Friday, May 11, 2007

Whither The Future Of Narrative

During all the commotion of the 48 hour movie project, for some insane reason I decided to repaint my entire place. Since that meant spending significant amounts of time away from the computer, I decided to catch up on a long list of podcasts. I queued them up and listened to approximately 16 hours of podcasts and now my brain is frazzled (but that's always the most interesting state to be in).


to tell a story
to give an account of events


Overman posted about the ARG associated with the release of the newest Nine Inch Nails CD, Year Zero. ARGs are becoming popular, and Perplex City is probably one of the most famous. It was recently solved, and the winner took home $200 K. There is an excellent article via Re:Text with a 14 page PDF of an article titled "Let's Be Serious: Non-Casual Investigations Into Alternate Reality Gaming". See also this wiki white paper.


There have been many discussions and posts lately about what machinima is or is not (see sections of my previous post). Rasmussen, nomad, etc. No matter what you think it is, where it is going, or even if it should be called machinima, for the most part the end result of any production is a 'film' where the audience sits and watches. Although feedback in the web 2.0 social networking age can be instantaneous the ability of the audience to alter the narrative is extremely limited.

Funny, that. Machinima grew out of video games, a place where the user is fully in control (somewhat) of what is happening. Although limited by the designer's intentions, the four dimensions of the gameworld can be explored at the player's whim, not the designer's (except for cutscenes). In almost free form games like GTA or The Sims, or virtual worlds like Second Life, where is the narrative? It's whatever the player wants it to be. If the player records themselves, uploads it, and somebody watches it, then what is it? A story? An autobiography? A documentary? What if a second player records the first player? Biography, documentary, expose? What if both record? What if both record while interacting? What if every single avatar in SL recorded themselves during every moment in world? What if every single prim recorded it's existence? What would you have besides a lot of disk space? Many narratives? A single story? Wasted space?

What if that vast media space were culled, cut-up, mashed, disrupted, merged, and remixed? Would that narrative have meaning any more? Would it be a new story to tell? Would the 'making of' be more interesting than the media itself? Would the 'making of' the 'making of' be a shoddy sequel? How far can the network of narratives be pushed? Is narrative to the power of 'N' useful? Entertaining? Fodder for the vast ad machinery in the broadband world?

The ability to produce content is vast. Our attention span is not. There will be a backlash after this explosion slows, and eventually stops. Will it collapse on itself? Probably not. At that point new ideas will emerge. New forms of narrative. When resources are vast everything gets eaten. Everything grows and balloons as far as it can. When resources are scarce innovation occurs. Must occur! When the balloon pops some exploding bits will disappear, some will grow again, some will collide and produce new media, new ideas, new attention-grabbing headlines.

How long since the first cave painting? The first story told around a fire? The first 'word of mouth'? The first Sumerian story? The first Egyptian hieroglyphics? The first papyrus rag paper? The first printed novel? The first tragedy? The first comedy? The first tagicomedy? The first stand-up comedian on stage? The first radio play? The first silent film? The first film that should have been silent? The first blockbuster? The first documentary? The first investigative journalism piece? Which ones died out? Which ones lived?

One narrative or many? Infinite threads spun by The Fates?

What's your narrative?


Podcasts listened to during the formation of these rambled thoughts:

Workbook Project.
Science Friday.
Bruce Sterling's Rants And Lectures. SXSW, etc.

Other fun:

The Second Wave.
Observations on film art and Film Art.
Serial Storytelling.
Beyond Machinima.
The Oldest Story Ever Written.
This book looks interesting, but I have not read it. Hamlet on the Holodeck (Murray).

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