Our special guest that day was Dr. Katherine Blashki, the then director of Research and Education at AFTRS and a former Jungian practitioner (from what I understood, that meant she used to be a psychologist and based her practice on Carl Jung’s theories). Jung is known for his exploration of mythology, archetypes, dreams… and believed our society needs to integrate some elements of spirituality, etc.) and because of my then recently initiated path to consciously exploring these subjects I loved the class: “Us, human beings, need to create a story to find meaning,” she said to start with, and illustrated this idea with an example: in our dreams there is no linear story, we only make them linear because we need to, if we want to explain them to someone else and for them to make any sense.
Storytelling and narratives are ancient, often linked to spirituality and religion; religious rituals talk about birth and death, and most rituals of initiation are in fact life passages related to dying in life and rebirth.
Katherine spoke about the Mayan culture, and how in their “games,” if you lost, you were to be decapitated. We talked about Aristotle and “Spectacle,” and its relevance or irrelevance in the making of stories; the 4th wall – the big divide between fiction and reality – the fact that a story succeeds when it breaks that wall (immersion) and the “liminal space”. And then I heard some very special words: (Jacques) “Derrida”, “post-Modernism”, “text”,… wow! And it took me straight back to those long deep chats at the Oxford Scholar; I missed Tarone, and Matt and Eirik and Sam …. I knew I wasn’t at RMIT and I knew I was at AFTRS, but those words were a sign!
We talked about Interactive Narrative, about ‘interactivity’ as defined by renowned game designer, Chris Crawford; the concept of the ‘wreader’ (a fusion between writer and reader or author and user), the definition of ‘text’ by Roland Barthes “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author”; Barthes versus Derrida or structuralism (which needs an agreement on a departure point to start any discussion) versus deconstructionism (it questions the borders, frontiers, edges, limits of concepts and concludes nothing really is constant and universal).
We discussed T.S. Eliot and his conclusion that the only way to express emotion in an artistic work is by finding an ‘objective correlative’: a situation, a series of objects or events that spark that particular emotion (“Hamlet and His Problems”).
The magic circle (the stage, the fire…), its boundaries; the ludic attitude (commitment or engagement to the game, the overcoming of unnecessary obstacles, the importance of the experience, the effort… ) and the closure of the circle.
What Katherine meant is probably that transmedia is more capable of taking the user to the magic circle and providing a story with the ‘objective correlative’ than traditional media is, and not only that, because the user plays/enacts the narrative, the narrative can become a tool for personal transformation. Katherine said ‘The Sims”, a strategic life-simulation computer game, manages to take the user to the magic circle, because instead of giving the user a scripted narrative it creates new events as it happens.
The Sims is a point of departure, but to Katherine, digital media still hasn’t managed to capture these experiences; to get there it is necessary that a ludologist (people who make games) engages in their projects with experts in narratology.
In the digital space, she says the limits between reading and writing and author and reader are blurred – the linear story disappears. “In linear writing the creativity is personal, in non-linear writing you are trying to get inside the minds of other people”, says Blashki.
We now need to get totally immersed in the story and still have control over it. This is something the Generation Y can do, but for people who grew up with linear stories (like me), it is not that easy ☺. Although everything can change, there’s now the concept of ‘gen V’ defined around three key behavioral attributes (article published in Forbes):
1. use of technology to communicate with others
2. desire to participate in global communities and
3. to value collaboration (let’s say they have a smaller degree of respect towards the concept of copyright). (But plagiarism isn’t collaboration, it’s appropriation. Ed)
It is a matter of practice then, so we took a set of Tarot Cards, and using their characters and objects as a tool for creating narratives (a bit like Italo Calvino does in his “The Castle of Crossed Destinies”) we made up a story. What are the chances of picking three cards and getting: The Fool, who goes from the known to the unknown – the uninitiated who only relies on instinct to go through the world; The Hanged Man – whose world has been turned inside out and upside down – and Death? Three key cards to achieve the Alchemy – transforming yourself to the best you can be, a process in which the self, rebirths as something special.
Gary Hayes finished that class by going through a few innovative trends in Multi-Platform Content which we had identified; of all of them I really liked “Timecode“, by Mike Figgis, a movie on a quadruple-split screen, fantastic! Pranav Mistry, anything he thinks seems to be good; the Bing Augmented Reality Maps, like Google maps but better; And of course, Ray Kurzweil, who I had just discovered thanks to a Spanish TV program @redes directed by Eduard Punset, my parents had mentioned). Gary suggested Kurzeweil’s visions are already here with Emotiv.
24th of February 2010