Narrative Engines and Personal Identity

I receive a daily RSS feed from the Scholarly Kitchen. Today I read Kent Anderson’s post The “Me at the Centre” Expectation.

Kent concludes his discussion about the personalisation of web experiences with the observation that:

the Web is both mobile and omnipresent in some ways, but the way it’s being deployed is about each user. It’s the antithesis of broadcast, yet it requires broadcast. And the “filter failure” we’re worrying about requires traditional filters, but then gets filtered further.

His post was prompted by Nick Bilton‘s book I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works. Kent links to this post by Nick Bilton in which Nick points out that  “Now you are the starting point. Now the digital world follows you, not the other way around.”

A few days earlier on one of my drives to Canberra I had been listening to Ramona Koval‘s discussions with William Boyd about his new book Ordinary Thunderstorms and the use of a narrative engine to discuss personal identity.(Transcript of the interview.) William points out that the idea for the book is the the hunter and the hunted. He adds that:

it’s a very powerful narrative engine for any novel, and I happily cherry-pick genres for narrative engines as I require them. In this case I was mainly interested in what happens when you lose everything. It’s not so much about Adam escaping, he has to escape, it’s about the process that this involves, that he sheds everything that makes him a modern citizen; mobile phone, credit cards, passport, home, job, reputation et cetera. He runs, but instead of running away north, south, east or west, he goes down, he hides himself in the lowest reaches of society, and in so doing has to lose his identity. And that’s what really intrigued me about this story.

During the course of the interview, William notes that:

It’s extraordinary to me that the population of the missing in England is some 200,000 people. We just don’t know where they are, we can’t find them …  So 600 people a week just walk away from their homes, their families, their jobs, and disappear, 200,000 people, that’s a big provincial city. Where is this population? They’re like ghosts wandering the streets, you occasionally see them as you walk about London huddled in doorways or passed out on park benches, but there is a great population of the missing in this city and it just shows you that you can, even in the 21st century, disappear off the radar completely.

Without forcing the link too much I do think there is an interesting juxtaposition between Nick Bilton’s and William Boyd’s books. In pursuing this idea I came across David Ventura and David Brogan’s (2002) paper on Digital Storytelling. They explore a heuristic for interactive narrative development that aims to deliver a compelling story. Their narrative engine enables users to choose branching of stories whilst constraining these choices to make the story feasible.

Whilst William Boyd uses the craft of authorship, David Ventura and David Brogan explore an optimised constraints-based system. I take Nick Bilson’s point to be that the user-centredness of narrative is embedded on our everyday lives and will be so increasingly. It is an opportunity to move on our digital practice as Luis Suarez and Kevin Jones have argued recently “adoption has to do with context not age”.

Adoption and non-adoption, personalised and personal learning, social connectedness and social isolation are important issues for me in my work. I think volition and intrinsic motivation are keys to engagement and hope that advocacy and support can encourage participation in a digital world. I recognise that there are lots of people, as William Boyd points out through the character of Adam, that do not wish to engage.

For my part I am fascinated by the ubiquitous opportunities many of us have. My next step … I am off to re-read Bryan Rieger’s Rethinking the Mobile Web (another RSS feast from the Scholarly Kitchen).

Photo Credits

Istanbul Market

Phone Walk

Food for Thought 2.1

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I had hoped to add to my Food for Thought 1.1 post last week but events overtook me! I was thinking that by the time I reached Adrian Hill‘s blog I would have written a Food for Thought 1.4 post. Instead I am at week two in the Rs.

In this week in review, Ruth Demitroff posted about Blip.fm, Chief Justice John Roberts and Barack Obama’s Inauguration Address. In her post on the Address, Ruth links to a new York Times article by Stanley Fish. Ruth draws attention to text as parataxis and I think this has implications for how we write in our blogs.

Rodd Lucier posted about the inauguration too (as did Pierfranco Ravotto with links to YouTube, Lee Kolbert on the first digital presidential portrait and Lani Hall). In other posts this week Rodd discussed: online identity (and offered advice about security, see too Kristina Hoeppner’s post); pendulum swings in education and included a Teacher 2.0 podcast (see Nellie Muller‘s post along these lines); and concluded the week with a post about Creative Commons.

Rhondda had a busy week of posts. Early in the week she reviewed the Icerocket search engine. In her next post (It’s not about the technology) she observes that “In the past 12 months I have found an amazing world on-line, that offers me so much for my own professional learning, making me a better teacher and I hope that some of my posts/links have assisted others as well”. She then posted about Worldometers (world statistics updated in real time) and day later abour reading options and DailyLit. Rhondda’s week concluded with her post about useful links. All this whilst preparing for a new school term in Melbourne, Australia.

Pat Parslow’s most recent post was a position paper (with Shirley Williams and Karsten Oster Lundqvist) on the future of social networking.

Nellie Deutsch has been incredibly busy with the Digifolios and Personal Learning Spaces Ning site. Most recently she was involved in a Wiziq discussion about online identity (recording available at the Ning site).

This week the LibraryTechNZ Source post provided an update on digital libraries and library innovations from around the world. In the post

it is the smart and sensitive teacher, endlessly re-inventing her practice, noticing what works for individual kids, that makes the difference. Or the creative and flexible principal, willing to suspend the Big Expensive Program, guaranteed to yield (and I hate the way this word has been co-opted) results–in favor of something that meets the needs of real kids.

Milton Ramirez had a busy week of posts including teaching as an attractive and exciting career opportunity, the results of the PEW report, a discussion (inspired by a post by Doug Johnson) of the impact of books, blogs, articles and columns, three posts on Barack Obama, and a discussion of connectivism. Milton’s last post of the week introduced me to Sugar Labs. I hope to return to Sugar Labs soon!

Mike Gotta drew attention to a Web 0.0 paper from 1991 in his first post of the week. He followed this up with a discussion of the importance of Lotuspere 2009 and Lotus Connections and SharePoint.

Mike Bogle’s Techticker was a mine of information this week. He discussed free culture and Creative Commons and linked to Lawrence Lessig. (Melanie McBride posted about Lawrence Lesig this week too.) Mike’s post reports how he has created an audio archive of Lawrence’s four free culture presentations. Mike includes the workflow of how he did this.

… in the interests of transparency and respect for open source purists, I wanted to include the work flow process I used to ultimately produce the OGG version.  I relied upon as much open source software as I could (as always), however there are two notable exceptions that I’d like to menition. Namely, the process was conducted on Windows XP and included the MP4 codec during the initial rip from YouTube.

(See Mike’s discussion of Open Source this week for his take on sharing.)

Mike’s second post of the week was a slow blog about the Digital Youth Project and includes a video blog about his thoughts. Mike observes that “the results (of the project) point to a dynamic and complex ecosystem of interaction amongst young people that I believe we would do well to consider in discussions on elearning and new media – and in particular the manner with which education should seek to foster engagement and lifelong learning amidst young people.” His final post of the week discusses TOTLOL and children’s digital literacy.

In addition to her post about Lawrence Lessig, Melanie McBride shared news of her presentation at Web Weekend in Vancouver in February. Her talk, “Magazines2.0: The Sharing Revolution,” will consider existing and emergent issues related to the publisher and reader of web2.0 publications.

Matthias Melcher considered connectivist taxonomy this week. His post addresses the visualisation of a taxonomy in a very interesting way and he draws upon his native German landscape to to help him. He concludes that “the concept cluster of learning network/ ecology/ space is too overburdened and deserves some dissection.”

Lisa Lane discussed videoconferencing this week. She reflected on a Business Week article to develop her own use of videoconferencing. Mike Bogle commented on Lisa’s post and shared this link. Lisa responded with a discussion of Seesmic and its potential. (It was interesting to read Kristina Hoeppner’s post on the lens-eye after reading Lisa and Mike’s exchange.)

Lee Kolbert’s post this week took a close look at the potential of Nibipedia for teachers and students. She considers some of the access issues that might occur with some of the content and one of the creators of Nibipedia, Troy Peterson responds to Lee’s observations.  (Stephen Downes posted on Nibipedia too this week.)

Kristina Hoeppner posted three times this week. In her first post she discusses some of the issues raised by the availability of Userfly (a new online service which allows you to record a screencast of anybody who comes to your website) and the appearance of Tumbarumba. Her third post of the week reports the discovery of an apartment in Leipzig that was in an untouched condition from almost a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I was unable to access Konrad Glogowski‘s blog at the time of writing this summary.

Kevin Jones’ post this week reports on How Conferences Should Be Done and points to the Americorps Ning site.

I could not think of a better place to end my alphabet review this week with a visit to the busy week of Karyn Romeis and her learning journey. Her blog is “a catch-all for things that have caught my eye, links to helpful information and the odd soapbox moment”. Tuesday’s picture of the day was ‘Computer Hell‘ ( “Oh, for a techie to come and look over my shoulder and say, “Ah yes. I see what the problem is.” And then FIX it.”) (By Thursday the Articulate User Community had come to her rescue.) Karyn linked to Blurb in another of her posts and discussed the idea of publishing your own bespoke book.

There are 16 Js in my Nourishment list so I will draw breath here and hope that nature and workflow this week give me an opportunity to write Food for Thought 2.2. I am off to Sydney to celebrate our son‘s birthday. Somehow we have persuaded him that a trip to a Leonard Cohen concert is just what he needs!