misogynist commonplace that honours the private woman while maligning the public one, and, by posting a video of herself in a private place, her bedroom, in a public internet forum, YouTube, challenges this very dictum. Nonetheless, her innocent remark about having done nothing wrong demonstrates Inês’s unexpected transition from the private to the public realm and its dire consequences. As in Resende’s and António Ferreira’s influential Inesian texts, 9 “the people” clamour for Inês’s death and she is sacrificed for the good of the Kingdom. Finally though, this girl echoes Resende’s poet who glorifies Inês’s death, declaring that if she hadn’t been killed there would be no story to tell.10 The second Brazilian student video is set in the present, made by Amanda Fideles with a group of students from the Colégio Adventista of Cidade Ademar. 11 They have adapted the story from Canto III of Luís de Camões’s Os Lusíadas but have set it in São Paulo, overtly calling it “Inês de Castro e D. Pedro, Século 21” (“21st Century”). A poor migrant woman, Inês, who has lived in the favela since coming to the city, ends up working for a rich banking family;12 she and the son, Pedro, who is married to Constança, fall in love. Bruno Mars’s “Talkin’ to the Moon” plays as Inês and Pedro drop their tray and newspaper respectively and realize they are in love. Constança dies in childbirth and Pedro tells
Ferreira penned the first Portuguese tragedy, Castro, with the tale of Inês and Pedro as its subject. 10 One wonders if the study of intertextuality in her course includes Resende’s ballad, and if this monologue is a very loose adaptation of the same. 11 Cidade Ademar is a suburb of São Paulo. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFU2lo0qhuA [Aug. 21, 2014]. 12 A Portuguese-Spanish short film, Inês de Castro (2000), directed by Grandela tells a similarly class-based tale founded on Inesian lore: The son of an industrial magnate falls in love with a female factory worker; the shareholders intervene and endanger the couple (ICAM catalogue, 1999/2000).
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 his father Afonso he wants to marry Inês. Afonso is` enraged, “Aquela empregada?” (“That maid?”), and sets his goons on Inês; she is holding a baby and has a young daughter who begs for mercy. The goons, played by tough ’hood girls, stab Inês and slash her daughter’s throat. The rest of the story, Pedro’s revenge and Inês’s entombment is told in intertitles with the poignant cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole playing the ukulele.13 The cast, as in all the Brazilian student videos, is multi-racial, but only in this one are Inês and Pedro played by black actors, a truly postcolonial approach. Although this particular version of the story is set in the twenty-first century, one is reminded of Sharon Farmer and Carol B. Pasternak’s study of the fluidity and multiplicity of gendered identities in the Middle Ages and how they intersect with social status, religion and sexuality (2003, p. xi). The matrices of domination14 explored by the authors as a site for the construction of gender are illustrated here with the class difference between Inês and Pedro, and the race difference between Inês and Constança. No longer a noblewoman, Inês serves Constança and the family and it is while she is literally serving Pedro a drink that he falls in love with her. He, engaged in the manly ritual of reading the newspaper, discards it as she also discards her service instruments. When Afonso learns of Pedro’s intent to marry Inês, he asks what Pedro will get for it, foregrounding the materiality of their union. The masculinist posturing that follows is only challenged by the sex of the goons he employs: they are girls but sufficiently masculinized (i.e. they dress as boys and play the conventional heavies of ’hood films) to do the job of killing Inês and her
It is intriguing that both the extradiegetic songs are by Hawaiian singers, yet another postcolonial aspect of this student project. 14 Issues of oppression based on race, class and gender as per the integrative feminism of the third wave; see, for example, Patricia Hills Collins (2009) Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment, New York, London: Routledge.
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children. Inês’s portrayal as a mother in the last scene further genders the interaction but does not erase the class-based matrix of domination through which the episode is streamed. The third example of a video by Brazilian students narrates the story as in medieval times, with Princes and Princesses, Knights and Ladies, but the characters are in modern summer clothes with girls who play male characters wearing blazers and make-up as facial hair; the setting is a working class neighbourhood of low-rise buildings and adjoining fields.15 Pedro is played by a young girl and another girl who plays Inês shows a hyper femininity perhaps to emphasize the sex difference. She giggles coyly, flings her bag away in mock abandon, places a flower behind her ear, etc. But Pedro does not indulge in macho posturing; both he and Inês skip like children and dance exuberantly to the pop song “In a Perfect World” by Filipina singer Toni Gonzaga.16 An intercut slide of a castle reminds us we are in medieval times and when Pedro tells Inês he’s married she says laughingly, “Ó Pedro, não tem problema, eu não tenho ciumes!” (“It’s not a problem, I’m not the jealous type!”). In this re-telling of the story, Pedro and Inês are white, Afonso and Constança are black. The story continues to its inevitable end with the singular variation that Pedro avenges Inês’s death by killing his father, King Afonso. All three of these Brazilian videos are extremely playful and present a great contrast to the student videos made in Portugal, which are earnest in their attempts to reconstruct medieval language, setting and behaviour. The result is a scenario of authentic castles and cathedrals (which Portugal has in abun-
Posted in May 2012, it is a good example of the ‘historical’ story; by ETEC Ângelo Cavalheiro. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRpe9Z296eY [Aug. 21, 2014]. 16 It is interesting that two of these Brazilian videos feature music by singers with Philippine roots; Bruno Mars was born in Hawaii of Filipino parents.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 dance) and period costumes, but wooden acting as the students struggle with the hallowed spaces, unfamiliar attire and medieval texts. They are reverent of the material but fail to engage meaningfully with the eternal love proclaimed in the narratives. Nonetheless, a twopart video by Escola E.B. 2,3 of Ceira, Coimbra with commentary by two students on a rooftop basketball court has had about 15,000 viewings.17 The story follows Leitão de Barros’s film plot with Pedro mistaking Inês for Constança in their first meeting and Inês blaming herself as a sinner and traitor and sending Pedro off to his lawful wife; still, Dom Afonso calls her demonic. How different this is from the Brazilian girl who embraces adultery because she’s not the jealous type! The students are dressed in rich velvets and satins, stand in front of images of gorgeous medieval architecture and speak a formal medieval Portuguese but fail to stir the emotions. It is a museumification of the tale of Inês. There is a nod to contemporary love with a final shot of Inês and Pedro in modern dress sitting on a bench overlooking Coimbra and rock-jazz singer Pedro Abrunhosa’s “Beijo” playing over the credits. But this alleged adaptation of María Pilar Queralt del Hierro’s novel Inês de Castro and Ferreira’s Castro, is pedantic and slow-moving. Another Portuguese video with almost 6,000 viewings is by the Escola Básica José Afonso de Alhos Vedros and it is filmed on location in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon; the students again attempt medieval costumes and language. 18 One enthusiastic viewer praises the youth’s interest in Portuguese history but questions whether the costumes are not more similar to those of Russian princesses. Again, the acting is stiff and ineffectual but the cast is multi-racial,
8,855 views, URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQOEz7PfVs&feature=related and 5,948 views, URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Huf3PckHVUM&featur e=plcp [Aug. 21, 2014]. 18 5,774 views., URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=J WM6_KynOwM&NR=1 [Aug. 21, 2014]..
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which shows some flexibility in casting. There is also a rap song by the students on the school’s YouTube page19 which indicates how they want to tell the story: five female students, black and white, keep the beat with a chorus that urges Inês and Pedro to declare their passion, and a black male student raps verses that sum up the Camonian episode. This, however, is not part of the main video which remains a flat, unimpassioned representation of Inesian lore. This small sample of student videos demonstrates two tendencies. First, the figuration of Inês is fluid: she is represented physically as brunette, blonde or black and her personality ranges from silly to self-blaming to dignified. The degree of femininity displayed by the character is stressed in the video where Pedro is also played by a female and Inês is hyper feminine to compensate, though, as I observed, “he,” in a masquerade of femininity, also skips and dances in an unmasculine manner. Another common feminizing trait is the long hair of the heroine, though, again, because Pedro is played by a girl or sports a medieval hairstyle, his hair is also long. In the Portuguese videos the students stand statically with their arms at their sides, so stiff and uncomfortable that their non-gesturality defies an identification of feminine/masculine traits. As for Inês’s agency in these videos, the teenage girl’s monologue demonstrates full control of her situation; she uses the intertextuality demanded by her school course to create an original autobiography that she literally incorporates. She is an Inês who writes, directs and performs herself. The Inês and Pedro played by the girls who giggle and skip together, and are mutually active as letter writers when forced apart, show an egalitarian approach to the characters where both the protagonists are subjects. In contrast, the Portuguese videos give agency to the voice of authority which, in one, is the teacher reading
1,608 views, URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aOSM-2siZc [Aug. 21, 2014].
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 out the ensuing acts and scenes, in another, the canonized literary text which they have memorized; all of the participants are objectified here. Second, the Portuguese youth are loath to challenge the master narrative of history and produce dry, didactic narratives while the Brazilian students are fresh and creative with their versions of the story. The nationalistic objective that drives the Portuguese students’ Inesian video projects is evident in their reticence to place the story in another time and place from that in which history occurred and reflect the national feature films made about Inês and Pedro (as noted above); the first scene of the two-part video by the students from Coimbra is modelled on the Leitão de Barros film. The video shot in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, inspired the following turgid comment. Dá consolo e alento ver que nem tudo está mau no reino de Portugal! Continuamos a ter gente nova a aprender e a GOSTAR das estórias da nossa história! Enquanto este lume arder temos esperança! (It is consoling and encouraging to see that not all is bad in the kingdom of Portugal! We continue to have young people learning and LIKING the stories of our history! While this flame burns we have hope!)20 The reference to Portugal as a kingdom, though ironic, signals the desire to maintain national borders, and the pride in youth the hope that they will guarantee this. Reconstituting, not reconstructing, history becomes the instrument of the national project, indoctrinating the participants and, presumably, the hundreds of viewers reached by a YouTube posting. The Portuguese students would do well to view the work of their Brazilian colleagues, consider the postcolonial world they also inhabit, and
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=J WM6_KynOwM&NR=1 [Aug. 21, 2014].
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entertain a fluid conception of historical truth. This is challenging, however, when they are steeped in the pedagogy of a national project which reproduces the master narrative and promotes inflexible and hierarchical binary dualisms of man/woman, masculine/feminine, public/private, etc. It is almost certain that the Portuguese students’ models for their video creations are the cultural products of a Portuguese nationalist discourse which reconstructs historical episodes, like Leitão de Barros’s Inês de Castro, made at the height of fascist nation-building, and José Carlos de Oliveira’s Inês de Portugal, with its millennial anxieties. Elizabeth A. Ford and Deborah C. Mitchell’s Royal Portraits in Hollywood: Filming the Lives of Queens details society’s preoccupation with queens’ lives on film and the filmic representation of the historical sovereign. Their research questions are, What slice of the life do film biographers choose to tell? Which events are treated, which deleted? Does the film chronology mirror or depart from the life’s time line? Are fictional scenes added? If so, how do these affect the overall subject? ... How far is too far from established truth? What responsibility does an auteur have to the life held up for viewer’s pleasure? (2009, p. 6) These concerns apply as much to a professional director’s as to a student videographer’s vision of Inês de Castro and problematize how the cinematic image replaces other imagined renderings of the historical figure. The videos analysed here, and the dozens of others posted on YouTube, circumvent previous historical fictions or emulate a canonized history. In both cases, with the dearth of information about the historical Inês de Castro, they “depart from the life’s time line” and often include scenes that, for the “pleasure” of feminist viewers, figure the female protagonist as subject. It is the objective of a feminist analysis to discover
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 these instances and view/read Inês as a female character with agency and a fluid identity that eschews limited binary oppositions. As the story of the Dead Queen proliferates on YouTube – there is even a Lego version of Os Lusíadas that features a Lego Inês in a Lego tomb21 – it is crucial to analyse her representation through a feminist lens and re-gender the character. References Camões, Luís de  (2003). Os lusíadas. Lisboa: Edicões Expresso. Farmer, Sharon, and Carol Braun Pasternak, eds (2003). Gender and difference in the middle ages. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Ferreira, António [ms circa 1556, pub. anon. 1587 and 1598] (1974). Castro. Introdução, notas e a glossário de F. Costa Marques. 4 ed., revista. Coimbra: Atlântida. Ford, Elizabeth A. and Deborah C. Mitchells (2009). Royal portraits in Hollywood: Filming the lives of Queens. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
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Screenplay, Spanish version Ricardo del Mazo, José María Alonso Pesquera, Garcia Viñolas. Perf. Alicia Palacios (Inês), António Vilar (Pedro), María Dolores Pradera, Erico Braga, João Villaret. Filmes Lumiar, Portugal/Faro Producciones Cinematográficas, Spain. VHS. Inês de Portugal (1997). Dir. José Carlos de Oliveira. Screenplay João Aguiar. Perf. Cristina Homem de Mello (Inês), Heitor Lourenço (Pedro), Ruy de Carvalho, Manuela Carona. Imagemreal, Portugal. VHS. Inesian Videography (student videos on YouTube analysed in this paper): A Minha Versão ;D. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjK4LmnZY3 o [Aug. 21, 2014]. D. Pedro and D. Inês de Castro. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLzYX4ZmE wY&feature=fvsr [Aug. 21, 2014]. Inês de Castro e D. Pedro, Século 21. Amanda Fideles, Colégio Adventista of Cidade Ademar. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFU2lo0qhu A [Aug. 21, 2014].
Queralt del Hierro, María Pilar (2003). Inés de Castro. Barcelona: Ediciones Martínez Roca.
Os Lusíadas – Inês de Castro. ETEC Ângelo Cavalheiro. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRpe9Z296e Y [Aug. 21, 2014].
Segura Graiño, Cristina (1993). Mujeres públicas/malas mujeres. Mujeres honradas/mujeres privadas. Árabes, judías y cristianas: Mujeres en la Europa medieval. Ed. Celia del Moral. Granada:Universidad de Granada, 53-62.
A história de Pedro e Inês. Escola E.B. 2,3 Ceira. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQOEz7PfVs&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Huf3PckHVU M&feature=plcp [Aug. 21, 2014].
Resende, Garcia de  (1999). Trovas que Garcia de Resende fez à morte de D. Inês de Castro. Cancioneiro geral de Garcia de Resende, Folios 221b-222b In Poesia de Garcia de Resende, editor José Camões, Lisboa: Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses.
Encenação D. Pedro e D. Inês. Escola Básica José Afonso de Alhos Vedros. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscr een&v=JWM6_KynOwM&NR=1 [Aug. 21, 2014].
Inesian Cinema: Inês de Castro (1944/45). Dir. José Leitão de Barros. Screenplay, Portuguese version José Leitão de Barros, Afonso Lopes Vieira.
Os Lusíadas–Versão Lego–Apresentação, URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNf5uSa6ZKI [Aug. 21, 2014].
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
EMERGING FORMS OF CITIZEN VIDEO ACTIVISM: CHALLENGES IN DOCUMENTARY STORYTELLING & SUSTAINABILITY Ben Lenzner, University of Waikato [email protected]
Suggested citation: Lenzner, Ben (2014). “Emerging Forms of Citizen Video Activism: Challenges in Documentary Storytelling & Sustainability.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 9780993952005 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: Gilles Deleuze’s early reflections on assemblage identify the idea of the diagram or possibility space as a framework to suggest the ways in which the assembling of technology and human practices merge to create distinctive and innovative new assemblages. Yet routinely it is the technological advances of the 21st century that receive the most revered credit for shifts within citizen based video activism. Essential to the new and often undefined waves of digital documentary birthed in scattered alcoves of social activism and human rights movements are the relationships between the components of these assemblages. Particularly influential are the facilitating agents spearheading the means to digital video literacy that allow these narratives to be shared. Conducted over three years, my PhD research has examined very specific emerging video practices rooted in social activism in a number of global settings. My fieldwork has sought out citizen media makers in order to discuss how these practitioners have approached their nascent video activism with the goal of identifying properties that might allow these surfacing video practices to become sustainable over time. This paper examines and critiques specific elements that these particular forms of video activism confront in their own unique global possibility spaces. Moreover, as traditional methods of video distribution and video recording continue to change even further through online platforms and mobile technology, how might we begin to identify emerging forms of citizen based video activism and documentary media? In June 2012, in Crispus Attucks Playground on the edge of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, I met Tim Pool (who at the time was a prominent live streamer) to chat about the evolution of his video practice. “My stuff that exists is a collaboration,” he told me, “it’s like open source journalism … I don’t have one editor, I’ve got you know, three million” (Tim
Pool, interview with author, June 27, 2012). Nine months later, in March of 2013, I was lost on the outskirts of the city of Lucknow in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, trying to attend a workshop conducted by the NonGovernmental Organization (NGO) Video Volunteers. I had interviewed a number of Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondents
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 throughout the country who document local issues happening in their districts and villages and slums for the Video Volunteers’ India Unheard program, which seeks to publish one short YouTube video a day (though they regularly surpass this goal). In Lucknow, I chatted with the Allahabad based community correspondent, sometimes called local changemaker, Ajeet Bahadur. “After making India Unheard videos, what happens is that what is happening here and what is happening in Kashmir, we both know it and can share it,” he told me. “This way people can get acquainted and associated with us. What is happening right now is that the media or any other medium of such communication to give information to people is limited on a local level” (Ajeet Bahadur, interview with author, March 3, 2013). In the last two years, I’ve sat down and talked with a wide range of documentary media makers engaging with recent digital video technologies in the United States, India and New Zealand. One of my goals has been to achieve a better understanding of the possibilities for creative practices. Why are certain practices emerging in specific areas? How do constraints in technology, language and connectivity (to name a few) play roles in the shaping of digital documentary media practices? The creative practitioners that are participants in my PhD research are not documentary media makers in the traditional sense. Nor are they often well known. They tend to be regular folk, inquisitive individuals from many walks of life, who have embraced accessible video technologies to often document activism, human rights and social justice movements. The multiple crossroads where current digital video practices and technologies merge are exciting and inspiring spaces to examine how these practices are constructed. My research uses the lens of assemblage theory to engage with the ways in which individual agency and communities of practice experiment with digital video
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technologies in very nascent, emerging and often changing possibility spaces. Furthermore, I’ve begun to ponder how these practices might, if at all, relate to documentary practices in the traditional sense. How do these creative sparks form? Can they be deliberate, and how do assemblages sustain themselves? Where do practices that we may recognize as documentary emerge from and might they re-inform how we see and perhaps even define documentary? Moreover, in such a digitally connected world, what if Ajeet Bahadur had the opportunity to craft stories in New York City or Tim Pool found himself on a road that leads to New Delhi, how would their creative practices thrive, change or fade due to the constraints or limitations of their new assemblage? Let us start with Tim Pool, whose practice was sparked in the Autumn of 2011 by curiosity, as he clicked through countless YouTube videos of Occupy Wall Street protestors knocked around by the police; he eventually stumbled upon one short clip of a police officer boasting that “My little nightstick is going to get a workout tonight” (Heaf, 2012). Pool had two responses to this video. He wanted to know (Heaf, 2012) who was filming this footage and why wasn’t this footage being exposed to a larger audience? Inspired and intrigued, Pool bought a ticket from Virginia to New York that very same afternoon. Arriving in Manhattan, Pool initially documented the protests in the same way as we all might do, recording with his smart phone and saving the footage to the memory card, then recording again, repeating the cycle. Soon, using the live streaming application, Ustream, Pool began to stream live broadcasts along the lines of a traditional news report, his collaborator at the time was Henry James Ferry, who played the role of an on-camera reporter. Yet Pool soon came to realize that the action of the protests often sprouted spontaneously. A reporter didn’t seem to fit the flow of events and his viewers on Ustream were expressing through a live chat function
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 that they didn’t care to see a reporter in the frame. As Pool explained to me, “that just presents the same old same old. Might as well be on CNN, if you’re just going to watch some guy talk” (Tim Pool, interview with author, June 27, 2012). Pool recognized the evolving possibilities and realized that his journalism had to shadow the emerging protests around him. As Pool reflected, “the first was me filming him (James Ferry). And the second time we went out, he couldn’t keep up with the group because they were running full speed, so I just took off and took over” (Tim Pool, interview with author, June 27, 2012). Assemblages, whether they are technologies, social structures, creative practices or another configuration, form out of a diagram that consists of a multiple set of possibilities. The diagram was present for the journalistic niche carved by Pool’s video practice; the infrastructure was there – a smart phone, a 3G network, Wi-Fi, a mobile streaming app, blogs, websites for dissemination and an emerging possibility space. Pool’s lightweight digital tools (specifically his smart phone – a Samsung Galaxy II) gave him flexibility absent in traditional media. He could be on the front lines, documenting the arrests and police brutality that traditional news makers couldn’t access with their large, bulky cameras and reporters dressed in suits. The technology he was working with offered new possibilities to a video practice that he seemingly created spontaneously – assembling components from available resources within a diagram. Thus the way in which Pool’s practice formed indicates Manuel DeLanda’s descriptions of “mechanisms of emergence” (DeLanda, 2006, p. 10). Tim Pool’s work and his tools, knowingly and unknowingly, allowed for “the possibility of complex interactions between component parts,” enabling and exercising their “capacities to interact,” which essentially explains how the properties of a certain entity interrelate and connect with another entity (DeLanda, 2006, p. 10). In a mat-
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ter of days, Pool’s practice matured monumentally and his reporting received worldwide attention as it was distributed through other more established assemblages. Seemingly, the unsettled formation of citizen media assemblages straddles an undefined space that dances between journalism, reportage and documentary. When I spoke to Pool, he was unyielding in his criticism of mainstream media. “Journalists are the enemy,” he told me towards the end of our conversation (Tim Pool, interview with author, June 27, 2012). Yet to foresee how practices might evolve can be hard to predict. As DeLanda (2006, p. 10) states, “there is no way to tell in advance in what way a given entity may affect or be affected by innumerable other entities.” Today, Pool is director of media innovation at Fusion, a collaborative media enterprise between Univision and the Disney-ABC Television Group (Steel, 2014). It’s difficult to say how Pool’s practice might develop going forward or where components of his work may surface. In early 2012, one of Pool’s live streams was used as evidence within the legal system.1 As Pool (interview with author, June 27, 2012) explained, In May, it was announced that the first Occupy Wall Street trial in an arrest case, was, resulted in an acquittal because they used my footage as evidence. So, that’s kind of the point. You know, that powerful interests aren’t allowed to decide what the past is … You’ve got police officers who lie under oath and they did and that aren’t held accountable for it. But at least now we know for sure, the truth.
Note: At the time, Alexander Arbuckle was a NYU journalism student who happened to be working on a school photojournalism project documenting the point of view of police officers patrolling the Occupy movement. He was charged with disorderly conduct. http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/05 /in_the_first_oc.php (accessed September 20, 2014)
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Since 2006, on the other side of the globe, the organization Video Volunteers, based in the Indian state of Goa, has trained community based activists to produce original video content for the Web, for their communities and for local and regional authorities that often have the power to address the issues that these community correspondents document. Thus when Zulekha Sayyed, a community correspondent from the Vikrohli Parksite Slum in Mumbai, explained how she hid in her friend’s first floor apartment overlooking the location of now razed homes and had clandestinely recorded forced evictions, it recalled similar challenges that Pool and other practitioners discussed during the course of my fieldwork. As Sayyed insisted, “if the police saw me, they would have put me in lock up, put me in prison. They would have taken my camera and not returned it” (Zulekha Sayyed, interview with author, February, 6, 2013). The evolution of Video Volunteers presents an intriguing case study of an organization deliberately trying to encourage the formation of well-thought out assemblages that support human rights video practices, yet are continually challenged by a variety of constraints specific to the diagram they work within. Consequently, their assemblages are fragile and Video Volunteers often reassesses their strategy in the hopes of generating sustainable assemblages that support and propel the work of their community correspondents. Video Volunteers began with community video and the voice of the people as its central objective. Non-governmental organizations often use video as a means to publicize their work or raise funds or get out the word about different issues or actions, take the KONY 2012 video or Greenpeace for example and all its precursors and successors. Yet from its inception, the goal of Video Volunteers has been to get video tools into the hands of individuals so that they might be able to tell stories that are meaningful to their communities and that also may work to create impact
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and fuel change. As Video Volunteers codirector, Jessica Mayberry explained to me in January 2013, “It wasn’t video for health. It wasn’t video for education, which is how so many projects have been done. But it was really about creating local media, just giving people a voice. What would that look like?” (Jessica Mayberry, interview with author, January, 23, 2013). Initially, Video Volunteers started with Community Video Units. These were small regional teams of local people who would produce half hour video news magazines on different issues. Each team would go on a month long road trip, conducting screenings in the twenty-five or so communities where the news magazine had sourced and produced stories. On average, the organization saw a fifty percent turnout of villagers attending screenings and there was strong community involvement. Yet it wasn’t sustainable. The screenings were expensive and there was little possibility of revenue generation. As well, it was exhausting for each group, whose task was to create next month’s thirty-minute video news magazine while traveling from village to village conducting screenings. And so in 2009, Video Volunteers scraped that program and since then has run a new model called – India Unheard. With the goal to have a network of community correspondents in each of India’s 650 or so districts, India Unheard identifies young activists who are employed part time or not at all and they train them in video making and storytelling for two weeks and supply each new correspondent with a Flip Cam. Generally, these community correspondents shoot a story or two each month (for each story they publish they are paid on a sliding scale based on the quality of work, the type of video made, years in the organization, etc). Each correspondent accesses a computer, downloads their footage, burns it to a CD and sends the CD along with notes/storyboard via postal mail to Goa, where it is eventually edited, put on both YouTube and the India Unheard web-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 site and often screened informally at home in the community as well. This system is not precisely low-tech, though it is quite a distance from Pool’s real-time video broadcasting practice. Although constraints are abundant for community correspondents, these limitations are not always negative. In India, the speed of both mobile networks and Internet access is not conducive for online transfers of video footage, thus forcing correspondents to diligently craft a narrative for post-production. Since Tim Pool uploads footage with ease, he is almost encouraged to deviate from the crafting of a narrative. Yet as an organization, with the goal to upload one story to the Internet each day, Video Volunteers’ editing capacity is already stretched thin and soon they hope to support regional video editors of which currently there is only one. However these limitations are also incredibly frustrating. Although only a couple of the correspondents I spoke with owned a computer, the majority had to travel to a cyber café or borrow a friend’s computer to transfer files and prepare their reports. As Ajeet Bahadur (interview with author, March 3, 2013) jokingly reflected, Right now I need a computer. In the beginning I worked without it. I had friends … and I used other people’s computers. I spoilt a lot of computers. Now people are really scared of me. Either they run away with their computer and thus I don’t get to meet them; or if I get to use their computer then they sit with me while I work. Because of this combination of digital technology and snail mail, most stories take at least a month, often longer, to shoot, send, edit and publish to the Web. Directly, the various infrastructure and economic limitations on the possibility space of the diagram in which a correspondent creates video reports often restricts the speed of what DeLanda might describe as capacities to connect. In contrast, Pool’s practice almost basks in the possibility
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space that is New York City and thrives upon the cohesion of that potential. Pool doesn’t wonder how he is going to get his next smart phone; he ponders which smart phone he’s going to get next. Some of the community correspondents I spent time with came from extremely difficult backgrounds and the fifteen hundred rupees they would make on an India Unheard video might be the majority of their income for the month. As well, the organization itself sometimes struggles to get equipment for their correspondents. The Flip HD video cameras, for example, are a vital tool and crucial to the NGO’s work. They play a major role in the evolving media practices of Video Volunteers and their affordability allows for each correspondent to be given a camera. Yet in April 2011, Cisco, the technology company who owned the Flip HD line of camcorders decided to discontinue the product. As Jessica Mayberry, the Video Volunteers codirector told me (interview with author, January 23, 2013), And then it failed because technology, driven by western ideas of tech, that being the primary market decided that well nobody needs a hundred dollar video camera when you’ve got it on your phone without realizing that not every, you know, yes in America everybody is going to have a fancy five hundred dollar cell phone, but that’s not going to be the case in India. With the death of the Flip camera, it was possible that the assemblage Video Volunteers had helped to craft might fade away. Yet the organization took a chance, directly reached out to Cisco and secured hundreds of Flip cameras that had been manufactured but weren’t going to go to sale because of the discontinuation of the product. The predicament was fragile and tenuous and needed deliberate reinforcing and careful management in order to proceed and thrive. If the Flip video camera, a crucial component of the diagram evaporated, the assemblage could be forced
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 to change. This effort by Video Volunteers allowed for India Unheard not only to sustain but also to grow. Technology is a tool. Yet within different locations a digital video camera might have exceedingly ever-shifting repercussions in the way it is being used, who might be using it and why. Many of the components that contribute to how assemblages form are intangible, including that of agency and the factors that shape and hinder agency. Cultural constraints, distinct power structures, lack of awareness of the possibility space and scarce exposure to multiple methods of digital storytelling, all play roles in the formation of assemblages that these practitioners creatively energize. It is the relationships between possibilities, the exploration as to why creative sparks happen and an examination of how certain practices become sustainable that is the focus of my continuing research in New Zealand, New York and India. When I sat down with Zulekha Sayyed, the community correspondent who hid in a friend’s home in order to record forced evictions in her slum, I asked her about other media that might have been present that day. “No, no, no they are not coming,” she passionately exclaimed (interview with author, February, 6, 2013). “Last video I made, forced eviction, so there is major problems. So I shoot it but I call, there is a TV 9 news channel, TV 9, I called them, they clearly told, we are not allowed to go against the builder’s, sorry we can’t.” Perhaps it is the unseen impact, not the number of hits on YouTube or the speed at which footage can be uploaded, but the work on the ground, person to person, breath to breath, that makes a practice sustainable, or more importantly meaningful? Or maybe the significance of individual agency within these creative assemblages simply becomes the act of being present – recording and bearing witness – sharing an existence and documenting a reality?
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References Bahadur, Ajeet. (2013, March 3). Interview with Author. DeLanda, Manuel. (2006). A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. New York, NY: Continuum. Heaf, Jonathan. (2012, October 19). Comment / Politics: Breaking News. GQ Magazine (UK) October 2012. URL: http://www.gqmagazine.co.uk/comment/articles/201210/19/tim-pool-occupy-wall-street-interview [September 20, 2014]. Mayberry, Jessica. (2013, January 23). Interview with Author. Pinto, Nick. (2012, May 16). In The First Occupy Wall Street Protest Trial, Acquittal. The Village Voice. URL: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012 /05/in_the_first_oc.php [September 20, 2014]. Pool, Tim. (2012, June 27). Interview with Author. Sayyed, Zulekha. (2013, Febuary 2013). Interview with Author. Steel, Emily. (2014, September 8). Fusion Set to Name Director of Media Innovation. The New York Times, p. B7.
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
XAPIRI: AT THE JUNCTURE OF HISTORY, EXPERIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY Sandra Lim, Ryerson University [email protected]
Suggested citation: Lim, Sandra (2014). “Xapiri: at the Juncture of History, Experience, and Technology.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: The digital documentary film Xapiri (2012) is a film that takes as its subject matter the indigenous Yanomami people who inhabit the Amazonian rainforest regions on the borders of Brazil and Argentina. In this documentary, the filmmakers set out to explore Yanomami Shamanism, with the intention of presenting, on one level, a sensory and embodied experience of the culture. As this paper will also suggest, the formal and technical aspects of sound and image relations in this film are further important aspects to consider, since these are the means by which the filmmakers reconstitute the Yanomami for the viewer, aspiring to a relational experience of Yanomami ritual and culture. This paper concludes by briefly considering how Xapiri as a work of experimental documentary might also be considered as a work of expanded documentary, in relation to the historical form of Expanded Cinema of the sixties and seventies, suggesting that Xapiri extends the gesture of Expanded Cinema’s critical and formal drive to shatter the embedded structures of power of conventional cinema’s cinematic apparatus to documentary film, through a reconfiguration of the viewer’s relationship to the cinematic frame, and the idea of space within the screen. Screening at last year’s Brazilian Film and Television Festival (BRAFFTV), the experimental documentary Xapiri (2012) offered a lush audio-visual presentation of the indigenous Yanomami people, who inhabit the Amazonian rainforest regions on the borders of Brazil and Argentina. Through the collaborative efforts of the filmmakers Leandro Lima, Gisela Mota, Laymert Garcia dos Santos, Stella Senra, and Bruce Albert, the subject of Yanomami Shamanism was explored, with the intention of presenting: “…two
different notions of image: those of the Yanomami and ours … allowing different cultures to visualize and feel the way in which the shamans “embody” the spirits, their bodies and voices” (Puente Communication Agency, 2013). Seated in the somewhat cavernous and intimate environment of Toronto’s Carleton Cinemas, one couldn’t help but feel that within the first few minutes of viewing Xapiri, the film entailed something more than a conventional form of ethnographic representation. For
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 example, in viewing the film, there was often a sense of being on the outside looking in on the Yanomami, of being a cinematic voyeur trying to make sense of what was being seen and heard. At other times, there was also a sense of being nearby, or even in very close proximity to the Yanomami, as if sharing the filmmaker’s perspective, but at the same time being that of an outsider, not entirely privileged to the meaning of Yanomami Shamanistic ritual, language and culture. In viewing and experiencing Xapiri, there were also occasional moments of becoming aware of one’s own consciousness, blending into the darkened theatre with the audience nearby, or that of encountering images, sounds and textures that seemed to exceed one’s cognition. With no authorial commentary, or the visible scientific involvement of a documentarian to explain Yanomami culture, there was an overriding sense of the film as an immersive and unfolding audio-visual experience in the blacked-out box of the theatre environment. Part observational, part documentary, and part expanded cinematic environment, the sounds inherent to the world of the Yanomami seemed to filter within, around and beyond the film frame, in constant relation to the images and objects on screen. As a result, this panoply of sound and image promoted an unfixing or destabilization of one’s point of view, both in terms of one’s spatial location and in relation to the screen, as well as in terms of the subjective eye. The French sound theorist Michel Chion relates something of this paradoxical quality, of sound and image relations in films, and the effect of this upon spectatorship and point of view. For example, sounds can be “acousmatic,” in that we might not see where a sound originates, based on the images we see on screen (thus dislocating our spatial reference point). Such is the case in hearing a ringing telephone in “offscreen” space. Yet sounds can also be contained within the screen, as is the case with “visualized sounds,” or in pairing a sound with a corollary
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object seen on screen (fixing our subjective and spatial point of view in paring a sound with an image). Sounds can also be “ambient” or “territory-sound,” consisting of the local sounds that are characteristic of a given environment. According to Chion, these sounds tend to permeate the space within and outside of the screen, and fill spaces like that of the spreading molecules of a gas into air and space. (This would seem to be the way in which the spectator embodies a sound-imagescape through the incorporation of sound outside of “screenspace”) (Chion, 1994, pp. 6691). Chion also observes that one of the most striking characteristics of sound in relation to moving images is the psychological perception of how images “magnetize sound in space.” In this respect, sound doesn’t actually emanate from points of origin within the screen, yet this is actually how we perceive the source of sounds to be. This is the case for both monaural and Dolby digital surround sound. For example, if we look away from the screen and hear the sounds of a film without the image, the sounds become depthless. They require the image to become activated spatially. According to Chion, the other big paradox of sound in relation to the image is that while the cinematic frame always encloses the images of a film, the same frame does not always bind sounds to the image. Rather, sounds gain a spatial character in relation to the images on screen. As Chion observes, sounds can be perceived as “synchronous and onscreen”, or “wander at the surface and on the edges as offscreen…” (potentially pulling our spatial viewpoint and subjective eye in more than one direction). In other words, sounds “…dispose themselves in relation to the frame and its content…we classify sounds in relation to what we see in the image, and this classification is constantly subject to revision, depending on changes in what we see” (Chion, 1994, pp. 66-91). While Chion’s observations for sound and image are mainly observed in relation to
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fiction films, they seem equally plausible for understanding the sound and image relations of documentary and non-fiction films, since in either case, sounds and images are usually sourced from reality and then artfully processed and edited alongside the image track. In fact, transposing Chion’s observations and theory of Audio-Vision to the problem of documentary and ethnographic representation presents the problem of how our perception of sounds in relation to images may affect the way in which we view and experience documentary films, and specifically how we construct knowledge of another culture, such as the Yanomami, through documentary spectatorship.
might expect, but are asked, rather, to begin to consider and embody the sounds, textures and colors, which constitute a kind of material environment that the Yanomami inhabit, from an outer perspective. As Xapiri opens, the screen is divided into brilliantly colored and simultaneously upper and lower zones of cerulean blue and burnt orange. Our sense ist that each zone is expansive as the sky, but at the same time rather depthless in terms of the lower part of the image, which depicts a forest. We have this sensation until depth, space and sky are verified through the visualized sounds of black cawing birds in the upper parts of the blue image, whereby a spatial point of view becomes established.
This paper proposes that the sound and image relations evident in Xapiri constantly require the spectator to adjust his/her perspective, in terms of a spatial viewpoint and subjective eye, and this is evident throughout various points of the film including: in the opening scenes of the film, and in sequences where we are presented with the Yanomami Shamans preparing their bodies for the Shamanistic ritual. A relational positioning of our point of view is also evident through the scenes of the Shamanistic hallucinogenic ritual as it unfolds. Importantly, this way of relationally positioning the spectator’s “point of view” substantiates the idea that knowledge of another culture is situational, constantly evolving, and therefore, never complete (Kaplan, 1997, pp. 198-199). The conclusion of this paper gives some consideration to the idea that Xapiri extends the concerns of the historical avant-garde form of Expanded Cinema and French Structuralist apparatus theory of the sixties and seventies to documentary film spectatorship, resulting in a form of Expanded Documentary.
From these opening images and sounds, we are next introduced to the sonic element of a child’s powerful yet breathy voice, singing solo, and then more children singing in accompaniment with the ambient sounds of birds and a forest environment, which permeate beyond and encircle the forest within the frame. The forest is perceived more in terms of transparency, like a glass surface through which layers of leaves and foliage are interwoven with barely perceptible traces of human figures, rather than depth. Each element is almost indistinguishable from the next, the effect of which is that the barely perceptible human figures evade our visual and subjective grasp. As a result, our spatial point of view locates itself around the outer edges of the screen, along with the acousmatic sounds of the singing voices. Eventually, the children’s voices are replaced by adult singing voice, and the glass surface seems to dissipate. The transparent figures begin to centralize within the image, and seem to move into it’s depths, and as a result, our spatial point of view is drawn into the screen, while the human figures disappear before our eyes. With the figures’ exit, we enter the forest, and shift our perspective from that of outside the screen to inside screen space, nevertheless trailing at a distance behind the figures.
A relational positioning of our subjective and spatial eye is evident throughout Xapiri, beginning with the opening sequences and our introduction to the Yanomami landscape. In these sequences, we are not privileged with a concrete image of the Yanomami as we
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 As the film progresses, we are brought into the lived and domestic spaces of the Yanomami, where the men, women and children engage in preparations for a ritual ceremony, and our perspective shifts, first of all, from that of being on the edges of a society looking in, to looking with and/or through the filmmaker’s subjective eye. This is clear in the way that the camera privileges specificity, tracing the smallest of acts such as an extreme close-up view of a young Yanomami man, holding a small plant-like paint pod in one hand, while he dips and paints different parts of his body with the other. There is also a sense that our own point of view is in some way being pressed in close to see such details, through the singing voice of a Yanomami man, somewhere in off-screen space at the edge of the screen, who seems to nudge us forward from the outside in, with the ambient sounds of rain and forest just behind our back. While the Yanomami men are making preparations in one area of the longhouse, we are brought to another area of this space, with a different sound texture. Here, several young women sit at a table monitoring a shortwave radio – the visualized sound and voices from which place our spatial viewpoint within their periphery, close enough to hear the shallow voices emanating from the radio, but unacknowledged and therefore keeping us in the periphery of their space. That is, until the gaze of a small child clinging to one of the women peeks out from underneath her arm and looks into the camera acknowledging our presence, unbeknownst to her. It’s a secret look, which catches the camera, the filmmaker, and the viewer in the act of looking, yet is paradoxically unsubstantiated by the static voice emanating from the radio. In effect, the relations of images and ambient sounds during the preparation scenes come together to create a richly interwoven tapestry, which positions our spatial and subjective viewpoint in terms of being on the outside looking in on the Yanomami, of being a cinematic voyeur trying to make sense of what is
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being seen and heard, as well as being placed alongside the filmmaker, to view and hear what he/she sees, hears and experiences. Perhaps the most auditory and visually challenging portion of the film occurs when the film transitions into the hallucinogenic ceremony. The transition is both an auditory and visual experience, which places our subjective and spatial viewpoint clearly on the outside looking in. This occurs when the voice of the Yanomami, who sings and accompanies our view of the preparations, takes on a different tone. In this instance, the ambient sounds of the longhouse blends with a gentle rain falling just out of view, leaving the voice singing in off-screen space, where we must also follow, and take a similar position. We perceive the hallucinogenic drugs take their effect on the Yanomami shamans, as the images are transposed into sets of superimposed images, which interpretively stagger and displace our sense of the concrete. On the one hand, the audio track imposes and asserts its presence from outside the frame, holding our spatial point of view in, as we hear loud multiple voices chanting and singing back and forth. The accompanying frenetic images seem to unthread and come apart at the seams, disallowing our subjective eye any foothold. From a sense of being locked in place, our perspective is suddenly reversed several minutes later in the film, as the singing and chanting also takes on the ambient sounds of the Yanomami environment. We hear the rain, the forest and the textures of the space, the voices of children, women in the periphery, and there is a sense that we have changed our spatial perspective and moved in a bit closer. While the images continually move back and forth, in terms of being abstract and concrete, the sounds accompanying the images both locate and dislocate our spatial perspective, either through their force or subtly. For example, a harsh and forceful sound of spitting and blowing including the environmental sounds in which it is made, connects with an explosion of white star-like lights and colors
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 on-screen to spectacular effect. Yet we still remain exterior to the images, perceiving them more in terms of surface and textures. The subsequent profusion of image and sound relations that follow in depicting the hallucinogenic effects of the Shamanistic ritual have an almost overriding effect, which seem to exceed one’s cognition. This results in throwing both our spatial and subjective point of view back into an awareness of being in the theater watching the film. Moments such as these bring to mind the realization that the hallucinogenic effect of the drugs are an audio-visual interpretation, enacted through the means of digital technology, rather than an inter-subjective experience, as far as the camera and filmmaker filming the event, and the filmmaker and editor through postproduction effects bring this into objective reality. Xapiri therefore also constructs a more objective point of view from which to question how Yanomami culture and Shamanistic ritual might be encountered and experienced in another place and another time through different means. As the filmmakers of Xapiri have indicated, one of their primary intentions in making the documentary through an experimental and sensory approach was to connect with a broad range of viewers. However, this paper also set out to offer that Xapiri’s formal relations of sound and image expand both subjective and spatial viewpoints for the spectator, to also offer a relational and more equitable view of another culture. While it is difficult to determine from this position how effectively Xapiri connects with an audience on a sensory level, this position does allow for connecting Xapiri to the art historical, experimental tradition of Expanded cinema and its concern for democratizing the film experience. For example, the British art historian Chrissie Iles defines expanded cinema historically as a form that “…emerged at a specific moment in the history of cinema, closely tied to, or part of the emergence of Structural Film, with its interrogation of the mechanics of the
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apparatus, the screen, the physical properties of film and the politics of presentation and audience” (Iles, 2009). Whether acknowledged or not, the polemics and theory of British Structural Materialist Film (and the subset of expanded cinema) also had much in common with French Cine Structuralism and apparatus theory. In this respect, each called for more democratic forms of film spectatorship through the dissolution of the idea of the dominant cinema’s fixed viewpoint, and specific to apparatus theory, the subject-object boundary/divide, which was deemed to favour not only a controlled film spectator, but also a film spectator who unequally controls and masters the objects/people on screen (Lim, 2013, p. 45). The ongoing practice of Expanded Cinema art from early cinema panoramas to the present, as Iles has observed, has sought to democratize the cinematic experience for the viewer, through an expansion and distillation of the spectator’s visual viewpoint, through such means as expanded screens, or allowing for viewers to get up out of their seats and interact with the projected image, or even in incorporating opportunities for sensory experiences into the cinema itself (Iles, 2009). In this respect, I believe Xapiri offers another way to expand the viewpoint of the viewer, and democratize the film experience – this being through a consideration of the relations of sound and image, in relation to the screen, and how such relations articulate the viewer’s spatial and subjective point of view to abolish the bifurcation of subject and object relations. Moreover, since Xapiri also functions as a form of documentary, it also provides a muchneeded example of how to accomplish this form of expansion through an encounter with social space. References Chion, M. (1994). The Audiovisual Scene. In C. Gorbman (Ed.), Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. New York: Columbia University Press
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Iles, C. (2009). Inside Out: Expanded Cinema and It's Relationship to the Gallery in the 1970's. Paper presented at the Activating the Space of Reception Documentation, The Tate Modern, London. http://www.rewind.ac.uk/expanded/Narrative/Tat e_Doc_Session_2_-CI.html Kaplan, E. A. (1997). "Speaking Nearby": Trinh T. Minh-ha's Reassemblage and Shoot for the Contents Looking for the Other: Femininism, Film, and the Imperial Gaze. New York & London: Routledge. Lim, S. E. (2013). Interpreting Urban Space and the Everyday Through Video Practice. (Ph.D. Doctoral Thesis), The University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom. Retrieved from http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/12347/ Available from The University of Brighton Repository Puente Communication Agency. (2013). Official Site of Brazilian Film & Television Festival Toronto. 9th Edition. Retrieved September 20, 2014, 2014, from http://www.brafftv.com/en/films/2013/xapiri.html
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
OFF THE WALL WITH SHCHEDRYK Kalli Paakspuu, York University [email protected]
Suggested citation: Paakspuu, Kalli (2014). “Off the Wall with Shchedryk.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-09939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: This paper examines how music and juxtapositions can ground a story in a longer history where the potential of images and cutting points become a dialectics of point, counterpoint, and fusion in a revisitation of archetypal images and as a co-authorship of reception. A visual dialogue evolves in the film Shchedryk (2014) through a remediation of scenes from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925), Alexander Dovzhenko‘s Earth (1930) and Norman McLaren’s experimental film Synchromy (1971). People who do not have recourse to the dominant culture are through recipient-co-authorship able to replay things in more sophisticated ways. Judith Butler’s idea of the performative and of subjects re-performing an injury (Butler 1993) can be introduced to the multi-screen experience. Foregrounding the wounding aspect as visual images is about ‘bad pleasure’ (O’Brien & Julien 2005). If realness is a standard by which we judge any performance, what makes it effective is its ability to compel beliefs and embody and reiterate norms (Butler, 387). The film Shchedryk is a contemplation of wartroubled Ukraine through composer Mykola Leontovych’s arrangement of a traditional a cappella chant. Our design team identified McLaren Wall-to-Wall as an opportunity to develop an audience for our theatrical documentary 1921 The War Against Music. A Call for Projects for architectural videos stated, “If Norman McLaren were alive today, his creative canvasses would be the Web browser, tablets, airports, public spaces and architectural surfaces” (3). This was McLaren Wall-toWall – a centenary celebration of the birth of Norman McLaren, the founder of the National Film Board of Canada’s animation studio – an international competition and initiative of the
National Film Board of Canada in coproduction with the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership. Jazz artist Paul Hoffert improvised a performance of Leontovych’s Shchedryk for our documentary, and a visual dialogue evolved through a remediation of scenes from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) and Alexander Dovzhenko‘s Earth (1930), both shot in Ukraine. These innovators of soviet montage theory were activists of social movements, and fusing frames from Eisenstein’s and Dovzhenko’s early films with citations from McLaren grounded our story into Ukraine’s longer history (see Figure 1). Each wall of the Quartier des Spectacles was to project a video that cited one of
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 McLaren’s films, Synchromy (1971), Spheres (1969), Begone Dull Care (1949) and Neighbours (1952). The finalists would be spiritual heirs to McLaren, and the competition required artists to use visual content from their chosen McLaren film, such as Synchromy, “to create a dual perspective, a dialogue with the work of McLaren” (p. 4) and share a $40,000 prize; their work would be projected on the facades of The Place de la Paix, Cégep du Vieux Montréal, the UQAM Bell Tower and UQAM’s Centre de Design, respectively, from April 11 – June 1, 2014. Our collaborative design team with myself as director, Ron Graner as writer and Peter Gugeler as editor envisioned a McLaren-inspired visual language for Hoffert’s performance, used as a framing device for Synchromy. Dovzhenko’s lyrical and poetic film depicted the life of rural farmers in a sympathetic portrait of Kulaks wanting to keep their land after Joseph Stalin’s 1929 effort to “eliminate rural capitalism” and “smash the Kulaks.” Eisenstein wrote the revolutionary propaganda film to test his montage theory. His famous Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin is one of the most memorable scenes in the history of film montage. The massacre on the steps by the descending Tsar’s soldiers and the mounted and charging Cossacks is actually a fiction, though “the bloodshed on the Odessa Steps is often referred to as if it really happened” (Ebert 1998). Eisenstein “argued that film has its greatest impact not by the smooth unrolling of images, but by their juxtaposition. Sometimes the cutting is dialectical: point, counterpoint, fusion. Cutting between the fearful faces of the unarmed citizens and the faceless troops in uniform, he created an argument for the people against the czarist state” (Ebert 1998). Eisenstein’s and Dovzhenko’s scenes as part of the Shchedryk song bring an expanded dialogue to their work that resonates with today and the contemporary war in a context of McLaren’s playful experimentation. As a rearticulation of the wounding project of
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dominant imagery, Judith Butler’s idea of the performative and of subjects re-performing an injury (Butler 1993) can be introduced to the multi-screen experience, as people who do not have the recourse to dominant culture through recipient-co-authorship are able to replay things in more sophisticated ways. Foregrounding the wounding aspect as visual images is about ‘bad pleasure’ (O’Brien & Julien 2005). If realness is a standard by which we judge any performance, what makes it effective is its ability to compel beliefs and embody and reiterate norms (Butler, p. 387). When slippage occurs between the continuity and rupture of expectations, conceptual and political transitions are made possible. An exterior wall or gallery space moves the cinematic experience beyond the normative, narrative expectations towards questions of spectatorship and the autonomy of the viewer in different relations of parallel montage and surround sound, wherein disjunctive and creative relationships exist around “time,” “memory” and the lived effects of globalization (O’Brien & Julien, p. 50) as a speaking from a positionality and not for it. A “visual citation” of Synchromy was a requisite at the Place de la Paix location. The synopsis from the Call for Projects described Synchromy thus: “A rigorous experience of synchronism between sound and image: cards with synthetic sounds are photographed on the soundtrack. Norman McLaren thus obtains absolute synchronism” (7). This clinical synopsis conceals the transgressive cinema that McLaren actually practiced, which invariably questioned the accepted conditions of art, undermined its axioms, transcended existing limitations, and questioned the nature of film as art and as medium (Kluszczynski 2007). The postmodern question is then turned over to the recipient, who participates in a critical evaluation of film as co-author recipient. Humming the tune from the film would be an interaction that could spontaneously erupt away from the exhibition site – and it would give an interpretation of the “wounding” – wit-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 nessed outside the editing room by passerbys humming the tune where the film Shchedryk was created. American experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage theorized that there were three spheres participating in a film event: 1) the phenomenological external world, 2) the optical-biological and mechanical-apparatus, and 3) the psychical universe, including both the physical brain and its process of memory, imagination, dreams and capacity to generate visions in a closed eye. Every time a film is subjected to the recipient’s perception, “This unification, the particular syntheses of the individual, the external world and the hybrid, optic interface connecting them, might then be said to become the perceptive and creative experience of each viewer” (Kluszczynski 2007, p. 471). Narratives are the stories that emerge as products of our interactions and goals as we navigate an experience. Emergent narratives are constructed throughout our daily activities to help us remember, understand, categorize and share experience (Galyean, 1995). A story produced by a group of improvising actors is not determined from the top down, it emerges from the interactions among the members of the group, which includes embodied memory through the sensual and somatic. Deconstructive methods are projecting film on more than one screen simultaneously, looping, introducing performance actions and spectacles that lead to the erosion of obligatory frames and boundaries of films. A dialectic occurs when there is an ongoing relationship with looping. Parallel montage, surround sound and the distinctive and creative relationship that a recipient develops and explores around “time” and “memory” are unique to multiscreen setups and interrogate and inhabit their multitemporal environments. Digital technology enables different ways of looking at the moving image, and enables a transgression of time that can occur in and between frames, side by side, and in relation to each other.
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With four of McLaren’s films cited in various Montreal locations, the decentring of the cinematic experience is transformed into an interactive multimedia art. We studied the dimensions of the building surface of Montreal’s Hotel Zero1 building, its brick structure and placement of windows, and incorporated these physical aspects into the editing design of Shchedryk and our proposal. The Place de la Paix (or Peace Park) is located on Montreal’s famous Saint-Laurent Boulevard. The square “blends granite and nature harmoniously, symbolizing both the urban bustle of Montreal and the city’s appetite for the great outdoors” (p. 7). We considered the impact of looping a repetitive sound track in the geographical location over an extended time. Shchedryk could have multiple lives, and will also be seen in the conventional theatre and in our crowd-funding on-line experiences. It will eventually be incorporated into the intro sequence of our documentary, 1921 The War Against Music, which features two Ukrainian composers, whose beautiful music inspired their peoples: David Nowakowsky (18481921), a Jewish Reform Zionist whose unpublished manuscripts were buried in occupied France, and Mykola Leontovych (18771921), an Orthodox Christian Ukrainian Nationalist who arranged Shchedryk. Both of these composers were mostly unknown to Western audiences, with the exception of Leontovych’s Shchedryk. There were very few composers collecting or arranging Ukrainian folk music, and Leontovych made songs from the communities where he taught music a career focus. Our theatrical story would be a revisitation of the earlier Ukrainian history through film frames of Ukraine’s early 20th Century years, which had several purposes: 1) we could be re-immersed in the time and place through actual people of the time, 2) there was a particular address of activism made to the public by filmmakers Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko, which was important to know, 3) as the 1920s was a time of upheaval and nationalist movements, a
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 re-evaluation from a decades-later perspective could bring another evaluation to the film arts, and 4) in incorporating the experimentation and innovativeness of McLaren, Eisenstein and Dovzhenko in a culture jam with an a capella song, their multiple perspectives afforded a unique visual treatment to our creative team. The reason this song became known by the name of Carol of the Bells is because neither Ukraine nor Russia were signators of the Berne Convention, an 1886 international agreement governing copyright that recognized author copyright in other signatory countries. This made copyright unprotecable in, and music produced in countries that were not members of the Berne Union unrestricted for use in Russian and Ukrainian film and television. Norman McLaren believed cinema was in an experimental stage as an art form, and he pioneered techniques of drawing and engraving on film, cross dissolves, pixilation, synthesized sound, stop motion, optical printing, and innovative montage techniques. His early works had an immense influence on experimental methods of the sixties and seventies, such as structural filmmaking, conceptual art, multimedia performance, painting directly on celluloid, and the use of found footage. The N.F.B. gave us the entire film of Synchromy in a high resolution digital form, on the premise that we would cite visual sequences of it, but we could not use the original synthesized music. Our own recorded music had been the motivating factor for entering the competition. The song Shchedryk itself had been viral from its beginnings as a Ukrainian folk chant welcoming spring to its transformation in the West as Carol of the Bells – a Yuletide favourite featured in popular Hollywood films like Home Alone (1990). It was a song that worked with McLaren’s original film, with its bright psychedelic colors that improvised on each other and flowed in a musical round of marching tones of sound, color and shifting lines. We proposed:
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In Ukraine the song Shchedryk was arranged by composer Mykola Leontovych as a New Year’s carol that sings of the wealth to come in the spring. Utilizing digital manipulation techniques, Shchedryck cites Norman McLaren’s Synchromy in its juxtaposition of color, tone and visual rhythm, in an interplay with this music. A close up of jazz musician Paul Hoffert’s hands playing Shchedryk is intercut with McLaren’s Synchromy, filmed portraits of 1920’s Ukrainians from Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps and Ukrainian Alexander Dovzhenko’s films. Hoffert’s performance is manipulated visually and transformed into the bright color range of Synchromy’s reds, greens, blues and yellows. The hands on the piano turn upside down, multiply with the rhythm of Synchromy in the spirit of McLaren’s improvisation. Place de la Paix’s wall will flicker with 1920s filmed portraits of the ongoing struggle of Ukrainians to maintain their culture through the tyrannies of the Russian Czar, the Bolsheviks and the present-day political forces in efforts lasting centuries. Leontovych was assassinated in 1921 for his role in the nationalism movement in Ukraine, which became a republic after the independence war in 1917-1921. The film Shchedryk will be a dual homage to McLaren and to the Ukrainian peoples’ call for a promised prosperity. Hoffert’s filmed performance will be book-ended with a digitally manipulated performance of his piano recording of Shchedryk in a dialogue between the public, the environment, and the experimental arts, and in a homage to Norman McLaren. Our proposal didn’t become a finalist for McLaren Wall to Wall. A company from Spain got the grand prize for their interpretation of
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Synchromy and no other Canadian 1 projects were finalists. However, we did get the rights to use the McLaren footage for the film festival runs, and Shchedryk was exhibited in a loop of experimental films in a gallery at the Muskoka Independent Film Festival from August 28-31 and in competition at the Jasper Short Film and Media Festival, Sept. 27, 2014. We also cut a version without any of McLaren’s footage, which was featured in a palace gallery at the Venice International Experimental Cinema and Performance Festival on Sept. 1, 2014. The film Shchedryk features several cinematic narratives through the multiple frames that weave through Synchromy’s architectural composition. If history is “a manifestation of our perception and understanding of the past through the present, it is a product of changing philosophical and methodological approaches, cultural strategies and deconstructive and reconstructive strategies” (Kluszczynski 2007, p. 469). Our original recording of Shchedryk provided a narrative and story structure manipulated with Synchromy, where jazz artist Hoffert’s hands perform in a panopoly of multiple images with distortions that dissolve in the sequences from Synchromy. The multiple portrait frames within the film frame are projections like windows originally conceived to be bent and distorted on the uneven hotel building’s surface with its own windows; these pulsate with the centuries-long struggle of Ukrainians to maintain their culture, which becomes a lens on the present day politics and war for which a historical continuity cannot be ignored. We selected portraits from Eisenstein and Dovzhenko’s famous films, which were clearly critical of a dominant political systems. Interestingly, Eisenstein’s most famous film, Battleship Potemkin, was lauded in Europe as a prime example of the propaganda film, as its
The Grand Prize winner was Christo Guelov of Spain. See http://mclarenwalltowall.com/en/works/colorrythmetic
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criticism of the czar advocated socialism in the Soviet state. Hitler’s propagandist Leni Riefenstahl emulated Eisenstein’s films to glorify the Third Reich in her films, Olympia (1938) and Triumph of the Will (1935). Returning to McLaren’s experimental form and revisiting earlier film masters of the public domain can bring a certain consciousness to Ukraine’s present civil war – of which the portraits from Dovzhenko and Eisenstein’s films speak eloquently. The performativity of their actors in the Ukrainian locations of their films embody a way of being in a historical community and as a screen performance. Our design of Shchedryk anticipated a multiframe experience with the irregularities of windows on a brick surface as a screen. Hoffert’s piano performance of Leontovych’s song stirs it up with the haunting visual of Eisenstein’s blood splattered nurse. In a second version of the film, 1921 The War Against Music, the nurse’s portrait is followed by images of composer Leontovych splattered with blood. The classical composer was murdered in his sleep by an overnight guest at his father’s home in 1921. Leontovych’s classical music was suppressed for being too influential in the Ukrainian nationalism movement. In the spirit of McLaren’s experimentation, our editor Peter Gugeler manipulated the visuals and piano improv of the two films featuring Ukrainian performers. Citing the early film innovators is an archaeological perspective that transforms the past itself through new interpretations and shifts away from those perspectives previously privileged. Utilizing digital manipulation techniques, the film Shchedryck is a culture jam in innovative film arts, designed as a first step in the development of the theatrical documentary 1921 The War Against Music, which will feature original classical music recordings of two banned composers, David Nowakowsky and Mykola Leontovych. Digital technology enables a different looking and listening of moving image arts, where a transgression of time is within the reach of our imagination. Our design team
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 met our film public with McLaren-inspired aesthetics of experimental animation and its deconstructive and transformational potential. The curatorial context of the gallery space where the film was looped in a programme of experimental films offered a particular audi-
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ence address, with viewers maintaining a certain autonomy in co-authorship. An interactive concept of authorship through the use of multiple frames expands the dialogue into personal memory tropes and questions of historical veracity.
Figure 1: Frame from Shechedryk, directed by Kalli Paakspuu.
References Butler, Judith. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of "Sex". New York, NY: Routledge. Ebert, Roger. The Battleship Potemkin, Roger Ebert.com Reviews, URL: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-moviethe-battleship-potemkin-1925 [Sept. 12, 2014] Galyean, T. (1995). Narrative guidance of interactivity. Ph.D. thesis, MIT Media Lab, MIT. Kluszczynski, Ryszard W.. (2007). Re-writing the history of media art: From personal cinema to artistic collaboration, Leonardo, Vol 40, No.5 (The MIT Press), pp. 469-474 McLaren, Norman. URL: http://mclarenwalltowall.com/en/normanmclaren. [Sept. 2, 2014]. O’Brien, Aine & Julien, Isaac. (2005). Suturing the aesthetic and the political-- Multiple screens, multiple realities: An interview with Isaac Julien. Circe, #114, Winter.
Walsh, Richard. (Jan. 2011). Emergent narrative in interactive media, Project Muse, Vol. 19, #1. Call for Projects, McLaren Wall-to-Wall: Architectural Video Projection in Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles. URL: http://www.mclarenwalltowall.com/pdf/McLarenCALL_FOR_PROJECTS.pdf [Sept. 2, 2014].
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
COLLECTIVE AUTHORSHIP IN REAL TIME
Alexandre Coronato Rodrigues, ESPM, São Paulo, Brasil [email protected]
Roselita Lopes de Almeida Freitas, ESPM, São Paulo, Brasil [email protected]
Suggested citation: Rodrigues, Alexandre Coronato and Roselita Lopes de Almeida Freitas (2014). “Collective Authorship in Real Time.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: The audiovisual has always been associated with technological developments, which it uses to create new forms of artistic expression through their expressive capacities and the fresh ideas brought by those innovations. Livecinema, which emerged in the beginning of 21st century, is a good example of the impact of technological innovations on the construction of new paradigms for audiovisual production. The word Livecinema designates the execution of a live audiovisual piece in which the editing happens in real time, in front of the public. However, the films produced in this way are mainly based on the construction of abstract narratives that privilege synesthesia as an instrument that produces meanings. In other words, the sequence of images on the screen causes different reactions in the spectators, depending on the sensations decoded by each individual and his or her cultural and aesthetical repertoire. Therefore, meaning is not made explicit, and the film itself does not have a direct and objective explanation, instead offering an open narrative without a specific story. In this paper, we show the result of research on the experiences utilizing real time cinema and collective construction of the narrative. We also present a project of a system that enables the creation of collective audiovisual narratives in which the recording and the editing occur in real time with a single semiotic intention, resulting in an objective narrative built from the sum of the perceptions of many individuals who function as the co-authors of the narrative. Introduction The ability to produce narratives is the basis of our ability to convey knowledge through time, and relates directly to the evolution of our knowledge. The etymology of the word narrative has its origin in the Latin word narrare and
means counting, reporting, or making known, which indicates a direct relationship between narratives and the production of knowledge, making unquestionable the relevance of the study of intellectual and cognitive processes involved in building stories. With the emer-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 gence of digital technology for the transmission and manipulation of information, the possibilities of human communication and interaction widened with new possibilities for individual, collective, automatic and interactive semiotic construction in the form of narratives. With the emergence of digital media, a new context for producing content is presented, which modifies concepts established before those new possibilities for the production of cultural content – whether it be artistic, scientific, journalistic, etc. – became available. But it is in the field of artistic productions that we find the most fascinating laboratory for developing new forms of expression. The introduction of interactivity, collaborative production, and the possibilities for real-time interaction created by network connections linked to the convergence of media in digital environments inaugurated new paradigms that raised new issues including copyright as well as conceptual problems regarding the produced content as well as its relationship with spectators, physical space, and physical quantities such as time.
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... [T]he narrative is present at all times, in all places, in all societies; the narrative begins with the history of humanity; there was never any people anywhere without narrative; all classes and all human groups have their narratives, these narratives often are enjoyed in common by people of different and even opposite cultures: the narrative mocks the good and bad literature: international, transhistorical, transcultural, the narrative is always present, like life. (Barthes, 2001, pp. 103-104) Like the philosopher Roland Barthes, Janet Murray emphasizes the importance of narrative in the preface to the Brazilian edition of her book Hamlet on the Holodeck: the Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, in which she states, "narrative is one of our primary cognitive mechanisms to understand the world. It is also one of the fundamental ways in which we build communities" (Murray, 2003, p. 9).
Our research presented here is the beginning of a search for new ways to build narratives that emerged with new technologies.
The importance of narrative meant that, since very early on, philosophers and scholars alike studied narratives seeking to identify their constitutive elements and the relationships between these elements in the narrative construction process.
Concept of narrative
Narratology – narrative as science
Empirically, we all understand the word ‘narrative’ to mean the telling of a true or fictional story; but you can see that this word also carries the depth of man's cultural history, because it is through narratives that we construct, transmit and perpetuate our shared knowledge.
According to Jan Christoph Meister, a researcher at the University of Hamburg, the main elements in the construction of narrative were introduced in ancient Greek with Plato and Aristotle. The former distinguished two main ways of narrating: mimesis, a direct imitation of speech in the form of dialogues and monologues of the characters, and diegesis, which comprises all statements attributable to the author. The Poetics of Aristotle presented a second criterion that remains fundamental to our understanding of narrative: the distinction between all events that occur in a depicted world and the plot or mythos of the narrated fact, a construction that
The etymology of the word narrative has its origin in the Latin word narrare and means counting, reporting, or making known, which indicates a direct relationship between narratives and the production of knowledge, making unquestionable the relevance of the study of intellectual and cognitive processes involved in building stories.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 presents a subset of events selected and arranged according to aesthetic considerations. In the 18th century, we find the first theorists in the budding field of narratology, including Christian Friedrich von Blanckenburg. In the 19th century, narrative begins to be studied in the context of classification as form and interpretation. However, it was not until the 20th century and the emergence of French structuralism that the study of logic, principles and practices of narrative production was configured as a science, with the formation of a coherent methodological body to create a theory of narrative. This new method was first published in 1966 in a special issue of Communications Magazine, entitled "L'analyse structurale du récit", with articles written by Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, Genette, Greimas, and Todorov. The term narratology was first used by Todorov in his book Grammaire du Décaméron, in which he advocates a shift in focus in the study of narrative, from the text itself and the speech that is formed with the words to the structural properties of narrative as a mean of creating representations and meanings. In his article "Narratology," published by the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology, University of Hamburg, Jan Christoph Meister presents a historical overview of the evolution of ideas and concepts about the stories and the names of principal researchers who were dedicated to creating this conceptual body. The members of the structuralist movement were interested in identifying and defining the universal aspects of narrative. Algirdas Julien Greimas proposed a model of deep level of meaning called "semiotic square," which represents the semiotic infrastructure of all systems of signification, and which assigned a typology of functions to the characters of narratives (such as lead against secondary, adversary against savior, emitter against receiver).
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In his book An Introduction to the Analysis of Narrative (1966), Roland Barthes proposed a functional scheme of narrative events that distinguishes "core events" as those required to ensure the coherence of the story, and "satellite events" as optional events that serve to beautify the basic plot. In Grammaire du Décaméron (1969), Tzvetan Todorov promoted the linguistic analogy, equating actions to verbs, nouns to characters, and their attributes to adjectives, connecting these elements through modal operators. This "grammar" included the logical sequence of virtual action, for example those imagined in the mind of a character, and not merely the logical sequence of actions that compose the scene. More recently, narratology, in its applicability to various means of communication, moves towards an understanding of the cognitive and epistemological functions of narrative. Meister (2003) identifies three trends in contemporary narratology: the contextual one, which seeks to relate the narrative to specific cultural contexts with a focus on the content of the narration; the cognitive one, based on the search for models of human understanding of narratives, an important approach for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the quest for simulation of this human ability to narrate; and the transgender one, which seeks to apply narratological concepts in the study of genres and other media going beyond narratives based on texts and words. Computational narratology Computational narratology applies to computing and information processing based on the construction of computational algorithms able to create narrative texts. Using the concepts of narratology to dissect narrative structures in the form of formal modules of simulative representation in computer systems, computational narratology seeks ways to simulate texts produced by humans.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 This task seems difficult, because it requires large computational processing capacity due to the large volume of information, such as knowledge, culture and the ability to relate and make inferences, which are tasks involved in understanding and constructing meanings by humans. Its direct connection with studies on AI is applicable to automatic interpretation of texts and the construction of automatic systems that produce stories, widely used, for example, in role-playing videogames (RPGs). We can identify two challenges for modern computational narratology: the search for a methodological division covering the interdisciplinarity involved in studies of cognition to construct more accurate analysis of the narratives, as occurred in the structuralist phase of narratology, and thereafter to produce computational representations of story generation capable of producing more complex and interesting texts. The researcher Marie-Laure Ryan suggests three criteria for the evolution of storygenerating programs towards the production of more elaborate narratives: creativity, aesthetic awareness and understanding. Creativity, according to the author, would be measured by the active role of the system during the construction of history and the variety of possible alternatives as system output. The greater the creativity, the smaller the limitation imposed on the story structure. The aesthetic consciousness is a function of the system with the ability to choose, between possible plot structures, those that are considered most useful for producing a good narrative. Understanding is the system's ability to summarize the story and answer questions about the events of the narrative (Rauch, 1989, p. 173). Computational narratology also produces important narratological concepts of plot fine-tuning as well as creating long plotlines based on smaller plot units (Lehnert 1981), in a succession of events that involves the motivations behind the actions of the characters and their emotional consequences. But
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the inferential challenges involved in imputing motives to characters and in understanding the narrative are of such volume that they become impossible to carry out by current computer systems, which limits the ability of computer systems to fully extract the inferred meanings in a story's plot. To understand a story, it is necessary to infer the causes of events and the goals of the characters involved in the plot. Such inferences cannot be mentioned explicitly in the text of the story, which causes major limitation of these systems. Story understanding systems (e.g., Wilensky 1978) collide with this limitation, since inferring the goals of characters involves a great deal of search on the basis of repertoires, a task that should also be reviewed and modified during processing, because humans use a lot of knowledge to interpret stories. To transmit to a computer this whole body of knowledge, which may be trivial for humans, is a very difficult task, as is the communication of the nuances of language necessary for the understanding of history as humor, irony and lexical associations like idioms. The researcher Jerry R. Hobbs, however, argues in his paper "Will Robots Ever Have a Literature?" on the current situation of computational narratology that humans and machines are in the same epistemological status regarding the production of literature. If we understand evolution as a sequence of levels of increasingly complex organization that directly represent levels of competence, we note that this is the evolutionary process that machines suffer, machines being understood as the combination of hardware and software to process information, where levels of complexities of the systems can be seen as new organizational levels that directly affect the ability to perform tasks. Since we, as humans, are also evolving our understanding of the world and of ourselves from simpler models of representation of reality to increasingly complex and comprehensive models that extend our
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 capabilities to act, influence and interact with the world, machines exist in a direct analogy to this evolutionary process. We can perhaps say it's just a matter of evolutionary time until machines and algorithms effectively generate creative narratives stuffed of meaning. Algorithms to generate stories Algorithms capable of producing stories have been researched for over 50 years, but more recently there has been a significant increase in the number of systems developed for this purpose, due to the appearance of commercial applications. We define as story the coherent chain of events and actions that form the plot without taking into account any aesthetic parameters. The problem consists in creating systems and algorithms capable of performing a nondefined task. Understanding algorithm as a set of instructions which, when receiving a particular input, produce one result as output, the creation of an algorithm without prior knowledge of the inputs and characteristics of what is expected as output seems to be an impossible task. This uncertainty is also seen in the human process of constructing a narrative or story, because we cannot clearly define the data an author uses to begin the process of creation, what perhaps explains why computer systems still fail to reproduce the human capacity to create and tell stories in diverse ways. The algorithms listed below vary in the type of stories they produce and the quantities and types of input data they need. These variations directly influence the quality of the texts produced by each program, since the higher the amount of input data and the more restricted the possibilities of outputs, the more defined is the task to be performed and therefore the more consistent is the output produced by the algorithm. 1) Novel: one of the first algorithms for generating stories was developed by Sheldon Klein (Klein et al, 1973). This software gener-
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ated stories of murder in an environment given as input along with details of the story’s characters, including their emotional connections and predisposition to violence and sex. As it was based on a well-defined set of rules, this algorithm produced only a specific type of story, and the differences between the stories produced were very small. 2) TaleSpin: developed by James Meehan (Meehan, 1977), it generated simple stories about the life of woodland creatures. It received, as a starting point a known universe, but with a substantial increase in the characteristics of the characters, such as kindness, intelligence and honesty, as well as the introduction of a goal to be achieved by the character. The plot was then developed toward the resolution of this goal through a complex model of possible relationships between the characters. With this, despite producing a particular kind of story, the differences between the stories produced were more relevant. 3) Author: created by Natalie Dehn (Dehn, 1981), this program tried to simulate the mind of a human author based on the assumption that the worlds of a story are developed by the authors to justify actions already chosen for inclusion in the story. Here, we have a large volume of incoming information about the characters, situations to which the author wishes to take these characters, and the role of each character in the story. Dehn's algorithm builds the story crossing these goals defined by the author for each character. 4) MINSTREL: developed by Scott R. Turner (Turner, 1993), this algorithm created stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The program received as input a moral that was used as a starting point for building the story, and the goals of the author. The program built a story based on a two-phase process: planning and then solving the problems reusing knowledge from previous stories. The texts generated were short, about half a page.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 5) Mexica: created by Rafael Pérez y Pérez (Pérez y Pérez, 1999), this program was designed to generate short stories about the first inhabitants of Mexico. It was based on an algorithm that evaluated the story as it was produced, taking into account emotional connections between the characters and trying to reproduce the creative process of the production of narratives. 6) BRUTUS: developed by Selmer Bringsjord and David A. Ferrucci (Bringsjord & Ferrucci, 1999), it wrote short stories of betrayal based on a pre-defined logical model of betrayal, taking into account a lot of knowledge of grammar and literature, and performing a large number of inferences, allowing the production of texts with literary quality. Collective narratives Audiovisual arts have always been associated with technological developments, appropriating from these to create new forms of artistic expression with the use of their languages and through new ideas and worldviews that these innovations bring. Earlier in this century, we began to experiment with new forms for audiovisual production, which are updates that incorporate the possibilities of digital media to past experiences. An example of this is the emergence of Livecinema earlier in this century as a catalyzer of ideas of the early nineteenth century multimedia theater with audiovisual remixes made by VJs of the 1990s and 2000s. The term Livecinema was used early in the history of cinema to designate a silent film session that had live music being played, because, as Arlindo Machado says in The Beginnings of Cinema: 1895-1926, the sessions took place in a variety theater, like the British music halls, the French coffeeconcerts, and American vaudevilles, where you could eat, drink and dance. Nowadays, the term Livecinema refers to the execution of a live audiovisual work. In other words, it is the manipulation of images and sounds performed in real time in front of
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the audience. It is an extension of Sergei Eisenstein's cinema of attractions, uniting picture and sound in a physiological and visceral way in which meaning is made through the body and through the physical sensation produced by the sound overlapping with what the viewer sees. Livecinema perpetuates this tradition because it broadens the experiences of multimedia performances, appropriating from digital technologies of information processing to add chance and improvisation as part of the work. In this project, we intend to go one step further in the production of collective content by adding the idea of narrative production to Livecinema, which so far is based mainly on the construction of abstract narratives that privilege synesthesia as an instrument to produce meanings. The commitment to linear and objective narrative that tells a story like a Hollywood movie or a book is not important. Livecinema is based on abstract narratives, in which the sequence of images on the screen causes various meanings in viewers according to the sensations produced and decoded by each viewer and their cultural and aesthetic repertoire. In this way, the senses are not explicit, and the film itself does not have a direct and objective meaning, composing an open narrative without a specific story. As an example of this, we present a video with excerpts from four works that were part of the 2011 IV Livecinema Exhibition (http://vimeo.com/29854022), Metaremix – DUO N-1, remixCidade: Rio – Grupo Mesa de Luz, Ponto: a video game without winner and – HOL STORM – luizduVa and Manuel Pessôa, produced live and in real time. At the other end of the spectrum of collective audiovisual productions, we have experiments that attempt the collective generation of objective and committed narratives with a specific meaning or sense, where the sum of diverse views on a particular subject suggests a closer relationship with the reality of the event narrated. A good example is EchoChamber (echochamberproject.com),
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 made by Kent Bye, which aims to produce documentaries and therefore objective narratives and films with defined subjects, in a collective process. The EchoChamber Project explores investigative and collaborative film through new media technologies as well as a repository of original video interviews with journalists and scholars. It is a project that details the limitations of American journalism and at the same time incorporates innovative solutions through collaborative media production. Summing up, it is the "YouTube" of an independent filmmaker combined with "Wikipedia" for serious journalism. Radical innovation is necessary in order to discover sustainable business models for investigative journalism, as well as new ways to keep the influence and attention of the public with reliable content. The EchoChamber Project explores the two main trends in online video by working with Collective Intelligence through Citizen Participation (Kent Bye, echochamberproject.com). The prototype proposed in this project seeks for an intermediary path between the two extremes of audiovisual narratives, proposing the construction of a collective narrative in real time, which has a unique intention, but constructed in a poetic form and preserving the freedom of metaphorical meaning-generation for the participants who will make the film. It is, thus, a hyper-narrative as defined by Lev Manovich in his book The Language of New Media, with the difference that the database is reality itself, captured in real time, which becomes the sum of the trajectories chosen by each participant. An interactive narrative (which can be also called ‘hyper-narrative’ in an analogy with hypertext) can then be understood as the sum of multiple trajectories through a database. A
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traditional linear narrative is one, among many other possible trajectories; i.e., a particular choice made within a hyper-narrative. Just as a traditional cultural object can now be seen as a particular case of a new media object (i.e., a new media object which only has one interface), traditional linear narrative can be seen as a particular case of a hyper-narrative. This "technical," or "material" change in the definition of narrative does not mean that an arbitrary sequence of database records is a narrative. To qualify as a narrative, a cultural object has to satisfy a number of criteria, which cultural theorist Mieke Bal, the author of a standard textbook on narrative theory, defines as follows: it should contain both an actor and a narrator; it also should contain three distinct levels consisting of the text, the story, and the fabula; and its "contents" should be a series of connected events caused or experienced by actors. Obviously, not all cultural objects are narratives. However, in the world of new media, the word narrative is often used as an all-inclusive term, to cover up the fact that we have not yet developed a language to describe these new strange objects. It is usually paired with another over-used word — interactive. Thus, a number of database records linked together so that more than one trajectory is possible, is assumed to be constitute "interactive narrative." But to just create these trajectories is of course not sufficient; the author also has to control the semantics of the elements and the logic of their connection so that the resulting object will meet the criteria of narrative as outlined above. (Manovitch, 2007, pp 200-201) The definition of narrative is complex and still undetermined, but in a simplified way we can define three types of narratives: linear
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 narratives, where scenes or facts are chained to build a story with a definite sense; abstract narratives, where the sequence of scenes or events have no direct link with the earlier scenes and there is no compromise with a specific meaning or a story to be told, and what matters is the sensory experience generated in the viewer; poetic narratives, where there is a general sense, or a message, that must be built from metaphors. We can consider this kind of narrative as an intermediate between linear and abstract narratives, differing from the last one by the semiotic intent with the general meaning of the message or theme set. The production of a poetic narrative seems well suited to the project proposal, as it has a signic intention but does not bind or stifle the choice of scenes, does not determine the content of the next scene of the movie, and does not impose strict limits to the choice of content by the agent author/filmmaker. The poetic narrative allows us to convey ideas related to a topic, but in a nonlinear and abstract way, guaranteeing freedom of choice to the author/filmmaker, which is essential for the functioning of the system. The definition of a theme and the communication between authors/filmmakers of the videos are essential to provide a narrative intention and to build this narrative, because through feedback between the collecting agents the capture of the images begins to compose the scenes of a film, creating the semiotic relationship between each scene in real time through the choices made by each collector of images from what has already been produced, and exchanging ideas with other agents/collectors/authors/filmmakers. Thus, this system of producing narratives of collective authorship has the characteristics of a complex system because the end result is the sum of the intentions of each collector agent, modified and influenced by the outcome that is seen and commented by people who are building a movie in real time. The decision on a scene to be captured
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is influenced by the narrative that has been constructed in the previous scenes, and ideas generated by the debate with the other agents. It's a system being modified through the analysis of the results, and adjusting its parameters to modify the end result is the film itself. The system shall consist of modules to capture images operated by people, or authors/filmmakers agents, equipped with IP cameras that transmit the signal captured by each agent to the projection room. Besides the cameras, each module to capture images has a tablet with Internet access that allows the agent to watch in real time the film that is being produced, and also a button so that the signal of your camera can be projected after the signal of another camera finishes. Through the tablet, the narrative agents can also communicate with each other in order to drive the narrative construction, making decisions together, directing and choosing the scenes, creating the narrative sense determined by a previously chosen topic. The film, therefore, is created scene-by-scene by the agents and the people who act and appear in the scenes, without a script, only with the direction given by the subject / title. These capturing/recording stations would be similar to those used by the project Blast Theory (blasttheory.co.uk/bt/work_cysmn.html), in which players from around the world can participate in the action taking place part in a physical space, partly on a virtual map of the city where the game is played. The relative position of the players is tracked by satellites. The information is sent to handheld computers that help you find the opponents. Technology To build the ideal system, we will use tablets with 4G connection and a camera for the image capturing. These images will be transmitted in real time to a server that is running a software such as Isadora, which receives the transmission of video clips captured
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Machado, Arlindo. (1997). Os Primórdios do Cinema: 1895-1926. São Paulo: Agência Observatório.
by each station and then project them on a screen in the order they arrive at a destination folder. The same signal is streamed over the network, so the collecting agents can watch the movie at the same time.
Manovich, Lev . (2002). The Language of New Media. EUA: The MIT Press.
The communication between the collecting agents occurs through tablets with Skype, allowing decisions to be made about the content of the narrative being produced.
Meehan, James R. (1977). Tale-Spin, an interactive program that writes stories. Proceedings of the Fifth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, MIT, Cambridge, MA.
Meister, Jan Christoph. (2003). Computing Action. A Narratological Approach. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Bal, Mieke. (1997). Narratology. Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Toronto: U of Toronto Press.
Murray, Janet H. (2003). Hamlet no holodeck: o futuro da narrativa no ciberespaço. São Paulo: Itaú Cultural: Unesp.
Barthes, Roland. (1977). A aventura semiológica, São Paulo: Martins Fontes.
Pavel, Thomas G. (1985). The Poetics of Plot. The Case of English Renaissance Drama. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P.
Barthes, Roland . (1975). An Introduction to the Analysis of Narrative. New Literary History 6. Bremond, Claude. (1973). Logique du récit. Paris: Seuil.
Pérez Y Pérez, Rafael. (1999). MEXICA: A Computer Model of Creativity in Writing. PhD Dissertation, The University of Sussex.
Bringsjord, Selmer, David A. Ferrucci. (1999). Artificial Intelligence and Literary Creativity Inside the Mind of brutus, a Storytelling Machine. Hillsdale. N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Prince, Gerald. (1973). A Grammar of Stories. An Introduction. The Hague: Mouton.
Chatman, Seymour. (1978). Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP.
Raunch, Imengard, Carr, Gerald. (1989). The semiotic bridge. Berlim: Monton.
Dehn, Natalie. (1981). Story Generation after TaleSpin. A. Drinan (ed). Proceedings of the Seventh International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Los Altos, CA: Kaufmann. Forster, Edward M. (2005). Aspects of the Novel. London: Penguin. Greimas, Algirdas Julien. (1987). Actants, Actors and Figures. A. J. G. On Meaning: Selected Writings in Semiotic Theory. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. Herman, David . (2002). Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P. Klein, Sheldon, et al. (1973). Automatic novel writing: A status report. Technical Report 186, Computer Science Department, The University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Propp, Vladimir. (1958). Morphology of the Folktale. Bloomington: Indiana UP.
Todorov, Tzvetan, Ducrot, Oswald. (2001). Dicionário Enciclopédico das Ciências da Linguagem. São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva. Todorov, Tzvetan . (1969). Grammaire du Décaméron. The Hague: Mouton. Turner, Scott R. (1993). Minstrel: a computer model of creativity and storytelling. PhD Dissertation, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles. Wilensky, Robert W. (1978). Understanding Goalbased Stories. Yale University Computer Science Research Report.
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
Dr. David Sweeney Forum for Critical Inquiry, The Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow [email protected]
Suggested citation: Sweeney, David (2014). “Crossing Boundaries.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-09939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: Promotional material for National Theatre Live (NT Live hereafter) – which broadcasts live theatrical performances digitally to cinemas – emphasises the “exclusive behind-the-scenes content” that audiences will receive. This includes not only backstage footage and interviews as part of the broadcasts themselves, but also “additional videos, podcasts and information about theatre-making” available online. Such additional content can be compared to the “bonus” material found on DVD and Blu-Ray releases; however, behind-the-scenes footage is also broadcast live, which raises some provocative questions about the nature of performance and audience expectation in the digital age. The footage may allow the audience privileged access not traditionally available in theatre, but as the cast and crew are aware that they are being filmed backstage, we may ask 1) Is their behaviour also a performance, and 2) If so, what is its value to the audience? In this paper, I compare NT Live's broadcast of live behind-the-scenes footage to the fictional presentation of backstage activity in two 'composed' films by Powell and Pressburger, The Red Shoes (1948) and The Tales of Hoffman (1951), both of which deal with the boundaries between reality and fiction and the consequences of transgressing these boundaries. In doing so I draw on the work of the literary theorist Wolfgang Iser, the dramaturgy of Bertolt Brecht, and the theories of observation, surveillance and spectatorship posited by Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard. The paper concludes that NT Live's broadcasting of behind-the-scenes content, live and recorded, is characteristic of our current media climate in which the boundaries between backstage and on-stage, real and fictional, public and private, have been blurred to the point of erasure – just as NT Live itself has erased the differences between cinema and theatre, particularly with its “Encore” presentations in which recordings of theatrical performances are broadcast in cinemas – and in which audience expectation is for, in Baudrillard's terms, “maximal visibility.” But I also suggest that NT Live should incorporate cinematic techniques directly into their productions, rather than using them simply as a form of mediation, to create a new form of contemporary spectacle for the 21st century.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 The Red Shoes Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1948 film The Red Shoes is a backstage drama that focuses on a young ballet dancer, Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) and her relationships with Boris Lermontov, owner of the dance company Ballet Lermontov, and an up and coming composer, Julian Craster, who works as the company's orchestral coach. The film presents the production processes – including rehearsals, artistic disagreements, intercompany tensions, financial wranglings and so on – of staging a ballet also called 'The Red Shoes,’ which is also based on the Christian Anderson story, starring Vicky, for whom Julian has composed the score, and which is included in the film, both as a spectacle viewed by a theatre audience, but also as a cinematic experience that makes full use of techniques such as close-ups, dissolves, pans and the use of slow motion. The film's audience, therefore, sees both what the fictional theatre audience sees (but in a cinematically enhanced form) and what the theatre audience is denied access to: the backstage events leading up to, and including, the night of production. As such, the film audience has a privileged gaze that is nearomniscient. This privileging is pivotal in the film's plot in the scene where Lermontov, jealous that Vicky and Julian have fallen in love, dismisses Julian's latest composition as “childish, vulgar and completely insignificant,” which both the audience and Julian know is not the case. Lermontov uses this mendacious appraisal of Julian's work as a reason to fire him from the company, which causes Vicky also to leave, despite the fact that she is contractually prohibited from dancing for anyone other than Ballet Lermontov, a move that ultimately leads to her tragic death when her need to dance surpasses her loyalty to Julian: she agrees to star in a revival of the ballet that results in her
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demise when, in an imitation of the fate of her character in the ballet, the titular shoes, which she wears both on and off-stage, appear to take control of her body. I was reminded of The Red Shoes while watching an advertisement, in a cinema, for National Theatre Live, which promised both a cinematic treatment of theatrical events (including ballet) and “behind-the-scenes” access, which was conveyed by a vertiginous tracking shot which swooped, from a position high in the auditorium's seating – the gods in British theatre parlance – down through the theatre, up onto the stage, then through the set, into a backstage area teeming with performers (in costume), and production crew (in work attire), several of whom acknowledged the presence of the camera. NT Live actively promotes backstage access in its advertising. Backstage drama demystifies the processes of theatrical production, albeit in a fictional way that often deploys established dramatic stereotypes such as the manipulative male impresario, the idealistic yet ambitious ingénue, the tortured young composer, and the pushy stage mother. Other cinematic examples of the genre include All That Jazz (1979) directed by Bob Fosse, which is based on his career as a choreographer and theatrical director, and, more recently, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (2010), which is centred around a production of the ballet Swan Lake. Both of these films incorporate fantasy elements: in the former, Fosse's avatar Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) hallucinates the five stages of accepting death as a Broadway spectacle following a heart attack, while in Black Swan, Nina's (Natalie Portman) deteriorating mental health, a result of the pressure on her to succeed as a ballerina, affects her perception of reality in a manner reminiscent of psychological horror/thrillers films such as Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) or Polanski's Repulsion (1965). Again, here, the
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 cinema audience's gaze is privileged: they see what the characters see, even when that is not objectively “real.” The Red Shoes also contains fantasy elements, but these are not borne from physical trauma or mental illness: rather, the presentation of the eponymous ballet uses cinematic techniques to abandon the realism that has characterised the film up to that moment, including the initial presentation of the dance sequence, which is shown from the point of view of the theatre audience, to alchemize the fantastic elements of Christian Anderson's story; that is, to make the fantastic real. The fantastical feel of the ballet is not a result of a cinematic representation of the “magic of theatre,” because the effects – such as slowing of motion and the camera's movement into the shoes – could not be achieved using theatrical techniques. The dance sequence is pure cinema, and it allows for the possibility that Vicky is truly possessed by the shoes as a punishment for her betrayal of Julian. Another possibility, of course, is that her own guilt over the betrayal compels her to commit suicide (similarly, Nina may have died by her own hand, as result of her ambitiousness, at the end of Black Swan). This would require a psychological reading of the film, and as such, an interpretation grounded in realism. To accept that supernatural forces actually do punish Vicky or Nina is to cross the boundary from realism to fantasy. For Wolfgang Iser, all fiction, regardless of genre, involves boundary crossing: from the actual world of the reader into the world of the fiction: in this view, a realist text by, say Jane Austen is no less artificial, and equally as fictional, as a fantasy novel by George RR Martin. Austen's oeuvre has been “re-genrified” with the publication of (terrible) novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea-Monsters (both 2009), which introduce fantastic elements to the Austen originals, thus creating new fictional worlds. However, what we may term the fantastic is part of the metaphysics of Martin's
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A Song of Ice and Fire series and is not, therefore, supernatural (although his sorceress character Melisandre does admit to using theatrical techniques to impress the credulous). The Red Shoes involves its audience in two acts of boundary crossing: first, into the world of the film, which I'll call The Red Shoes A, and then into the world of the ballet-withinthe film, The Red Shoes B: in both worlds, the cinema audience has a privileged gaze. Similarly, NT Live involves its audience in two boundary crossings: into the world of the play, separated from the actual world by, in theatrical terms, the invisible fourth wall that delineates the border of the play-world, and also by providing behind-the-scenes access to the hidden world of backstage reality. But in what way is what we see behindthe-scenes “real”? As I mentioned, in the advertisement I saw at the cinema, several of the people present backstage acknowledged and indeed played to the camera in what was clearly a type of performance if not exactly drama. The cast and crew know that they will be filmed backstage on the nights when NT Live broadcasts so it is reasonable to assume that they will behave appropriately. In this sense, behind-the-scenes access takes the NT Live audience into a version of the actual world, in which people play themselves, including actors in the costume, if not the role, of the character they will play onstage. In his practice of Epic Theatre, the great German playwright Bertolt Brecht emphasised the importance of defamiliarisation in the production of drama: Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt drew the audience's attention to the artificiality of the spectacle they were viewing through such techniques as the exposure of stagecraft and the breaking of the fourth wall via direct address of the audience. As such, Epic Theatre can also be seen to be involved in a form of demystification, by emphasising the industrial conditions of theatre. Breaking the fourth wall removes the boundary not only between audience and character, but also between fictional world and
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 actual world: NT Live's provision of behindthe-scenes access seems less concerned with demystification of spectacle, even than in backstage drama, than in the expansion of it to encompass that which was hitherto restricted: reality becomes part of the spectacle, of the fiction. Behind-the-scenes footage, and the interviews with cast and crew also provided in both the cinema broadcasts and on the NT Live website, can be compared to the bonus material included on DVD and Blu-ray releases. NT Live have so far resisted demands for their broadcasts to be released in these formats, but have capitulated to audience desires with their “Encore Presentations,” in which performances are re-broadcast in a manner similar to television re-runs. While this practice can be seen to compromise the temporal specificity of the theatrical experience, it also moves theatrical spectacle closer to cinema: no live theatrical performance is ever the same twice, but cinema, particularly digital cinema, which does not deteriorate in the way that celluloid does, is always the same. In his essay “Rhapsody for the Theatre,” Alain Badiou writes “there can be no permanent theatre. That adjective belongs to cinema, and at the most to exhibitions”: The fact that immediately the spectacle is played a second time changes nothing in this regard. It is two times One, with no access whatsoever to any permanence. (192) Badiou is dismissive of adaptations of theatre to cinema or television, associating them with “the shopkeeping bourgeoisie” and describing them as being “as greasy as pork and beans.” He makes specific reference to “actors whose only effect lies in tremor or slow motion,” suggesting that theatrical performance is superior to, and more authentic than, film acting because of the absence of special effects; for him, “no other art form is able to pin down the intensity of what happens the way theatre does” (193). NT Live broadcasts, even as Encore presentations, are, of course, not
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adaptations of theatre in the same way as the form Badiou criticises, but nevertheless, as they do involve camera movement, they can be seen to adapt the form to a different medium. Whether or not this affects performances or stage direction is unknown to me, but we may wonder if, for example, an actor makes different choices with the knowledge that the production is being broadcast and may be repeated. “Maximal Visibility” While he or she is still required to attend the cinema at a specific date on a specific time, the NT Live Encore viewer is nevertheless privileged in no longer being bound to the temporal and spatial specificity of live theatre. We can think about this privileging, and the behind-the scenes access, in terms of Jean Baudrillard's concept of “maximal visibility” as outlined in his 2004 lecture to the European Graduate School, “The Violence of the Image.” Baudrillard argues that “Maximal information, maximal visibility are now part of the human rights (and of human duties all the same)”: we expect to see all, and for others to make themselves visible to us. For Baudrillard, reality television shows like Big Brother provide a “wonderful model of this forced visibility”: All that is visualized there, in the operation Big Brother, is pure virtual reality, a synthetic image of the banality, producted : as in a computer. The equivalent of a ready-made – a given transcription of everyday life – which is itself already recycled by all current patterns. It would be harsh, of course, to compare NT Live's backstage footage with the voyeurism of Big Brother, but behind-the-scenes access can be seen as a response to the current expectation of “maximal visibility.” Furthermore, like reality television, this footage raises questions about what constitutes fiction today. Just as docu-soaps, for example, involve the viewer in a boundary crossing, into the “real lives” of the shows’ participants, so behind-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 the-scenes access stimulate a discussion of what constitutes “real” behaviour under conditions of observation. Invoking Foucault, Baudrillard claims “we are beyond the Panoptikon, where there was still a source of power and visibility;” this may be true in a wider cultural sense, but in the context of NT Live specifically, we can see Foucault's argument that the knowledge of even the potential of surveillance tends to change behaviour: prisoners in the panoptikon can never be sure if they are being observed or not, but as they are certain that they will be punished if they disobey, they are likely to act as if they are under surveillance, and so become obedient, “docile bodies;” cast and crew backstage on broadcast night know for sure that they are being filmed and are likely to be part of the expanded spectacle that NT Live provides with its crossing of boundaries. It seems likely that this would change their behaviour. Tales of Hoffman Powell and Pressburger returned to ballet with Tales of Hoffman (1951), which also starred Shearer in the dual role of Stella/Olympia. The film is adapted from the opera of the same name by Jacques Offenbach, itself based on the fantasy stories of E.T.A. Hoffman (who also provided Christian Anderson with the source material for 'The Red Shoes'), and presents us with layers of fiction: a character based on Hoffman tells three stories in a tavern during the interval of a ballet starring Stella, his betrothed, part of which we also see in the film. The stories are ostensibly autobiographical, detailing Hoffman's three failed love affairs before meeting Stella; however, Hoffman finally reveals that they are fictions, presenting aspects of Stella's personality. This is hinted at in the first tale, which includes a ballet sequence, in which Shearer plays Olympia, an automaton for whom an unwitting Hoffman falls. In this tale, Shearer's vocals were in fact performed by the opera singer Dorothy Bond, which prompted the film theorist André Bazin to remark, in an allusion to Frankenstein: “The cinema thus creates here
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a new artistic monster: the best legs adorned by the best voice” (54). For Bazin, Powell and Pressburger’s work is a modern Prometheus because “[n]ot only is opera liberated from its material constraints but also from its human limitations” and “dance itself is renewed by the photography and the editing, which allows a kind of choreography of the second degree where the rhythm of the dance is served by that of the cinema” (54). NT Live, with its preservation of the intergrity of the traditional theatrical experience – which Badiou values so highly – does not perform a similar liberation or renewal for theatre, but potentially it could by integrating cinematic techniques directly into productions rather than using them simply for mediation. This would be an expansion of not just the spectacle of theatre, as is provided by behind-the-scenes footage, but, to borrow a term from Gilles Deleuze, of the concept of theatre, to create a new form which is not only live, but alive to the conditions of the 21st century and its maximisation of visibility. References Aronofsky, Darren (Director), 2010, Black Swan, US: Fox Searchlight Pictures. Badiou, Alain, 2008, 'Rhapsody of Theatre: A Short Philosophical Treatise' in Theatre Survey 49:2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Baudrillard, Jean, 2004, 'The Violence of the Image', online, Wallis, Switzerland, European Graduate School. http://www.egs.edu/faculty/jeanbaudrillard/articles/the-violence-of-the-image/, accessed 14/9/2014 Fosse, Bob (Director), 1979 All That Jazz, US: 20 Century Fox/Columbia Pictures.
Iser, Wolfgang, 1993, The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology. Baltimore, London: the John Hopkins University Press. Powell, Michael and Pressburger, Emeric (directors), The Red Shoes (1949), UK: British Lion Pictures.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Powell, Michael and Pressburger, Emeric (directors),Tales of Hoffman (1951), UK: British Lion Pictures. Wimmer, Leila, 2009, Cross Channel Perspectives: The French Reception of British Cinema, Bern: Peter Lang.
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
IN-‐BETWEEN: BETWEEN THE CONCRETE AND THE VIRTUAL, BETWEEN THE PHYSICAL AND THE IMAGINARY Isabella Trindade, York University [email protected]
Suggested citation: Trindade, Isabella (2014). “In-Between: Between the Concrete and the Virtual, Between the Physical and the Imaginary.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: This article discusses ways in which films, digital screens and new media have been used in exhibition spaces, providing innovative and inclusive means for artistic expression and new perspectives on contemporary exhibition practices. The intersection of architecture, art and the expanding digital sphere allows for a transformation of the conventional standards for exhibition spaces, and provides new ways of enjoying an exhibition. To discuss ways in which films, digital screens and new media have defined new parameters and outlined a new way of designing and creating spaces, this paper has been organized into three parts to conceptualize, contextualize and identify the advantages of the format. The point is not to list the new technological devices that are used in various exhibition spaces. It is only to note: 1) how they have changed the way art, especially film, is observed in an exhibition; 2) how they have led to an essential transformation in exhibition spaces over the years; and 3) how these contemporaries spaces are ‘in-between’ – between the concrete and the virtual, and between the physical and the imaginary. Media Studies is a relatively new field in the academic circuit, combining the approaches of multiple disciplines. This paper specifically engages with, and borrows analytical tools from, a number of disciplines, including the history and theory of architecture, cultural studies, communication and media studies, museum studies and sociology. 1. The transposition of film to museums In its broadest sense, museums are as old as the history of humankind, and can be considered to have been around ever since humans began to collect and store valuables in specially built rooms. The origin goes back to classical antiquity, where objects were col-
lected and kept in temples as an offering to the muses. In the Renaissance, royal private collections were gathered in palaces, which formed the initial core of national museum collections. Later, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the first museums, as we understand them today, were estab-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 lished with the specific purpose of collecting and protecting precious objects of interest. The newly established museums began to occupy public buildings or palaces that were converted into museums, the most notorious example being the Louvre museum in Paris. In the late nineteenth century, numerous museums emerged around the world, especially in Europe, and artists and architects began to question the adequacy of these spaces, which had been designed to house art collections. In the twentieth century, the idea of creating a specific building to house a collection emerged when the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier designed the “Musée de la Connaissance” (Museum of Knowledge) in 1939. A museum’s architectural design represented the biggest change that had occurred in terms of shape and form. Buildings began to be designed to organize space, while the control of natural and artificial lighting, ventilation, and a museum’s internal spaces were part of a continuum. Over the years, the design of museums and exhibition spaces has changed, and not only in shape and form: museums are no longer simple exhibition galleries; they are designed to be pleasant places to visit, with restaurants, cafes, shops and gardens. Museums have also widened their activities, promoting courses, conferences, events and parties, such as the AGO 1st Thursday at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and the ROM Friday Night Live at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Both events feature onenight-only artist projects, performances, popup speakers, music and dance, transforming the museums into lively and more attractive spaces. Moreover, museums today are designed to be trendy and to create attractive "hands-on" exhibits to engage visitors. Regarding artistic expression and museum exhibitions, the most radical changes have been produced by the latest avantgarde: art brut, pop art, land art, minimalism, video art, happenings, performances, installations and many other artistic media.
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Whether interactive or ephemeral and varying in size, shape and features, all these artistic expressions require changes to exhibition spaces. The public not only interacts, but is also part of the artwork and the exhibition. There is an interaction between the viewer and the artwork, whose existence is based on the relationship established between them. Thus, in the same way in which art has changed in recent years, architecture has gone through its own continual process of review, an innovative understanding of its role in terms of a dialogue or eventual confrontation with an exhibition’s contents. In this process of transformation, films and all kinds of projections have been seen as an important communication tool for creative expression. As we know, films were traditionally seen only (or primarily) in movie theaters, and later became incorporated into the rooms of exhibits and museums worldwide. Films shown inside museums are seen as an important communication tool for telling a story, supporting knowledge, and reflecting on and critically examining a specific fact. In some cases, it incorporates the role of the artwork itself, the so-called “Cinéma d'Exposition” (Cinema of Exhibition), a term coined by art critic Jean Christophe Royoux in the early 2000s to describe the transposition of film to museums and art galleries, as opposed to the traditional 'film projection' in dark rooms, involving a hidden projector from behind and an immobile spectator (Païni 2002, p. 1). 2. The in-between areas: between cinema and visual art From a historical perspective, the relationship between films, the Cinema of Exhibition (which incorporates and is appreciated as an artwork), contemporary art and museums has intensified in the past twenty years. Museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the George Pompidou Museum in Paris have created film departments. Furthermore, we have seen museums entirely devoted to films – such as London’s Cinema
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Museum, dedicated to keeping the spirit of cinema alive, or The National Museum of Cinema in Italy – and film archives, and currently almost all museums use projections or movies inside their interior spaces. Philippe Dubois, considered one of the leading researchers in the field of cinema’s artistic dimension and its relation to contemporary art, points out that it was only in 1936 that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York included a film department that was equal in importance to the departments of painting and sculpture. “Initially, the board of the museum did not agree. ‘How to put movies alongside El Greco and Pollock?’ they asked.” That was, until someone, who would later become the first director of the film department, convinced them. She had to give a lecture on cinema as the seventh art, one to be treated as an art like any other (Lins and Fraga, 2012, p. 7). Cinema and contemporary art are closer than ever before: some artists use movies as a form of artistic expression, while some filmmakers put on exhibitions and installations: “L'installation pour les Cinéastes, le cinéma pour les Plasticiens,” the art critic Jean Christophe Royoux once said. Although treated for many years only as cultural objects for the consumer or a type of enjoyable entertainment inside a dark room in a movie theatre, movies can also be understood as art. As an example of this relationship, the 'Cinema of Exhibition' can be exemplified by the installation 24 Hour Psycho (1993) by Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, in which he presents a slowed-down version of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 masterpiece Psycho. Thus, instead of its original 109 minutes, this installation lasted exactly 24 hours. In this installation, Gordon presented a reality that was completely different than what we normally experience in a movie theater (see Figures 1 and 2). Is there any difference between watching a movie in a theater or in a museum?
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Absolutely! How does the viewer interact with a movie in these two situations? It depends on many factors. Parente and Carvalho (2008, p. 37) have pointed out that, “We usually think of cinema as a spectacle involving at least three distinct elements: a movie theatre, a device to project a moving image and a film that tells a story in roughly two hours.” Watching a movie in a museum rather than in a movie theatre is quite different. In a museum, a viewer is no longer locked inside a dark room, seated in an armchair, with a scheduled time to start and end. The projection can be viewed in many different ways. Visitors can stand, sit or switch positions (depending on the location, purpose of an exhibition and furniture available). Visitors can stand in front of a screen or beside it, or walk in several directions (while looking at a sequence of images across multiple screens, for example). Visitors can be alone, or accompanied by others, or experience a flux of viewers (depending on the number of visitors passing through the space and the amount of time each viewer wishes to 'watch' the projected images). They have their own trajectory as a participant, in an experience that is unique to them. A room prepared for an exhibition is not necessarily dark or silent; and viewers can watch the movie in its entirety or only a part of it. Some films explore other lengths and intensities (slow motion or fast), such as the 24 Hour Psycho installation mentioned previously, which completely affect and modify our understanding. The works of artists such as Douglas Gordon, Eija-Liisa Athila, Stan Douglas, Pierre Huyghe, Doug Aitken, Isaac Julien, Sam Taylor-Wood, Anthony McCall and David Claerbout, among others, reiterate and recreate the cinema experience. The experiences that they invite us to witness call our attention to the reconfiguration of cinema’s architectural space, using multiple screens (Today/Tanaan [Eija-Liisa Athila, 1996]
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 and Third Party [Sam Taylor-Wood, 1999]), and continual repetition of certain film classics (24 Hour Psycho [Douglas Gordon, 1996] and Taxi Driver Too [Vibeke Tandberg, 2000]) or by experimenting with the basic properties of the cinematic medium, such as field/counter-field (Hors-champ [Stan Douglas, 1993] and Sections of a Happy Moment [David Claerbout, 2007]). (Parente and Carvalho, 2008, p. 50-51) There are many possibilities representing a shift in how movies can be displayed, in terms of the architecture of a screening room (the conditions for image projection), new technological possibilities for capturing and projecting images, and relationships with spectators. Many cinematic works have transformed the architecture of the projection room or proposed different relationships with spectators. Works exhibited in museums and art galleries nowadays can reinvent cinema in several ways, while all kinds of projections exhibited in museums and art galleries can reinvent the architecture (see Figures 3 and 4). Cinematographic installations can be designed from projections on various surfaces and materials (fabric, glass, screens), on multiple, rather than single, screens, and with different screen sizes, and projections pointing at unusual locations – walls, floors, ceilings, furniture or people moving into a room. These experiences first began in the 1960s with the use of experimental video art as a form of artistic expression, which was shown in its various forms in open or closed spaces. We need only remember the American pop artist Andy Warhol's experimental video Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966), which combined the world of rock music – performed by the Velvet Underground and a group of dancers – with the simultaneous use of various projections (see Figure 5).
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These various ways and possibilities of designing images associated with an artist's work are also responsible for many different sensations. Durant les années 60 et au début des années 70, l'image projetée joua un rôle déterminant dans la création d'un nouveau langage de la représentation. Les artistes utilisaient le film, les diapositives, la vidéo et le projection holographique et photographique pour mesurer, étudier, abstraire, refléter et transformer les paramètres de l'espace physique. (Iles, Chrissie, 2001) According to Jean-Christophe Royoux, cinema has expanded through exposure in space and exposure to other art forms. Les années 90 voient la consécration des images en mouvement dans les lieux d'exposition apportant ainsi des conséquences importantes sur sa perception. Ce qui est en jeu, c'est non pas de comprendre combien dans l'art contemporain l'image s'anime, quand bien même il s'agirait d'images filmées, mais au contraire ce que signifie et comment se manifeste la réversion du mobile dans l'immobile; c'est le passage du cinéma à l'exposition qu'il faut interroger, et par là même la reconstruction de multiples manières, d'une expérience indissociable de la construction d'un lieu du spectateur. (Royoux, 2000, p.38) 3. Architecture: between concrete and virtual, physical and imaginary. The relationship between the fields of art (cinema and the various forms of artistic expression), the architecture of exhibition spaces and technological development has forced architects and engineers to keep abreast of these changes, and to rethink architectural solutions in a world where everything has become digital: video, film, the Internet, text, sound and images. As an example, movies nowadays can be in 2D, 3D or 4D,
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Image Maximum (IMAX), IMAX Dome (180° projection), IMAX 3D and IMAX Digital formats. The rapid evolution of computers, wireless sensing techniques, audio guides, audio description, 3D environments in movies and video games, and projection and display technology, has given space designers access to sophisticated technologies for applications or tasks ranging from artistic performance to museum exhibit design. Movies and, more recently, interactivity, emerge naturally, coming from a culture in which the Internet, smartphones, app devices, tablets and new technologies are becoming increasingly available in everyday society. We live in the age of cyber culture, and these new forms of media provide a new relationship between space and a museum collection, leading to a new architectural transformation. Spaces in museums and art galleries need to be as flexible as possible to enable various spatial arrangements, and be concerned with issues such as acoustics, lighting and highspeed connectivity. Re-thinking museums’ communication systems is a natural and pertinent way of expanding access to and enjoyment of, the public. Over time, changes to the concept of what a museum is prove that a museum changes as a society transforms. Spaces need to be able to articulate an entertaining and interactive audio-visual narrative for visitors, communicating via large-scale synchronized projections, sounds and displays, whose contents are choreographed by the natural body movements or physical gestures of the people passing through them. The intersection of architecture, art and the expanding digital sphere allows for a transformation of the conventional standards for exhibition spaces and provides new ways of enjoying an exhibition. The relationship between the viewer and the artwork has completely changed. We are no longer viewers who only contemplate art. We need to interact with it and try it. Our position is actually some-
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where between the concrete and the virtual, the physical and the imaginary. Regarding this aspect, Zonenschein point out that:
Combined with hypertext systems, digital technologies represent a key to the museum, epistemological and heuristic processing. On the one hand, they allow the intensive use of audiovisual collections in order to create a new pedagogy of museum spaces, a new dynamic to these spaces. On the other hand, they allow extending them considerably, because the hypertext information spaces are virtually unlimited. This is how certain museums, even small ones, can extend their spaces and their actions via multimedia collections. (Parente & Zonenschein in Bittencourt et al, 2007, p. 272) Marcello Dantas, the first artistic director of the Museum of the Portuguese Language in Brazil, points out that we live in a visual culture, and that films share a close relationship with the language of interactive and immersive exhibits. For him, films speak a unique language, interacting with several elements that are dealt with in an exhibition: scale, narrative, immersion in space and collective experience. The reason you go to a museum today is to experience culture, first and foremost, in a collective way. All of these elements are essential. Then you use film, interactivity and set design language, which all add up in the museum space (Menezes, 2011). In conclusion, it is important to clarify that interactive museums do not spell the end or replacement of traditionally organized museums. They enrich and help democratize culture, sharing information, facilitating understanding and suggesting new relationships between a museum and its public. It is a vision of the museum as an institution that not only preserves, but also studies and values the diversities in a world with so many cultural multiplicities. We can also say that including
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 films in museums will not spell the end of movie theatres. Going to a museum is an
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experience that can be as just emotional as going to the cinema.
Figures 1 and 2: Douglas Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho. Installation based on the 1960 Hitchcock film. Source: Retrieved from http://www.apieceofmonologue.com/2010/03/douglas-gordon-24hour-psycho.html.
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Figures 3 and 4: Museu da Língua Portuguesa (The Portuguese Language Museum). Photo: Isabella Trindade, 2006
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Figure 5: Photograph taken at a performance of Andy Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable”, featuring Nico, at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. Source: Unidentified. 1968 University of Michigan Yearbook, Michiganensian, p. 89
References Bittencourt, José Neves; Granato, Marcus; Benchetrit, Sarah Fassa (organizadores) (2007). Museus, ciência e tecnologia: livro do seminário internacional. Rio de Janeiro : Museu Histórico Nacional. Gordon, Douglas. (2010). 24 Hour Psycho. Installation based on the 1960 Hitchcock film. URL: http://www.apieceofmonologue.com/2010/03/do uglas-gordon-24-hour-psycho.html [March 3, 2010]
Iles, Chrissie (2001). Into the Light: The projected Image in American Art 1964-1977. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. Lins, Consuelo, Fraga, Isabela. (2012). O cinema vai ao museu. Suplemento Trimestral da Revista Ciência Hoje CH (SobreCultura 10), 296, 7-8. Menezes, Natassja (2011). O Boom de museus interativos no Rio de Janeiro: Linguagem e Democratização da cultura. Rio de Janeiro. Monografia (graduação em Comunicação social /Jornalismo). Universidade Federal do rio de Janeiro – UFRJ, Escola de Comunicação – ECO.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Païni, Dominique (2002). Le temps exposé: Le cinéma de la salle au muse. Cahiers du Cinéma. Paris. Parente, A., Carvalho, V. de. (2008). Cinema as dispositif: Between Cinema and Contemporary Art. Cinémas: Journal of Film Studies, Volume 19, numéro 1, p. 37-55. DOI: 10.7202/029498ar Royoux, Jean-Christophe (2000). Cinéma d'exposition: l'espacement de la durée. Art Press n°262. Ybert, Clément (2005). Le cinéma accroché. L’image animée projetée dans les installations d'art contemporain. Mémoire de fin d’études. Ecole Nationale supérieure NS Louis Lumière. 1968 University of Michigan yearbook, Michiganensian.
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
WHAT’S MISSED WHEN NO ONE IS MISUNDERSTOOD? UNDERSTANDING WHOSE AGENCY IS INCREASED THANKS TO INTERACTIVITY Kateland Wolfe, Georgia State University [email protected]
Suggested citation: Wolfe, Kateland (2014). “What’s Missed When No One is Misunderstood? Understanding Whose Agency is Increased Thanks to Interactivity.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-09939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: Interactive fiction is aptly named, for it is interactive. Let it not be forgotten, though, that interaction is not synonymous with user/reader agency. The interactivity in interactive fiction, the non-linear nature, the ever-changing circumstances and storyline, all make the experience much more focused and mediated than the reading of a linear, traditional novel. In this paper, I use Roland Barthes to suggest that the reader has complete agency in the act of reading a “traditional” book, and suggest that the agency has to be removed in order to share it with the computer program in the narrative setting of interactive fiction. I come back to interactive fiction, the text-based exploration of fictional worlds that had its heyday in the 1980s, because it is one of the very few representations of the creation of a program that develops a narrative through collaboration with the player. I then do a rhetorical analysis of Aaron Reed’s interactive fiction, Whom the Playing Changed, in order to study the moves that the interactive fiction takes in order to limit the agency of the reader and encourage collaboration with the computer program. If a user has to make use of a message in order to continue receiving the message, does it not automatically influence the user to limit his/her response to the realm of possibilities thought up by the creator? Chris Crawford, in On Interactive Storytelling, defines interactivity as “A cyclic process between two or more active agents in which each agent alternately listens, thinks, and speaks” (Crawford, 2005, p. 29); but can a user who has to input decipherable material in order to receive the
rest of the text actually be given space to think? Or is the realm of possible responses already limited by the function of the creator, thus only giving the user the ability to pick among options? That is, can a user really ever have agency in an interactive world, or is there more agency on the part of a user when a response is not mandatory for continuation? While there is certainly value to both interactivity and user agency, they seem to be often conflated leading to the assumption that
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 interactivity is a highly valued function because of the agency that it gives to the user. For example, Richard Lanham, in “The electronic word: literary study and the digital revolution,” a 1989 article, expresses the growing values of the last twenty-five years when he says: “the interactive reader of the electronic word incarnates the responsive reader of whom we make so much” (Lanham, 1989, p. 268). His essay also aptly expresses why this is valued: the authority of a fixed, print text is destabilized. This humorous question of pronouns shows Lanham’s desire to destabilize the binary between creator/ medium and critic/admirer: “Programs available widely and cheaply for use on computers just like the one these words are being written on (through? by? with? or from?) allow novices to compose pleasant-sounding music by enlisting the computer as cocomposer” (Lanham, 1989, p. 272). By questioning the boundaries between the creator of the text and the consumer of the text, Lanham is making more tangible an argument that Roland Barthes had first theorized in 1967: the “Death of the author.” Lanham, however, is making an argument that without a stable text, the author and reader can both exist as authoritative agents because their texts will differ. Barthes was suggesting that within the readership of the same text, “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (Barthes, 1998, p. 386). This suggests a binary opposition between the agency of the author and the agency of the reader: “Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing” (Barthes, 1998, p. 386). To give a text an author is to suggest a way that it must be read and interpreted. He goes on to argue that “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (Barthes, 1998, p. 386), suggesting again that a traditional, printed text
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must lie in one or the other, and it lies with the reader. Interactive Fiction is suggested to solve this binary because good interactive fiction, according to Chris Crawford is developed using “second person insight,” which is “the ability to think primarily in terms of how an expression will be perceived by the audience” (Crawford, 2005, p.31). Crawford’s notion of “second person insight” gives the idea that a good creator of an interactive fiction can make the reader the imposer of Barthes’ “limits” on the text. This is because in order to have “second person insight,” the creator “must anticipate and respect it [any emotional response the audience may have],” and “you must be able to visualize the confusion audience members bring to the experience” (Crawford, 2005, p. 32). It does seem that a good interactive fiction, wherein the creator can truly anticipate and respect any emotional response, would allow the interactor to have agency in the text. Crawford uses the example of students, one that many teachers do sympathize with: “you stand up in front of your students, reveal the truth to them in a few clean, simple sentences, and note with shock the utter incomprehension in their faces” (Crawford, 2005, p. 32). This is a very noble task and certainly creates a place that is reader-centered. It does not, however, give the user agency. By the very art of needing to anticipate the user’s reactions, the creator has set parameters on how the user can react. And this user agency is important because interactive fiction so often gets cited as a model for something that can be used to create spaces that allow for more user agency. Wasn’t interactive fiction the dead precursor to videogames? As many scholarly essays on interactive fiction will state, interactive fiction was a textonly game popular in the 1980s; it is still a program that is being discussed and theorized, but only by a niche discourse community. Infocom, the only company to
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 focus its commercial production on interactive fiction, was sold to Activision in 1986 (Scott, 2013). Since then, interactive fiction has been circulated, criticized, and theorized by a fairly closed discourse community. This is alluded to in Get Lamp, a full-length documentary on interactive fiction and text adventures, when it is noted that game creators are the ones playing the game. This closed community is also suggested by how little of the literature on interactive fiction seeks to make the argument relevant to a larger audience; many interactive fiction scholars just start making their point. Other scholars offer reasons that interactive fiction is valuable to a larger community, such as its use in the classroom to get students into a meaningful relationship with reading. Aaron Reed, author of Creating Interactive Fiction With Inform 7, argues that “[interactive fiction] not only talks back to its reader, but listens, too” (Reed, 2011, p. xxi). He also argues that text-based gaming allows the reader to go beyond things that can be captured by an image. Interactive fiction, seen as an ancient artifact by many, is software that uses preprogrammed rules and descriptions combined with input from a user to create a story. In this way, anybody who considers a single session in an interactive fiction as a narrative or a piece of fiction is being asked to not only consider the text as written by the programmer of the game, but is also asked to consider the way the text has been interpreted and reacted to. In this way, reading an interactive fiction session transcript linearly is more like reading a relationship than reading a story. Current views on user agency Discussing the place of interactor agency in interactive fictions seems first to depend on determining the purpose of the interactive fiction. As noted above, text adventures and interactive fiction are often approached with a different frame of mind; text adventures seem to prioritize the gaming aspect and interactive fiction prioritize the story. The question of agency of the player is more concerned with how much the player can do, and less with how much the player can affect. In some
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cases, it seems to mirror that of a business relationship. The interactor is viewed as the customer and the programmer as the person responsible for immersing the interactor into the world. Dennis Jerz, in Get Lamp, shows his concern that the interactor is “going to say, ‘ha-ha, that’s a mistake, this sucks!’” (Scott, 2006). The agency in this instance is a powerstruggle. The interactivity of the interactor is something to be guarded against. Andrew Plotkin, also in Get Lamp, addresses this concern from the opposite point of view when he says: If you sit down in front of a text adventure for the first time, the first thing that is going to happen is that you’re going to type something and the computer is not going to understand it. That’s a real experience. The misconception is that that’s the intended interaction of the game and that’s what the author has spent all of his time thinking about. (Scott, 2006). Again, by addressing the assumed “intentions” of the author, a self-defensive nature of the author is addressed, suggesting that it is the author that is being blamed (or even the game), not the relationship between the two. Ernest Adams says “because the more freedom you give the player, the more the player has the power to do things you did not anticipate, and to do things you did not want” (Scott, 2006). Again, this relationship pits the interactor against the programmer or the game (as it stands as the work of the programmer). This relationship sees interactivity not in terms of agency of the interactor, but in terms of “freedom” of the player. The question being asked in these instances is about the quality of the product: how immersed can the player become in the game world? This function of interactivity is not concerned with the literary quality of the session. Another way of understanding interactor agency that does not recognize interactive fiction as a program to develop literary fiction is to consider interactive fiction as a tool for
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 teaching and testing student understanding and engagement. For example, Brendan Desilets, in “Interactive Fiction Vs. the Pause that Distresses: How Computer-Based Literature Interrupts the Reading Process Without Stopping the Fun,” treats the reader as a student. The interactor does not have agency, instead the interactor is being required to do something for his or her own good. Desilets focuses on how interactive fiction “forces” or creates situations where the reader “must.” Granted, it “forces readers to think about how they are controlling their thinking” and the reader “must still pause often” (Desilets, 1999). These are positive outcomes that potentially help the interactor to have more agency in his or her life or subsequent education, but in the dynamic presented by interactive fiction, the interactor is without agency to choose whether he or she is going to do these activities. What’s at stake in giving some of the reader’s agency back to the author, especially in education, is seen in the end of Desilets’ essay when, he claims that it is the “careless or unskilled” (Desilets, 1999) who cannot get through the interactive fiction. This is not taking into consideration that when interaction happens, it is also possible for misunderstandings to happen. If the interactivity of the interactive fiction becomes normative, then the interaction is no longer happening; the shift of agency has gone too far back to the programmer. It is easy to see that with an interactive fiction’s limited vocabulary it can quickly become normative. However, that is a limitation of the interface and not of the theory. The idea of theory is to question what interactive fiction is capable of if the interface can be made to match the theory. Thus, I am avoiding questions of limitation of the interface here. Desilets is perhaps the bridge between the understanding of interactive fiction as a game and the understanding of it as a literary experience. Desilets sees interactive fiction as a tool for getting students to think critically and comprehend what they are reading. Andrew
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Bond has what seems to be a less moral approach, but one that is also easy to equate with early ways of approaching literature. Bond, in “Player Freedom,” argues that interactive fiction is an art and should be appreciated as such. Bond implies that interactive fiction (the work of the programmer) is art and “art isn’t about catering to your audience; it’s about taking sides, expressing an opinion, climbing to a podium and shouting ‘here I stand!’”(Bond, 2007) This is to suggest that the moves the interactor makes are predetermined by the programmer and programmed for the interactor to interpret on the terms of the programmer, enjoyed as art in that way. The agency of the interactor then is limited to trying to figure out what the programmer was expecting, and experiencing the interactive fiction in that manner. Bond argues that “to experience art is to submit to another ego. It’s to entertain someone else’s vision” (Bond, 2007). Bond is here fulfilling the other side of Barthes’ binary. He is suggesting that the program be given all of the agency in much of the same way Barthes was offering all of the agency to the reader. Bond proposes that “a text’s unity lies” in its origin. And that unity is meant to be admired and adapted, not changed or affected. Emily Short counters Bond, though, in “On Stephen Bond on Player Freedom” and suggests, instead, that “offering the player a moral choice in interactive fiction is not the same as offering the player co-authorship” (Short, 2007). For Short, co-authorship is the goal, and co-authorship does not happen merely when an interactor is given a decision. In co-authorship, “You have to be free to try to solve the problem, because otherwise the failure to solve it cleanly is meaningless” (Short, 2007). Thus, Short’s definition of interaction is not about letting the interactor make choices in the narrative, but also to make choices not to make choices. If the interactor is only choosing from a menu of options, then interactive fiction is nothing but what Montfort and others refer to as hypertext fiction; however, if the interactor is able to
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 bypass certain decisions altogether and decide to not make choices, then interactive fiction is not just a group of different preplanned options, but rather an amalgamation of the work of both the interactor and the programmer. Nick Montfort makes a very similar distinction: Monfort holds that there is a difference between “input” from the user and interaction when he says “pressing the space bar in response to >MORE is an input, for instance, even though it normally provides the interactor no opportunity to influence the course of the narrative that is being produced” (Monfort, 2003, p.33), which suggests that the definition of “interaction” includes having influence on the narrative product. Monfort also suggests the definition of interactive to be “works of fiction which explicitly call upon the reader to interact with them by means of queries or replies” (Monfort, 2003, p. 8). “Queries” and “replies” suggests that the player is, again, doing more than choosing from a dropdown list of actions or responses. Instead, the player is asking specific questions and offering specific responses that the system then works with. The system, however, is still responsible for the mediation of the information, the accepting of some responses, and the rejecting of others. The essays of other authors appearing in the IF Theory Reader presuppose the reader’s agreement that interactive fiction is to be considered a program producing literary fiction and continue from there to theorize how interactive fiction should be created in order to best make this model of interaction. In “Crimes Against Mimesis,” Roger S.G. Sorolla makes no qualms about placing in binary opposition the “real world” (or a real world created fictionally) and a “trivial diversion” (Sorolla, 2011, p. 7). He offers six criteria upon which the scale from “fictional coherence” to “a rambling munchhausenish charm” (Sorolla, 2011, p. 5) is fixed: coherence among objects and contexts, the purposefulness of a puzzle, the logical solving of puzzles including logical locks and keys, and the correct invocation of the
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interactor as reader. Sorolla suggests that the reader with agency is the one who gets to read the interaction as a coherent piece of fiction. Furthermore, he suggests that this is agency which should be afforded to the “model reader” who is “a late 20th Century person armed with a reasonable knowledge of contemporary Western life and literary conventions” (Sorolla, 2011, p. 4). This suggests a reasonable limit to what the program is able to interact with, but it also suggests that the programmer has the right to require specific knowledge of his or her reader in order to make interaction, and thus the continuation of the story, possible. While Monfort and Short balance out the definition of interaction, so that the desired agency can be shared between the program and the interactor, Sorolla offers some real limits about who the interactor can be and what the program can do in order to suggest what interaction should look like. Victor Gijsbers’ “Co-authorship and Community: An Essay on Innovating Interactive Fiction” offers the most radical definition of interactivity when he suggests that “[allowing the player to change the world] would allow completely new ways of interacting with a piece of interactive fiction, new ways which would allow the player to freely use his creativity for the first time, and which would allow the player to be a real co-author for the first time” (Gijsbers, 2007, p. 6-7). This seems like a good, viable way to grant the player agency. As Gijsbers argues, it will give the player real agency. He argues that the trick to implementing this comes in three things. The first is opening the play up to a larger community of people for each run-through of the game. The second is in having a way for the player to be able to change the game, but to protect the game from being irreconcilably ruined. The irony of this “radical” suggestion is that it seems a lot like the system that exists now: we play the games, comment on the games through publication, suggest changes to the game, and engage in conversation about the game. This radical suggestion
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 resembles how people interact in discourse communities already, because it opens up all of the agency to the interactor. When the interactor can help change the programming, they become the sole creator of the meaning of the text. Then, interactive fiction is no longer interactive because the agency of the program is limited. The interactor is then just the creator of a different piece of interactive fiction; the interactor is switching roles from interactor to programmer. Aaron Reed’s Whom the telling changed Now, I am going to turn to Aaron A. Reed’s Whom the Telling Changed in order to show more specifically that interaction in an interactive fiction means to limit the agency of the reader and give more room for shared agency with the program. It is possible to argue that Reed’s Whom the Telling Changed is not a typical interactive fiction. Reed himself states that it is “an experimental piece of interactive fiction designed as an exercise in exploring a conversation or story space rather than a physical space” (Reed, 2006). Furthermore, that “Whom the Telling Changed is very different from an average interactive fiction. It has only four rooms, no puzzles to speak of, uses a keyword-based conversation system and a single-word shorthand for examining items” (Reed, 2006). All of these variables have an effect on the interactive process, but there is not enough interactive fiction to clearly categorize it into what is typical and what is a-typical. Because the base number of interactive fictions created is so low, every difference from one to the next is going to look like a major difference in structure. A reason, however, for using Reed’s interactive fiction is that he wrote Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7. If Reed is the authoritative figure to look to for explaining how Inform 7 works, the open source software used to create many interactive fictions, then he must have influence over and insight into the world of interactive fiction. So, what he is doing is worth noting. Whom The Telling Changed by Aaron A. Reed starts with what literature would call an
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epigraph that says: "He found the knowledge at the heart of the universe; Returned, and cut his story into stone" (Reed, 2006) and claims to be taken from The Epic of Gilgamesh. This appears off-center on an otherwise white screen with no further direction. Inside my memory I first venture to the room that holds the knowledge of The Epic of Gilgamesh, maybe I pull up a new window and link to it on my computer. Then I move to the left and stop in the part of my memory where Plato lives, because anything that is written or sketched or recorded automatically links to Plato and his discussion of the unknown, outside force of writing. Then I meander into the part of my memory that knows that “Returned, and cut his story into stone” is not a complete sentence and should not be proceeded by a semicolon. Or these are all of the places I would visit if this had been an epilogue at the beginning of a novel. The otherwise blank screen gives me literal space to think about these things while the fact that it is off center gives me an urgency to think these things. If the text had been centered, it would seem that it was enough for the page, it was all that was supposed to be there. Since the text is off-center, it encourages me to keep trying to fill (even metaphorically) this page with information. This is exactly how the interaction would work if I was reading a book. However, I would know what to do next. I would know that when I was ready, I flip the page, scroll down or tap the page if it’s an e-text; knowing what to do next would encourage me to take my time. On this first screen I get panicked because I clicked to the link for a game and I don’t know what to do next. How do I move past this page? All it takes is hitting any key, but I become singularly focused on how to get to the next screen and am no longer encouraged to take my time in reading/ thinking about/ exploring the “epigraph.” In this way, the timing of the story is being guided by the programmer. The agency is now split between the interactor who can interpret the words in any manner desired and the programmer (via
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 the program) that is pushing the interactor to continue on in the story. As Reed points out, there are key words that are highlighted as the story moves forward. These key words work to make explicit a part of interactive fiction that is often problematically implicit: the fact that the program has to be spoken to in very specific language and can only accept commands of a certain style. The keywords in the interactive fiction function in the same way that many commands do, they take the reader to something that is pre-programmed to continue the story in what may seem like an arbitrary manner. The other commands function as typically binary options. If the interactor is to look at the “symbol of your (sic) occupation,” the interactor is asked: “Which do you mean, the medicine bag or the copper dagger?” (Reed, 2006). Depending on which the interactor chooses, the lover will take the other. Another example of this is that the interactor is approached by two other players and told “As you approach, your enemy grows silent. Your love turns to you with a look of relief and reaches out a hand” (Reed, 2006). When the interactor reaches for the hand of his/her lover, the interactor is asked: “Which do you mean, Sihan or Saiph?” (Reed, 2006). The one who is not chosen gets mad and walks away. The key words acting more as interactive than the commands shows that the work is sharing agency with the player: it is helping the player see what is important to it. And, it seems, the interactive fiction is going even further to comment on how interactive fiction is working in order to show its awareness of itself. The type of narrative that this interactive fiction and others can create has a lot of positive implications, ranging from being a new producer of a creative product that relies on the programming of a system and not the actual creation (which I see as being the most important), to educational benefits, to fun in solving puzzles. However, one of the implications is not heightened agency for the interactor/reader, but rather heightened agency for the program and the author of the program.
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Interactive fiction – at its best – offers a very highly structured, though always changing, way of experiencing a text that can be very fulfilling and beneficial in certain circumstances. What needs to be further discussed, however, is the way that interactive fiction, as a model for future production of digital media, limits the reader’s ability to misunderstand the text and all of the productive rabbit holes that get explored via the accidental miscommunication. References Works of interactive fiction: (2006) Whom the Telling Changed. Developed in Inform 7. Other Works: Barthes, Roland.(1998). The Death of the Author. In Eric Dayton (Ed.), Art and Interpretation: An Anthology of Readings in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. (pp. 383386). Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview. Bond, Stephen. (2007). Player Freedom. URL: http://emshort.home.mindspring.com/whatsif.ht ml Crawford, Chris. (2005). On Interactive Storytelling. Berkley,CA: New Riders Games Desilets, Brendon. (1999). Interactive Fiction Vs. The Pause that Distresses: How ComputerBased Literature Interrupts the Reading Process Without Stopping the Fun. Currents in Electronic Literature. 1.1(1999): np. Gijsbers, Victor (2007) Co-Authorship and Community: An Essay on Innovating Interactive Fiction. URL: http://lilith.gotdns.org/~victor/innovationcomp/In novation.pdf Montfort, Nick, Twisty Little Passages (MIT Press, 2004). Lanham, Richard A. (1989). The Electronic Word: Literary Study and the Digital Revolution. New Literary History 20: 2, 265-290. Reed, Aaron A. (2011). Creating Interactive Fiction With Inform 7. New York: Cengage Learning. ------. Whom The Playing Changed: An Analysis of 72 Player Transcripts. URL: www.aaronreed.net Scott, Jason, dir. Get Lamp. 2013.
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 Short, Emily. (2007). On Stephen Bond On Player Freedom. URL: May 25. Sorolla, Roger S. G. (2001). Crimes Against Mimesis. In Jackson-Mead, Kevin and J. Robinson Wheeler(Eds.). IF Theory Reader. Boston, MA: Transcript on Press.
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INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES NEW MEDIA & SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT
October 23-‐25, 2014 | University of Toronto |ISBN: 978-‐0-‐9939520-‐0-‐5
TELLING THE STORIES OF LEFT-‐BEHIND CHILDREN IN CHINA: FROM DIARY COLLECTION TO DIGITAL FILMMAKING Janice Hua Xu, PhD, Assistant Professor of Communications, School of Arts and Sciences Holy Family University, Philadelphia [email protected]
Suggested citation: Xu, Janice Hua (2014). “Telling the Stories of Left-Behind Children in China: From Diary Collection to Digital Filmmaking.” In Proceedings of the Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement International Conference. Eds. Hudson Moura, Ricardo Sternberg, Regina Cunha, Cecília Queiroz, and Martin Zeilinger. ISBN: 978-0-9939520-0-5 This article is released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC-ND). Abstract: The issue of “left-behind children” in China has been widely recognized as a significant social problem, as more than 61 million children are living in villages away from their parents, who have migrated to large cities to seek employment opportunities. There is a very limited number of media products depicting left-behind children in rural China as central characters with individual personalities. As Stuart Hall states, representation is the process or channel or medium through which meanings are both created and reified. This paper analyzes how stories and voices of this underprivileged group are presented in recent years to the public in different nonfictional media forms, particularly documentary films. Through content analysis of selected samples, the paper examines how narratives are weaved about the lives and emotions of these children, and how the stories make sense of their family experiences. The paper discusses the power of digital narratives and visual-based expressions. It also examines how the products of representation are mediated by different types of storytellers, who are often motivated by a sense of social engagement to raise awareness about the plight of these children to appeal for support, but addresses the issue from their specific perspectives. Introduction ‘Left-behind children’ (LB children) refers to rural children under 18 who are left at home when both or one of their parents migrate to urban area for work. Across China, more than 61 million children – nearly a quarter of children in China – live in rural villages without the presence of their parents, who have migrated in search of work to provide a better life for their families. Recent findings showed that
left-behind children were disadvantaged and suffered from developmental, emotional and social problems (Su et al, 2013). Researchers found that due to a lack of family protection and educational opportunities, there have been growing signs of serious mental health problems and an increased criminal record among this vulnerable group (CCRCSR, 2014). Because migrant workers rarely get to spend time with their children, children often
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 feel lonely and helpless, and sometimes have the fear of being abandoned. They are more prone to skipping class, fighting, and even dropping out of school, as their caretakers are often unable or unwilling to monitor their study habit. It is also found that left-behind children had lower scores in health behavior and school engagement than rural children of nonmigrant worker parents (Wen & Lin, 2012). This paper analyzes how the situation of this underprivileged group is presented in recent years in platforms outside mainstream media, specifically in documentary films. It examines how narratives are weaved about the lives of these children by different storytellers, and how the stories make relate their unique family experiences with absent parents to the audience. As Stuart Hall states, representation is the process or channel or medium through which meanings are both created and reified. Culture depends on giving things meaning by assigning them to different positions within a classificatory system. The marking of “difference” is thus the basis of that symbolic order which we call culture. As Corner (1995, p. 143) proposes with respect to the documentary, media scholars need to “develop closer and better micro-analysis, of the language and image of the media.” Silverstone points out that the study of media mediation of reality requires giving attention to both the institutions and technologies through which the circulation of news discourse takes place (2004). Also, mediation can be seen as a public-political process, a process that sets up norms of public conduct, shapes the spectator as a citizen of the world, and carries important ethical power of contemporary public life (Chouliaraki, 2006). Traditionally, Chinese media rarely use children as the main subjects of reporting except for programs produced for children, with content that usually emphasizes “childishness” and “prettiness” (Donald, 2005). In 19992000, CCTV produced a series on children in the Western provinces in connection with the national campaign of “opening up the West,”
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portraying these children as “clever, decorative, and different,” but their problems such as poverty and lack of media access were not foregrounded (Donald, 2005, p.9). Media reports in China about LB children started to appear in 2002, and increased in numbers in 2006, when a legislation was proposed at Chinese People Consultative Conference by 24 members to establish a mechanism to safeguard these children’s healthy growth. More media reports have been addressing this matter since 2010, when a few provinces passed laws to protect the rights of minors, with decrees referring to the LB children (Zeng, 2013). However, media representations of these children in news reports were often stereotypes, usually as targets of charity or protective policy, or as “problematic children.” Academic research papers usually focus on sociological and psychological issues caused by absent parents and present these children as one abstract category. It is very rare to have their own voices heard or individual personalities represented in the media. In 2012, a collection of the diaries of 26 "left-behind children" in China’s remote Guizhou province was published in the form of a book. It unveils for the first time the inner lives of these young people. Their 34-year-old teacher Yang Yuansong, who initiated the project by compiling diaries, letters, and pictures of these children whose average age was 9, explained his motivation: "People tend to have a stereotype about left-behind children, seeing them as pitiful kids who live in poverty and isolation. People think all they need is something to eat and wear. But they are so much more than that." He traveled to Beijing and Shanghai to look for publishers but was refused 10 times before finally securing a publisher in Jiangsu province. With an initial print run of 15,000 copies, the book sold more than 100,000 copies in a few months (Sun, 2013). While there is a lack of in-depth reports on the LB children issue in mainstream media, news reports about shocking events, such as children’s deaths from accidents caused by
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 lack of supervision, or arrests of rural elementary school teachers molesting LB children, have brought more attention across the nation to the precarious condition in which some leftbehind children live, as well as the long-term consequence of having absent parents working far away from their hometowns. In 2013, Phoenix Satellite Television Company made a 5-episode documentary titled The Left-Behind Children in China, with interviews with residents at various locations in China as well as scholars and education experts. CCTV also made public service announcements encouraging volunteers to contribute to the growth of these children, and covered this topic in talk show programs. Outside the programs produced by Chinese mainstream media, there have been a few dozens of films or “minifilms” made on LB children. These documentary films can be divided into the following categories: corporate public affair mini documentary, films by independent filmmakers, and films by volunteer/student teams. Although they share the general theme of raising awareness about the LB children and calling for love and care for them, each has its unique strengths in telling a story, and tends to take narrative structures that reflect the implied messages of the film. Corporate public affair mini documentary Western corporations conducting business in China have engaged in various public relations initiatives to build a brand image among Chinese consumers, including making public affair mini documentaries. The issue of LB children can appeal to a wide audience and is politically safe, unlike many other problems facing Chinese society such as pollution, food safety, corruption, and so on. Coca-Cola and PR agency McCann’s Shanghai branch created a 4-minute documentary entitled Love and Care for China's left-behind Children which launched across China, and which was shared on social media and shown on taxi screens before the 2014 Chinese New Year holiday starts. It was
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viewed more than 2 million times on video sharing website todou.com. It draws people’s attention to the vital question of how the children cope without their parents, and how parents cope without seeing their children, focusing on the hope and joy of reunion at Chinese New Year (see Figure 1). In the film, an 11-year old boy says he is older now and has stopping crying at night for missing his parents. A 7-year-old girl says she's not sure her mom can tell her apart from her twin sister. It's been too long since their mother, a migrant worker, has come back home. A 7–year-old boy wants to see his parents, and for them to bring him a bike as gift. The film also shows scenes from the parents’ workplaces in the cities, with one father wearing a helmet in a construction site saying he really misses his children, but this year’s work was particularly busy. The narrative focuses on the question of whether the children will be able to see their parents this New Year. Later, the viewers see the parents of the three families arriving at their homes in a red Coco-Cola van, driven by a uniformed driver, reuniting with their children and the grandparents, and then sitting at the New Year banquet table where Coke bottles are placed next to the abundant food. The red Coke mingles well into the red colors of New Year celebration around the house. The problem and solution is visually represented by contrasting images of separation and reunion, with emotional moments such as the mother arriving at home and asking her daughter, “Who am I?” and getting the reply, “You are Mommy!” Aired right before 2014 Chinese New Year, the message of “going home” echoes with millions of people making their way home from cities across the country to celebrate the Lunar New Year with family. Independent Documentary Film Since the early 1990s, so-called “underground” and “independent” documentary films have emerged in the public domain of mainland China, and received attention in interna-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 tional film festivals (Berry, 2010; Liu, 2006; Wang, 2005). As digital cameras have become affordable to the middle class, independent filmmakers use methods of direct cinema to address “the spectrum of life the government usually stakes off as taboo: prostitution, bureaucratic corruption, rural protests against land expropriation, the impoverished elderly and mentally handicapped, a compromised education system, religious fervor, homosexuality, and just sexuality, period (Nornes, 2009, p. 50).” Independent filmmakers documenting the lives of LB children usually have close ties to the area when the film is shot, and are more or less familiar with the characters in the film. They tend to structure the film as day-in-life story, depicting how the children cope with their parents’ absence living with grandparents or other relatives. Due to limited funding, the films usually do not include scenes of the city workplaces of the parents. The filmmaker captures the moments from the lives of LB children in a detailed manner that reveals the challenges of living without their parents. This could include the material conditions of their daily existence and their psychological state, as expressed through their activities in isolation or ways of interacting with others. In this narrative structure, there is little immediate challenge or confrontation, and probably there is no resolution, even though the conditions of the character could be seen as highly problematic in the eyes of the audience. For instance, the child walks alone at night with a flashlight to return home from school, or escape classes to play pokers. This narrative structure is utilized in the work of independent filmmaker Jiang Nengjie, who was himself a “left behind” child. Jiang Nengjie was born in Hunan in 1985, and graduated from university in 2008. He worked briefly in the city, and spent nearly six years from 2009 to 2014 to complete a series of documentaries about his hometown, returning to the city sometimes to work and raise funds. These include the mini-films "Road," “When I
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Grow Up,” and a 92 minute-long “Children at a Village School.” In this remote village in Hunan Province, 80 per cent of children are left behind. As a new college graduate, Jiang started his filming projects after learning that the school in his home village with 22 children was shutting down. Through temporary teaching at the school, working on and off in the city and fundraising, he managed to create several films documenting the growth journey of several village children, and the decaying state of his home village. He stated that his motivation for the projects was to raise concern about the issue to help maintain the small village school, and later, to raise funds to get a substitute teacher and school bus, as some children had to walk three to four hours a day to go to school. The films also raise questions about the fate of these children and the effect of their upbringing. Jiang’s films were watched by a lot of viewers online, and appeared at Songzhuang Documentary Festival in Beijing and Guangzhou International Documentary Festival in China. In 2014, through public support, “Children at a Village School” was being screened at Guangzhou, Changsha, Wuhan, Beijing and other large cities. While the children have grown up in the years between the different films, their classroom is still shabby, and their dreams of love still unfulfilled, even though the village school managed to receive donations and visits from volunteers and a BBC filming crew (see Figure 2). One of the appeals of the documentary films of Jiang Nengjie comes from the visual depictions of the living environment of the LB children, which can have a strong impact on the audience from urban regions. The children’s stained and bulky clothes, unwashed faces, the muddy road in front of the house, the smoky kitchen where firewood is used for cooking, the fence made of split bamboo, and water basin for washing clothes with, all offer vivid details of the daily lives of the children and their struggle for survival. While the images might represent a typical rural household, sometimes among them there is an ob-
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 ject which seems to be surprisingly fancy, such as a brand-new schoolbag with foreign cartoon characters, which is probably a gift from their absent parents. These images bring to the audience in urban areas visual evidence of the theme of the film, reflecting the reality of widespread loneliness among the left behind children. Different from the corporate documentaries, the independent filmmaker does not intend to create an “upbeat” mood or avoid showing embarrassing moments in their film, including moments when parents returning from the city could not recognize their children. As they see different sides of the lives of their subjects and the odds they face, there is often an ambivalent attitude toward the future of these children, even when some progress is seen in the films. The University/NGO Team documentary Another type of documentaries about LB children is made because of the arrival of outsiders at the rural village, for instance, School in the Depth of the White Cloud, a 2012 documentary about 40 volunteers from Shanghai visiting the mountainous region Jiangxi Province during the traditional Lunar New Year Dragon Boat Festival. In this story line, a team of volunteers or college students arrives from the city to a rural village or school for short-term teaching or aid activities. Usually shot from their point of view, the film narrates the undesirable conditions they see, the local children they encounter, and the efforts and activities they engage in to help the locals. In the process the two sides coming from different background and age groups discover about each other and challenge each other in unexpected ways, and find their existing views about the world somewhat changed because of the encounter and the eye-opening experience. A recent example of a film with this narrative structure is Summer of Sangying Town, which highlights the 20-day experience of a group of students from Shanghai Maritime University to address the needs of left behind
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children in a boarding school in Anhui province. The 50-minute film made in 2013 described the reactions of the students to the living conditions of the children and their efforts in providing psychological counseling and bringing entertainment to brighten the monotonous life of children in a hot summer. It documented their efforts in utilizing limited resources to launch a moot court, sports games, music classes, and a carefully organized variety show, eventually forming certain level of friendship with the children. While the students fulfilled their scheduled tasks and delivered help that was appreciated by the local children and villagers, they also found their power to help the children really limited. For instance, upon arrival at the boarding school the college students tried to improve conditions of the shabby boarding school dormitory. While they managed to install mosquito-proof screens on the windows, they found it too difficult to change the lighting structure of the room. Another example of a film with this structure is titled Grass on the Plain, made by 8 graduate students of Southwest University of China who were assigned to teach for one year at Wushan County in Chongqing, as part of their education requirement. The college students found that the children, whose vision of the outside world was limited to the Wushan county center, were mostly introvert and short in confidence or desire to study, and at the same time yearning for family love. The film focuses on their effort to adjust to a life in the isolated poverty-stricken rural village, communicate with the children, gain their respect, and help them strengthen emotional ties with their parents by establishing online chat facilities, and gradually learn information about the outside world and build a dream about their own future. It was awarded first prize in the Western China international film festival in September 2013. The film’s director, Li Jie, later produced another film about a LB children’s family. For films of this structure, one of the theme’s driving story development is how the
Interactive Narratives, New Media & Social Engagement 2014 visitors engage in problem solving to deal with some material needs of the children, and through the process develop a relationship with the local children. These children usually have different communication styles with city children who tend to be the center of attention of the family, surrounded by their parents and grandparents due to China’s one-child policy. Another theme is insight and growth. As the outsiders are young people who grow up in comfortable surroundings and hold somewhat romantic notions of remote areas, the encounter with the LB children often raises questions about their own assumptions, as well as strength to endure hardship and problemsolving abilities, leading to new ways of looking at their lives in the city. Conclusion Documentaries attend to social issues of which we are consciously aware. They can be seen as a symbolic form that unites the argumentative and the aesthetic functions of discourse. They are not transparent renderings of situations. They are not what postmodernists call discursive constructions either. Through a variety of storytelling devices and strategies, a text can make itself believable as representation of reality. “A slice of life” can take on the quality of being about something meaningful and profound. While different storytellers bring a variety of motivations to the filmmaking process and may frame the issue of LB children from their particular angels, the choices also reflect the fact that families and villages with LB children vary vastly in their individual situations. The issue of children being left behind can be viewed from many perspectives, such as their schooling, their psychological and emotional state, their access to adequate material resources such as nutritional food, their interactions with other children and adults, and so on. While the storytellers engage dramatic forms such as conflict or problem/resolution, the plight of many of these children raises more questions than answers,
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drawing the sensibilities of the audience and engaging them in a reflection of the human price paid for modernization. Although the situations of the children are vastly different from those of the audience in the cities, the universal themes of family, love, and dream make these films appealing with an intricate manner. In August 2014, a new documentary about LB children premiered in Beijing, entitled Stories Through 180 Lenses. It is funded by Porsche China’s “Empowering the Future” program and directed by well-known director Zhang Yimou (CSR News, 2014). The production team distributed 180 digital video cameras free of charge to children in 72 schools in remote Southwest China. 90 percent of the halfhour film consists of footage shot over six months by 2,000 children. As the children take cameras in their own hands, the audience can expect yet another way for the children’s daily feelings being expressed, and their emotional reflections to be captured in a fresh manner.
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