Graphic Novel Review: One Trick Pony

Huh.

Ok. So I am not sure if I completely enjoyed One Trick Pony or not. On one hand, the narrative and visuals feel compact on the page and so busy and dense with narrative jumps that I didn’t get a chance to breathe. On the other hand, there’s something interesting in this world-building that Nathan Hale (he, of the fantastic Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series) has created here.

The story revolves around a world (ours? Earth? our Earth?) where aliens are devouring all of the technology and metals, and the scattered tribes of people left on the planet are on the run from strange creatures doing the devouring. These creature are called Pipers, and there is some hints of The Pied Piper story that doesn’t ever really develop further.

Three youths, out on a secret expedition from their caravan community, discover a hidden trove of robots, including a golden robot pony (the “one trick pony”) that helps them to escape and then, sacrifices its life to save Strata, a young girl who adopts the horse and rides it, and the entire world. The pony becomes a hero.

What I write here is not a bad review. The book is intriguing. But I guess I prefer more space in stories, more room on the page, more quiet in the corners of my books. One Trick Pony is brimming with lines and shapes and words, and three or four different converging stories and characters, and Hale’s intricate drawings propel it all forward.

I think this graphic novel could be appealing to upper middle school and high school readers. Younger readers might find the story confusing, although they might be drawn in by the pony. Because … well… ponies.

Peace (crowded and dense),
Kevin

#NetNarr: New Media/Video Game Art Examples

New Media Art quote

These come from the annotation activity of an article called New Media Art, a chapter from a collection published in 2006. In Networked Narratives, one of the activities this week is to annotate the article and examine the nature of New Media Art (or whatever title it has these days.)

I was intrigued by some of the early examples of video games as the source for art, and found two examples referenced in the writing that still live on the Internet. Notice how each artists used elements from the game, but remixed and remediated them in such a way to create something new and inventive.

Pretty interesting ….

The first video example of Game Art is The Intruder (although this is only a video capture since the original experience no longer exists with modern browsers, as far as I can tell)

From a description of the original experience, via BookChin

In Natalie Bookchin’s piece, The Intruder, we are presented with a sequence of ten videog ames, most of which are adapted from classics such as Pong and Space Invaders. We interact via moving or clicking the mouse, and by making whatever we make of/with/from the story. Meaning is always constructed, never on a plate. The interaction is less focused on video game play than it is on advancing the narrative of the story we hear throughout the presentation of the ten games.

The Intruder – Natalie Bookchin (1998 – 1999) from jonCates on Vimeo.

The second example is Velvet Strike

From its description:

Velvet Strike was a set of counter-military graffiti sprays for a spray-gun modification in the networked game Counter-Strike. Players could both download and spray images from the collection in-game and also create and contribute new spray paint graphics to the intervention. The project was created in response to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and specifically the proliferation of militaristic anti-Arab, anti-Muslim Counter-Strike modifications following 9-11. Velvet Strike faced a massive backlash from gamers (particularly in the form of misogynist verbal attacks directed at Schleiner), raising important questions surrounding the uncritical acceptance of violent military fantasy in games and the role of networked multiplayer games as public space.

And then there is something simple, and yet beautiful, about something like this: taking video of the clouds in Super Mario and making the clouds into their own video. That’s what Cory Arcangel did in 2002.

In the NetNarr Twitter stream, one of the students shared a blog post with images of cities he built within a gaming city itself, and I decided to do a little remix. Using game worlds as the setting for Media Art is intriguing.

What I wonder about is this: are there communities out there doing this kind of work of appropriating video games into art still today, in 2018, and how might I learn more about how to teach my sixth graders — who are now video game designers — to do something similar with their own video games designed and published this school year?

Hmmm.

Peace (game on, into story),
Kevin

 

 

Fourteen Years and Nearly a Thousand Words and Counting

invented words 2018 pt2

Invented Words 2018, Group 1

This project still amazes me, for both its goofy element and for its cross-time collaborative element. It’s known as the Crazy Collaborative Dictionary, a project connected to my sixth graders learning about the origins of words into the English Language.

Way back in 2005, I had this idea of students inventing their own words and definitions, and creating a small class dictionary. It was a huge hit with the kids, and allowed us to consider the evolving nature of our language — of how new words arrive all the time.

invented words 2018 pt1

Invented Words 2018, Group 2

What began on paper developed into a Wiki site, where students learned about wikis and collaborative writing. I’ve used different platforms over the years, and this year, I tried out a Submission Form to create a database of words. A few years ago, I added podcasting to the mix, too, so that all students get to have a recorded version of their sixth grade voice attached to their word in the dictionary project.

Take a listen to some of this year’s words and voices:

I’ve moved the dictionary from the wiki (for fear of another platform dissolving on me) to a page in our classroom blog space, which provides an easier and connected platform.)

Check out The Crazy Collaborative Dictionary (in its entirety)

Check out this year’s submissions to the Dictionary

We’re close, if not beyond, 1,000 invented words in the dictionary, and it occurred to me that the first set of words were created before my current students were even born. The original word-makers are now in their mid-20s. Some of the older siblings of my current students have their words in the same digital document as their younger brothers and sisters.

I often refer to the dictionary as a “collaboration across time.” There’s something about that idea — of a collaboration that unfolds slowly, over many years — that I find intriguing, sort of a nice counter-balance to the need for immediacy in our lives.

Peace (means …),
Kevin

Book Review: Design is Storytelling

I never really thought all that much of how designing a physical space or a physical object is really about the invisible art of telling a story. In Design is Storytelling, by Ellen Lupton, that fact comes to the surface — that the decisions we make in creating tangible objects or immersive experiences can have a narrative arc to it.

This book was a bit uneven for me, but I suspect I am not its target audience, either. (That seems to be museum geeks, designers and business thinkers). Lupton is a senior curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (I didn’t even know that existed) and she brings a real museum-layout-theme thinking to this book. The prose felt a bit stiff to me, but many of the illustrations in here are helpful. (I guess, design IS story.)

She focuses her chapters on overarching ideas of Action, Emotion, and Sensation, and within there, she explores such things as Design Fiction and Narrative Arc of objects and space; creating fictional personas as you plan the design of something, particularly when a problem needs to be solved; and how multi-sensory design might inform the way something evolves over time. She explores building design, and app design, and business layout decisions (such as considering the concept of the Hero’s Journey within a typical IKEA store.) Colors, perceptions, interactions, touch … all these and more are explored here within the frame of experiencing stories.

 

I’m thinking more now of how museums work to consider layout of rooms and doors, and of the use of media in museums (sound, color, image, signs) that help a visitor navigate the “story” the curators are hoping to tell. I wonder about architects a bit different now, and the way that their work informs our interactions with buildings and space, and what narrative those design choices surface (or hide).

And I am thinking of a new 3D Printer Maker Club we have started at our school with our sixth graders. How can we get them to think beyond “making an object” to making objects as part of “telling a story” somehow? It seems to me, and it clearly visible is to Lupton here, that we can and probably should think of story as deeper and richer interactions with the designed world, and it all starts with narrative intentions.

Peace (designed to last for love),
Kevin

#NetNarr Twitter Analysis: Where, When, How and …. Why?

NetNarr Network Play

I followed a link to a Twitter Analysis tool via Networked Narratives as part of an examination of our digital lives in the spheres of social media. This all connects nicely to the Digital Audit of this month’s CLMOOC. Convergence is nice.

The Twitter Analysis tool provides a useful visual glimpse of a single user’s interactions in Twitter. Mine is no surprise. I do a lot of sharing and writing and working in the early morning hours (like, eh, right now), and I will often use various devices and platforms throughout the day.

NetNarr Twitter Analysis1You can see the time period earlier this month where I took a step back from Twitter — and I wrote about my weeding out of Twitter followers and folks I have been following — and then NetNarr brought me right back again.

The NetNarr folks — Alan Levine and Mia Zamora — also shared out a larger networking analysis tool, which CLMOOC has used before, to show various interactions. The TAGs Explorer for NetNarr is here and open to check out. I am one of the open participants, but both Alan and Mia have university students in classroom experiences as part of NetNarr.

NetNarr Twitter Analysis2

All this analysis of our Twitter activities remind us the where we tweet, and when we tweet, and how we tweet, and hopefully leads to discussions or reflections on why we tweet.

For me, it’s simple. I am a better teacher and a better writer, and a more thorough digital explorer, thanks to my connections and interactions on Twitter. Despite all of its messiness and despite the concerns over privacy and harassment, I still find Twitter to be one of the many places where my tribe hangs out on a regular basis, and shares, collaborates, makes, and reflects together.

That remains a powerful draw.

Peace (analyze it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Collaboration with the Kid

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

The other day, my 13-year-old son says, Dad, do you want to make a song with me?

You bet I do, kid.

We used a online music collaboration site that I like, called Soundtrap, and he put down the foundation of the song while I added some of the melodic elements on top. He’s been teaching himself all about loop compositions, and he’s also been mysteriously writing lyrics to hiphop songs at night (for some possible collaborative recording effort with a friend from school, we think. He’s been pretty mum on the whole thing.)

When we were done with the collaboration, I took the audio file and used an online site to create the video, to make the presentation a little more impressive (mostly, for him).

Anytime your 13 year old asks, Do you want to … — the answer should almost always be Yes.

🙂

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

 

At Middleweb: Close Read the World with Digital Annotation

My latest post at Middleweb for my Working Draft column is all about digital annotation tools, and how they open up a text to the world for conversation. In particular, I reference the Marginal Syllabus/Educator Innovator’s Writing Our Civic Futures project, which is underway now with its January text.

See you in the margins.

Read Using Crowd Annotation to Close Read the World

Peace (read closely, with others),
Kevin

1000 Books and Reading

Goodreads Tally 2017

The other week, I noticed I had passed a milestone of sorts on Goodreads. I had tracked 1000 books , read and done. Now, of course, I have read many more than 1000 books in my lifetime, but I’ve been pretty diligent about keeping tabs on books I am reading with my Goodreads account (and thus, I felt more than a bit strange about it once Amazon took it over, but I have not yet noticed too much of an Amazon intrusion).

Goodreads also spits out data from the year behind (particularly if you take part in their reading challenge. I do the challenge, usually aiming for 100 books in a year). The graphic above is from my 2017 reading, which I find interesting and amusing.

One hundred thirty five books in a year and one thousand books since joining the site itself (I don’t remember how many years ago now) are pretty cool milestones, but nothing stands still so I’m off to read my next 1000 books or so. Don’t wait around. It’ll take me some time to do that.

Peace (in the pages),
Kevin

Transmedia Digital Storytelling Course: Final Thoughts

Transmedia Storytelling Narrative Universe

I recently finished a free online course through FutureLearn entitled “Transmedia Storytelling.” I wasn’t all that impressed, but perhaps that is due more to covering ground I’ve already covered on my own in the past than the course itself, which is a mix of videos, articles and a comment strand. (Look: the course was free. I’m not really complaining. But FutureLearn ain’t no NetNarr!)

What I really wanted to see was some transmedia digital story projects showcased as exemplars for how digital stories can jump from platform to platform, creating an overarching arc of story while still maintaining independence on the platforms. Unless I missed them, I didn’t see nearly enough of those kinds of projects.

Transmedia Storytelling Branches

There was quite a bit of information about what transmedia is, and why it is an interesting new twist on the age-old elements of storytelling (which began with oral tradition, moved into print tradition, and now seems to be coming back to oral tradition with digital media, according to the course instructor.)

Transmedia Storytelling Media Works Together

I had the vague sense that the course was aimed more at business folks, who are learning how best to market in the digital age through digital immersion of content. That was never said outright, but that was my inferential take on some of the material presented.

Transmedia Storytelling No Barriers

Perhaps as Networked Narratives explores digital stories more deeply, I will try my hand at another transmedia composition. I’ve done a few before, and always felt like they pushed me to think differently as a writer. Writing across platforms and spaces, with threads to tie all the pieces together as a whole, requires deep thinking and extensive planning.

Transmedia Storytelling Platforms

When transmedia works, it’s magic.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: The Time Museum

Time travel is surely a familiar and sometimes overused plot device with science fiction writers and many graphic novelists. I don’t mind the use of time this way, as long as the story doesn’t get so folded in on itself that you lose your balance. In The Time Museum, writer/illustrator Matthew Loux utilizes the time travel concept, too, but he does so with humor, focus, and a keen eye for character development.

The story revolves around protagonist Delia Bean, an outcast of sorts in her school. She finds adventure and self-confidence when she stumbles into her uncle’s Time Museum, a sort of bastion of science and discovery of artifacts from the past and the future that is built on the concepts of time travel itself.

Delia emerges as a leader of a small band of other youthful time travelers (in training), and along with some fantastic adventures (set as ‘trials’), Delia and her companions meet and then must confront a mysterious traveler in time who seems bent on some nefarious project, and the kids must work together to save a future London from disaster.

There’s a manga-look to the artwork here by Loux — with big emotional eyes to characters to express emotions — and the pace of story is swift, and fun. There’s a lot of light-hearted humor in this graphic novel, and I suspect it would appeal nicely to middle school readers.

Peace (in time),
Kevin