My Digital Rhetorics course is progressing. And the deadlines for the assignments attached are moving closer. We are expected to create (rather than merely write) a mystory – a rather esoteric genre of digital rhetoric invented by the postmodernist academic Greg Ulmer.
A mystory is, well, a good question. But answered. At first it seemed seriously spacy and postmodernistic, but after a while I realised that just because of that – I can make it into whatever I want. The best way to describe it is by looking at examples of how other people have thought it.
Greg Ulmer wrote one in “The Internet and its Double”
My lecturer Cynthia Haynes wrote one in “Arctic Virgins: √?lekcriture and the Semiotics of Circumpolar Icon(o)graph√©”
Both of these are a weird mixture of theory, personal remembrance and puns. Sorta like you’d expect an academic jamming or improvising on her keyboard like a jazz musician would his trumpet. Indeed, Ulmer argues that the mystory concept is to encourage invention rather than interpretation. Both Haynes and Ulmer introduce bunches of new terms and abstractions, one of which I thought interesting: Haynes’ concept of El√©kcriture.
El√©kcriture is the realtime writing and communication allowed by digital media. It is the electrical oral “texts” that resist traditional ways of organizing and controlling the flow of conversation. It is the casually written, conversational text of the Instant Message, the IRC chat or the MMORPG – immaterial and immediate yet always logged and thus published.
It is an interesting term, for an increasing amount of our communication seem to take the form of el√©kcriture – nonlinear, delayed and quickly absorbed. Some have even experimented with this malleability to limit and direct the way that we read poems. Using Flash graphics to give us just one line at a time.
Others have tried other of the stylistic possibilities offered by the new digital media. For instance email. It makes you wonder whether you couldn’t send people emails not unlike chain emails, spam or newsletters but with the seed to a new poetic endeavour – where their replies would be integrated into a new linked whole?
But why merely text? It is obvious that you can combine pictures, text and sound in digital media to achieve startling effects. For instance, the game Fa√ßade – a new kind of story-intense interaction that takes the form of an improvised one act drama. With the player playing the role of a friend of Trip and Grace – a couple whose relationship is the centre of the drama.
Or maybe playing on stereotypes and brands like the Adbusters:
Or mixing text and images in digital comics as suggested by Scott McCloud (and many others). For instance, the fantastic forthrunning cartoonish feel of Demian 5, the dream comics of Slow Wave – inspired by dreams sent in by the readers, or the integration of blogs and picture alt-texts into the full appreciation of the Achewood comic.
But I’ve digressed a fair bit. This is just an exploration of what a Mystory might contain or offer. I’ve already decided on a theme and basic narrative structure of my mystory, but the finer points of how to construct and angle it is still undecided. Hopefully, all of these ideas will send me on my way.