Some musings on storytelling and tech
Posted on July 28th, 2017
Because to be honest, I've started to look at the GRE prep stuff and I feel woefully underprepared. Which is okay, I still have time -- that's the whole point of looking at these things now -- but still. It's one more thing to worry about.
What are the other things taking up time? Working on the Hacking Arts website, and I think my brain is still trying to sort out Perl problems I was struggling with this morning. Starting a new language just makes me appreciate how much easier the ones I've already learned parts of are. You'd think they'd make it as easy as possible to start off with a new language, but it's a struggle -- I'm just grateful it'll never be as bad as learning the very fundamentals all over again. I really want to get this thing working where I can take the time and positional tracking data from this Unity project and use that to create simulations of actual triangle completion tasks.
Will puzzle about that more tomorrow, on the plus side here's an amazing subreddit I just found: https://www.reddit.com/r/CivDadJokes
Also -- I mentioned last post (or the one before that?) that I should write about that idea that I had. Right. Well, I figured I'm very interested in storytelling, but in particular the sort of communal storytelling that's done in tabletop RPGs (like D&D). It's strange, the sort of thing, but I feel also very natural -- seems like it has roots in older forms of storytelling, the communal elements of oral / folk history and fairytales, but also brings out a different side in people, gives a safe space to open up and have discussions, bring up controversies and solve them while abstracting away the things that are difficult to see them in a new light (ie sci fi / fantasy / spec fic does, but particularly sci fi a la star trek). Would love to look into how these dynamics are created and sustained, how the act of forming these communal stories works, and how it is similar and dissimilar to other forms of writing, storytelling, art, performance -- something there one minute and gone the next.
Just a tiny side note that this I feel is missing in some of these modern day adaptions of tabletop -- it lacks the heart that D&D does, that communal presence. FPS (ex Skyrim) tries to get around this by creating different sorts of interactions, others like MMOs have a community but lacks the specialness and singularity of a campaign where only your small band is the hero, doing something no one has done before. If we want people to buy in to new worlds and new tech, we need to be able to create these same spaces for people -- spaces for people to have their own corners, to tell their own stories and to have intimate connections without losing individuality. This is esp. true for VR.
This I think is why there is (or at least I have?) a lot of nostalgia for text-based adventure and old IRC chats. For me growing up, I guess that space was forums. Now we've kind of got that going on with some spaces on the Internet -- but the problem is that with the shift of social media onto focusing on real-life identities (and every website eager to offer the same virality and perks of social media) it's so much harder to have a space to live those imaginary lives -- also everything is already sort of offered up to you (best graphics, best images, best content) so it's less of an act of imagination to go into these spaces and wonder for yourself of the world being presented to you (theater of the mind). Some social media offers some room for that (Tumblr). I also think Reddit offers some of that with anonymity, part of why I've come to appreciate it although I'm not anonymous on there.
A thought came to me as I was writing that -- big data (or not that exactly, but info collection) could come into effect there, I can easily see some genius thinking that's the solution to all your problems, to personalize stories even more by tapping into the viewer's own personal interests and tracings of themselves on the web. But not only is that creepy in a Black Mirror kind of way (thinking of you, Nosedive) but it's also a corruption of that same spirit -- twisting something that should be done with those close to you (not necessarily physically close but in a friendship / solidarity kind of way) and making it into something corporate, something meant to persuade you from people who want your money, as much as the outside looks tempting. That's not to say it won't be done though.
Actually, somewhat related, but this whole musing has reminded me of this story: https://qntm.org/difference which is one of my favorite stories, and one that I've been fervently trying to track down for some time now. What's important about that story is that it's talking about how tech can transform our interactions with one another. How we need to be mindful of the spaces that we create with tech -- because the shape itself can determine what we fill it with.