Friday, November 19, 2010

Down to the wire

My desktop last night. For some reason whenever I write a paper I need to have at least 4-5 files for it: notes, outline, keywords, freewrite (where I just ramble out of order), and the final draft. I move between the files as well as my notebook in order to make sense of everything. I like using a notebook because I find that I need to physically write out notes from what I've been reading in order to retain the information better.

As much as I've taken a lot of writing courses over the past five years, I'm finding this to be the most difficult paper I've ever written. It has little to do with the length and more to with getting the content in order. I've never been good at putting things in order. I tend to jump around until everything falls into place. This paper has already had three outlines, each changing slightly.

The other difficulty with my thesis is that this isn't going to end up as an "academic" paper, it's going to be a design book. I'm writing very academically right now, but I know the final draft is going to end up focusing more on images and short bursts of information.  I need to process academically first before I can condense.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Something I forgot along the way

I'm currently writing a new outline of the beast that will become my thesis booklet. Along the way, I've written a few questions I hope to answer, the most important being:

Why do we tell stories?

In the course of reading "important" academic texts, I came to the high-minded answer that stories are told in order to "understand the human condition," "make sense of the world," "create a sense of empathy towards others" and so on. I only now realized that I missed a very important point:

Stories are told for the pleasure they bring to both storyteller and audience.

There is just something so fun about either telling or hearing a good story (I must admit, I am usually on the hearing end of a story).  This thesis may be an in-depth analysis of story and storytelling methods, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have to be dry and dull and overly "important."

So I'll end with a quote from the first essay of the book pictured above, titled "Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the Modern Short Story," in which Michael Chabon somehow makes the idea of entertainment a deep one:

"The best response to those who would cheapen and exploit [entertainment] is not to disparage or repudiate but to reclaim entertainment as a job fit for artists and for audiences, a two-way exchange of attention, experience, and the universal hunger for connection."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's a Story? In Visuals/Words

 So, I've spent a lot of time figuring out my own personal definition of story and storytelling. While working on a presentation for this week I came up with some simple visuals to show what I mean. Unfortunately, I had to scrap this presentation and simplify, so the visuals weren't used, but I figured they could live on here.

This is a chart that most people have seen in grade school about plot. I think it's actually a good start, but the idea of rising and falling action can leave out a lot of stories. I think a lot of stories actually look like:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Why

I've added a few more books to the pile in the past few weeks. Though now I am trying to organize what I have and narrow down exactly what information I need to give more life to this thesis.

Last week I spoke at length with one of my professors about my thesis.  During the course of the conversation she asked me "Why did you decide to do this thesis?" It took me aback, I've been so focused on just creating a thesis that I sort of forgot why I find storytelling so interesting in the first place. As much as stories have been part of my entire life, the thing that set off this thesis was:

I read Coupland's novel in May and wrote a brief review on my Tumblr (here).  Like I say in my review, what I found so fascinating were the scenes in which characters had to make up stories. Coupland did a good job contrasting the "true" stories being told as compared to their efforts to create a story. There is also a communal aspect to the tellings. The characters' stories begin to mix together, become one collective tale.

This, I guess is my "why." I want to know where communal storytelling is going. Is Twitter going to really becoming our best method of telling stories as a community (as in- retweets and thousands of tweets about one news story)? Are Youtube comments a sort of storytelling in and of themselves? 

Also, why do we still make up stories? Is there still a purpose to them? I like to think so, though it might not be a quantifiable. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Description of a Visual Object #5

Final one. (and maybe a real update later this week).

Description of a Visual Object #4

This is actually really hard.

Description of a Visual Object #3

Read on....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Description of a Visual object #2

Another description:

Description of a Visual object #1

This is just some work for my Digital Documentation class, wherein we describe something visual using only words.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ever had one of those weeks where your list just keeps piling up? That's my week right now. I had a grand scheme to make blog posts every night, but I keep getting back after 11 realizing I have to start over again in 8 hours. Ah well, at least I am being productive!

I may be doing a lot of thesis research, but I am also doing a lot of making lately. I'm either in the metalsmithing studio for class or working in the design shop. The cool part about having a job in the shop is that my boss has been giving me projects to do. So I get to learn to use the shop machines and make usable stuff. Below (and above) are two quick projects I've done during separate 5-hour shifts.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So what is it I'm doing?

Above are the fruits of my first library trip for thesis. I have slowly been eliminating some as useless and plowing through others for information. The best books lead me to more sources, while others lead to dead ends.

So what am I studying for thesis? There's a theme in the titles of the books: they all mention "story" in one guise or another (narrative, fiction, literature). I have decided to tackle the idea of storytelling from a design standpoint, as in:

How were stories told?
How are stories told?
How will stories be told?

No, this is not going to be a new E-reader design (though I will cover that phenomenon in some depth at some point). I've set myself the task of looking at story through as many lenses as possible: philosophical, linguistic, psychological, anthropological, sociological, among others. I've spent the past few weeks defining exactly what I mean by "story."

This blog is hopefully going to encompass not only the "story" of my thesis but also the story of my fifth and final year as an industrial design student.

And that, in a nutshell, is what it is I'm doing.

Next time: what the heck do you mean by "story"?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thoughts on why I want to do what I want to do

Michael Chabon is high on my list of favorite authors, not only for his novels but also for his numerous essays. At the moment, I am attempting to emulate his nonfiction style in a writing assignment. It has become a bit of an uphill battle, which I think is understandable just from reading opening sentences of this piece:

"There may never again be a tedium so wretched and marvelous as that produced by television in the heyday of the aerial. It’s a cliché act of contemporary parenthood to inform one’s children—in our endless parental quest to engender in them that nameless emotion, the inverse of awe, whose purest expression is embodied by the four timeless words Who gives a shit?that when one was a boy there were only three channels, or four, or at most five."

So, in trying to get a grip of how the heck this man comes up with such grandiose sentences about something as mundane as vintage television, I started looking up interviews with Chabon and stumbled upon the above Youtube clip. Rather than just inspire my essay, Chabon has unwittingly managed to sum up my viewpoint on research and design.

Chabon talks about two things that I think have become really important to me in my design education: always research something that interests you personally and also show that you have authority with what you are talking about. Research (or, more broadly termed, knowledge) has become the single most important thing in my design education. In every project brief I'm given I tend to find a niche, some part of the topic that I sparks my creativity, and then I latch onto it for dear life and spend the next few weeks (or months) becoming an expert in that field. I read every book, every blog, every newspaper and then move onto interview and observation. I read, I write, I just plain think about the topic as much as possible before even delving into the final "what" of the piece (what it will do, what it will look like).

Even though he's talking about authority in terms of fiction, the same holds true of design. By becoming the expert, the designer has full authority of their design and the client has full trust in the designer. As readers, we generally give an author only one chance to "wow" us. The first novel we read is the most important because if we like it we'll buy more and if we don't, odds are we will never read another word from this person. If, as Chabon points out, the writer exercises their authority then we the readers know we are in good hands and we'll probably want more. It's the same with design: without that meticulous research, the design falls short and the client is let down, probably never to return. The design didn't "wow" the client because the designer did have the authority to back it up.

So that's where I stand at the moment: inspired by a novelist to pursue better design through knowledge and research, so that my future clients will know they are in good hands.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Across the Water

This blog has been on extended hold for quite some time. There are many reasons for this: shotty internet, writer's block, schoolwork, adventures. I think the last one might be the most important. I've been living in London since the end of January, spending a semester abroad. I tend to spend as much time as possible out of my flat. So, what am I doing instead?

Well, looking at art mostly. All major museums are free, meaning that anytime I want I can see:

This at the National Gallery:

Or walk across Hyde Park to see the Victory and Albert Galleries:

Or stop into the Courtauld and see some Impressionists:

Or make the trek down to the Imperial War Museum to see one of my favorite paintings, hidden in a back room on the 3rd floor:

Or, if I'm bored with indoors, I just mosey through Hyde Park and stare across the Serpantine:

There are some thoughts floating around in my head right now. They might start to formulate into cohesive paragraphs that might be written here. Only time will tell. For now, I'm off on more adventures.