DMS8012: The Contingency Message (Live Electonic Performance)

Introduction

This document will show my progress and the experiments I made while I was trying to learn how to use programs such as Pure Data (PD), Voxal and Audacity, to create an Apocalyptic scene based on audio.

As an illustrator, most of my discipline relies heavily on images and, while I enjoy listening to music to inspire myself to keep on writing or sketching, I never considered the possibility of creating my own audio for my projects.

The only musical background I have are a few drum lessons (that I ditched in high school) and hundreds of playlists from Spotify. Still, in my mind, I had a vision of what I wanted to convey and which also functions as the concept of my project.

The Death of the Plague Doctor and the Rise of the Blind Prophet

While I was doing my first experiments with PD, I thought of using a character rather than showing my real identity while performing. For me, showing my face in front of an audience has always triggered my anxiety rather than making me feel comfortable.

Jim Morrison (The Doors), David Bowie and Ella Fitzgerald are three of the musicians I’ve admired the most which also have had a common issue: the fear of a crowd. They also had their coping methods to deal with the fear that getting on stage caused them being either singing facing to the band (Morrison)[1], creating an alter ego (Bowie)[2] or fully committing to the performance (Fitzgerald)[3].

I’m aware that I’m not even slightly close to them but I thought that maybe, creating a stage persona could be fun and helpful, while also it gave me the first idea of creating a character that could potentially become a dark stage persona.

The Plague Doctor was the first character I had in mind. I did my own research based on the mask and also the people who were behind the masks during the Bubonic Plague.

Plague doctors were physicians hired by towns where the pandemic was being rampant. They treated wealthy people and citizens with little to no economic resources, even if they lacked training or experience. In fact, this type of professionals were young physicians looking to establish themselves or second-class doctors who couldn’t run a successful medical practice[4].

Taking into consideration the image and the connotation that the figure of the Plague Doctor has, my first option was building a narrative around the concept in which a new disease was spreading on our current society. Unfortunately, the Plague Doctor had to be discarded because another audio-visual project called 11B-X-1371 already was using the Plague Doctor as the main character.

Figure 1 – 11B-X-1371 (Via Parker Wright)

It was after re-reading some of my notes from previous years that I decided to reuse the Prophet as my own persona. This character is based on two famous mystics that, next to Nostradamus, have taken relevance throughout the years in relation to their own prediction that include direct contact with aliens, the rise of the Chinese economy and the fall of the United States, and a pandemic that could have the potential to accelerate the decay of human cells.

The first one is Vangeliya Pandeva Dimitrova, commonly known as Baba Vanga (Bulgaria). She became blind after a tornado (allegedly) lifted her and threw her into a nearby field. She was found with sand and dust in her eyes which made blinking painful to her. Eventually, after being treated and even gone through an operation, she gradually lost her sight completely[5].

The second one is Francisco “Chico” Xavier, a Brazilian philanthropist and medium. Throughout his life, Chico Xavier dealt with multiple diseases which also included one that left him partially blind[6]. Most of his prophecies came from a technique called automatic writing which consists of producing written words without consciously writing.

“The words purportedly arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source”[7].

Spence, Lewis – An Encyclopedia of Occultism

After doing my research, I decided to use the character of The Prophet as my own alter ego and a figure that would connect the people with the vision I had with my concept.

The Mask of The Prophet

The second type of research I made was about masks used in spiritual ceremonies and the connotations they had historically and in Pop Culture. Some of my notes are a reflection of all the information I found useful and which has official information about this tool. However, the masks have also been used unofficially during occultist ceremonies and underground events, some of them turned into fiction for the novella Dream Story (also known in German as Traumnovelle) and which also inspired Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut.

Figure 2 – Sketch and research notes for the mask
Figure 3 – Notes about the symbol at the front of my mask.

Also, one of the tribes that also used masks in order to connect with the supernatural and receive information were the Hopis from North America, who are also famous for their mythology and prophecies, in great part because of the film Koyaanisqatsi (Life Out of Balance) and which include three warnings on their prophecies:

1.- If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.

2.- Near the day of the Purification, there will be cobwebs spur back and forth in the sky.

3.- A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans[8].

Waters, Frank – Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World Of Consciousness

With all this information, I chose to paint my own mask with iconography created by myself, decided to add an EL Wire to give it the glow effect and added a Lavalier microphone that could be used as a voice modulator. Changing my voice and creating sound effects with it would allow me not only to convey a creepy ambient but also, to take a step further into creating a device for the performance.

The first thing I did was to paint the elements on my mask which included the bleeding eyes and the symbol that was placed over the nose and in the forehead (Figure 3). After that, I made holes in the mask (using the cap of a pen) to decorate the mask with the EL Wire. Finally, on the back of the mask, I used tape to place the Lavalier that would be connected to an H4N Zoom device and to my computer.

Figure 4 – Back of the mask. The EL Wire (orange cable) is already in place and the Lavalier (black cable) as well.
Figure  5  – H4N Zoom connected to the Lavalier microphone and to my computer  for voice modification.
Figure 6 – Voxal interface – Software used for voice modification

The EL Wire is powered by two AA batteries which haven’t drained completely after my Live Electronic Performance presentation (approximately 18 minutes). The microphone also worked during all the presentation but only had a couple of sound issues that, after testing it back in my bedroom, I concluded that it was due to the fact that I removed the windshield and possibly to a combination of delay on my computer and how the background audio from my PD file might have also “contaminated” the result.

Plague Experiments 1 & 2

At this point, I still had in mind to use the Plague Doctor as a character, hence why I called these files The Plague Experiments.

The first one (Figure 7) is a code that plays a series of audio files on a loop. It has to be controlled manually (more specifically the audio levels) and is based on a bank of sound that can be found on the same folder as the PD patch.

Figure 7  – Project 1 also known as Plague Experiment 1 – PD Patch

Although the patch might look simple, the real work is made on multiple track files edited in Audacity. The files are exported as a .WAV format and added to the audio bank.

On the second patch, I considered the possibility of using a granular filter to give the resulting audio file another effect. The only problem I found while using the granular code was that sometimes it didn’t work on my computer. However, I kept using the loops and modifying the audio on Audacity.

Figure 8 – Second Patch also known as Plague Experiment 2

For the final patch, I erased the granular element completely and used loops only. Between 50% and 80% of these audios were made with my computer and the rest was either royalty free audio (sacrifice.wav) or by creating a simulated choir by recording my voice singing the same song three times, changing the pitch and moving around the audio tracks (as exemplified with the file reverse emergency.aud, Figure 9).

Figure 9 Reverse emergency.aud – Example of voice modification and use of multiple tracks to create a simulated choir.

Some of the audio files were more complex and required more tracks to work in. While I was experimenting with the Plague Experiment 2, I used between 5 and 7 tracks in order to create one .WAV audio file that would, later on, be added to the audio bank (Figure 10).

Figure 10 – Sample file that was used for the Plague Experiment 2

After I edited and experimented not only with PD but also with most of the controls and filters from Audacity (although not all of them were used), I finally was able to create the file that I would use and that I titled Contingency.

The Contingency

Contingency is a multiple track based synthesizer made on PD and with an audio bank built with tracks made on Audacity. One of the main differences that this patch has in comparison to the previous experiments is the use of colors to rank the relevance and use of each element.

The reasons why I decided to use a color based rank labeling and layout (Figure 11) are:

  1. I have dyslexia which at times it makes it hard for me to properly identify the label I wrote, especially with the default font size from PD. Since I was a kid, one of the coping mechanisms that have helped me a lot is using colors and illustrations to process my information.
  2. The mask that I was going to be wearing during the performance, although it wasn’t interrupting with my vision, could have had some impact on how I was going to be able to work with my synthesizer.
Figure 11  – Contingency.pd – The synthesizer I created on PD for my performance

While I was building my synthesizer, I thought on which tracks would be used as loops and which ones would only be played once or twice. Then I color coded everything using the following criteria:

  • Red: Elements that would only be used once and will need to be stopped before continuing with the next elements. On this category, I included an Emergency Broadcast System sound (cde.wav) which, in real life, is the code for Contagious Disease Warning. Also in red, I created and recorded a TV announcement for an emergency situation (three.wav). The voice was made by using a tool called Text-To-Speech from the page Oddcast.com, and recorded by using Audacity.
  • Yellow: Continuous loop (ambient.wav) that needs to be dissolved before the end of the performance and before the turning off the orange group.
  • Orange: Voice-based elements that will require to be put at maximum or minimum volume. The first tool on this group is a simulated choir (choir.wav) I made by recording my voice singing the same song three times, changing the pitch of the voice, placing it on the same Audacity file and by moving around the tracks to make it sound like three girls. The second tool was a royalty free audio of a crown screaming (sacrifice.wav). This track went through a similar process to the choir audio.
  • Spaceship A: This audio file (SA.wav) was made by generating a tone in Audacity and processing exactly as the choir.wav file but keeping it as a neutral toned spaceship motor.
  • Spaceship B: The SB.wav file is a copy of the first spaceship but with the difference that it is a low pitch variation.
  • Spaceship C: The SC.wav, even if it is also based on the SA.wav file, it has a tone that makes it sound like a laser weapon. In my concept, this sound would be that of a ray that eliminating a crowd, hence why it has a similarity to an electric saw.
  • Mint: The last group includes three audio files: cehigh.wav, celow.wav, and prophecy.wav. The first and second files file are a variation of the cde.wav file but, in comparison to its predecessor, cehigh.wav and celow.wav have an echo effect and a lower pitch. However, prophecy.wav, although it belongs on the same category of a continuous loop, was an audio file generated with an online pixel to audio generator called Pixelsynth. By uploading an image of another Hopi prophecy (Figure 12), I got a file that serves as granulated an organ.
Figure 12 – Hopi prophecy rock that I used to create the prophecy.wav audio file.

Live Electronic Performance presentation and conclusions

Live Electronic Performance presentation at Newcastle University (The Culture Lab)
Extra footage and tests for The Contingency Message

As an artist with almost zero background on PD, I really enjoyed experimenting with the patches, Audacity, online resources and also with voice modification in Voxal.

Creating my own mask was an interesting process too but it still had its flaws that generated a very loud granulation during the performance. Some people commented that the granular effect was good but it wasn’t intentional at all.

What I would change from my performance would be the level of light on the room and maybe rehearsing a bit more with my mask and my patch while using the speakers of the auditorium to make sure that the accidental granular can still be on a tolerable volume.

Also, I wish I could have come with better dialogue during my presentation. Some days after the event I came with new ideas such as reading the Hopi prophecies or writing a better speech that would convey a creepier ambient.

Finally, although this is more of an aesthetic issue rather than technical, I wish I could have come with the idea of using the extra EL Wire I had by pasting it to my altar (Figures 13 and 14) and my table. I found out that I was enough material to do this while I was taking the documentation pictures in my bedroom. On the other hand, I wish I could have incorporated my altar way more as an audio element but the truth is that it was a last-minute decision while I was packing for the presentation.

I think that there is plenty of room for improvement and I’m willing to give it a try in the future to create more audio landscapes/concepts based on my characters and my ideas while incorporating other tools too.

Figure 13 – Altar: Second setup test
Figure  14 – Altar sketches and elements layout

Bibliography

  • Cipolla, C. M. (1977). The Medieval City. Pages 65-72. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
  • Hopkins, J. (2006). The Lizard King: The Essential Jim Morrison.  Page 35. London: Plexus Publishing Ltd.
  • Krasimira, S. (1996). The Truth About Vanga. Pages 42-44. Sofia, Bulgaria: Balgarski Pisatel.
  • Nicholson, S. (1995). Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography Of The First Lady Of Jazz. Page 27. Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States: Da Capo Press.
  • Playfair, G. L. (2010). Chico Xavier, Medium of the Century. Pages 56-68. Minnesota: Roundtable Publishing.
  • Schnitzler, A. (1999). Dream Story. New York, New York, United States: Penguin Random House.
  • Spence, L. (2003). An Encyclopaedia of Occultism. Page 56. Mineota, New York, United States: Dover Edition.
  • Victoria & Albert Museum. (2013). David Bowie Is… (G. M. Victoria Broackes, Ed.) Page 48. London: Victoria & Albert Museum.
  • Waters, F. (1978). Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness. Page 272. Athens, Ohio, United States: Swallow Press .

[1] (Hopkins, 2006)

[2] (Victoria & Albert Museum, 2013)

[3] (Nicholson, 1995)

[4] (Cipolla, 1977)

[5] (Krasimira, 1996)

[6] (Playfair, 2010)

[7] (Spence, 2003)

[8] (Waters, 1978)

HSS8121 – Behind the Scenes: Mission from The Culvert Watchmen

I’ve always enjoyed the Behind the Scenes features in DVD’s. I’m aware that this project wasn’t a movie per se, but the process in which my team and I were involved to create Mission from The Culvert Watchmen reminded me of these documentaries.

On this blog post, I want to write, from my point of view, about how this project was developed. My teammates were Natalie Bamford and Zitong Liu (I will call her Kate because that’s the name I’ve become familiarized with).

First of all, we belonged to different creative backgrounds. Natalie’s work is based on architecture, Kate is a photographer and I’m an illustrator (also a science fiction fan and jack of all trades). To be honest, I had no clue what we could do with all these different areas interacting together, however Natalie suggested to create a project focused on geolocation.

I still didn’t have a clue of what we could come with but it was after a while that Natalie mentioned Cargo Cult.

Cargo Cult is an artistic zine about an alternative history related to the Eldon Square Mall. I wasn’t familiarized with the material but when she showed us the zine, and with the second season of the Netflix series The OA just around the corner, I suggested the possibility of using a different dimension as the set up for our project. We all agreed and began to think about a narrative in which our three disciplines could be used properly.

Cargo Cult: Archaeological Reconstructions Of Eldon Square Shopping Mall
Image by: Newcastle Upon Tyne Modernist Society

We all decided to have a very specific role in the project. Natalie, since she has been familiarized with Geocatching and the apps WhereIGo and WhereYouGo because of her family, took the role of building the cartridge for the game; Kate was going to be the photographer for the backgrounds and in-situ objects that might be needed in order to develop the story, and I was going to make the character designs, sprites (the facial expressions) and icons for the tools that would be needed.

One of the first things we agreed was on visiting the place, in this case, park across the street from the Star and Shadow cinema. The first element that caught our eye was the bottles as a le-motif on light lamps and even on fences. However, it was once we walked a bit further into the park that we found what seemed to be a tower of bottles.

We also found stickers with the phrase Am I Dreaming? distributed on different places of the park and in my case, one across the street from my accommodation. The hands on the logo remind me of hamsa, an amulet used throughout the Middle East and North Africa which is used for protection against the evil eye. With the placement of these stickers on the park and even the nearby zone, I wondered what could these seals be protecting people from.

Hamsa
Image by: Tierre 3012 via Shutterstock

A few of the comments I made during our walk on the park were related to the narrative of Howard Phillip Lovecraft and the film The Thing directed by John Carpenter, simply because the tower of bottles has colors such as blue and a pink hue that is similar to human flesh. Maybe the tower could have been made with bottles and the bodies of fallen warriors.

Photography by Zitong Liu

Half an hour later, Natalie Kate and I were resting on a cafeteria called Ernest which is located on the Ouseburn area. In here, we found a list of upcoming events which included a conference with a representative of the Newcastle Council in relation to the Ouseburn and more specifically The Culvert.

Natalie went to the event and came with great ideas that were related with the narrative we wanted to associate with the place. Also, the whole team agreed to incorporate a Lovecraft element such as a monster in the area which, although it couldn’t be seen, was asleep underneath.

I also made the suggestion of having two main characters and a secondary one. By this point, I has already finished watching the second season of The OA so, just as a little wink to the series, I decided to call the female character and guide for the user, Nina Winters.

SPOILER ALERT: I add this disclaimer in case someone reading my notes might be interested on the series. From this point, I will give important details about the ending of season one and a bit of what happens in season two.

Okay? Let’s continue.

In The OA, traveling between dimensions can only happen with near death experiences which allow the traveller to go back to their original timeline, but the definite way to stay on another dimension is by dying. On the first timeline, the female main character is called Prairie, however her original name is Nina Azarova.

Hap/Percival and Prairie/Prairie – The OA
Image by: Netflix

Prairie was adopted by two elders after she became an orphan in Russia and was taken to the United States, leaving behind her identity as Nina. The first season focused heavily on this first dimension.

By the end of the first season, Prairie is shot directly on the heart during a school shooting. She is taken on an ambulance to the hospital but is by the last minutes that we finally realize that she died and switched dimensions.

In this second dimension, she is the version of Nina Azarova that never lose her father, neither went through a bus accident that caused the death of her classmates which means that Nina never had her first near death experience.

On Mission from The Culvert Watchmen I thought that, if our main was going to be related to other dimensions, then she could have this very subtle reference to another story.

This also happened to the villain, Nigel Percival. Percival in The OA is the counterpart of Prairie/Nina, in fact, not only he is the person who kidnaps and keeps her prisoner next to five other individuals (first season) or her therapist who tries to keep her locked, sedated and under surveillance (season two), he is her shadow in other dimensions which means that he will always find her again if she dies to go to another alternative timeline.

For Mission from The Culvert Watchmen, both characters have other roles from their inspirations. Nina is a guide for the visitors and even if she seems to be cheerful and kind, she also does her best to keep the beast under The Culvert asleep, otherwise this could open a powerful interdimensional portal that might cause chaos between our world and the one in which The Culvert Watchmen live.

Nigel, on the surface, seems to be a tired veteran Culvert Watchman who has seen a lot but throughout the story, the user realises that there is something wrong with him. Is near the end that the player finally realizes that Nigel has become insane and his whole plan has always been awakening the monster, just like some characters from the H.P. Lovecraft stories that have become obsessed with creatures such as the Cthulhu.

The last element that caught our eye was a slab of concrete that has the face of a green monster. We kept this character for comic relief and is based on memes from a pokemon creature called Diglett.

Not going to lie, I laughed so hard while I was using this as part of the concept.
Image by: KnowYourMeme.com

While I was drawing the characters, I recorded my process for my YouTube channel. Instead of talking about the project, my voiceovers are related to topics such as how I became an illustrator, the process I had to follow in order to study in the UK and a storytime about my first job.

The first illustration, Nina, took me eight hours to be complete it, Nigel took me six hours and the super Concrete Slab agent around five hours. Although the videos make it seem like a simple process, the truth is this kind of visual projects require plenty of time to conceptualize and execute accordingly.

Finally, to incorporate the drawings to the cartridge, I assign to each of them a name and a number that would later on be referenced on a chart to overlap them on Kate’s photographs and also to help Natalie with the cartridge.

The iconography of the game took me in total five hours to make it. Also, these icons are based on 32 bit videogames such as StarFox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask just for the sake of nostalgia.

In conclusion, I learned a lot of how my abilities could be applied to other platforms and how apps such as WhereIGo/WhereYouGo and Geocatching could be and interesting way to showcase my illustrations and incorporate some narrative related to my creations.

I really look forward to creating more projects that might involve visual storytelling in-situ and interaction between the users, the area and the narration to keep them engaged to this platform. Who knows, maybe one day I might have my own Behind The Scenes documentary.

Mission From The Culvert Watchmen Stand – Star And Shadow – Late Night Shows (May 17th, 2019)
Image by: Tom Schofield
Previous preparation – Star And Shadow – Late Night Shows (May 17th, 2019)
Image by: Tom Schofield

HSS8121 – Artificial Hells: Could Positivism Be Used as A Tool to Improve Participatory Art? (and exemplified with Mean Girls memes).

Introduction

For some people is quite common to think that Positivism is related to optimistic thoughts such as “Be happy!”, “Keep calm and carry on”, or even “Be the Bob Ross of whatever hobby or endeavour you might be currently interested”, “Meditate and eat your vegetables”, etc.

However, Positivism is way different from the relation that the word might have to mindfulness because the main focus of it is earning knowledge by using the scientific method.

Yes… that’s not going to happen under my watch. Especially Coelho.
Via Quickmemes

Claire Bishop on her book Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and The Politics of Spectatorship is very clear about how using this approach might not be the most appropriate way to measure the impact that an art piece or installation could have on an audience.

My objective on this essay is to reflect and conclude if Bishops statement might be useful in the future for me to apply it on my own art projects as an improvement tool or if I should consider Positivism as another resource for future projects. I must also add that, until now, I have only incorporated ethnography and research through design to my current discipline, both of which have helped me a lot to make better illustrations and artistic projects.

What is Positivism?

Auguste Comte was the first philosopher who focused on the epistemological perspective of Positivism in his series of texts called The Course in Positive Philosophy and later on in his book A General View of Positivism. Both texts relied heavily on why scientific areas such as mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology[1] had more relevance and needed to be dealt with before humanity could put all its effort and resources into sociology which, from his perspective, was the most complex of the sciences[2].

A graphic example of Auguste Comte’s perspective of Sociology in relation to other sciences.
Via Mean Girls (Disney) ft. my silly attempt to make Positivism a fetch topic.

Additionally, Comte also proposed that humanity goes through three stages in the quest for truth. These are:

  1. Theological: The phase in which God was considered to reign supreme over human existence[3].
  2. Metaphysical: Just as proposed during the French Revolution, this phase states that the universal rights of humanity are the most important and some of the must be respected. Also, during the Metaphysical stage, is quite common to have leaders and dictators rise and fall to protect these rights. [4]
  3. Positive: Individual rights are more important than the rule of any one person which allows humanity to rule itself[5].
Graphic representation of what Auguste Comte thought about Socialism, Idealism and Metaphysics during the French Revolution.
Via Mean Girls (Disney) ft. another attempt of… well you already know the rest.

Although, in theory, Comte’s point of view about Positivism may apply easily to strict scientific disciplines, it doesn’t take into account that, even if the ideal would be for humanity to reach the Positive stage, we are far from removing politic leaders from the system which also affects sociology’s full potential to become a discipline simply because is not easy to quantify.

Another sociologist, Émile Durkheim, took Comte’s concept about Positivism applied into sociology and simplified it in order to apply it and write his book Suicide. He also stated that scientific rationalism should be applied to the human conduct, plus, Positivism merely a consequence of this rationalism[6].

However, the most important representative about Positivism continues to be Auguste Comte because his texts are considered to be the core of this philosophy and covers areas in comparison to Durkheim, even if the later has been the base for practical sociological research, but more specifically, political science and even market research.

Claire Bishop and why Positivism doesn’t work to measure the impact of participatory art and spectatorship

Bishop on her book Artificial Hells wrote on the introduction:

“[…]it must be emphasized that one of the goals of this book is to show the inadequacy of a positivist sociological approach to participatory art.”[7]

She didn’t develop this idea any further but, after I made my research about Positivism and sociology, I had a better idea about why she thought that applying this approach wasn’t going to be very helpful in relation to participatory art.

Participatory art, from Bishop’s point of view, is a group of artistic practices in which the public’s engagement is the key. The author also mentions that, in order to study participatory art, there should be new methods to analyze because it no longer relies completely on visuality.

Claire Bishop on the introduction about Artificial Hells
Via Mean Girls (Disney)

Bishop also states that, most of the background on the book comes from disciplines such as political philosophy, theatre history, performance studies, cultural policy and architecture, which seems logical to me since participatory art is influenced by the interaction of people which also has the roles of being the artistic medium and material.

My conclusions

During the semester, I’ve had developed an interactive project alongside Natalie Bamford and Zitong Liu. Mission from The Culvert Watchmen, in relation to Bishop’s book, is a clear representation of participatory art but also is a multidisciplinary project.

Not only does the game involves the creation of a concept, a story, a map, photographs, and illustrations, it also requires the engagement of a user in order to complete a list of tasks.

Although we have statistics in relation to how many people downloaded the cartridge and surveys that have helped us to get a better insight from the people’s perspective in relation to Mission from The Culvert Watchmen, this quantifiable and exact data is not enough to improve the game.

I wouldn’t disqualify completely the use of the Positivist method completely either. Quantitative methods can be very helpful to keep statistics of any issues that might come in the technical aspect, but it will not allow the people to express exactly how they feel or think before and after being involved in a creative activity.

Since February I’ve discovered that one of the most helpful tools is ethnography. This happened after the Assembly Exhibition that we, the Creative Arts students, had alongside the Fine Arts alumni.

Ethnography relies on interviews and informal conversations with the visitors while trying to keep a record of the information they could provide. It uses observation as part of this research because it gives helps to understand how people interact and reacts to an art project.

One of the most memorable recollections of this method during the Assembly Exhibition was the reaction of a girl and her companion before and after they entered into the audiovisual room. On this area, my artwork and one of my classmate’s installation (which had rats as the main topic), had an interesting outcome.

This girl, before entering the room, was making snarky comments in relation to the exhibition in general but once she stepped into the dark room she barely looked before leaving in silence along with her friend.

Something like this.
Via 20th Century Fox

A Positivist approach could have barely given me a close look at this reaction. On this case, ethnography was useful because I was able to know what was catching visitor’s attention in relation to my artwork and what wasn’t working.

It was with this tool that I was able to move on from only sharing my illustrations to creating my Youtube Channel to keep a record of the projects I do but also to receive more honest feedback from people around the world in relation to the topics I discuss and my own artwork.

I’m aware that reading a lot of comments might become a hard task if the channel grows and it also comes with its fair share of trolls but for me, keeping a written, video, audio and even informal record of the reactions towards my projects can be as helpful as having the statistics of the audience that finds my content, how much time they are engaged with my content and the topics that they look out for the most.

In the end, I think it depends on the artistic discipline and the creator to choose to have a Positivist approach or a hybrid based on different methods to keep as a tool of improvement. However, I wouldn’t wait for humanity to become completely Positive to rely on it.

Sometimes the best method to keep feedback about our projects will come from experimenting. We artists are also masters of trying and learning from our attempts just like any scientist.

Bibliography

  • Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. New York: Verso Books.
  • Bordeau, M. (2018). Auguste Comte. (E. N. Zalta, Ed.) Recovered from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/comte/
  • Durkheim, É. (2013). The Rules of the Sociological Method. New York: Free Press.
  • Giddens, A. (1974). Positivism and Sociology. London: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
  • Mill, J. S. (2018). Auguste Comte and Positivism. Scotts Valley, California: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Mises, R. V. (1968). Positivism: A Study In Human Understanding. Berlin: Dover Pubns.
  • Ward, L. F. (2012). The Outlines of Sociology. London: Ulan Press.

[1] (Bordeau, 2018)

[2] (Ward, 2012)

[3] (Mill, 2018)

[4] (Mises, 1968)

[5] (Giddens, 1974)

[6] (Durkheim, 2013)

[7] (Bishop, 2012)

HSS8121 – Public Making: Artistic Strategies for Working with Museum Collections, Technologies and Publics by Tim Shaw and John Bowers – A.k.a. How to make topics more interesting and engaging for people.

Introduction

The concept of Public Making, throughout the course, can have different variations but it has one key point that defines what it is: The combination of the idea of a creator while keeping interactivity and participation from an active audience.

For Tim Shaw and John Bowers, technologies have opened a new platform for people to be engaged to museum collections rather than just keeping the objects behind a crystal-like on the traditional association that this space is already given.

While reading their paper about Public Making, I noticed that they tried to find new and innovative ways of connecting people’s hobbies and interests to the topic provided by the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM).

The three projects they mentioned are Interglacial, Erratics and Fort Process.

The approach

For Interglaciar and Erratics, they use different resources to allow visitors to explore the collections, such as sonic microscope and image sonification, live proximal and remote and historical weather data, a sonified weather station, gadgeteer ambient atmospheric, rock harmonium, and field recordings.

In comparison, Fort Process had different methods such as fields, the granular grabber, contact microphone experiments, sound ranging, FM radio transmitters, the granular engine, the use of Pure Data Raspberry Pis, and (once again) field recordings.

What I thought it was interesting was the idea Shaw and Bowers had on building a Sensorium which is a working space in which visitors can navigate easily while exploring the objects way beyond the traditional museum approach.

Also, the fact that the space was categorized by how much the projects had already advanced reminded me of how some of my favourite artists document their processes, however, the only difference is that the Sensorium is by far more interactive that watching a video. The most important element for me was the assemblage.

In traditional art, assemblage might influence the way people see the creator’s project and this is not very different for the Sensorium. After all, the concept should remain intact in order to deliver a message accordingly.

Conclusions

One of the main things I’ve learned from reading about Shaw’s and Bower’s experiments with the collections is that there are multiple ways in which an artist can make the public be engaged on the creation and exploration of a concept, no matter what background they might have.

However, it is essential that not only museums are aware of the impact they could have by allowing interaction (depending on the state of preservation of the object, of course) but also by involving more creative minds to develop new layouts that facilitate the exchange of experiences and information in relation to a space, a concept, and the artifacts.

Some of the most recent artworks exhibited in art galleries follow a similar pattern of allowing people to interact and contribute but still have its limitations which involve economic access, the ability to pitch the idea to the visitor so he/she can get involved with the activities, and going beyond the traditional art approach to get rid of the “preciousness” in relation to art collections.

Is just a matter of time for us to eventually see new experimental exhibitions that involve interactivity and dialogue, which will open the door to revisit “non-relevant” disciplines for people who might not be familiarized with the concepts or don’t care very much about the impact they will have or have had.

HSS8121 – Mapping

Introduction – What is mapping

Mapping is most commonly associated with cartography which is defined as the study and practice of making maps.

This tool has become helpful not only to represent a space but also to order ideas on different academic disciples. After all, humans, just like Giovanni Sartori once wrote on his book, The Homo Videns, are individuals whom rely heavily on images.

During class, we used mapping on a smaller scale to create a visual representation of an area inside Newcastle University. Some of my classmates walked outside the Culture Lab building meanwhile I decided to stay inside and map my way from our seminar room to the CAP studio.

Methodology

As a main method, I used a voice recorder to which I spoke aloud while counting all the steps and turns I took in order to get to the CAP studio and to describe everything I could find on the limited amount of time I had.

One of the main problems I found is that, at times I forgot the step number I was while turning around and also, since I had a limited amount of time, I made a rushed description of the elements that I found on the CAP studio.

The second method was rubbing a crayon over a piece of paper while I placed it over a textured surface. I also spoke about all the textures I had on different squares while I was making them so the audio is still on the audio file.

The use of both methods, although useful, I felt it still limited myself. To an extent, I wish I could have had more time in order to make a better visual representation of my way to the CAP studio and the objects that I found there.

Why mapping can be useful for other disciplines

I’ve been using maps for other purposes. In fact, some writers are very vocal about how much an author needs to visually represent all the main points of a story before they can even write the chapters. Since 2014, I’ve been working on a science fiction project which involves multiple timelines and concepts such as cause-effect.

At first, I thought of creating a chart just like J.K. Rowling did for the Harry potter saga, but I still found myself thinking of removing and adding other elements which could result on a very messy chart.

One of J.K. Rowling’s charts for a chapter in The Order of Phoenix. Via – Paperblanks

For this same reason, I made a map of the main plot points of my story in order to keep a record of the events that could be more impactful for the main characters rather than digging my grave while adding little details that maybe weren’t that important.

Center: Important event on the plot
Upper half: After the event
Lower half: Before the event

Conclusions and possible projects I would like to do

Another subject I’m also involved with is called Interrogating Your Discipline in which we were asked to do our research and create new artwork based on those resources.

For this subject, I have chosen to create art based on the dreams I’ve had and later on representing all of the dreams on a map to find any connections between the topics they have in common and my subconscious.

I think that mapping shouldn’t be limited to only representing a place but also the mind and what its inside it. Daniel Spoerri, created a narrative based on the maps he made of what on his table and bedroom to the point that he made objects have a conscious for themselves.

In my case, I look forward to using maps in order to work with the subconscious and also to have new ideas for my stories and the connections between my characters because mapping can also be a great world building resource to keep track of time, space and action.

HSS8121 – Digital Art/ Public Art: Governance and Agency in The Networked Commons by Christiane Paul – A.k.a. Why I spend a lot of time on Reddit

Introduction

While I was reading the article written by Christiane Paul, I had a flashback from that time in my life in which I focused most of my energy on Twitter. I found great friends there, some to whom I still send private messages and keep in touch. However, it was in 2015 that I got involved on Reddit, and ever since, it has become my own personal rabbit whole whenever I need a quick read or a laugh while queuing.

I still remember the first time I explored my first subreddits (the terminology for a forum), being my favorite until this day r/AskReddit. A new user might think that this link was created in case of needing a crash course of how to use the platform but the truth is that r/AskReddit is a forum in which people can engage in an active debate or exchange of information related to a wide variety of topics related or not to technology.

The reason why I write about this page is because I consider it the best recent example of what networked commons have become. Reddit has a long history of positive and negative events that can go from helping families in need to have Christmas gifts for their kids, to wrongly identifying a man as the perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing.  

Before going further, “public art” has been defined by Paul as follows: 

[…] the term has traditionally been used for art that is displayed in public spaces existing outside of a designated art context of for performative events in public space”.

On this occasion, I only want to give three examples or public art that involve agency and that could be used as recent examples of public art in networked commons such as:

  1. Filtering and Archiving Public Contributions (Reddit – AskReddit)
  2. Collaborative Creation (Reddit – Place – Pixel art)
  3. Intervention in Public Virtual Spaces (Reddit – The Button)

Filtering and Archiving Public Contributions: r/AskReddit

This is probably my favourite rabbit whole ever. It has a very simple dynamic: A user posts a question and other users can write a comment for a limited time. After a month, the topic gets locked and archived so it remains as a read only point of reference.

As mentioned before, Reddit is purely based on the opinion and experiences of users, but it has developed its own list of legendary stories that, real or not, have become the equivalent of urban legends and myths.

The first one comes from the topic “Have you felt a deep personal connection to a person you met in a dream only to wake up feeling terrible because you realize they never existed?”

This story is the testimonial of a guy who, after being attacked by a football player at his high school, he ended up in a coma. During this state, his mind created a life in which he met a woman, got married, had children and a perfect job, only to realize after a certain time that something odd happened to the lamp on the living room, and finally being this item the trigger to bring him back to reality. Although the original post is more detailed in relation to how his mind created a very detail world while he was unconscious, this could be taken as a register of how the brain can create alternative storylines under extreme circumstances.

The second story is about a woman who used to have her own cake business but, instead of making the mix from scratch, she used to buy big amounts of cake mix from Walmart. Of course, she never mentions the name of her business but, after checking out from time to time the updates on her story, she doesn’t have that source of income anymore. Her most recent edit is from February 23th, 2019 while the post is from 2012

This is just a small sample of the stories that can be found on r/AskReddit from time to time. The topics are divided per question and also can be ordered from the most voted to the least relevant. However, is not weird at all to occasionally find other users that reference these kinds of stories that go from heart-warming such as Today You, Tomorrow Me, or infamous such as The Swamps of Dagobah (proceed with caution, it can be very graphic).

Collaborative Creation: r/Place

The final image from r/Place

r/Place was a collaborative project that began on April 1st, 2017 and ended in April 3rd, 2017 in which users were given the opportunity of modifying a 1000 x 1000-pixel canvas on Reddit.  One of its main limitations was that it allowed people to modify one pixel every certain time (between 5 to 20 minutes).

The main goal with r/Place was to have a graphic representation of the Reddit community as a whole, and even have a colourful representation of the site: a virtual place of contribution and discussion of their hobbies and beloved topics to the point that some commentators described r/Place as a representation of internet culture.

Some of the most representative visual icons that can be found on the image are the Mona Lisa, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, country flags, band logos, and even the starter Pokemons from the first-generation game.

Even if the project seemed to be a great collaborative idea, one of the main arguments against it was the use of bot accounts in order to fill a bigger space quicker than doing it via active accounts.

Intervention in Public Visual Spaces: r/TheButton

This last project was launched on April 1st, 2015 and ended up in June 5th, 2015. It consisted on an online button and a 60 second countdown timer that functioned to reset each time the button was pressed.

Although it may seem a boring dynamic, r/TheButton functioned not only as an intervention on the site but also as a social experiment to analyse how the users interacted with the feature and between them.

One of the main features on this subreddit was the use of coloured flairs to assign a certain status to each user based on how many times they had pressed the button, and even assigned certain personalities in relation to the time shown on the clock while they pressed it. For example: if someone pressed the button while the timer showed 0-11 seconds, the person was regarded as pretentious and hostile to newcomers, meanwhile those who pressed between 52-60 seconds, were considered compassionate and welcoming.

Another important element of this dynamic was the division of the Reddit community in relation to their thoughts about what could happen or not if the button was pushed also known as “The pressers” and “The non-pressers”.

Conclusions

I consider that public art on the internet will keep on growing and becoming relevant even if at times it might not be considered at per se.

The amount of people involved in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Reddit is growing exponentially as time goes by. However, I think that with time we will have more complex interactions and dynamics with these platforms.

Twitter has also become a new medium in which people have begun to share ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) by using only tweets and the video feature from the site being the most relevant The Sun Vanished which has also allowed other people to create their own stories on the same universe.

YouTube is also turning into a platform in which people might share videos that apparently seem normal but slowly become creepier and don’t give any explanation. A couple of examples that come to mind are AshVlogs and Local 58.

The use of internet platforms will allow creators to be more connected to the audience and even allow it to participate actively if they want to, in comparison to movies or television. This is also the reason why, more than ever, artists and creators should experiment with any platform they might have access to in order to go outside the box on narratives and visuals.

HSS8121 – Political Ecologies by Jane Bennett – A.k.a. Abortion bans and worms (Spoiler: Both topics aren’t related the way you expect it).

Introduction

In May 21st, 2019, women in the United States began to protest against the recent bans that have been passed in the state of Alabama. The main claim of this group has been to preserve abortion as a safe resource to avoid jeopardizing life and health.

This reminded me of the perspective from political theorist Jane Bennett (don’t confuse her with the Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice) in relation to her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. On her text, she tried to find an explanation about how a public is created, the purpose of this public and how it is a consequence of conjoint action, by referencing Charles Darwin’s and Bruno Latour’s studies about worms.

You as a reader, and after checking out the alternative title I’ve given to my blog post, might be wondering if I already lose my sanity in order to make a comment in relation to a very touchy subject. However, if you’re looking for my opinion in relation to the abortion bans, this is NOT the place I’m going to express my point of view.

The next article will limit itself to explain how a public is created by using a relevant subject as an example and answer the question of why these women are marching rather than just “being in the kitchen making me a sandwich” like some conservatives (and neckbeards too!) might argue.

Charles Darwin and Bruno Latour opened a can of worms

Worms! Yes, the very same that you would be scared or disgusted from are more relevant than many people think. In fact, Charles Darwin became obsessed with them during part of his life because he considered that they have helped humanity without even realizing it.

Darwin even dared to state that worms have made history by doing their two most primitive functions: eating and pooping.

Yes, you read it right. – Via KnowYourMeme

Worms, via the consumption of earthy matter and certain vegetables, have helped humans not only to keep the balance in the ecosystem but also by preserving historical objects underground and reducing their decay. The union of a simple action made by these living creatures has been the key to record our history.

Please, a big round of applause to these guys for keeping us alive and allowing us to have a window to our past. – Via WormsRUs

Bruno Latour has a different perspective about the importance of worms. While Charles Darwin focused his attention on English worms, Latour’s studies mention Amazonian worms as the reason why the forests are slowly moving into the savanna.

Latour explained that, even if digestion process is the same as the one from the English worms, the Amazonian derivative had the capacity of changing the composition of the ground by adding more aluminium and creating a clay-like soil that makes it easier for vegetation to grow and flourish.

Anthropomorphism

In Bennett’s text, she is concerned about how much do the claims of Darwin and Latour might have been affected by their anthropomorphist view of how worms behaved.

She defines anthropomorphism as the interpretation of what is not human or personal by using personal or human characteristics. For example, why some people (like me) seem to talk to their pets even if they know that they aren’t humans.

But look at that face! That puppy is smiling just like me. – Via TopDogBreeds

The truth is that, by assigning anthropomorphic qualities to an object, an animal or any non-human element, we can understand way better how and why certain phenomena occurs or at least, it builds a bridge to rationalize an event.

One of the easiest examples that comes to mind is the anime series Cells At Work in which the human body is represented as a big country or city in which cells are represented as people with problems such as dealing with viruses and infections.

Via AniplexUS

By showing us one of our main characters, the Red Cell, delivering oxygen, carbon dioxide and nutrients all over the body, we understand why our blood is important. Meanwhile, by telling us the story of the White Cell, and his mission to protect the red cells from any possible dangers, we can have a better explanation about how they are relevant to keep pathogens away. Not only does the series keep people engaged on a storyline, Cells At Work makes it easier to learn the function of each specific cell to people who are into the medical community and the ones who aren’t.

In that aspect, and although Bennett’s concern might be very valid, the most important thing to keep in mind is how anthropomorphism can be helpful to assimilate knowledge while we also have to keep in mind that certain actions made by non-human objects/beings could be relevant while others don’t, but is up to us to categorize them accordingly.

Publics and problems

Going back to the topic of abortion bans and how a public is created, Bennett references two authors, John Dewey and Jacques Rancières, in relation to the concept of “conjoint action”.

The women who are marching against the ban is a group of individuals that, by doing an action, create a public. Just like Darwin’s conjoint action of worms, Dewey’s citizens conjoint action is not under the control of any particular plan or intention, it is a reaction to an event in which the people involved are not completely aware of the impact their actions will have.

People with more conservative backgrounds might think that women being against abortion bans is only a social tantrum, the truth is that this kind of events have become part of our history. During the 1960’s, women’s concern was the legalization of the birth control pill and as a reaction, society was concerned about how the pill was going to completely change the game in relation to their sexuality. Right now, the problem isn’t about allowing people to abort or not, it’s all about safety and how the lives of half of the American population is in the hands of individuals who will never have the experience of undesired pregnancy.

Conclusions

I think that Jane Bennett’s study is a great way to understand how certain historical events have developed and how people have gathered around in order to arise from a conflict to create a public.

Not only can a public be formed from a problem, it might also be an effect from previous publics that might or might not have brought a solution to the table.

We as citizen are powerful in group and even if it seems that we have the lowest score in the game, the truth is that, just like the worms, by creating a simple action such as assessing the problem or ignoring it, we also have an impact on our history and the events to come.

The best thing we can do is to be aware of this in order to inform and get involved to create a real change rather than relying on people that might not represent our interests at all.

HSS8120 – Project Work – Lucy In the Sky: The bare bones of a science fiction visual novel


Monica Rebeca Pintado Murguia

Newcastle University, Culture Lab, UK (January 17th, 2019).

Introduction

When I was a teenager my attention was very focused on anime and manga. In my country, there is a magazine dedicated to this hobby called Conexión Manga. While I was flipping the pages, I found an article related to a dating sim videogame called Tokimeki Memorial which allowed the player to experience different paths based on the animated girl they chose to date.

What I found interesting wasn’t the choices or the plotline but the dynamics involved to create multiple endings. On one of my blog posts I mentioned that I was familiarized with the format of one story with different conclusions depending on the option the reader selected. However, it was until I watched this tool under a different light that I considered to use it for my storylines. After realizing how hard it would be to create a game with an interactive narrative, especially in 2003, I left this dream aside and kept on improving my illustrations and plots.

As the years went by, new technologies allowed me to be familiarized with a wide arrange of topics such as life, nature, history, science fiction, alchemy and even conspiracy theories that later on would be part of the universe I’ve been building since 2014. Now, I find myself once again face to face with that idea of releasing the stories I’ve built but with an interactive twist.

Coding as a white whale

During my first semester at Newcastle University I had experimented with three different software programs such as Pure Data (based on Dataflow), Arduino (C and C++) and Processing 3 (Java) but I still found myself intimidated by them. Still I needed to find a way to create and release my visual novel.

At first, I chose to create it directly online via a webpage called Cloud Novel. The obstacles I found while creating were glitches and even related to the RAM memory on my computer. I want to point out that the amount of graphic resources a creator could upload was limited mostly because Sonya (the creator of Cloud Novel) suggested to upload all files to DeviantArt’s Stash page rather than using them directly from the directory. In the end, I discarded Cloud Novel as an alternative simply because it wasn’t as intuitive as I needed it to be, the online forums, which could have been of great help, weren’t available and the online tutorials lacked of information regarding the aforementioned glitches.

Another software I considered was Godot which uses C, C++ and its own scripting language called GDScript. After researching for hours trying to find any information that was oriented to developing visual novels I decided to discard this game engine even if the option was good in the first place. I enjoyed playing around with Godot, in fact, if I had more time on my hands I would like to experiment and give one of my stories a more RPG oriented path. Maybe in the future I will use this resource.

Finally, I ended up playing with a computer program called Ren’Py. I had already read a lot of blogs and even found great online resources such as official documentation from the creators of Ren’Py, users and professional visual narrators. I installed it and began to play with it by adding my own artwork and made a prototype for the first project I want to create, a prequel for Arnth’s Chronicles called (tentatively) Lucy In the Sky.

Leaving the amount of documentation that exists related to Ren’Py and its editing software complement, Editra, the main reason why I picked it’s because of how easy it’s to use it. The scripting language is based on Python which, for a narrator, it can be very intuitive after some practice.

Songs about astronauts and sketchbooks

Lucy In the Sky is set on the year 3027 in a space base located in Mars. The human race has already colonized this planet and even set new cities that allow for more research on planets beyond the asteroid belt, being one of them Jupiter.

Lucy Jones is the daughter of Major Thomas Jones, an astronaut who vanished while he was on a routine mission in Jupiter. At first the reader would think that Lucy’s mission is to go to space and be like her father but her real goal is to recover his body, his spaceship or at least know what happened to him.

The story is based on David Bowie’s Space Oddity. The first draft of this arc was focused on Thomas Jones and his disappearance leaving at home his wife and a young daughter called Lucy (named after The Beatles’ song Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds).

After years trying to play out with the character of Thomas Jones, I found out that his misfortune had already been sung by Bowie himself so there wasn’t anything else for me to play around with except the people he left at home. Did Major Tom had kids? What happened to his wife after the incident? And even more important: What did he find in space?

The problem was that I could see Lucy’s story in my mind as a comic but also as a movie, an animated series and even a videogame. Her plotline is the door to the gargantuan universe I’ve created while I was bored at work. It is my goal to make it entertaining but also engaging to the point that people are left wondering “what did I just read?”.

It’s important to keep in mind that artists collect, transform and release new content based on their notes, for example Guillermo Del Toro and his book Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections and Other Obsessions. In here, the reader might find very important pieces of information and drawings that would later on be used for films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. Based on Del Toro’s creative process, 4 years ago, I took an empty sketchbook and began to document whatever caught my interest. Some days it was articles about astronauts, others were experiments while creating a new writing code slightly based on Elian Script.

Arnth’s Chronicles has multiple story arcs and characters with their own misfortunes. In order to capture the essence of the story, my sketchbooks have become a valuable tool. Without a written register of the destiny, appearance and other pieces of information I’ve found and experimented with, I wouldn’t have been able to organize all of the threads that conform each ending. In this case, I’ve been using research through design as a way to collect information based on art and media that have spoken to my mind.

Visual novels vs. Comics and graphic novels

The reason why I’m trying to create a visual novel is to order all the things I have written and make them as comprehensibly interactive as I possibly can.

Lars Martinson, the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Tonaharu, has stated on his YouTube channel that visual novels use still images and text just like in comics but the key difference is that this format, unlike the printed media, allows the story to have sound, music, voice acting, branching narrative paths and animation[1]. Even if I enjoy working on notebooks I must admit that I really wish my stories could be way more than just notes and illustrations.

Marshall McLuhan on his book Understanding Media, wrote about hot and cold media. The author considered reading as a hot medium because it provided an abundance of visual data to the eyes and left little room to do interpretations. Television was considered by McLuhan as a cool medium because it required for the audience to have a higher degree of participation.

A visual novel, relies mostly on the participation of the user so it would be a cold medium, however at times it might rely on the hot concept to reinforce a message. On this case, visual novels could at first be considered a cold medium with hot characteristics during certain occasions.

Visual novels might be very engaging but also have disadvantages such as having the same art style based on anime, very similar type of storylines (mostly related to the dating simulation format) and even the use of first person perspective to engage the user.  In the case of Lucy In the Sky, Lucy is the main character who will tell her story and by the end, people will know to who she is really talking to and why.

One of the most recent visual novels that have played outside the box with this format is Doki Doki Literature Club[2]. The format is almost the same as any typical visual novel, it uses the same aesthetic and clichés. After the user plays with it, it is revealed that the genre isn’t romance but horror. What is even more fascinating about Doki Doki Literature Club is that the developer, Team Salvato (lead by Dave Salvato), made it in a way that the game unlocked codes and images on a separate folder which would also work as clues for the user to find out what is going on with the game giving the story an extra level of meta-narrative.

Comic books and graphic novels have a wider variety of plotlines but barely allow the reader to interact with the story and are more complex to make depending on the art style, the research process and scriptwriting. One of the most suitable examples would be Maus by Art Spiegelman which took 11 years to be finished[3]. Spiegelman himself drew a few panels as a side note in which he portrayed the difficulties of capturing his father’s story as best as an artist could. Any reader would think that creating a graphic novel based on a real story would be easy. It would be logical to think that the creator only needs to record the anecdotes surrounding the main subject, write them down and draw them. However, Maus needed research too because of the historical context that Vladek Spiegelman referred to throughout the book: The Holocaust.

According to Martinson, the most time-consuming task related to graphic novels (and I agree with him) is the artwork. Depending on the length and complexity of the story and art style, a comic book artist could take at least one day drawing a page, hence why most indie projects such as Maus, made by one man, take 11 years or even more to be completed.

Visual novels, on the other hand, are more resourceful and could possibly be a more suitable platform for indie comic creators. In my case, not only would I benefit from being allowed to include involving music to complement the story, but I could also save myself time which later on I could use to release more story arcs of Arnth’s Chronicles without compromising the core of the story.

Conclusions

The approach I decided to give Lucy In the Sky relies on an East meets West format in which a science fiction story preserves the essence and most relevant plot points but can be easy to distribute online, has interactive elements that can engage the individual and can be resourceful with the art.

The use of my own workbook has become essential to keep track of how each character and story connects directly or indirectly. Most illustrators would keep sketchbooks to improve their skills while from my point of view, my annotations remain as one of the most important objects I could have either as a map or as an inspiration journal. On this aspect, research through design has become the core of my work.

Digital technologies nowadays have become more approachable even for a creator who barely knows a couple of things about coding. The only issue I could find was which software could be more suitable for my time frame, abilities and narrative. Even if Ren’Py and Editra aren’t part of the syllabus, Pure Data, Processing and Arduino helped me to be more willing to experiment with scripting languages at the same time they opened my eyes to how this could be a very good canvas to work with and to transfer all my ideas and organize them.

My work has included research through design (some samples can be found on the annex of this document), experimentation with the programming language Python and how the mix of both tools can bring to life a complex narrative while keeping the used/reader captive. There are still more experiments and research to do before I can master this skill and apply this knowledge to my projects.

Until now, I’m satisfied with my working process and the amount of resources I’ve found to keep Arnth’s Chronicles and Lucy In the Sky as entertaining and intact as possible without sacrificing the art, story and other ideas that might come to mind while I continue with my research and recollection of information.

Additional images can be found on

References:

  • McLuhan, M. (2001). Media Hot And Cold. In M. McLuhan, Understanding Media (pgs. 24-35). Oxon: Routledge.
  • Martinson, L. (December 17th, 2016). What Visual Novels And Indie Comics Can Learn From Each Other. From Lars Martinson’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37HjhnnaGns
  • Nexpo (Nightmare Expo). (January 9th, 2018). A Comprehensive Exploration of Doki Doki Literature Club. From Nexpo Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnCp-PikHqE
  • Troller, G. S. (Director). (1987). Arena: Art Spiegelman’s Maus [Documentary].

[1] (Martinson, 2016)

[2] (Nexpo, 2018)

[3] (Troller, 1987)