Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rough Draft for mid-term paper

As suggested by the title this isn't a finished piece. I intend to make further comparisons between other forms of narratives. All suggestions and advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

With our world becoming more and more digital there is a continuous change in the structure of narratives and the means through which they are expressed. Technology has created an intricate network of how we perceive and interpret information with various medium being the axle on which this wheel of distribution turns. This crisscross of information has changed the core of what narrative was, is and will become. While we as consumers are left to decide the effectiveness of this change

Narrative is considered a description of an event or events that maybe true of fiction as presented to the audience form the narrator. The major forms of narratives have been text, motion picture and interactive games. The principal purpose of narrative is its ability to carry the intended message through a medium effectively. Narratives have taken many new forms as it narrows its target audiences thus creating an indivisible union between narratives and technology. What (if anything) is lost in the integrative approach of fusing these different forms of narratives at the expense of technology? How do these changes induced by technology affect narrative? It is important to note that this isn’t an argument for or against the use of technology in narrative rather, it is an analysis of the changes in the value of the narrative as this transition occurs. The modifications in this transcription of narratives into other forms will be the focus of the essay.

It has been suggested that narratives can be transcribed from one medium to another without losing their identity. This suggestion ignores the core principle of narrative which is dependent on the media through which it is expressed. It has also been suggested that changes within a narrative is essential to enhance its effectiveness other media. it is however arguable that this is a betrayal of the initial medium if the transcribed medium fails to capture the intended message in its entirety..

“To maintain the possibility of studying narrative across media it is essential to find a compromise between the interpretation and the unconditional rejection of the conduit metaphor. This means recognizing that the secondary medium imposes conditions on what kind of stories can be transmitted, but also admitting that narratives’ messages change its conceptual core because of the configuring action of the medium. However, it is not always possible to distinguish an encoded object from the act of encoding.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative


Attempting to understand, the substantial loss of the effectiveness of a narrative work from one medium to another can be examined in Charlie Chaplin’s movies, in which he cautiously uses the descriptive power of human expressions and the noise of silence to express his thoughts. Chaplin ability to create this vocal yet voiceless medium of narrative through motion picture is exceptional. Modern times captures this, it was a narrative of the hardships of the time. Throughout the movie Chaplin’s character, the tramp, lacked a defined personality, this leaves the audience with a puzzle of what the tramp represents to them.

"Chaplin, a superstar, still managed to avoid giving the Tramp any real psychology, privileging instead the character’s total flexibility and almost insane elasticity under all kinds of pressures and in the face of all kinds of madness. He endeared the figure to audiences without providing much hint of personality, just the sheer vitality of clowning, racing, hopping, wooing, flattering, buffooning, and walking that uproariously ducky walk. In an expensive medium driven by technology… the Tramp is something unique: complex without being remotely “three-dimensional,” a person who is essentially the sum of his odd tics, cheeky mannerisms, felt hat, and funny mustache. This persona is a retro creation, the sympathetic clown…” nicksflickpicks

In the final clip of the movie he was faced with the puzzle of vocalizing his character by singing a song, Chaplin carefully protects his character by forgetting the words and improvises a senseless French song. In essence, this change in his medium of expression was a failure to his narrative. This questions the effectiveness in media, when we move from one to the other, do our expressions become gibberish? How does this affect the intended message? Hence, would Chaplin’s message of the hardships of this time be pragmatic if told in another medium? For instance, what would it be if it were to be put in text? It is hard to imagine since the characters in the movie were voiceless. This poses a problem of accurrate representation in other media and an attempt to represent chaplain’s narrative in another media will be a fatal loss of value.


Another example, of the failure of narrative to transcend media is the text “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” DADOES being made into the film Blade Runner. Philip Dicks’ narrative was carefully expressed in an attempt to maintain the integral message he intended, but the movie still had to re-master some of the characters’ actions, hence, changing the narrative. The perception of whether this pays due fairness to the writer has been left to the viewers and readers to decide. The changes though subtle, are still significant to the media through which it was produced.

The translation of the book into motion picture (the blade runner) takes away from some of the characters while it also improves some, but it lacks the personality the book offers. Claims have been made that most of these changes were made to create a better sense of “fictional realism” although it might be argued that it alters the intended message considerably. An example of this is the empathy shown by the Androids in their fight to live. This was a theme that was very apparent in the movie but lacking in the text.

"This desire[to live] does not seem to be based in pure selfishness and lack of empathy as suggested by the book, but in a belief that his human experience has been worth no less than Deckard’s in the movie.”

Some other notable differences are the time frame in which the book was written (1992) and the movie (2019), the change in the company that made the androids, and the often portrayal of Deckard as possibly an android in the movies which wasn't suggested in the text. These are a few of the differences in both media.

As discussed in the above examples, there are different forms of narratives each with a unique but also intertwined.

“…narrative media theory should therefore recognize various degrees of narrative power. The top of the scale is occupied by those media that include a natural language component, because natural language is arguably the only medium capable of making distinct propositions, besides the formal languages of logic and mathematics. Language is also unique in its ability to state, rather than merely suggest, the existence of causal relations between events -- an essential part of narrative principle. The highest narrative potential undoubtedly belongs to those media that are able to articulate a fully new and determinate story, combining any forms of narrative.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative

Narrative fused with technology gives us a different angle of approach to how we perceive narratives. Although, narrative cannot be isolated form technology, each form of narratives coupled with a form of technological media determines it own presentation to its target audience. The perception and presentation of a narrative is very dependent on it medium however effective of the lack thereof

Entry for the forthcoming. Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative


ChrisKosi said...

"it is an analysis of the changes in the value of the narrative as this transition occurs." I really like where you are going with this paper with showing the different ways technology can introduce narrative. I would however maybe like to see a better description of what narrative is in the introduction. To me it was a little confusing because you say that narrative is changing, but then again the technology is changing. Referring to this: "the core of what narrative was, is and will become." It seems to me that the narrative isn't changing but rather the intended message from it, or the way in which this message is relayed to the audience. This is expressed in the rest of your paper, but the introduction doesn't fit with this idea. Other than that I think the paper does a good job of showing how different media affects the intended message esp. with the use of Charlie Chaplin and how translating that to text would be difficult because there is very little dialog (if any).

Aj said...
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