Story Lab Wrap Up
Class for the semester is officially over and as we add the last touches to our final projects I thought I’d reflect on some of the key themes and issues that we explored in Story Lab. While the content was extremely diverse, some core elements came to the top for me at least.
As this term was in the title of the lab it’s no surprise that it was dominant throughout the class. In order to properly frame just why we had to take apart earlier notions of story it was necessary to see why they no longer work.
Henry Jenkins (2006) gives a fantastic definition of transmedia as having
- Discrete parts that are able to be enjoyed autonomously
- Each medium plays to its strengths
- Contributes to a greater whole
In the lab our project work took on each on each of these attributes to varying degrees. Finding a balance between contributing to a greater whole while keeping media independent was quite difficult. My project ‘Type I Error’ certainly involves the latter two criteria but how much a person could enjoy each of the elements on its own is dubious.
Story v Narrative
This is a topic that I chose to grapple with early in the semester with my research assignment. My conundrum was that in transmedia the plot and characters are able to be totally divorced from each other. Characters become a frame for seeing certain events that another character would see in a totally different way. Story then become a perspective of a character or characters. The Story allows a narrative (cause and effect rationality) to be applied to the plot or a plot. In order to get to this theory I had to draw on Lyotard, Mckee and Manovich. ‘Type I Error’ originally started as a plot told from multiple perspectives and became multiple plots experienced through one perspective. You go through the project as a single character but are able to shape the flow of the game/media/story/project. Which brings me to my last point, Agency.
How much the audience can effect the narrative or flit between mediums could be called agency. Janet Murray (1997) stresses that ‘agency is not the same as authorship’, authors can effect the certain parameters but not the entire project. Gambarato (2012) refutes this and instead adds an extra ontology to transmedia; closed or open systems. An open system allows the audience a much greater control over the narrative of the project, they are able to make real change. A closed system is one that most resembles what all the groups in the class have created. The audience can control certain elements but ultimately they must take the narrative as it comes. My project ‘Type I Error’, gives the audience a high degree of control over a lot of the plot but there are certain elements they cannot change such as the protagonist. In this way Type I Error is an embodiment of a ‘database narrative’, the user creates their own narrative as they navigate the database (Monovich, 2001). They control the narrative but not the story.
So there we have it, a semester well spent. Some points that I can envisage using in the future:
- There is always another side to every story
- Every medium has certain advantages and limitations
- People enjoy a holistic experience when implemented properly
- People enjoy having agency in a story
- Future media projects are conceived and implemented in radically different ways to the past producer/consumer model.
Thanks for a great semester Dan and team Story Lab.
Gambarato, R (2012). Signs, Systems and Complexity of Transmedia Storytelling. Estudos em Comunicao, 12, pp. 69-83.
Jenkins, H (2006). ‘Searching for the origami unicorn.’ In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, USA: New York University Press.
Lyotard, J (1984) ‘The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge’, UK, Manchester University Press
Manovich, L (2001). ‘The database.’ In The language of new media. Cambridge, USA: The MIT Press, pp. 218-243.
McKee, R (1997). ‘The Substance of Story.’ In Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting. New York, USA: HarperCollins, pp. 135-154.
Murray, J (1997). ‘Chapter 5: Agency.’ In Hamlet on the Holodeck. Cambridge, USA: The MIT Press.