Unsymposium, more VoxPops

Rebecca has unsymposium dump of notes. They won’t make sense if you weren’t there. James comments on ‘what rhymes with shop’. The point of the example was not to show that authors can’t trick, but that we all think reason is sovereign, comes first, because we think we are in charge and at the end of the day this is much the same as thinking our minds are what is in charge and we’re in charge of our minds. The ‘trick’ is to show that rhyme tricks reason in very simple ways, that reason and logic is very easily conned, seduced, lulled, and so on. Cognitive science knows this, brain biologists and chemists know this, lots of contemporary critical theorists know this. In the same way that every semester attendance declines by approximately 50% when the weather changes. In semester one it is after the first real cold snap. In semester two the first warm one. We all think we’re in charge of our minds and decisions, but this is nature and biology. In winter it is hibernation mode. In spring it is sex, once that sun kicks in your body is all hormones and the last thing nature intended a young body to do in spring is sit still in a windowless room and listen to people talk for 50 minutes. This drop in attendance happens even semester, every year, and always coincides with the change in the weather. It is a conceit to think that 50% of you all ‘decide’ not to come at the same time, the pattern is that consistent, and the numbers that high, that it isn’t a decision that is ‘made’ in the sense of deciding the red shoes or the blue shoes. It is our biology deciding for us.

In relation to writing or making stuff. I know plenty of people who picked the ‘twist’ in Fight Club and The Sixth Sense within a few minutes. This doesn’t make the work successful or not as whether a work ‘works’ is not defined by whether or not it achieves what the author intended. For example, I make propaganda for the Nazi party. I want people to despise several other groups in society to the point where we are happy to execute millions of people. My intention as a maker is clear. Apparently it has worked well. If we think quality equals integrity of my intent then Nazi propaganda needs to be considered as some of the highest creative work we have created. It isn’t. Intent is not what matters, for quality, judgement, and aesthetic experience. Except to the extent as mentioned in the symposium that we take it to be a meaningful thing that intends to say something, and then the game becomes what do we think it wants or is trying to say. But it, not the author or maker. (In the case of something like The Sixth Sense for instance is it the author, screenwriter, director, editor, or is this a Star Trek Borg hive mind where five people’s minds have melded into one?)

I hear the comment that it is really a symposium. Except the unsymposium is pickking up the unconference movement. A symposium would be defined in advance, contributors would prepare material a long time in advance, possibly even share their papers before hand. Here the questions or prompts don’t come from the speakers, and we don’t know what the other is going to say. The difference might appear small, but in surrendering some of the agenda to you it is qualitatively different to what a symposium ordinarily is.

Jackie has great questions about what would be shared in a hypertextual work. This is precisely the question that needs to be considered. There are lots of good answers, and so the problem it poses is how to craft a meaningful pattern rather than just experience it as difference or chaos. We won’t get there this semester, but this is what we explore in Integrated Media when we begin to make works with these qualities and then want to think about the sort of story and experience that could or should be made available.