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On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: fifteen

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — surprise, surprise — this isn’t the #15 I expected and predicted ]
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In Two eminently watchable TV series by Hugo Blick I looked at narrative artistry as an approach to understanding complex problems — and I do mean complex, the Israeli-Palestinian and Hutu-Tutsi errh, situations..

Here, we consider artistry of another sort — polyphonic, graphical, yet still clearly artistic in execution ..

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Here’s a drawing from Victor Papanek‘s Notebook — and very notebook it is — courtesy Roelof Pieters:

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Compare the above with this example of Mark Lombardi‘s fine art “conspiracy” graphs from his book, Global Networks:

We’re getting positively calligraphic here, and approaching the scope of one of those Song dynasty scroll paintings that feature (am I right? memory, imagination!) a hermit disappearing into his cave in some obscure not quite corner of the scroll, while thunder wreaks havoc on armies by a river in almost center field..

Speaking of which..

Ah, but we’re straggling away from our topic: On the felicities of graph-based game-board design. The point is that the arts have many inventive ways to approach complexity.

I mean, we could start with Hamlet..

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Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: thirteen
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: fourteen
  • Two eminently watchable TV series by Hugo Blick

    Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I suspect Mike Sellers & Ali Minai might find them of interest as subtle narrative avenues into complexity ]
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    I’ve been watching Black Earth Rising , British writer-director Hugo Blick‘s latest series, starring Michaela Coel:

    As with his earlier series, The Honourable Woman featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal, I’m transfixed. Here is complexity delivered — in both cases, brilliantly — on TV:

    Once Blick puts down his first card, as a viewer you think, “Oh, that’s good. That will be interesting.” Then he essentially flips the other 51 into the air and lets them fall all over the script. That’s the ambitious beauty of The Honorable Woman, which explodes across each episode with elaborate twists involving the Israelis, the Palestinians, the British and the Americans.

    **

    Sources:

  • Hollywood Reporter, The Complicated, Ambitious Brilliance of ‘The Honorable Woman’
  • Hollywood Reporter, ‘Black Earth Rising’: TV Review
  • IndieWire, Netflix Thriller Shows the Danger of Treating Global Politics Like a Game
  • **

    I have been discussing systems dynamics and complexity with my game designer friend Mike Sellers recently — see his brilliant book, Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach — and complexity, glass bead games and AI with a new friend, Ali Minai — hear our podcast at BrownPundits. Let’s make it clear: I’m the student here.

    In the course of our discussion, I’d written:

    I think of novels and plays as offering approaches to an intuitive grasp of complex situations

    and

    I think polyphony and counterpoint are what we meet with in the social world, and indeed in our conflicted minds and hearts, and that Bach will prove to be the great master of our age, once we’ve matured enough to learn from him. But listening must come first, and that seems a skill that’s wildly at variance with our times..

    Mike responded:

    Novels and plays give us, I think, something of an implicit systemic view, in that we understand how a greater whole (a love story, a tragedy, etc.) emerges from the mutual interactions between actors. Same with counterpoint and polyphony — the notes mutually interact at the same time, and set up call-and-response interaction within our minds across time, to create a larger experienced whole from the entire musical piece.

    I’m trying to make those relationships more explicit and more generalized, seeing the commonalities in books, music, biology, and games

    so — for both Mike and Ali — I’d recommend these two Hugo Blick series as contemporary works of Shakespearean subtlety, to consider as avenues into coomplexity. And although I lack the linguistic skills to appreciate him I’m sure Ali would like to add the Urdu poet Ghalib to the list..

    So that’s my interest.

    Complexity, what is it? Which avenue takes us deepest into the heart of the matter?

    **

    Hugo Blick?

    Hugo Blick, who likes to teach the ambiguities to which a probing sense of morality will necessarily find itself subject, might like to examine “Combat charities” in the West and their jihadi twin:

    A NEW PHENOMENON OF THE 21ST CENTURY BATTLEFIELD

    “Combat charities”—entities that seek to provide non-profit military and political assistance to weaker armed groups or minorities resisting the military onslaught of others (like ISIS)—are one mechanism for foreign anti-ISIS volunteers to join the fight. “Combat charities” are a new rising phenomenon of the 21st century battlefield and political dispensation. They can significantly affect both local orders and international politics. [ … ]

    Thousands of Western foreign fighters have traveled to the Middle East in recent years to join the fighting that has engulfed the region. They have overwhelmingly participated on the side of jihadi organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS) or the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the Nusra Front).

    However, a smaller and often unnoticed segment of these volunteers has embedded with groups that resist the jihadis, such as Kurdish, Assyrian, and Yazidi militias. These fighters vary in their motivations for joining the fight: Some are driven by moral outrage and seek to prevent the atrocities minority groups have suffered at the hands of the jihadis, while others are motivated by co-religionist solidarity. Some seek a sense of adventure and the adrenaline highs of military tourism, while others wish to escape problems at home, finding in the fight a form of self-medicating for post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems. [ … ]

    THE WESTERN PATHBREAKERS

    SOLI is the oldest and most established combat charity in the world. Founded and led by American citizen Matthew VanDyke, it operates in Iraq, and is building abilities to operate in Syria and North Africa. Since its creation in 2014, SOLI has helped form, train, and to certain extent equip the two largest Assyrian militias in northern Iraq fighting against ISIS. [ … ]

    …AND THEIR JIHADI TWIN

    Founded in May 2016, Malhama Tactical is the first sunni jihadi private military company. As Rao Komar, Christian Borys, and Eric Woods reported in Foreign Policy magazine in February, during its short existence Malhama Tactical has provided training and battlefield consulting for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front, affiliated with al-Qaida) and the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Uighur extremist group from China’s restive Xinjiang province.

    Get that? Rival combat charities to throw a heavy dose of ambiguity into the already three-cornered Syrian situation..

    IMO, these combat charities on both sides of an already fraught situation might make excellent fodder for Hugo Blick‘s subtle story-telling mind..

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    Viewing:

  • Netflix, Black Earth Rising
  • Amazon, The Honorable Woman
  • Further reading — the full combat charities report:

  • Brookings, Combat charities or when humanitarians go to war:
  • I’m trying to figure it out

    Saturday, August 26th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — oh, i mean, the whole ball of wax, kit & kaboodle ]
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    I’m trying to figure it out by catching glimpses in other people’s work, finding somethat are part of their pretty obvious ideas that are assumptions for tuthem and indicative of the state of affairs for me. I suppose I’m always on the lookout for such things, but today I’m going to shoot for the big picture.

    Item #1 comes from David Ronfeldt, friend of this blog, who posted at TIMN:

    It is no longer possible to think of corruption as just the iniquitous doings of individuals, be they street-level bribe payers, government officials, or business executives. In the five dozen or so countries of which Honduras is emblematic, corruption is the operating system of sophisticated networks that link together public and private sectors and out-and-out criminals — including killers — and whose main objective is maximizing returns for network members.

    Boom! The main objective is to maximize returns, returns. Nobody says what retiurns are, everybody knows: returns are cash, money, moolah is what everyone is after, “follow the money” is equalled in popularity only by “cherchez la femme” — although “follow the dead Russians” has a temporary place in the sun if you follow John Schindler. Money, sex, that’s about it.

    Sex. I’ll need an item for sex, eh?

    **

    Item #2 is prestige. I ound it at Tom Whipple‘s post, Starman, whichb describes a Norwegian jazz player’s rooftop searches for items of stardust.

    So began the journey that would end with an autodidact gypsy-jazz musician publishing a scientific paper in a prestigious American geology journal,

    The item here is prestige, yes, in the words “prestigious journal” — and the thing here is that anm autodidact made it into some prestigious pages, a jazz musician, imagine that!

    Oh, and BTW, we are stardust:

    I suppose you could call Joni Mitchell a jazz musician too, but she’s not — as far as I know — Norwegian,

    **

    Money, prestige, stardust.

    Those are my findings so far, that’s what it’s all about. And I’m guessing, sex too, once I find an appopriate reference — oh, totally inappropriate, I’m afraid, not suited to office viewing. .

    Sorry about that, I should have used a title-srolling clip from Sex and the City. I mean, good-looking means do it, plain and simple. Those guys who make films know what they’re doing.

    I know, I know, I wemt from fishing phrases out of articles into fishing songs out of YouTube — but I’m still after “it” — and now we have money, prestige, stardust, sex..

    I am beginning to see a glimmer of the human condition, la condition humaine. I mean, wars — civil and uncivil, compromise, film makers knowing who to film in filmy nightgowns, tight short skirts, and so on, and frankly, Trump, who epitomizes Sex and the City, has moola and no tax returns, and is made of greater stardust than the rest of us, I mean, he Trumps!

    **

    What else? I ask you, what else are we?

    Frankly, there’s transcendence. We are golden. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. This one’s from my memory trove — it’s from Thomas Traherne‘s little book, Centuries of Meditations:

    You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.

    Sunday surprise the first — neat tweets from KarlreMarks

    Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Brexit, graphical thinking, serpents — there’s never a dull moment with Karl Sharro on Twitter! ]
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    Karl Sharro is reMarkable and indeed reTweetable:

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    An hour or so before I saw that tweet from Sharro, I’d tweeted a quote from Suzanne Langer:

    I was quoting Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key — hat-tip: Steven H. Cullinane:

    Visual forms— lines, colors, proportions, etc.— are just as capable of articulation, i.e. of complex combination, as words. But the laws that govern this sort of articulation are altogether different from the laws of syntax that govern language. The most radical difference is that visual forms are not discursive. They do not present their constituents successively, but simultaneously, so the relations determining a visual structure are grasped in one act of vision.”

    I think that’s generally right, and goes some way to explaining why “reading” a HipBone Game is cognitively different, even when the game is played entirely in verbal moves, from an equivalent reading of the same “move” tests in sequence.

    I noted Sharro’s visual example — worth clicking all the way through to see it full scale — because although it’s a visual representation of a cluster of texts, it follows a timeline from left to right, and is thus simultaneously sequential and synchronic. A neat trick.

    BTW, Sharro is celebrated for an earlier diagram I’ve posted here — with glee, and with his amazing purely textual equivalent!

    **

    OK so now my focal length is just right for KarlreMarks Twitter feed, and I find this beauty — also about Brexit — too:

    What’s so neat here? Well, it appears to be a paradox of self-reference — ourobouros, a serpent biting its own tail if you like — and it’s very nicely done. The “large numbers of people” gathered in London, of course, aren’t the “large numbers of people” they say shouldn’t be heard, and if Sharro had tweeted —

    Large numbers of people gather in London to demand that large numbers of other people shouldn’t be heard”

    — the paradox would have been gone, the serpent biting its own tail morphed into a serpent biting another serpent — a far less interesting spectacle.

    Or would it? At the level of particular crowds, yes, the paradox would vanish, one crowd biting another, but at the level of implied principle, a crowd voicing the denial of the principle that the voices of crowds deserve a hearing would still be self-refuting in just the way Sharro plays on.

    So the paradox would be like Schrodinger’s cat, dead while alive — or even better, the Cheshire Cat, niow here now gone, perhaps?

    **

    Life, she is rich in paradox.

    On the narrative arc

    Monday, May 23rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a recent Wapo example of how history gets bent (ever so slightly) out of shape to serve narrative ]
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    Riley Rainbow in Curved Air
    One of the universal arcs, and a personal favorite

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    Story-telling shapes awareness.

    Yesterday’s Washington Post has an article titled Patriots at the gate: The Americans preparing for battle against their own government. It’s an interesting overview, but I’m not interested in discussing the merits or demerits of the Patriot Movement, Southern Poverty Law Center, Oath Keepers, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, the Bundy Ranch, or Malheur — what interests me is the way the story is told.

    Here’s the section dealing with one participant:

    Across the family-style table, Alex ­McNeely, 25, a drywaller and “avid YouTuber,” said he became interested in the patriot movement online and joined the group to feel that he was helping to defend the country.

    “There’s this D.C. mentality that if you stand up for your rights, you’re dangerous and anti-government,” said McNeely, who has an AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm. “But if I’m denied my rights, what else can I do? Am I just going to stand there and take it, or am I going to do something?”

    In the Constitutional Guard, McNeely said: “I feel what we do is stand up for people who don’t have the means to stand up for themselves. I have an overwhelming desire to help people.”

    They have passed out more than 2,000 pocket-size copies of the Constitution that Soper said he bought for $500, sent food and clothes to victims of forest fires in Washington state and Oregon and given Christmas presents to more than three dozen children in need.

    McNeely considered joining the military when he graduated from high school, but he turned 18 the month Obama was elected in 2008, and, because of Obama’s “socialist” policies, “I wasn’t going to accept him as my commander in chief.”

    “I don’t like that he wants to fundamentally change America,” McNeely said.

    **

    The writer is Kevin Sullivan, a WaPo Senior correspondent, and I think we can safely assume he knows his trade. My interest focus on the sentence:

    “There’s this D.C. mentality that if you stand up for your rights, you’re dangerous and anti-government,” said McNeely, who has an AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm.

    Sullivan has already given his opening identification of McNeely —

    Across the family-style table, Alex ­McNeely, 25, a drywaller and “avid YouTuber,” said he became interested in the patriot movement online and joined the group to feel that he was helping to defend the country

    — that’s fair enough, and the bit about the “AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm” could have gone in there, or been added to the graph:

    McNeely considered joining the military when he graduated from high school, but he turned 18 the month Obama was elected in 2008, and, because of Obama’s “socialist” policies, “I wasn’t going to accept him as my commander in chief.”

    where the topic is his consideration of “the military” — but no, Sullivan posts it neither where he’s introducing McNeely nor where he’s talking about his thoughts about the military, but in the graph discussing the Patriot Mov ement ideals as McNeely describes them — see, once again:

    “There’s this D.C. mentality that if you stand up for your rights, you’re dangerous and anti-government,” said McNeely, who has an AK-47 assault rifle tattooed on his forearm.

    **

    Sullivan wants the irony. He’s making a juxtaposition-with-purpose — long-time readers here will know that juxtaposition as a rhetorical device is a keen interest of mine — he’s linking the movement’s ideals with the AK-47 tattoo to add an inflection of irony.

    It’s a tiny point — no more than an inflection — but it’s one that I note in the same way I noted the non-appearance of bin Laden‘s Qur’anic epigraph in media versions of a significant speech, in my post Close reading, Synoptic- and Sembl-style, for parallels, patterns. I don’t happen to share McNeely’s worldview, nor that of bin Laden, but I am deeply interested in the ways the media portray matters of substance and nuance. I am interested in “narrative”.

    We’ve all heard MLK’s quote, “somehow the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The arc of narrative has another aim: it bends towards “good reading” — and if the curve bends fast enough it will spiral ever more lightly and less helpfully in, and we wind up with “click bait”. I know this, because I practice my own version of the dark (and sometimes, brilliantly illuminating) art of writing.

    **

    There’s a lot more to say about narrative, and the various meanings it now has.

    One of my own interests is the way in which we think a narrative can be spun out of words and images (aka “propaganda”), when facts, grounded realities, history may, as they say, tell a different tale — and facts may speak louder than words. In that sense, if we need a new narrative, we may need a new behavior, a new policy, a new strategy implemented, to speak it.

    What interests me here though, getting back to the WaPo piece and McNeely, is how telling a story in a way that makes it a “good read” influences a narrative arc that is, significantly, also the arc of “the first draft of history”.


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