Saturday, 30 November 2013

#StoryMooc 6 - Location Based Storytelling

This week was about location based storytelling. It was another fantastic week of subject matter. We learnt about Secret City, an interactive game/story/puzzle that takes place in real places in Berlin and which you follow via your mobile device. I have heard other examples of this before, such as Penguin's "We Tell Stories" from a few years ago, or Secret History which I talk abut below. As well as the story telling possibilities, think how good it is for your fitness walking around the streets reading stories like this!

I really liked the way they filmed the material outside on the streets of Berlin too. Both things made me think a lot about the possibilities firstly in a MOOC, and also secondly in storytelling - there are some incredible opportunities with technology and interactive media. I suppose the key thing is to make them work together without the story drifting away to nothing or the audience losing interest. A course member, John Love. had posted last week about a Google app called Google Tour Builder which lets you create a tour in Google Maps. As John says there is great potential for, "using a map or geographic structure as the framework for telling a story..."

The possibilities of location based storytelling left me excited. As soon as we got our creative task I had ideas popping in my head. I jotted them down on a sketchy sheet above (the ones by fellow course member Melanie Voß are miles better!), then I took a walk up the Royal Mile, and down to the Mound where the Christmas Markets currently are. I nipped into the National Art Gallery for a browse and voila I had my idea for a story. This week I let my friend Rudi Peters write it for me:
Finally. I want to give a nod to Gauwain van Kooten Niekerk for an idea I took from his story. Gauwain used Google Street View in his story this week, and I borrowed the idea for mine. It needed something to kick it off and I thought Gauwain's idea was great. Gauwain is from Utrecht and has been an active participant in this MOOC. I've enjoyed reading his blog which you can find below. I've also included some links to some other of the story/games mentioned in this week's topic

Gauwain van Kooten Niekerk
Secret City Berlin -
Can You See Me Now?
Ingress where city statues and landmarks come to life

And finally....what if you could guide Odysseus round the world now?

"...every time you touch a book, open it, talk about it or read it you are interacting with can explore your own adventure" So says Eli Horowitz  who has written a geo-location story in New York called "The Silent History". It's a good point. What are the implications of this? Could you use location based storytelling to explore existing novels for example? To make them "infinitely expandable" as Eli puts it? Could you imagine if the story of Dracula did not end on page 283 of the book, but carried on here and now in our day? And that you yourself could unpick the story like Jonathan Harker through an app or GPS? Or what about Phileas Fogg or Odysseus? Or how about students have to go outside and search for clues to reveal a famous local historical figure?

To listen to Eli talk about his geo-location story, there is a 10 minute interview here. You can skip to the 29:12 minute mark

PS - it was inspiring to see the range of participants in the MOOC as kindly tweeted by the course leaders this week. Well done to the team in Potsdam for creating such an inspiring and engaging course!

#storymooc week 5

What if the whole world is just a game? What if we are just a puzzle set by ourselves from the future that we are now slowly trying to work out? Each century we get a bit closer to the the end of the game, we get a new piece of the puzzle, till one day we will meet ourselves and say, "we solved it!! Now let's play again!". And the same game begins again,

Games are about stories, narratives, decisions, dilemmas, action, consequence, success, failure, working puzzles out, reward, location and so many more things. Well, that is just like your life story isn't it? When we think of the future of games as involving artificial intelligence, automated stories, characters who exist outside of the game, game worlds that react to the actions of the player, Google Glass, virtual reality etc it makes me think - when's it all going to be like Tron? Will we just end up creating our own universe online and existing there?

I enjoyed this week's module as it introduced a lot of these ideas and concepts. Games seem to have unlimited possibility for the story teller and the imagination. The more I thought about them the more exciting, creative, and revolutionary they seemed. They are also inherently fun because they are puzzles, and also have that spark of curiosity within them. I also was left wondering about games and eLearning. To be able to use that feeling you get in gaming of "I have to know what happens next", or "this next level is so cool it's beyond my imagination", or "I have to defeat this end of level boss even if I'm up till 3am!!". What if you were doing the same with your learning? eg a game that poses ethical, political, social dilemmas that you have to solve. This week I wrote my notes as an illustration whilst listening to the videos and doing laundry. All at the same time. I enjoyed the process. I was inspired by the way the excellent team on the MOOC have presented their own videos using speeded up writing. They also had a podcast lecture this week which was a brilliant idea. Learning on the go.

Apart from Sonic, Tetris, GoldenEye, Pacman, FIFA Football, and Mario I have zero experience in games beyond 1996 so I didn't do this week's creative task. Instead I preferred to focus on the futuristic possibilities of gaming as they tie in directly to my other MOOC on eLearning & Digital Cultures. And imagine a time when the following advertisement exists :

Introducing "Google Life". 
Where are you going on holiday this year? How about 19th century France to see the world through the eyes of Napoleon? Ancient Greece to walk in sandals alongisde Socrates? 13th century Italy to live inside St Francis of Assissi's imagination for 2 weeks?
In Google Life we have amassed all the writings, images, paintings, photographs, diaries, stories, and science that is on the internet. We have amalgamated everything together to let you literally see the world how somebody else saw it through their eyes. 

Using the sum total of all human knowledge and the collective mind, we aim to reanimate the life of every single person who ever lived on the planet. This is part of Google's ethical drive to ensure that every single person on the planet who ever lived was valued. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

#storymooc Week 4 - Ideas & Inspiration

(Still from the film "The Illusionist" which was the director's love letter to Edinburgh)
Where do you come from? What are the stories from your home town that inspire you?

This week's creative task was very enjoyable. We watched a few videos of some of the tutors giving us their recommendations of books they find inspiring and useful, and then our task was to create our own video of some books, film, artwork etc that we find inspiring. The idea was that we would be able to share loads of amazing books and ideas between us.

For my video I chose to base my objects around the theme of "place". Place, location, landscape is so important in any story, and it can almost be a character in itself. I didn't just want to choose any random books, so I opted for ones that had a sense of place at their heart, and that had inspired me. I actually wanted to go out into Edinburgh to film it, but time has defeated so I made a boring talking head video. Hopefully the ideas still come across. I went for:

1. Poems of Ted Hughes - he wrote about West Yorkshire where I grew up, so many of the locations in his poems I can relate to. He writes about the hills, woods, and valleys, the memories of particular moments in the fields or the streets, snapshots of nature and people he observes. This is inspiring when you have a writer who has used familiar locations to inspire their own stories, images & characters. Listen to Ted Hughes read his poem "The Thought Fox" here

Q: Who are your local writers? What was it about their writing that distilled the essence of the place you grew up in?

2. Ghost stories of MR James - I chose this because a sense of place & atmosphere are essential to these stories, and James was a master.As we approach the depths of winter these stories are a brilliant accompaniment to the dark nights - sat around the fire with the wind rattling at the windows! The BBC also made several superb adaptations of the stories, many of which are available on YouTube. Look up "Whistle And I'll Come To You" for a brilliant example.

Q: What stories generate a sense of atmosphere for you? And why?

3. RL Stevenson - Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. This is a very well known story but I chose it because it sums up the city where I live, Edinburgh. Although the book is set in London, it's commonly held that Stevenson based it on Edinburgh, on the dual nature of the Old & New Town's of the city, and of real characters like Deacon Brodie - a respectable member of society by day, a thief by night. I love it because a landscape became a character and a story all of its own just through the writer's imagination. It is also a profound story about human nature which has been interpreted many times since. I love the idea of Stevenson dreaming the story up from just walking around the streets I walk down each day. Here is Alexander McCall Smith talking about literary Edinburgh 

Q: Is there a story that sums up the personality of your town or country?

4. The Edinburgh A-Z Street Atlas -
this was a bit of glib choice, but I wanted to make the point that there are stories all around us - in our cities and towns, our neighbourhoods and our streets. The most amazing stories can be right under your nose, or - like Stevenson - can be dreamt up all from a sense of place.

This MOOC has students from many towns and countries, so my challenge is to tell me about the stories and tales that have inspired you about your home town. Is there a story that sums up where you are from?

How could we share it? On a Google Map? As a Pinterest board? A Flickr group? A ThingLink graphic? A YouTube channel? Any ideas? Please share in the comments below!

Above is my video for this week's task. Please also take a look at the fantastic videos from my fellow students here on Aunt Renie's YouTube channel...

Thursday, 14 November 2013

If you want to read my #storymooc Week 3, turn to this page....

Does this book cover ring any bells?

It's one of Steve Jackson's books in the Fighting Fantasy series. They were popular children's books in the 1980's and were a mix of role playing style game contained within a story book. Page 1 of the story would give you a scenario, and at the end of the paragraph you were given 3 options on how to continue the story based on your judgement. Each option would lead to a different page in the book. For example something like, "You are at the front of the house. To knock on the door go to page 12. To climb through the broken window turn to page 74. To shout up at the lighted window turn to page 41". You would then get a new scenario, a new set of options, and hence a new story whichever option you chose. I used to think they were brilliant, and looking back they were such an interesting experiment. They came out at roughly the same time as the first computer games, but for a while they were every bit a match. Infact I used to read these books whilst waiting the 45 minutes it would take to load up our BBC Micro games!

In the spirit of the Fighting Fantasy books, I present my week 3 #storymooc review in their style

You have reached week 3 of your storytelling MOOC. To find out more, continue reading below. If you are bored, open this dusty window. If you want to sign up yourself, turn to this page

You are learning about web series this week. A woman in a green and blue shirt tells you that they can be hugely liberating, creating, and subversive. But, due to the medium they need to have more instant and memorable hooks due to people's short attention spans. If you want to see an example of a web series, open this window. To write your own, sharpen your pencil and read these tips

You have been walking around the internet for some time. You pass by a group of people from Sweden talking about a woman who has gone missing on the internet. They are trying to find her. You are amazed at the creativity of this "transmedia project" where the viewer is involved in directing the story via social media. You are also a but sad that it didn't catch on because it required too much effort on the viewer's behalf. The Swedish people rush off to find another clue. When they go you see a row of #storymooc tweets flash up on the wall. You see this one below

After reading it, do you 
- feel an epiphany that everything is actually a story, and that our whole lives are narratives that we construct in our heads? If you do enter this room here
- feel that with social media we are constantly re-inventing the medium of storytelling and pushing new boundaries. If you do, climb through this window
- cringe a little and wish that businesses and corporations would just leave us alone and stop impinging on our imagination. If you do, then react like this

You have reached the end of week three, but have encountered the end of level baddy. This comes in the form of a character you have to come up with! Aggghh!!!! What do you do?
You choose to seek advice from a person sitting next to you who has done it. Read about them here
You decide to meet a new person who is not a baddy at all. Meet them here
You take the plunge and come up with your own character. Say hello here

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Storytelling MOOC Week 2 - a "wide open frontier for creative experimentation"

This episode cropped up on my TED Talks podcast this week:

Andrew Fitzgerald: Adventures in Twitter fiction

This was so relevant to this course that I thought it was worth a summary of what I learnt from it. 

When radio was invented it was a new medium that defined new formats, which then defined new stories and how we told them. 

We are seeing the same in Twitter now.We have just about "settled the wild lands of the internet", and are now ready to define our own new formats and new stories. 

For example, 
1. The way Hugh Howey wrote and experimented the "Wool series.
2. Jennifer Egan wrote her story Black Box, "as a series of tweets on The New Yorker's Twitter account over nine days beginning May 25, 2012. The story is in the form of "mental dispatches" from a spy living in the Mediterranean area in the near future".
3. The phenomenon of Twitter accounts for fictional or historical characters who either engage with the real world (fictional characters), or tell us their real world (historical characters)
4. @CrimerShow. Someone creating a parody of detective TV. Every day there is a new episode.
5. Fake accounts blur the boundaries betwen reality and fiction.

In summary, Twitter is a "wide open frontier for creative experimentation"

Nicely put!

Storytelling MOOC Week 2

We also looked at daily soaps as an example of "serial storytelling" on TV. What is the point of knowing all these categories? As viewers or readers we categorise stories as we see them. So, in order to follow or break a rule you need to know the familiar formats.

The success of American series can be ascribed to finance, cultural hegemony, but also writers. They have prolific, creative, well taught writers. This quality goes all the way back to the "writers rooms" of Woody Allen's days.
What is important in successful story telling? 
1.) Emotional connection with the characters, 
2.) Audience want to lean into the screen, 
3.) Getting people's attention, 
4.) You are writing for your audience, not for yourself, 
5.) Sometimes creative process is give & take and teamwork

There are some great links in all the forums so far. Links to advice, techniques. methods from famous writers to organisations to individuals. But does anyone else feel a little overwhelmed at all the advice? Or has any of the advice really helped you? My little challenge to everyone is to try and flip this on its head and try this exercise. Imagine you had created the story of your dreams and everyone was asking you how you did it - what would your own advice be?

Mine would be that:
1. I took time to actually write on a regular basis. Only then did bad ideas get filtered out and good ideas come out of the blue
2. I got other people involved. An animator, an illustrator. Quality work came from interaction and ideas bouncing off other people
3. I took walks and made a point of noting things down every time I was out. These tiny things eventually led to much larger characters and story ideas
4. My final product was completely different to my original idea - it went through many, many stages

This was my own creative challenge of the week. Now to the one set on the course: "Please pick any existing serial protagonist that you know very well, and create a character profile. This is helpful because…
a) …you can compare this profile to that of other protagonists.
b) …you can learn how serial characters are built and why some characters work better than others."

I chose Yosser Hughes from Boys From the Blackstuff. He is the most memorable character from a TV serial I deeply love. He was probably not the best character for this assignment though, but it was good to think about the whole character, why the writers created him, and what purpose did he serve, or how did he set the other characters off. The checklist below is also quite useful when thinking about coming up with your own characters. I wonder if writers get the character first, and fit the story round them? Or whether they have the story first then flesh out the characters that the story needs? I posted this question on one of the forums, but I get the feeling it will be drowned out by the noise. How can MOOC's address this? Or is it the students' responsibility to not mass post and exercise some discretion?