Sunday, November 30, 2008
1) You should have read all of House of Leaves, including the appendices. It's not necessary to read every word of every appendix -- for instance, I find the poetry pretty useless. Most of the rest of them are pretty important, though.
2) You should bring a printed copy of the latest draft of your final project. If you don't have a draft, don't bother coming to class: I'll mark you absent. You will be reading and commenting on one another's drafts, and by Thursday you'll post a one-page version of your comments to the blog.
Note: I recommend, but do not require, that you do a substantial revision for Tuesday, so you can get feedback on a version which has been modified in response to my comments.
Friday, November 28, 2008
This is a choose your own adventure book. Each decision you make will result in (+/-) points.
1.) Open your Eyes. Be aware of your surroundings. See yourself from others shoes. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the Living expression of God’s kindness. Kindness in your face, Kindness in your eyes, Kindness in your smile. -Mother Teresa
2.) Walking up the library steps, you hear a few girls behind you giggling. What do you do?Walk into the library and try and find your friends (6)*Walk in first but hold the door behind you (7)*Open the door and let them walk in front of you (8)*
3.) Idiot. (-5) Did I not just tell you that you were an asshole? Assholes surround themselves by other unaware, incoherent, self-conscious pieces of crap. The reason someone is an asshole is because no one ever told them that they were an asshole. Now your friends are being obnoxious, you guys aren’t aware that others are trying to study in the club, which they also call a library, and the girls want no part of you. You are done, but I hope all is not lost in you (1)*
4.) You get back to your house with your girlfriend and lay down on the couch. The lights are off and you turn on the television. She rests her head on your chest and you put your arm around her. When you lay there, there is nowhere else you would rather be. So, there is actually no point in trying to continue this story. (1)
5.) Walking into the main room of the library, you hear some music playing. Club Hillman is bumping tonight. Your friends are on the table dancing. There are girls swinging from the rafters. Stay and join the party (9)*Tell your friends to settle down (11)*Leave the library (22)*
6.) (-3) Way to go slick, you are an asshole. Be aware of your surroundings. You just missed a great opportunity to be a gentleman and talk to a few very attractive members of the opposite sex. Now, luckily two of the three girls were also unaware and did not even realize that you let the door close in their faces. You saw these girls were very pretty and now would like a second opportunity.
Go find your friends and tell them about the hot girls. (3)*
Apologize for not holding the door and throw them a compliment. (20)*
7.) Good Job. (+2) You played it cool and were aware that there were some beautiful women behind you. They smile at you and give you a well deserved ‘Thank You’. This is a good start for you. As you follow them through the door, a loud noise comes from your right, and you hear a few people laugh. Go find your friends (5)*Help the girl to your right who just dropped her books (15)*Walk to your right to see what the noise was (24)*.
8.) Great Job. (+1) Unfortunately the sexy women that were behind you saw you check them out from head to toe. If you are going to do this, it has to be a quick up and down or pinpoint a location on their body and get a good look at it. Because you did not realize you were staring and that they were watching you, they now think you are a little creepy. Lucky for you though, they also know you are interested. Quit staring. Seriously, stop. You are a dumbass. Do you see the balcony you are walking towards? Oh well, I don’t know what season it is, but have a nice Fall. (1)
9.) The world doesn’t need any more assholes. Be respectful to others and learn to be aware of others needs. You don’t really deserve to live anymore. (1)
10.) (+3) Good man, way to be a gentleman. Your chivalrous tactics paid off. Whether you were playing games with her or were actually aware that she likes you and didn’t want this to be a one night stand, you went up in her book. In class the next day, she slips you the answer key along with her phone number. You go on to live happily ever after. The End
11.) That’s the way to be. Thank you for being aware of your surroundings. Once you settle everyone down and begin to study, you notice that you are bleeding. You reach down and find a knife is sticking out of your leg. You look around and see a bunch of people, all of whom could have stabbed you. The lights begin to dim; a man is standing over you. ‘You are not Dan, why are you taking me from my friends?’ Goodnight. (1)
12.) (-3) Although it would be fun, you need to have your priorities straight. You get so drunk that, on your way home, the cab driver takes you into a dark alley. He beats you and takes your money, you are left for dead. (1)*
13.) a.) (+3) Way to be responsible. Good intentions always work out for the best. continue to (b) b.) As you walk towards your friend Dan, he waves to you and tells you to meet his friends. You smile and introduce yourself, they said that they were glad you were there, they were going to go out with just Dan, but since you were such a gentleman earlier, they want you to come too.go to the bar (23)*stay and study for your exam tomorrow (25)*
14.) (-5) You are creepy. Lucky for you though, your friend knows the one. (13b)*
15.) (-3) You didn’t even know a girl dropped her books; I just had to tell you. Be more aware. You see your friends; they wave to you from across the library. It is very hard to read whenever you are tired. Studying calculus is not fun either.Stay and study (18)*Go home and watch a movie with your girlfriend (4)*Go to your brothers bar and have a few drinks (12)*
16.) (-3)As you are walking into your house, someone meets you at the front door. They tell you that Dan killed himself. When your friend needs your help, you better drop what you are doing and help him. Two days later, your friend Mike finds you face down on the floor. I agree, it is hard to carry someone’s life on your shoulders. (1)*
17.) I just told you to call her . . . not a very good listener. See ya. (1)*
18.) (+2) Studying for your test tomorrow is a good idea, but don’t forget to have a little fun every now and then. Why don’t you call your girlfriend and see what she is up to?Call your girlfriend(4)*Don’t call your girlfriend(17)*
19.) (-1) You should control yourself. Just because you can’t have fun and didn’t go out to the bar doesn’t mean you should kill yourself and burn down the library. I hope you had a good life. (1)*
20.) (+/- 0) “Sorry miss, when I saw you girls behind me I didn’t think 3 things that pretty could be real, just thought you were in my imagination.” . . . really? What a loser, they seemed to like it though; I guess the smile they gave you meant something.Go find your friends to study (13a)*Pretend to go find a seat but wait until they sit down and sit near them (14)*Go study on your own (19)*
21.) (-3) Not a good call. Karen was a classy girl; you also did not notice the ring on her finger. Karen’s friend Sandy would have gone home with you in a second, but you blew that one. Bad intentions my friend. You better start being more aware. Karen’s husband walks in when you have your hand on her knee and he pulls a gun on you. Sorry. (1)*
22.) You better have a better plan than that. Always have a plan. You are so lost you just fell off the face of the earth. (1)
23.) (+1)You get to the bar and start talking to the girls. A few drinks are being put back and a few laughs are shared. You learn that one of the girls, Karen, is the teaching assistant for your class. She catches you looking at her; she smiles and puts her hand on your knee. You learn that the answer key is at her house and she is interested in you going back to her apartment for a little fun. If you go back to her place you will not fall asleep ‘til very late.Go back to her place, have some fun, and get the answer key. (21) *Tell Karen it was nice meeting her and call her a cab. (10)*Go to the bathroom and talk to Dan about your options (28)*
24.) Bang. That loud noise was a gun. Way to be aware. You got caught in the crossfire. (1)*
25.) (+1) Way to leave those girls wanting more, don’t worry, you will see them later. You finish studying and feel very confident about your test tomorrow. So confident, you text Dan to find out what he and the girls are doing. Dan sends you a text that says “Help Me”, but since text messaging is just a machine relaying information, you cannot tell what kind of emotion is attached to his last correspondence. Run out of the library and get a taxi to Dan’s house (27)*Pack your things, go home and get to Dan’s an hour later (26)*Leave Dan to help himself (16)*
26.) (-5) When a friend says help me, you better at least call him to find out if anything is wrong. Dan was being held hostage and was eventually killed. The murderers looked through his phone and saw that he texted you, found your address in his address book and were waiting for you when you got home. You didn’t even get to his place. Bang. Bang. You are dead. (1)*
27.) (+2) You get to Dan’s house, the door is slightly open. There is some noise coming from inside but you cannot understand what is being said. You approach the door and slowly open it. Inside there are people standing over a man on the floor, but you do not recognize these people at first. Slowly approaching, the people do not notice you. You now can see who is on the floor, it is Dan. You hold your hands over your face, only to feel a hand pull them back down. You stare into His face, he smiles back. ‘Breathe’ He said. You were so stunned by Dan’s death, you forgot to breathe. He stood over you too, and carried you both out. (1)*
28.) (+1) While walking to bathroom at Mehhingways, you and Dan get into a fight. The kids you fight turn out to be “tougher” than you thought and are carrying a knife. Goodnight.(1)*
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Interactivity is an important aspect to understand. Interactivity has it roles in a lot of our daily activities. Probably the most apparent of these activities is our participation with the internet. There is a large range of what is considered to be interactive, especially on the internet, and this mentioned range will be the majority of my discussion. Before we begin with the variance of interactivity and what it means, It is imperative to accept that interactivity if highly sought after by internet page creators and something that the user sees has beneficial. It is my job to prove to you that this is true. There is a definite purpose and reason why interactivity is so sought after by the phenomenon that is the internet.
In years past, several studies have been conducted to try and grasp what the term “online interactivity” really means. Media researchers have viewed online interactivity primarily as an attribute of technological functions of the medium such as hyper linking, activating media downloads, filling in feedback forms, and playing online games (Warnick, 1). However, this does not include any user to user interaction that most people would agree would also be considered interactivity. The activities listed above never actually require a person to interact with another person.
With this, in more recent years researchers have based more of their theories on interactivity to be paralleled with user to user interaction. Examples of this include chat rooms, emails, and instant messages. Both arguments and research supply sufficient evidence that they both represent what I feel online interactivity actually means. In the end, online interactivity is an artifact of what users experience and perceive.
(At this point, I’d like to include some more research about what recent research has shown on being more accepted as being interactive.)
Now that we have discussed and accepted that interactivity is a sought after aspect for internet users. It is time to take it one step farther. What makes one interactive thing more interactive than the other? Are people attracted to certain things on a web page more so than something else on the same web page?
(More research on what makes certain aspects of the web pages more interactive than the other)
So we have discussed what makes something interactive, and then also what makes interactive things more interactive than each other. So now let’s move past the internet. Choose your own adventure narratives have been debated upon whether or not they are actually considered to be interactive. Based on prior conclusions on what interactivity actually means, let us discuss some of the points that choose your own adventure narratives would hit upon. It does use a medium (actual text choices) to portray an interactive journey through a book and there a several different journeys you can end up taking. However it does not allow for any user to user interaction like more recent research has concluded to be interactive. Ultimately, we decided that interactivity is basically what the user experiences and perceives. A choose your own adventure narrative would definitely fit into that aspect.
It is a very rough draft and has a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up. I need to do a lot more research with surveys and other consensus options dealing with interactivity on web pages.
Sorry for the delay with the draft, I am out of town for thanksgiving and had a mix up with due dates and such. Sorry for the inconvenience.
That being said, right now it is what it is.
The genre of Reality television doesn’t have exact limits as to what it includes. Even game shows can now be considered reality TV with Howie Mandel being nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality - Competition Program for hosting Deal or No Deal which is like any other game show. Most sources however would say what the average person would consider reality TV can be traced back to the premiere of The Real World in 1992 which was drastic change from the sitcoms of the time. For the first time you had unscripted relationships strangers broadcasted for everyone to witness. This led into numerous spinoffs of the format until a reality TV hit a peak in the early 2000’s with the creation of such shows as Survivor, Big Brother and American Idol where the format was greatly changed and there were winners and prizes involved. This is where interactivity of home viewers started to come into play.
A lot of people right off the bat would say that reality TV isn’t really interactive. Their arguments would mainly consist of stating its either fake or that votes don’t really count. While I have to admit that there are plenty of fake “reality” shows out there like Paris Hilton’s My New BFF and The Hills (where even the cast members admit to being cast and how they reenact scenes) that give the genre a bad rep you can’t discredit all the others because of them. It would be like saying comedies aren’t funny because some are terrible. How could one really it’s all fake when you have a show like Big Brother where there’s a 24/7 live internet feed of the house that you can watch online, it’s as real as it gets. To say voting doesn’t actually count is another statement trying to discredit the genre with an already bad rep. Sure if there was some poll on one of the clearly fake shows I’d agree the voting could possibly be a hoax but when it comes to programs such as American Idol and Survivor where a large sum of money or contract are involved I can safely say the votes surely count. It’s not as if you can see someone counting off the votes for the President yet I’m sure everyone would believe those votes count, so why should it be any different for TV. Even though there are plenty of misleading “reality” programs, the clearly credible ones have provided an outlet for viewers to interact with their favorite shows.
Voting has become the stand out way for viewers to interact with a reality series. Instead of just simply watching a show, you can take an active role by helping to make decisions that affect what happens for the rest of the season. In shows like American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and the first season of Big Brother viewers vote week by week to eliminate a contestant. Each week you can potentially change the fate of game and because of it there has been numerous fan sites these type of shows meant to get people to vote for certain people. The goal for Votefortheworst.com is to “encourage you to have fun with American Idol by voting for the bad and truly entertaining contestants” (Vote). People are now starting to interact with each other to have a greater effect on the show and time and time again they have been successful such as when the terrible singer Sanjaya Malakar lasted a long time on Idol and when Master P (who never actually danced) continued to stick around on Dancing with the Stars. It just goes to show that the votes really do matter and that people can make a difference in what they’re watching.
Along with being able to vote for winners viewers are also now starting to be able vote for who they want as cast members of shows. For the All-Star season of Big Brother fans had the opportunity to vote to choose eight of the 14 contestants in the upcoming season. As opposed to shows like Idol once the show started it’s the contestants that vote each other out not viewers yet in the end the winner and the other final four were all people who were chosen by America and the majority of the rest who voted in lasted a long time as well. So even though while watching viewers can’t interact, their initial decisions still played a crucial role in how the show turned out. The same type of idea was used with the last season of The Real World. People could create profiles on MTV’s website where America could vote for their favorite to be part of the cast. Greg Halstead was ultimately chosen and became an instant villain which from watching his profile videos you could tell was bound to happen. By being able to chose cast members viewers are finally able to make decisions in what they want in a contestant as opposed to what producers want.
I obviously still have a lot more to work on with the paper to bulk it up, but I didn’t want to do so until I read more into the sources I’ve found. I found an online book about this subject that haven’t had a chance to read yet, but from skimming through it seems it should be really helpful and I’ll probably base a lot of the rest of the paper on that.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
If you have *not* turned in a draft yet, submit it ASAP for partial credit and comments at my convenience. For those of you who have made prior arrangements (Sam and Max, I'm talking to you) to turn your papers in late, there will be no penalty.
Update: I've left comments for everyone who submitted a draft today. Tomorrow I'll comment on Max and Sam's drafts, and I'll give brief comments to anyone else who has a draft in by noon.
In order to determine whether or not this is truly interactive, we need to know what interaction is. It can be defined in the dictionary as a “mutual or reciprocal action or influence,” meaning that one action prompts another (2). With that in mind, we can agree that these videos are indeed interactive, because the man’s action of presenting the cards prompts the viewer to click on one of them, and that action prompts a new video relating to the card that was chosen. More and more of this type of videos are being uploaded onto Youtube, and they seem to be very popular, judging by the fact that the card trick video alone has been viewed over 7.7 million times. However, not only are interactive videos on Youtube a success, social networking sites are also taking over the internet. These websites, similar to Youtube, allow people to create an account and post their opinions on anything, or hold conversations with their friends, as well as people they do not actually know. The significance of these videos and websites is remarkable because they have severely changed the way our society functions in terms of social interaction, and the interactive videos have the potential to change cinema.
Youtube user SMP Films has created a video entitled “Choose Your Path – Find Sparta,” which is made up of sixty-three videos total, about a man who comes home to realize that his cat Sparta is missing (3). Comparable to Cup of Death, in which the reader has to choose his or her path to find the bowl, the viewer of this video chooses which video to watch next, depending on which room he or she wants to search, or which piece of furniture to look under. In the first video, the man says that the last time he saw his cat, “he was hiding in the clothes hamper with my underwear on his head.” This piece of information might be a clue, or it might be to throw off the viewer. The video then goes on to present the option of searching the office, the living room, the bathroom, or the bedroom. Each of these options takes the viewer to a new video, in which the man does what the viewer chooses. Depending on what the viewer chooses, the video may or may not end with the man finding the cat. This video is important because the viewer is taking part in the story. When the viewer, reader, etc. has a role in the story, they are likely to feel more engaged and interested in what is happening. It makes them feel vital to the plot, and without them the story would be different. In a way, the viewer, reader, etc. makes the story without literally making it. The same concept is seen when parents tell stories to their children. Most often the children will interject their own ideas into the story, regardless of whether or not it helps the storyline. For example, an upcoming movie called “Bedtime Stories” starring Adam Sandler is about a man (Sandler) who tells stories to his niece and nephew, but they interrupt him to create their own versions of the story. The difference with this movie, though, is that what the children say comes true. However, that was not the children’s intention, but the movie is a presentation of the children’s want to be part of the story, much like the viewers of the interactive videos. Now that these videos are becoming more popular, cinema as we know it has the potential to move toward this format. In a way, with DVDs, it has already begun. Not available on VHS, there are menus and categories that viewers can interact with, and on some children’s DVDs there are games that they can play, such as the “Madagascar” DVD, in which the player helps the penguins escape. However, this is different because it does not drive the plot of the movie, although it is an uprising of interaction in videos. With the popularity of interactivity on Youtube, it is likely that Hollywood filmmakers will begin to use this technique to draw viewers to their own shows and reshape movies, because their audiences will be more engaged in it.
Interaction, though, is found in other places on the internet, such as social networking websites. In the past few years these types of websites have taken over the younger generations, especially teenagers, in that now these teens no longer need to call their friends or meet with them to talk. These websites allow anyone to create an account and instantly connect with millions of people if they wish to do so. In reality, most people have a relatively small number of friends and acquaintances, but on these sites people tend to have hundreds or thousands of friends, including people from other states and countries who they have never met. Two of the most popular social networking sites available in the United States, which happen to be competitor companies, are Facebook and Myspace. When first created in 2003 Myspace was an instant sensation. It quickly drew millions of users, reaching 100 million accounts on August 9, 2006 (3). Its apparent success prompted other websites, including Facebook, which has since become even more popular than Myspace.
The interactive perks of Facebook include adding friends, writing on walls, inviting people to events, and holding private conversations via message, along with many others. “Friending,” as it is commonly called, is the act of requesting a friendship with another person. That subsequent person then has the option of accepting or declining the request, depending on how they feel about the requester. Often times, though, the requester may be someone the requested does not know, who seeks their friendship merely because they live nearby or they like the person’s picture, and often times the requested accepts these friend requests from strangers to boost their friend count. Each Facebook user has a wall, on which anyone can write whatever they want, to start a conversation, say hello, or post any random piece of information, etc. The person who receives these wall posts can reciprocate the post and write back on the first person’s wall. This type of interaction, though slower than speaking to one another, is a severely popular form of communication among the younger generation. It has dramatically changed how people communicate with their friends. The act of sitting at a computer and typing and clicking the mouse is much more satisfying to people now, probably because of the rise in obesity and laziness in this country, than is the act of walking or driving to a friend’s house or straining their voice by using the telephone. However, laziness may not be the only reason people prefer Facebook to face-to-face friendly interaction. On Facebook, users are able to hold conversations with multiple people at a time while surfing the web, or watching videos on Youtube, or whatever they desire to do. Another interactive perk, which encourages face-to-face interaction, is that Facebook users are able to create events, such as birthday parties or movie nights, and send invitations to their friends. These events, unless set to private, are shown on their friends’ news feeds, which is a list of that user’s friends’ activities. This is another way that this website is interactive, because when anyone does something on the website, their friends can see their actions and decide whether or not to respond. For instance, if an event is created, they can choose to attend the event or not; if someone comments on a picture, they can choose to reply to what that comment says; or if someone posts a note they can choose to read it or not; and there are hundreds of other actions that can be done using the news feed. Sometimes, though, users do not want their conversations broadcasted to each of their friends, so they have the option of using messages. These are private messages sent between two users, or if desired they can be sent to more than one person at a time, but regardless they will not be shown in the news feed. Facebook’s interactivity is so popular that it has surpassed Myspace’s popularity. In June of 2008, it attracted 132.1 million new users all over the world (4). Because social networking is so common these days, interaction has shifted more towards these kinds of websites, and less towards physical interaction between friends.
In order to keep up with the trends, Facebook has added a new application called Facebook Mobile, so that anyone can access their Facebook accounts from their cell phones. Any notifications they get, such as a wall post or a message, prompt their cell phone to ring, so that they are instantly notified, rather than waiting to find out when they check their account later. Users can do almost everything Facebook offers on their phones that they can do on their computer, such as write on walls, send messages, poke their friends, and even upload pictures. However, this application works best for smart phones, like the Blackberry or Iphone.
Interactive videos and websites are much more frequented by younger users than older users, because the younger generations grew up with these technologies and are accustomed to it, whereas the older generations are less knowledgeable, in most cases, about how to use these sites. One reason younger people like the videos better than older people do, could be because as people grow older they tend to become less creative and imaginative, and the interactive videos are all about creating your own story with what you’re given. Also, as people grow older, usually they become more respectful towards other people. These websites, especially Youtube, allow the users to say anything they want without feeling remorse for being disrespectful or intentionally hurtful toward someone, or something that person said or did.
Because of these new interactive videos and social networking websites, societies have changed. Social interaction is no longer a visual/audio experience, and film is no longer strictly one storyline. When people become interested in these types of videos, the desire for them will grow, and eventually filmmakers might turn toward making these videos into blockbuster productions. Websites such as Facebook will continue to expand into even greater sites that allow more interaction between friends, and this internet craze will not cease to prosper.
Adaptation is the biological characteristic that improves the chance of survival of an animal and its descendants (need to cite). An adaptation can be a part or a behavior that makes a living thing better able to survive in its environment. In the book House of Leaves, Johnny Truant adapts Zampano's book -- that is an adaptation of a film called the Navidson Record -- that is an adaptation of the real life of the Navidson family. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick adapts a book written by Arthur C. Clarke. I think that Danielewski included this movie more than once because of its director and what he did with this movie. Although, it could be more than just about the film adaptation of the book. 2001 is a story about evolution through adaptation of your resources, just like House of Leaves is an adaptation of its narration. These two films and books can be connected through adaptation of narration and the adaptation of technology.
2001: A Space Odyssey begins in two million B.C.E with apes roaming savannah. These ape men are starving because they have never adapted to their surroundings. Even though they are surrounded with plentiful animals to hunt they still do not know how to even do it. Then the monolith comes (which is a special crystal rock) that cast hypnotic spells on the animals to adapt to their environment and hunt animals, throw rocks, etc. The next part of the novel goes to the space where they are they find a monolith on the moon. They have a mission shuttle to go to Saturn (or Jupiter according to the film). On this space craft, we find the computer HAL 9000 that pretty much controls everything on the ship. In the end, he kills everyone but one person (Dr. Bowman). Finally, we see that the doctor shuts off Hal with just a screwdriver showing our evolutionary tools of the man apes come in handy after 4 million years. Then Dave gets in the pod to see another monolith that takes him to see his future self and his last meal.
Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Arthur Clarke's novel is different than you would think. The beginning of the movie is quiet and actually through out the entire movie you never really hear much talking. It is a slow movie at best. The man ape part is confusing at first if you never read the book. It starts out with many shots of the earth for about 20 minutes then finally the monolith shows then after about a minute it goes to the next scene. Another big part of this movie is the music score. (want to add more about movie score) There is a lot of heavy breathing when they are outside in space and a lot of music that goes with what is happening in the scenes. The movie is more of an art form than a novel interpretation. It looks at different aspects of film making and makes it its own -- especially the visual effects in the movie. In 1968 it was a masterpiece in the art of visual effects and it won an Academy Award for visual effects.
In House of Leaves, Danielewski made different adaptations of each story. First off, Johnny Truant adapts to the story of Zampano. The story is more about him, although he does make some references to the novel but mostly he rambles about his life. Zampano's adaptation of the film "The Navidson Record" is a lot of footnotes and tells us about the story through research, even though some of it is fake research. Lastly, "The Navidson's Record" is an adaptation of the family and the house. It takes us through a labyrinth of Karen and Navidson's problems and also through the labyrinth that is the house it's self. I think that each of these adaptations is different in their own right just like Kubrick's adaptation of the book 2001.
What I want to do from here is try to figure out how evolution is connected to house of leaves and how narration is connected to 2001. I want to connect the themes. I also want to find the precise moments in the book (I think I have them all) and discuss why they are there and hopefully there could be a connection to my thesis.
In class, we have discussed various levels of interactivity in works of fiction; Ranging from a choose-your-own-adventure novel through one of the very first video games, Zork. But these mediums have somewhat limited means of interactivity, some people even doubted there interactivity at all. I believe that few people today would doubt the interactivity of any modern video game whether it be hooked up to your TV or played on a computer. But someone living in the fictional 24th century of the world of Star Trek has a much more sophisticated version of a video game; (if you could even call it that anymore) the Holodeck. The Holodeck of Star Trek is the most advanced form of interactive narrative ever conceived, even if it is contained in a work of fiction itself.
The Holodeck culminates the functions of three other technologies I will try to explain. The first is the Transporter; which converts matter to energy to “beam” things and people to other places, then convert that energy back into the matter in its original state. The second technology is a variation on the first, it is the Replicator. It takes energy and converts it into matter, it is mostly used to create food and other small objects. The third is a force field, which is a barrier of energy that is often used to protect people from the vacuum of space1. A fourth technology, more or less some type of projector, is needed to create the images using light on the Holodeck, but that technology is more or less not applied anywhere else other than the Holodeck. The result of all of these things seamlessly integrated is the creation of not only an image of something but what appears to be the real thing and the limits of what can be created are only defined by the programming the computer creating the simulation contains. The word Holodeck itself refers to a large room with the Holo-emmitter (a word commonly used in the series) technologies placed on the walls and ceiling. They are commonly placed in a grid pattern3.
If this work of science fiction eventually became scientific fact, the possibilities for is use could become almost infinite in good ways and in bad. The simulation could be used to simulate training for doctors or military personnel2. Or take people on trips to far away places. On the other hand this technology could be taken too far and people may come to lead their lives in a virtual reality would and accept it as their new reality, possibly including many vices or sexual deviance.
There are plenty of instances in the series where the Holodeck is a valuable tool, so many that it would be impossible for me to name them here. But one of the most notable I can recall from memory is the doctor from Star Trek Voyager, which is the series that takes place the farthest into the future. The doctor is a hologram that performs the function of a doctor because the ship’s human doctor has been killed. “The Doctor” as he comes to be known, exists as a program containing knowledge of many medical procedures, most likely many more than any human could, that runs inside the ships computers. Since the Doctor is an entity of artificial intelligence he would presumably have the ability to make his own decisions and they could possible result in harm being done to people. That is a risk that is taken with the creating of artificial intelligence.
There is an instance of Holodeck malfunction that occurs in the episode of “The Next Generation” titled “Elementary, Dear Data”. It is where commander Data, himself an android that is superior in intelligence to humans, wants a more formidable adversary to challenge him mentally. This instruction is given to the Holodeck’s computers but is somehow misconstrued into requesting someone that can defeat Data. The result is an entity of extreme intelligence that is an extreme challenge to control.
This kind of event is precisely one that Bill Joy warns us about in his article from Wired Magazine. Placing confidence in a computer that can self replicate, here in the form of a human being is extremely dangerous. In the series though this type of incident would happen in a the semi-controlled environment of the Holodeck itself whereas if such a thing were to happen without such technological constraints of the Holodeck the outcome could have been much worse.
While you read this, the sun is getting older (Lyotard 8). It is burning up its stores of energy until one day, some five billion years from now; there will be no more. The inevitable death of our sun brings forth the inevitable death of all life on earth and the death of all thought. Questions will also cease to exist. Not just simple yes or no questions, but also the answerless questions. The questions philosophers spend years of their lives thinking up the answer to. You have heard these questions before. One of them is, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Why answer this question? How will it further human advancement? Jean-Francois Lyotard states this claim in his essay, Can Thought go on without a Body. He believes there are more important things to dwell on such as what will happen to thought when the sun dies? Lyotard thinks we should focus more on this question then the previous questions, for “after the suns death, there won’t be a thought to know that its death took place (Lyotard 9).”
To focus on Lyotard’s goal of finding a way to continue human thought after the sun’s inevitable death will require us to examine what “thought” is. Next, we must look into artificial intelligence as a way of carrying and further developing human thought post suns death and materials that would be able to survive the death or technologies that will enable thought to outrun the effects of the cosmic death.
First, what is thought? Is it something we are capable of producing from birth? I mean is the ability to produce advance thought available at birth or does it need to be developed? Jean Piaget, a developmental theorist, believes cognitive abilities are developed and development can be recognized in four stages; sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational (Bertocci).
The first stage, sensorimotor, occurs between a child’s birth and about 2 years. These children experience the world through movement and their senses (Bertocci). Take for example a baby. If the baby is hungry, it cries. If it poops, it cries. They know when they want or need something, but they cannot express it like you or I can.
Next, a child is in the preoperational stage between the ages of about two and seven. Here, the child’s semiotic capabilities increase and rapid language development occurs (Bertocci). For example, are you thinking now as you read this essay or are you just reading? If you are just reading over this essay seeing letters and putting them together to form words, are you thinking? Surely you are. You may not remember it but letter recognition and reading was once a skill you had to learn. Through my three-year tenure at Jumpstart, a program working towards the day every child enters school prepared to succeed, I spent months, if not the whole year of being partnered with my preschool child working with him on letter recognition. Not even reading, just being able to look at a word, recognize and tell what the letters are that make that word up. It was a slow and arduous task, but necessary. Without being able to recognize letters a person would not be able to read or write.
The third stage, concrete operational, is existent in a child between the ages of seven to eleven years old. Here, cognitive development is at a point were conservation is acknowledged (Bertocci). No longer will a child put a quarter-sized blob of glue on paper to glue an elbow noodle. The child can also think logically about concrete events, conceptualize things like math with numbers but not items and can follow the trial and error approach to problem solving (Bertocci).
The final and most advanced stage of development is called formal operational. This stage encompasses most children and adults over the age of 11. Take note that not everyone is able to perform cognitive processes at the formal operational level. These processes consist of abstract thinking development such as hypothetico-deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and deductive reasoning (Bertocci).
Here, I will discuss the formal operational as it connects to Lyotard. Basically discussing Lyotard’s She section.
Next will be a summary of AI. Stanford has a website that explains AI in laymens terms. A lot of this section will be dicussing AI in general. I found some research of artificial intelligence where it can recognize shapes and numbers. I will connect this project to Piaget’s developmental theory. My goal is to find a few more research projects to add in.
Once the AI is done I will talk about the hardware. I haven’t had a chance to do any research on this area yet, so I cant really describe what it will entail.
Now, I just spent ¬¬¬___?___ words describing why it is necessary to focus our energies not on answerless questions but on surviving or at least discovering a way to give our thoughts a chance at surviving the nova. But why did I waste my time, or your time in doing so? Some people think this concept of surviving the nova is a bunch of hogwash and unnecessary. They have a point. Who is to say we can, as a society, make it that far. I mean take a look at our struggle for energy. We go to wars because of it. Soon, if the predicted effects of global warming turn out to be true, we will be going to war over the basic building block of life, water. Also, look at where technology has gotten us. It has allowed for us to create the atom bomb, the abilities to create viruses and chemicals that can eradicate all life on earth. Lets not forget to mention man’s track record with sacrificing the rest of the world for individual benefits – our current economic crisis comes to mind.
Our outlook doesn’t look so good. Bill Joy says it best in his article, Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us. He says, “Our most powerful 21st-century technologies – robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech – are threatening to make humans an endangered species. His opinion is that we humans will create technology that will put humans in danger, maybe even extinct.
But that is a rather pessimistic outlook. Personally, I am a glass half full type of guy, not a glass half empty. So, lets examine the good that can come from continuing our thought. If we get to the point naturally, the way we are heading now, we may get there eventually. I mean we have almost five billion years left, right? Lets examine what has been done since the dawn of civilization -- Stonehenge and all of its predictive capabilities, the pyramids and modern day metropolises, suburban sprawl, indoor plumbing, electricity, televisions, internet, artificial intelligence, rockets, the International Space Station and landing on the moon. This list can go on forever. Just think, everything we humans are and created up to today have only really been in development for around five thousand years. We have at least four billion years until we face our inevitable doom. Think of what we can do!
Earth cannot be the only planet that life calls home. What if there were other planets, like us, who are having similar problems? Wouldn’t it be great if our thought machines reached those planets and helped the life forms inhabiting the planets advance to where we were when our sun died? Think of the possibilities then! Now, instead of just four billion years, the influence we as humans can have on other life forms is infinite!
I agree with Lyotard in that we should quit asking ourselves answerless questions. There is no point to them. They won’t get us anywhere or give us answers. All they do is provide entertainment for some, headaches for others, and mind training for deeper thought. So go look into how we can allow human thought to survive past our suns death. We may be able to influence other life forms or at least save some lives by allowing them to learn from our mistakes. History does repeat itself.
Throughout this class we have learned about various technologies through the use of narrative. We have also learned about narrative through technology. But in my opinion, the most interesting aspect of the course was what we learned about the interactivity and narrative in games. Now, I don’t mean board games, I mean computer and video games. These games range in a variety of categories but in particularly first person shooters (FPS), action/adventure, and PC games. What I would like to talk about are the issues of interactivity and narrative during game play and even online gaming. During this study I chose three games to use as my “tests.” The first game we are all familiar with from class, Zork. The second game chosen to examine was Assassin’s Creed. And the final game I chose was from the hit trilogy of Halo games, Halo 3.
Now before I begin discussing what research was done and the results of my research, let us take a look at what the terms narrative and interactive mean. Narrative means “a representation of an event or series of events; a recreation, re-enactment, etc” (Adam Johns Lecture). Interactive means, “1: mutually or reciprocally active 2: involving the actions or input of a user ; especially : of, relating to, or being a two-way electronic communication system (as a telephone, cable television, or a computer) that involves a user's orders (as for information or merchandise) or responses (as to a poll)” (Merriam-Webster Online). I would like us to focus on the second meaning of interactive when we discuss interactivity later. Now you might be asking yourself what either of those words has to with video games. Allow me to explain it you using verbal and visible examples, as well as using my research findings.
In order to explain what these terms have to do with video games, we will begin first while looking at Zork. This is the main photo for Zork found on numerous websites:
Now it isn’t very self-explanatory but let’s examine the photo for a moment. It’s very plain, just a bunch of text and gives you a feeling of wonder and perhaps confusion with the phrase at the top. But let’s not look too into it; I just wanted to show you the main photo so you knew what game I was referencing. A photo that we need to examine is the following photo of how the game actually looks. This photo is from the first version of Zork as soon as we begin the game.
Now does this look like your typical video game? I do not know of any video games that look anything like this. Then again this game is only available on computers. But examine this photo closely and you will see that game is not a game at all but an interactive narrative. Interactive narrative? Yes an interactive narrative. This is a narrative that gives us complete interactivity but it does have restrictions. There are preset commands and answers to things. There are preset occurrences during the game that happen at predetermined times. Everything is set-up in a way that we have to choose which way to go and what to do. But we don’t exactly have complete control do we? And can we even see where or what we are doing? No we do not.
Now I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to have complete control, but we will discuss that more in depth later. Let’s continue on with our lack of ability of sight in Zork. All we see is text we have no visible evidence of where we are going or what we are doing except a narrative in front of us. This didn’t go over to well with me being a pretty devoted gamer. I can’t explain how annoyed I was by this game and the lack of interactivity I felt due to the lack of being able to see what I was doing. Just reading text of what was happening was not working. I could not paint a mental picture of this being real. But I was not the only one who had trouble.
In order to be unbiased, I incorporated the help of a close friend for my project. His job was to play each game for a one hour period then write down what he thought about three specific categories: interactivity, narrative and game play. I made him suffer through Zork first, since I had to play it for this class, I figured I would be nice and let him have fun after. After playing the game for the hour he wrote down a few things on the interactivity of the game that stood out to me. He felt that the game lacked entertainment and excitement. He called it boring. He was not to thrilled about being able to only do certain things as well. He felt that the commands were not realistic enough and by that he meant he was getting angry with the game not recognizing words that it had previously included in a prompt.
Now while he was doing this I watched him from another room and he was literally red in the face and ready to break my computer. That’s when I decided he had suffered enough and I let him write his frustrations down. First he wrote about the narrative of the game. His feelings on this subject are not too far from his feelings on interactivity. He felt very confused by the narrative and by what it was he was doing and what he read. He also felt that there was no story involved. He said that while he was typing in the commands he felt that game went no where even though he moved through 4 rooms by simply going the same direction. He just did not feel the narrative and interactivity were linked and that really hurts the game as a whole. When writing about the game play he felt that there wasn’t any. He said that it was a pointless game and there was no need to play it. Well for this experiment there was a big reason to play it. And that reason was to compare the interactivity and narrative of the game to that of modern video games. So let’s move forward to our next game, Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed was published by Ubisoft and released on all gaming platforms. “The setting is 1191 AD. The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You, Altair, intend to stop the hostilities by suppressing both sides of the conflict. You are an Assassin, a warrior shrouded in secrecy and feared for your ruthlessness. Your actions can throw your immediate environment into chaos, and your existence will shape events during this pivotal moment in history.”(IGN.com) Now, this game is your standard action/adventure game where you have control of the character and you see the character throughout the game. The object is to go around and prevent 10 men from gaining access to a special relic that would let them control the world. To put it frankly you go around and basically kill these men. Each city has different tasks you must complete in order for you to gain access to the assassination. You do not have to these in any specific order.
I watched my friend play this game and he decided not to follow any mission plans. This is what I love about this game. You have total interactivity with the game. You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. You can just walk around and kill the guards or even the pedestrians which is what my friend did. Now if you want to beat the game you have to assassinate each main boss. But all the objectives that are listed are optional. You do not have to go around and save every citizen, or pick pocket every bad guy or even interrogate a priest by beating him up. What I want to show you first is the official trailer to the game itself so you have an idea of what is going on.
Technology is a broad concept that deals with a species' usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species' ability to control and adapt to its environment. Basically, when used with proper intent, anything is technology. It has been around since the dawn of man and, depending on how you classify technology it has been around since the beginning of life.
If you think technology must be created with purpose: go to Narrative
If you think biological systems can function as technology: go to Biology
Biologically speaking, technology was created long before humans even dreamed of using broken hunks of flint to butcher a kill. It is, however, a huge part of our nature, even if we weren’t the first to use it.
The relationship between technology and human nature is best viewed as simply a biological relationship. It is only possible through biological systems. Matter will not simply coalesce into technology. It is rather created through some process, whether it be intentional or by accident. However, it is the use of this creation that dictates whether it is true technology. If in a swirling mass of chemicals, ATP (adenosine triphosphate... arguably the most important molecule in any living system next to DNA) is created, it is not truly “technology” until it is used to power the various metabolic functions the cell requires. It is through biological systems like this and through the process of evolution that new chemical “technologies” and, eventually, physical technologies are created.
Technology is usually defined as the precise or knowledgeable use of any “tool,” and, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether that precision is learned or instinctual. The tool doesn’t necessarily need to be created with particular intent, but it typically is. After all, acquired characteristics of species were produced and fine-tuned over millions of years, so in a way, you could say that they were created with intent... otherwise, where would new species come from? I think Lyotard said it best: “Any material system is technological if it filters information useful to its survival, if it memorizes and processes that information and makes inferences based on the regulating effect of behavior, that is, if it intervenes on and impacts its environment so as to assure its perpetuation at least (Lyotard 12).” Every species uses its own evolutionary novelties as an ability to control and adapt to its environment. Take, for instance, the Aye-Aye, a pro-simian (monkey-like primate) from the jungles of Madagascar. It has developed a long spindly finger with which it collects ants and various other insects from holes in trees (Fleagle). It uses this specialized finger as a “tool” to get what it wants (dinner). Similarly, the deep sea Anglerfish uses its rod-like appendage to lure prey toward it, which are attracted to the pulsing light at the tip. It does this by moving its “rod” in much the same way a fly-fisherman uses his (same motion, same effect, same means to the same end… dinner). These are just a couple of an infinite number of examples of technology in nature. They arose out of evolutionary novelty and stuck around because they allowed their owners to control and adapt to its environment. They use their tools the same way we use ours. The only difference is that our “tool” allows us to create new technology without waiting for evolution to help us. Our brain is the greatest tool of all. We use it the same way animals use their tools… to get food and, once we have it, seek comfort, reproduce, and so forth. That is animal nature and, since we are animals, it is human nature as well. We use our master tool, “the brain,” as a means to acquire our basic needs (food, shelter, offspring) and once we have those basic needs met, we use our brain to meet our higher needs (mental, spiritual, emotional) as well. Thus, human nature could not exist without technology.
go to: Life without technology if you think we can
otherwise, continue on
Technology is used as an extension of any being, regardless of its biological or mechanical makeup. The simplest use of technology of course, is the biological use. All life is equipped with certain tools to manipulate and control its environment. It is equipped with the knowhow to properly and precisely use it. And, if it lacks one of these, it cannot continue living.
We as humans cannot control what nature has given to us. Most animals can do things that humans would never even dream possible with our bodies. Because of this, we as humans are envious of those animal characteristics we don’t have. As humans we listen to these emotions and do what we can to satiate them. The big difference is that we can use our brain to simulate other animal capabilities. But, like Lyotard said about creating consciousness, this is only a simulation (Lyotard 17-18). We can never actually “have” the characteristics of that animal or thing we are observing. We can only simulate it and to simulate is to live vicariously through something else; to live as if something were really happening even if it isn’t. If we want to fly like a bird, we create the technology to do so. If we want vision like a hawk, we create the technology to do so. If we want to further either one of these and be better than the animal, we fly farther or look deeper into space than anything before us. But our technology is merely a simulation of these traits that we long to acquire, but never will. We never will be able to run like a cheetah or dive hundreds of kilometers below sea level like a sperm whale. We can simulate it and use our technology as a crude extension of ourselves, but it will never truly be “us” that do these things. Our technology is merely an extension of ourselves as we try to emulate some other animal; I will never have the teeth of a wolf, but I can use a knife to kill my prey the same way the wolf uses its teeth.
War and violence are a big part of human nature. It’s that simple. There has never been a culture of completely peace-loving humans and, if they don’t fight each other, they have to kill other animals for food and resources (sinews, fur, leather, etc.). Violence has and will always be a part of our nature and will gradually worsen as our technology grows in complexity (it provides an increasing ability to do harm on an increasing scale as our technology improves). Taking this into account, it is only natural for the humans in “Sheep” (who now have the technology) to blow up the world like they did. That was not their goal, but it is also human nature to use your most efficient technology to do what you have to in order to survive ... including nuclear warfare.
(It’s all about efficiency with humans, regardless of which field it is being applied to. Efficiency just seems like part of our nature as humans. We are busy creatures and don’t have the time or the patience to do things the hard way. It was Epicurus who said that we as humans like to maximize pleasure and minimize pain (Hedonism). Efficiency helps us achieve the most comfort with the least amount of toil. Rick Deckard, in “Sheep,” was able to efficiently “retire” errant technology only because of the technology available to him, including his organization. Fredrick Winslow Taylor also knew that efficiency was everything in organization. He designed an extremely efficient management system, known as “Scientific Management.” This “technology” allowed him to efficiently control labor and get what both he and his workers wanted. Both parties were able to thrive in many different situations [pig iron handling, shoveling, ball-bearing inspection, etc.] and, like I said before, this tool is used the same way animals use their tools. His scientific management is nothing more than the emulation of certain insects like ants and bees [all hymenoptera to be precise]. These insects are the most organized creatures on the planet and Taylor’s technology allowed us to simulate their natural organization.).
Yes, their technology was harmful to their race as a whole, but it was their human nature combined with the aid of technology that ultimately killed most of life on Earth. I would also like to reiterate the fact that they used this technology as an extension of themselves. The end of life on Earth was dependent upon their technology and, without it, they would have merely used whatever nature gave them to fight with the leaders of the other countries. They would most likely have walked over and strangled each other… the way nature intended it (judging by what it gave us).
Our society has come so far technologically that we are beginning to fuse with our own created tools into what Haraway refers to as “cyborgs.” She says that, “Modern medicine is... full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine (Haraway 150),” but in my opinion, it seems only natural. Our technology is being used, in this sense, to keep our biological bodies functioning. We are using our tools, our technology, as an aspect of ourselves. When we integrate our biological bodies with machines, we are both asserting our reliance on machines and also our complete mastery over them. We assume complete dominance over our machines and assimilate them into ourselves. It is in this way that technology no longer functions as extensions of ourselves, but rather as ourselves. It, in theory, becomes us. What then is the difference between our technology and ourselves? Is it that we created this technology that we are now a part of? I don’t think so. After all, it is biology that creates the simplest forms of technology. Evolution combined with morphology and instinct usually makes new technologies, but as humans we can bypass the entire step of evolution. We may continue on this path until we become simply the detached consciousness that Lyotard was looking for the whole time. However, we are still human and it is our nature to create technology for our own gain, just like it is any other biological system’s nature to use its own pre-existing evolutionary technology to its own gain. Technology doesn’t threaten us any more than we threaten ourselves… we are technology.
Life without technology:
One of mankind's earliest technologies is the narrative, which dates back possibly as far as ___(use archaeology book). Narrative is defined as the telling of a story or event through any medium such as writing, speech, acting, etc... Cave paintings that date back as far as ___ suggest that man has been telling stories (and creating narratives) for millennia. Even if we could find the oldest possible cave painting we could never accurately determine when man created the first stories and narratives. Archaeologists and physical anthropologists have determined that man had the ability to speak (the proper hardware) around ___. One would imagine it would not take very long for an already intelligent and technologically accomplished race to invent language and, along with it, stories… the first narratives. There is of course no way to know for certain, however, but what we can know is when written narrative started popping up. Aside from cave paintings, we see the first evidence for writing (which uses arbitrary characters, not pictures, to tell a story) in ancient Mesopotamia, around four thousand BC. Back then, however, writing was reserved for the priest class and was used primarily as a means of tax-keeping. Narrative did not show up in writing until much later. Most stories were actually passed on orally through song until writing became somewhat accessible to the lower classes.
If you think true narrative was created orally and independent of writing: go to The Odyssey(epic)
Otherwise: go to House of Leaves story
House of Leaves Story:
After that, written stories were still scarce until the advent of the printing press. This new technology of the 1400’s allowed text to be mass produced, making it accessible to almost everyone. After that, text remained pretty static until the typewriter, followed shortly by the computer. The computer revolutionized the way our society used narrative. It opened a Pandora’s Box of opportunities. Even more recently, complex word processors have allowed the author even greater freedom designing his/her narrative. This technology has allowed the narrative to come quite a long way since the days of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. The modern narrative utilizes all of these technologies and more to tell the author’s story exactly as he/she envision it. A great example of the modern narrative is the book “House of Leaves”(HoL for short sometimes). Most people know it as a single production, but it is actually a culmination of two separate stories told using two distinct styles, which use even more forms of technology. This greater story is reminiscent of the Male-Female split in Lyotard's essay “Can Thought go on without a Body?,” except in this story, both sections exist independently of one another. There is a male and female side and both contribute to the overall story.
If you want to hear the Male side of the story: go to House of Leaves
If you want to hear the Female side of the story: go to Poe: Haunted
House of Leaves:
The book House of Leaves is the Male counterpart to the greater House of Leaves story. It is told by using technology that has only recently become available. The use of computerized word processing is essential for the proper retelling of this novel. It utilizes multiple fonts, word colors (which could be easily located/manipulated by using the “find/replace” function), and paragraph structures which add further texture, depth, and meaning to the original text. Most importantly, the fonts are used as a distinction between which character is currently telling the story (i.e. different fonts for Johnny, Zampano, and the Editors). It allows for the separation of the many layers in the story, all of which are centered around a male. Women are rarely present and when they are, their only purpose seems to be serving their man. There are three layers to this story and each main character in each layer used women more like tools than human beings. For instance, Johnny used women as sex objects, Zampano used women as his eyes (because he was blind), and Navidson used his wife to take on all of his responsibilities at the drop of a hat while he was suddenly and without notice called to duty (as a photojournalist).
If you would like to hear about Johnny: go to Johnny
If you would like to hear about Zampano: go to Zampano
If you would like to hear about Navidson: go to Navidson
If you would like to hear the Female side: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to continue discussing “HoL”: go to HoL
Johnny Truant is on the outermost layer of this story. He was a tattoo artist who never quite made it to working on people, a drug abusing club-goer who used women as if they were just another drug to make him feel good, and, more importantly, a nobody who happened upon the tattered and damaged remains of an old mans manuscript. For as chauvinistic as he was, he was never quite as bad as his friend Lude (which, incidentally, is suspiciously similar to the word “lewd.” The author must have been running low on creativity when he named this character). The only thing that mattered to him was getting high and getting laid and he would often simply use his drugs just to get with women (who were usually so psychologically damaged that it was like taking candy from a baby). Until the manuscript engulfed his life, Johnny wasn't much different. It even got him into big trouble with Kyrie and her boyfriend Gdansk man. Women served only the purpose of informants and sex objects to him, so they rarely surfaced in his story. He would call them to meet up and talk about Zampano and his work, usually asking about one or more translations he needed, and somehow end up fucking every one of them. There are three possible interpretations of this. One being that this is how it actually happened. Two is that he used the manuscript as a means of getting into women's pants and just made up all the stuff about him going insane to make a better story. This one is actually pretty likely, especially given Johnny's history as a wild story teller. We know he makes up a great deal of his stories to entertain so who's to say this is any different? Lastly, Johnny could be using the “fucking” as a metaphor. We know (he said) he needed to yell “fuck” to himself every time he had to force himself to do something he didn't want to (like leaving his apartment). What if he gets so unnecessarily nervous when he calls up these women to talk about Zampano's manuscript that instead of just saying “fuck,” he writes it... as a story. The depth of his chauvinism is well known to us as readers and it seems odd that he would tack another story about sex onto the end of a perfectly reasonable story. It always happens at the end where you would expect someone to just say, ”fuck.”
If you would like to hear the Female argument: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to hear about Zampano: go to Zampano
If you would like to hear about Navidson: go to Navidson
While Zampano may not be a very big character in HoL, his influence is profound (at least on Johnny) and his treatment of women leaves something to be desired. Since he was blind, Zampano could not read and could barely write on his own so he hired people to help him with these things. Not only did he ask that his helpers be only women, but he asked that they were also attractive women. This is very chauvinistic of him. They all serve as his helpers, much like a man's wife would in “the old country.” Also, “The Navidson Record,” which Zampano wrote, is very male-centric. Most of the story/film is void of females. Karen is only seen in a select few shots (the only two of importance are when she and Wax kiss and when she talks into the camera about how her and Navidsons relationship used to be). Karen only becomes a slightly prominent figure when all of the males have “gone to battle and lost.” Her husband was out killing himself in the house, Tom was dead, Reston was back at his job, Holoway and Jed were dead, and Wax was hospitalized for a long time. Who else is left but the woman to tell the story?
If you would like to hear the Female argument: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to hear about Johnny: go to Johnny
If you would like to hear about Navidson: go to Navidson
Navidson is arguably the most important character in the book HoL. He is the protagonist and the only character in many parts of the book/film. Being a photojournalist, he always works alone and in dangerous situations, leaving his family behind at the drop of a hat. This leaves his wife Karen with tremendous responsibility. She must take care of the family in his absence and is left with the bitter thought that he may never return. Navidson does not seem the least bit remorseful about using Karen in this way (asserting his independence as a man and using the woman to take care of his needs). Also, it is worth noting that Navidson never actually uses Karen in any of his shots. The only shots she really appears in are the ones caught by the stationary Hi8s distributed throughout the house. These are the very same tapes that she toils over after her husband leaves her once again for the house. She spends hours editing them and for what? Nobody appreciates them anyways. They say that her ability as a film-editor is mediocre and lacking. Critics even accuse her of making careless mistakes on several of the clips she creates (use examples here).
If you would like to hear the Female argument: go to Poe: Haunted
If you would like to hear about Zampano: go to Zampano
If you would like to hear about Johnny: go to Johnny
Chauvinism is not the only theme to the book, however. Another recurrent theme in the novel is “the whale.” There are several biblical references not only to such tales as “Jakob and Enau,” but also to “Jonah and the Whale (or big fish depending on your bible),” which helps reinforce this theme. The house can be viewed as a whale that swallows intruders whole. Its yawning maw is the blackness that seems to stretch on forever. The house opens, closes, and even growls, giving the intruder a similar feeling to being in the belly of the whale. Navidson himself makes this comparison when he stumbles upon the seemingly endless shaft. Just as Jonah is swallowed by the fish/whale, Navidson is also swallowed by the house. While Navidson doesn’t apologize to god, is never allowed to leave the house until he is truly sorry to Karen (just like Jonah is to God), who, just like in Jonah's case, saves the repentant protagonist. This, coupled with the fact that Johnny's mother was sent to “The Whale” where she spent the remainder of her days (maybe she wouldn't repent?) provides a strong literary tie to the book Moby Dick (several bands actually used Moby Dick to create concept albums and provide interesting literary ties, much like Poe is tied to HoL). Overall, while this narrative is enervated with technology, it is these thematic aspects that make it stand out. The male-female split of the story is genius and both Danielewskys must have known that. It adds even more layers to an already layered story. The biblical references add even more to that and, in the end, the story is endlessly complicated and brilliantly simple. The title could not be more fitting; House of Leaves... House of Layers is more like it.
Poe is a female fronted 90's pop/rock band that never quite made “pop” status. As the front-woman for Poe, Annie Danielewsky naturally wrote all of the lyrics. The central theme of her album “Haunted” is based strongly in her brothers book “House of Leaves,” although hers seems to be the female take on the subject. In this particular concept album, Poe's lyrics serve two functions: one is to entertain the masses and the other is to tell the story of House of Leaves. However, Poe's version of the story is told through the eyes of a woman, instead of a man (as the book is told). It is a concept album in the sense that there is one unifying theme, but the story is not told from start to finish here. It is told through a woman's voice, but more importantly, most of it seems like it is told though the eyes of Navidson's wife, Karen. In fact, the only male voice in the album comes from abstract quotes of (in most cases) some unknown speaker and is only taken from the text (and/or accurately describes a character) once. What's more is that this male voice is heard only in the remix. Maybe Poe is trying to tell us that she didn't want any men directly linked to the book in her work and would allow it only in a remix (which suggests that it was not her idea, because remixes are almost always done by someone other than the original author). Regardless, the sexual bias of story is shifted almost exclusively to the female in Poe's album. Just as Navidson showed his independence in the book by running off to do his photojournalism at a moment’s notice, so too does Karen show her independence in Poe's retelling. She asserts herself in the album. We don't see this in the male version of the story. Karen tells us how she got the courage to save her husband and how it was tearing her apart to be without him. We hear about her struggles and her life in this story and we don't get that at all in the book. The song “Control,” for example, is narrated by Karen. The “person” she is talking to is not Navidson or any person for that matter, but the house itself. “You thought you could keep me from loving/You thought you could feed on my soul/But while you were busy destroying my life/What was half in me has become whole.” It kept her from loving, it feed on her soul, and destroyed her life all by taking her husband on whom she was so reliant. It tore her family apart and caused her children to react very strangely. It seems like the setting for this song is probably while she is saving Navidson. What was half in her did become whole when she found her husband (her other half), the one she loved so much. The house was caught “looking the other way,” taking care of destroying Navidson when she stumbled in. But, instead of finding her miserable and claustrophobic, in tears and “crawling the walls/Like a tiny mosquito and trembling in fear,” she “took control” and saved the one she loved. “At the end of it all lies of course the final phenomenon of deterioration... when the creative energy ceases.” This is when she has Navidson in her arms and the house just deteriorates or dissolves and they are out on the front lawn and there is nothing supernatural for the rest of the story. There are several songs where Karen talks about how the house is tearing her apart like in “Terrible thought,” but these are of little consequence. They only further illustrate the point that this story is being told through the eyes of a woman. Almost all of the songs on Poe's album can be 100% faithfully interpreted as the series of events that happens in HoL through Karen's eyes, but they are all pretty self explanatory so it is unnecessary to actually tear them apart here. There are quotes or at least fairly accurate reconstructions of text scattered throughout her album also. For example, there are several times where a child's voice can be heard during the calm “down-time” of some songs. Possibly the best of all is during the song “Walk the walk,” when a child can be heard saying, “There’s someone knocking in the wall.” This quote is infinitely useful to Poe's album. These quotes that are spaced out through the album is like the knocking and the sounds the children hear in the walls in the book. It is usually when the children and the song are resting and it is never 100% coherent. The quotes never really fit with the song and seem fairly random, just like the sounds the children hear in the novel. Furthermore, these quotes are pretty creepy and, while it can never be as creepy as hearing someone knocking inside the walls of your house, it achieves a fairly similar effect. She does the same thing with the echo and the growl. Poe mentions these two phenomena in a few songs and uses them with the same creepy tone.
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The Odyssey (epic):
The Odyssey was one of the first narratives in recorded history, which started out as simply an oral story passed down over presumably hundreds of years. In fact, there is a four hundred or so year gap between the historical Trojan War (~12-11 thousand BC) and its transcription. It was most likely passed down orally and/or through song for a few hundred years before it was finally written down. Even so, it is one of mankind's oldest recorded stories and, more importantly, one of the oldest and most well known narratives we have. This narrative has changed with the technology available from being told as simple oral stories, to books, movies, music, and even online text. Many other narratives have evolved with time and technology like this one, especially in music. Music combines both written narrative and song, both of which are classical means of retelling narrative. Narrative is even still present in music today. In fact, the retelling of stories through song illustrates one of the strongest relationships narrative has with technology. Song lyrics are poetic and usually meaningful and heartfelt, the music is calculated and supports the words and general mood. There are several aspects of technology used within the narrative of song such as lyrics (vocals), music (instruments), composition and layout and the combination and meaning of all three. The overall organization of the musical narrative, however, is probably the most important to the overall meaning and intent. One of the best examples of this is the modern concept album. There are really only two examples of this in the music world: a) one where the songs are all based on a particular concept, and b) another where each individual song makes up a larger, lengthier narrative.
If you want to discuss a): go to a)
If you want to discuss b): go to b)
While, the idea of basing a concept album on a single story or event seems more logical, the idea of taking songs with similar themes and grouping them together is much older and more popular. This layout is not, however, to be confused with compilation albums like the ever so popular Christmas album. The concept album is produced exclusively by one artist and not several. The central theme can be strong or weak, but usually ties in very well and makes an important statement about an event or idea. It can offer several alternative sides and sometimes provide more relevant information than simply a single narrative. Jazz musicians of the 1930’s were some of the first artists to group songs together like this. Since then, this technology has changed little. It can be used to cleverly unite the themes into something more meaningful like Poe’s “Haunted” or create a central narrative with supplementing songs like Symphony X’s “The Odyssey.”
If you would like to hear about Poe’s “Haunted”: go to Poe:Haunted
Otherwise: go to SymphonyX:TheOdyssey
While the idea of using a central theme to unite an album is older and even more popular, the type of concept album wherein each song makes up part of a larger narrative is the best example of how narrative penetrates technology. It is only in this type of album that the narrative is most prevalent and, because every song contributes to the story, it also remains extremely interesting (something that some written stories can never achieve). Not only does the music keep you entertained, but the lyrics present a story. Sometimes this story is based on previous works of fiction, but most of the time the author/artist creates his own story and runs with it. Using a single narrative to unite an album like this is brilliant. Like a necklace, gems are added one by one to to the string (the narrative), to create something beautiful. Bands such as King Diamond use this structure all the time.
This heavy metal artist is known mostly for his broad vocal capacity, which ranges from deep growls to ear piercing falsettos. His real name is Kim Bendix Petersen, and he has been in two major bands: Mercyful Fate, and King Diamond (after his stage name). The band King Diamond is known (among other things) for the fact that every one of their albums is based on a concept or story that King has personally written. Most are dark (in the metal fashion) and would fall under the horror genre. One of his best known works is the album “Them” and the sequel “Conspiracy.” Both fit together as a single narrative.
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King Diamond is a heavy metal artist known mostly for his broad vocal capacity, ranging from deep growls to ear piercing falsettos. His real name is Kim Bendix Petersen, and he has been in two major bands: Mercyful Fate, and King Diamond (after his stage name). The band King Diamond is also known for the fact that every one of their albums is based on a concept or story that King has written. Most are pretty dark (in the metal fashion) and would fall under the horror genre. One of his best known works is the album “Them” and the sequel “Conspiracy.” Both fit together as a single narrative.
If you would like to hear the plot summary: go to Them/Conspiracy
Otherwise: go to King(cont’d)
In this story, the narrator, a man named King, his sister Missy, and his mother are anxiously awaiting the return of the grandmother who has been in the asylum for many years. Upon her return to the ancestral “house of Amon,” King is confronted with strange occurrences sparked by his grandmother conversing with what he called “the invisible guests.” Soon he is under “Their” spell as he drinks the ecstasy inducing tea that his grandma made from his mother’s blood and starts listening to the entrancing tales of “Them.” Missy, however, never succumbs to the spell and breaks the teapot in anger, breaking “Their” hold on King. As the teapot is broken, King goes unconscious and his grandmother kills Missy. When he awakes, he finds his sister dead an knows he must take action. He tricks his grandma into going outside, where he promptly kills her. The police catch up to him sometime later and throw him into an asylum. He knows “they” are waiting for him at the house and he doesn’t return for many years. Years later, when he finally does, he confronts his sister’s ghost at the graveyard and strikes a deal with “Them.” “They” can retain control of the house and he must take care of the graves and they will allow him to see his sister once more. After a visit to his psychiatrist, King is visited by his sister, who warns him that something bad will happen to him. Afterwards, he dreams that his mother and the psychiatrist are getting married, which really upsets him. His mother is to return to the house the next day, but instead of being alone, she was with the doctor (his psychiatrist), who immediately injects King with something. The next thing King can remember, his mother and his doctor are at the church asking the priest to perform an exorcism on him. The priest refuses to allow King to live and is burned alive like his sister. It was all a conspiracy against King so that both his doctor and his mother could regain control of the house. While it wasn’t the most creative story, it was told very well (if you can stomach the music).
go to King(cont’d)
In these albums, everything sound that you hear is used to tell the story. King Diamond’s music is a great example of how technology reinforces and blends with the narrative. For example, the unique use of King Diamonds vocal ranges is reminiscent of the use of color and font in the book House of Leaves. Every character is assigned a unique “voice” based on their part in the story, just like the separate fonts for each narrator in House of Leaves. “They” have an almost whisper. It's a dark and scratchy tone you would only expect to hear from a corpse. The grandma's no more bearable. Really, they all sound as if the narrator was legitimately imitating other peoples voices. The narrator actually uses a much wider variety of vocal ranges than any of the other characters. His voice is the most prominent in the story and to use only one range would be boring. Just as any normal person tells a story, he twists and mangles his voice to represent other people and to convey emotions through more than just words. You get a much better feel for King’s sense of horror, surprise, and even anger than you ever would through simply text. It helps the narrative come alive. It is rare that an artist will use separate vocals to convey different characters, just as it is rare that authors use separate fonts for different narrators in House of Leaves. It creates multiple layers to the story so it becomes more than just “some narrative.” It gives it depth and meaning. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if Danielewsky was a fan of King Diamond. They both write dark stuff and they both use similar means to get their message across. King Diamond doesn't only use his voice as technology to help tell the story, however, but he also makes use of his usual instruments. They help to further illustrate the emotional depth of the story. He uses horror-like sound effects to surprise not only the narrator, but the listener as well. The stereotypical high pitched screeches and such are used in pretty much the same way that B-grade horror movies do. We as listener are confronted with the same twists and turns in the text as the narrator. The music gets slow with anticipation and fast and chaotic with action and confusion. The song “cremation” even starts with a guitar riff reminiscent of flames licking the coffin as King burns alive. The use of instrumental and non-music tracks is also pretty interesting. The album “Them” opens up with the sound of dissonant piano, then “They” start talking to each other about the grandma. It sets the perfect tone for the narrative. In fact, he uses the dissonant piano (or music box in some cases) and the whisperings of “Them” throughout both albums. Also, when King is drugged in the song “Victimized,” the music reflects what it would be like. It fills in the gap where the narrator cannot speak. The lyrics provide the structural chassis while the music brings it to life. What are bones without flesh and blood? Written stories are mere skeletons in comparison to this form.
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Or, if you would like to continue exploring this, go to: More King
Symphony X is a progressive rock/power metal band from New Jersey who often use stories from Greek mythology in their albums. Their album “The Odyssey” is no exception. Unlike Poe, however, most of the songs have little to do with the album title except for a single song in particular that stands out. There are a few other relevant songs that contribute to the overall theme like __ and __, but the real gem of the album is a 24 minute long leviathan. At first it doesn't sound like it quite fits the rest of the album, but after a few listens it'll be the only one that matters. This monster of a song recounts the story of Odysseus’s long and terrible journey home after the great Trojan War. To some, it would seem that this song is so unnecessarily long to give us a glimpse of what it might have been like for Odysseus. It is almost never ending… much like Odysseus’s way back home. There are several false endings that give the listener the impression reaching the end of the song, but usually it is only an illusion; a false hope, if you will. In the original story, this happens to Odysseus a few times over the course of his journey. One time he can even see the shores of his beloved Ithaca before he is swept away by his crews greed and foolishness. Of course, this interpretation is a bit silly, especially if you like the music, but it could easily be broken up into numerous smaller sections. If so many people find it hard to listen to because of its length then why not break it up? Because, like Lytoard, Symphony X knew that there was more to making a point than simply writing it. Lyotard used complex language to illustrate his point and Symphony X used length to illustrate theirs. They did not stop there though. The vocalist, Russell Allen, uses his voice to convey Odysseus’s (the narrator of both the book and this song) emotion on his journey home. You can feel the joy in his voice when he returns triumphantly to his wife and you can hear the anger and passion when he and his men stab out the great eye of the giant Cyclops. The lyrics flow like poetry and are as meaningful and powerful as the music behind the voice. This is where technology is used to the greatest extent in the song. The Odyssey utilizes symphony as well as the bands usual ensemble (guitar, bass, drums, vocals, keyboard) to help paint the picture of exactly what is happening. They use the guitar, symphony, and keyboard to not only create a feel for what’s happening, but to bring it to life. They use these instruments for more than just music. They use them to help tell the story. Because music is only sound, we cannot usually ‘see’ anything that’s going on. Sure the words paint a picture sometimes, but nothing is like The Odyssey. Symphony X uses their music to almost literally paint the picture of what is happening in your head. It starts off nice and slow because that’s what is happening in the beginning of the book. Whether there are waves smashing the ship or monsters attacking the men, the music reflects it all. Much like the Disney movie “Fantasia,” they use their knowledge and tools to paint a mental picture. The lyrics provide the structural chassis while the music brings it to life. What are bones without flesh and blood? Written stories are mere skeletons in comparison to this form.
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Concept Album Conclusion:
A lot of tools and knowledge went into the making of this album. So much technology was used for simply the purpose of entertaining an audience and thoroughly animating the narrative. By simply using different vocal ranges and intricate knowledge of music and effects, this band has painted the picture they wanted the audience to see. If it were not for this technology, narratives might still be simply written word. The technologies of music, and more specifically the concept album, help to bring the narrative alive, off the dusty bookshelves of ages ago, and into our minds. Whether the story is new or millennia old, it is important to continue to allow technology to influence the way we tell stories.
Overall, her use of clever lyrics and musical effects help to integrate narrative with technology. Her lyrics perfectly mirror her brother's book and the overlying narrative permeates every aspect of her music. Much of the music is fairly eery and creepy and adds another theme to the album. A lot of tools and knowledge went into the making of this album. So much technology was used for simply the purpose of entertaining an audience and thoroughly animating the narrative. The technologies of music, and more specifically the concept album, help to bring the narrative alive, off the dusty bookshelves of ages ago, and into our minds. Whether the story is new or millennia old, it is important to continue to allow technology to influence the way we tell stories.
You're dead. Probably got mauled by a baboon or eaten by a grue. Too bad. Make better decisions next time! Who wants to hear more about that anyways?