Pry

Wow, ‘Pry’ is an amazing story. I am really enjoying it’s narrative design and symbolic elements. First off, I want to comment on the level of immersion this app. Using the pinch and zoom mechanics to transport you through the different ‘levels’ of the character’s psyche provides so much depth to the character. It is amazing and also very jarring to experience the inner thoughts of the main character, James. His subconscious mind is almost a sensory overload. The author uses text flickering at a rapid pace to illustrate the anxiety and reveal the innermost thoughts of the man. At the same time the first person camera angle puts you completely in the shoes of the character, I was completely immersed in the beginning portions.

The level of immersion is also enhanced by the design of the Braille pages. This is such a unique hypermedia design which underscores the physical issues of his war injuries while providing much of James’ background. It was interesting how the author used all types of symbols and icons to sort of illustrate the images seen in the man’s head as he reads the pages. Even mundane details like ‘grab’ and ‘fur’ are visualized. James’ inner visualization reveals even more about his character.

There is a lot of symbolism used to reveal the relationship between the main character and his brother, Luke. Chapter 3 is named ‘Jacob and Esau’, likewise, the two brothers have a tumultuous relationship. But I think the most interesting use of symbolism in the story is the use of birds throughout. In the chapter where the brothers are demolishing an old factory building, James makes a comment about the birds, not being able to escape before the building is demolished. Then, later during the text portion of the story, Jessie is shown making an origami bird and James saving it. It seems to be a common theme throughout the story. I think the author is symbolizing Jessie as the bird who couldn’t get out of the building in time. James sees the  constantly because of the guilt he feels for leaving her.

 

Symbol, Index and Icons

“Inanimate Alice,” utilizes symbols and icons in a lot of different ways to help the narrator tell the story. Icons that represent each ‘chapter’ of the story zoom up to the top right each time you turn the page, allowing you to view each piece over again. The path of icons you see at the end is a visual representation of the harrowing journey the girl and her mother took while looking for her father. Using backgrounds of a desert landscape indicates the remoteness of the family’s location. Similarly, images of oil rigs and oil wells symbolize the father’s occupation: searching for new sources of the fossil fuel. In one part of the story, the author uses common icons from a smartphone to convey the girl sending photos of flowers to her dad. The ubiquity of the phone icons allows for more flexibility in the prose of the story. The reader is able to get the idea just from the images, and the author is able to add certain story elements that don’t necessarily have to advance the narrative as a whole. I have been trying to think about certain symbols and icons to use in my hypermedia project that convey a sense of anarchy and unrest. In the first panel of my project, I used graffiti on a wall to give the reader that sense. Simultaneously, I wanted there the be some indication of inequality, which led me to including certain symbolic elements like the trash in the street, and the gleaming city skyline in the background. Like ‘Inanimate Alice’, I want to give the reader a sense of the character’s ‘world’ through the use of symbols and iconography.

Hypermedia Storytelling

The first hypermedia project I looked at for this assignment was “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” by Olia Lialina. The interface of the work seems deliberately disjointed. There is no instruction or explanation of what you are supposed to do or what’s happening on screen. Initially this is what grabbed my interest in the peaces is what grabbed my interest in the piece. The dark and silhouetted style of the artwork add to this aura of mystery. The story is completely non linear and at points is hard to make any sense out of. Each segment of the webpage that you can interact with contains different fragments of a larger story about a girl’s experience with her boyfriend coming back from the war. But the panels also sometimes work in collaboration with their neighbors. The juxtaposition of the elements is very unique and helps to portray the emotions within the encounter. The creator of this work seems largely uninterested in how the reader navigates the passages.

The next work I looked at was “How to Rob a Bank” by Allen Bigelow. This was much more linear in the story sense, and easier to follow. I like how the author utilized different media types from his cell phone to tell a story. With this method of telling a narrative, the reader is truly put into the shoes of the character. Reading it seems somewhat relatable because of the common interactions the character makes on his cell phone. I really Appreciate some on the building like when you play a game on the phone in your spare time.I appreciate some of your building like when you play a game on the phone in your spare time. This presents a full and coherent view of the world from the character’s perspective. There is a level of whimsy in this project that stands in stark contrast to Lialina’s work, but which drew me in to the storyline.

Cinematic Language

“The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a harrowing tale about a civilian revolutionary of the south during the Civil War being hanged. The man’s internal tribulations are felt in both the written and filmed versions of the story. In the film version, The viewer is given visual clues which describe the interior thoughts and attitudes of the man during his unfortunate fate. In the written version, the author directly tells the reader the man’s interior thoughts ands attitudes. Essentially, this difference in storytelling between visual and written mediums boils down to what McCloud called “show, don’t tell.”

The scene just before the man is hanged illustrates this point beautifully. When the man is about to be released from the platform, Beirce writes,

“He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream.”

In the adapted short film, this description is replaced by an image of the man’s hands bound while he flexes the rope in an attempt to free himself. His thoughts are represented in the visual clue the film gives us.

This sequence is fascinating in the ways it differs between the two mediums. The written description of the victim’s spiral into a nearly unconscious state just before he is dropped includes a jarring bell, ticking down the seconds in an ever increasing time interval. When the man finally comes to, he realizes that the noise is really the hand of his clock ticking. The film version depicts the man, in a daydream looking towards his wife, with a jarring ‘ticking’ like sound going ever faster. When the noise reaches a maximum speed, the man comes to and he realizes the noise was is clock only when the solder takes it out of his pocket. Speeding up the ticking noise rather than slowing it down, is more visually appealing. It provides a pacing to the scene that works better for that medium. In that case the scene was changed, but in other cases information was omitted entirely.
For example, The backstory of the man as a revolutionary for the south and his interaction with a federal scout was left out of the film version. The short film accomplishes the bare minimum of communicating the antagonist as the Federal soldiers, and the protagonist as the southern revolutionary. I think this speaks to the written medium being more ‘involved’ than the visual medium. Or as McLuhan referenced, “hot” and “cold” mediums. A reader, less passive, experiences a more vibrant character of the victim through the details, while a viewer, more passive, experiences clutter. The details are not fundamental to the story as a whole.

Photo Story

 

For my photo story, I decided to capture specific moments while walking my dog. My main goal was to frame the anticipation in the first set of photos, followed by the jubilation of the final three photos. The first two images represent an action-to-action scene transition. First as he looks on down the walkway and then as he leans over to sniff the ground. The next image after that is a scene to scene transition, followed by two other images showing the moment to moment transition of my dog running towards me. I think it is interesting that doing this exercise, without a lot of foresight, led me to a transition scene proportion similar to how McCloud characterized western comics storytelling in the book. Generally, McCloud argues, Western comics tend to have a majority of action to action sequences, followed by subject to subject sequences, and then scene to scene sequences.

 

Understanding Comics

McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” is beautifully illustrated and a very interesting read.  I have to confess that I had already started my visual narrative project before reading this portion of the book, so it didn’t so much ‘generate new ideas’ for me as much as help me clarify what my existing idea is.  In that respect, one of the parts that I latched onto most was the idea of using the appropriate amount of detail in images in order to convey a sense of time and heightened objectivity.  Because it is an evocative scenario, my idea will work well with detailed images that somewhat standstill, or as McCloud puts it,

 “not only to show us the details, but to make us aware of the…object.”pg 44.

By using more detail rather than less, each panel will draw the reader in, or as McCloud says, ‘challenge’ whoever is reading the piece. That is the effect I want to pursue when making my visual narrative project. I am less concerned with the reader “seeing themselves” in my work and more concerned with setting the theme and mood along with the ‘sense of place’ of the scene. In essence, I am using techniques of Japanese comics who:

“..so often emphasize being there over getting there.” pg 81.

I also really appreciate the idea of letting the reader’s imagination take them to places that the art itself cannot. When I first started the chapter, I assumed that it would employ the term ‘blood in the gutter’ in a sense literally. That is, you wouldn’t necessarily portray all of the gritty details (blood in the gutter) of a scene in comic art form. What I didn’t realize is that creating the image in the mind of the reader and giving them enough details to allow them ‘closure’ with the scene can actually enrich the story.

In this section, McCloud illustrates how the ‘blood in the gutter’ can transform the work for each person who views it. It allows their imagination to grab the concept and reach ‘closure’ in the way that they deem best suited. I will definitely use this to amplify my subject material with my upcoming visual narrative assignment.

 

 

Typographic Storytelling

Drucker’s “Diagrammatic Writing” and Egan’s “Great Rock’n Roll Pauses” show how only the placement, gesture and relation of text on a page can tell a detailed story. There are a few key ideas from these readings which I have taken for inspiration for my own typographical essay project this week.

By changing the font, size, placement and relation of text elements on the page, a typographic storyteller can affect the emphasis and pacing of the story. As in the image below, the size of the text in relation to other text can create on the page can create a repetition which can help communicate the point to the reader.

This next image shows a structured sequence of embedded comments describing a situation. The boxes inside of boxes give a hierarchy to the text, with the beginning prose and the subsequent comments. I really think that the author did a great job with the relation between the prose and the comments; each has its own specific voice.

I also appreciate the ‘entanglement’ form of embedding text within a line, as shown in the photo below. This method does a better job of conveying a discussion than the method above, while still having a clear hierarchical structure.

Finally, changing the different organization and orders of text passages, as the page from Drucker’s “Diagrammatic Writing” does here, brings out the important parts within a single text block. The disorganized nature of the text on a page also conveys a message to the reader.

 

Non Aristotelian Plot Structure

The short films assigned to us to watch this week did not follow traditional Aristotelian plot structure because they did not revolve around a central conflict. There are other important differences to western storytelling in these films, such as the lack of character and setting information.  In “Small Deaths”,  “Meshes of the Afternoon” and “160 Characters”, the filmmakers seem to be trying to convey a general emotion. Although there is conflict, it almost comes as secondary; the stories revolve around the internal emotions of the characters rather than the plot. For example, “Small Deaths” portrays the experiences of a young girl growing up in Scotland who, over her adolescence, is witness to certain situations which make her slowly lose her idealistic idea of her life and the world. In one part, the girl and her friend come across a dying cow in a field. The point of the scene is not about the actions in it, rather the internal transformation of the girl. Likewise, in “Meshes of the Afternoon”, the main character is caught in a surreal dream, stealthily stalking a cloaked figure, but then eventually killing herself. The scenes are broken and it is hard to understand what exactly is happening. The surreal and sometimes jarring music add to the confusion of the visual elements. Any one part taken in a vacuum is not understandable, but taken as a whole they reveal an image of internal strife within the main character. “160 Characters” has the most vivid traditional western themed plot of these short films. The filmmaker does an excellent job of using text on the screen and visual elements portray an image of an absent father. While watching this, I got a vivid feeling of the woman’s frustration and resentment towards her child’s father. From the beginning where she states something along the lines of “..a conversation I wanted to forget..”, the presentation, tone of narration, and overall feel of the film give a sense of passive anger. I would say that the actual resolution of this film is the, not necessarily overcoming of these emotions, but the growth to accept them and continue living her life with their son. In that sense, as with the other examples, there is conflict but the main point of the film is the conveyance of the emotions of the conflict.