Designing for the Individual

Something that constantly boggles my mind when it comes to creating artwork, any type, is: “how do I reach as many people as possible.” This is constantly on my mind when I think of potential rabbit holes. “What if only one person finds this?” This is something that I often try to escape as an artist, and there was one part of the interview with Felix Barrett that really spoke out to me.

He states that one of his favorite shows was when there were only about four people present. He goes on to share how it was every intimate experience that could not have been as successful on a larger scale. He segues into how he believes that an experience that can only be captured by an individual is very sacred in a time of mass media. I think there’s also another implication here that wasn’t necessarily mentioned.

I’m more talking to myself here, and it may seem obvious. If your experience cannot be special to the individual, then it cannot be special to the mass. If you start out thinking about how to appease the masses, then you may lose sight of the special individual experience. I believe this has to be genuine as well, and this goes along with some of the philosophical readings we have had throughout the quarter. If you try to design for the individual, with the goal of designing for the masses, then you cannot fully accomplish your purpose.

This comes at an unfortunate, but what I see as worthwhile, trade-off for the artist. Your work may not be seen by as many people as possible, but it will be experienced by the few that it does. Of course, this is unless you have a team of people behind you. If that’s the case, leave the marketing to the marketers, and keep the art to the artists.

Bleed in Day to Day Social Media

We have seen many examples of how bleed affects actors and artists, but I have been thinking about how it affects our day to day lives. Over the last few years, there have been increasing movements against social media and its tendency to force people to construct false realities of themselves. On many social media platforms, their subcultures lead people to do one of two things: either you do ridiculous things ironically, or you capture the best parts of your life.

I believe both are dangerous because of person’s constructed social media can bleed into their personality. Someone may constantly seek to post their happiest selves on Instagram, look for the best moment of their day, or even worse, pretend there is one if you had an average day. Sometimes people extend this to their lives outside of social media and attempt to constantly show a version of themselves that they perceive as best. I should note that I speak from the bias of having nine sisters and seeing their true selves, how they act around others, and how they present themselves on social media.

This becomes extremely dangerous as people begin to live false realities, and convince themselves that their lives are/should be the best moment each time. This can lead people to bottle up their emotions, and push away “negative emotions” (a term I find unproductive) instead of healthily acknowledging them. Their social media selves have bled into their actual selves, and they see themselves as a profile that receives “likes” rather than a human being. Unfortunately, and maybe to the annoyance of the reader, I have a hard time finding facts to support this. These are potentially wrong observations that I see rise intertwined with the ubiquity of social media. Unfortunately, and maybe to the annoyance of the reader, I have a hard time finding facts to support this. These are potentially wrong observations that I see rise intertwined with the ubiquity of social media in friends, family, and after reflecting upon my younger self.

I would like to also note that I’m not claiming that social media is inherently bad. Rather, I believe there are developmental dangers with self-perception and bleed that have not been safely handled. In the world of acting, we have seen methods that are used to try to use bleed productively, or try to keep people safe from the negative parts of bleed. Younger and younger people use social media more and more and the reality is that it is becoming harder and harder for parents to control what their children are being exposed to. As a result, I think looking into how bleed is handled in artistic capacities can also serve as a good step towards finding how we can handle this rapid rise of social media and various ways to construct perceptions of yourself (the self-quantification movement, for example).

Using Myself as a Readymade

I wanted to reflect on my inability to play a different character in the LARP we participated in last week. I ultimately ended up playing a character that was just a fictional version very similar to myself. At first, I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to play another character, but by the end of writing this, I believe there were some interesting realizations that arose from it, and it was the best decision at the time. I believe that one of the most interesting parts of my experience in last week’s LARP dealt with two aspects we have talked about extensively in class: Spolin’s idea of the readymade, and the magic circle.

For a bit, it was very difficult for me to play a character that was very different from myself. Especially since I have no prior acting experience, and play table-top very rarely, I had trouble not letting Jersey speak. I’ll admit, towards the goal of playing a different character, I failed. I was unable to embody someone new, but hope to be able to do so at a later stage. However, there was something interesting that happened with my character, “Joe.” I didn’t want to ruin the experience of other players by awkwardly taking extra time to think of what Joe would say. So, I (subconsciously) looked for Spolin’s idea of readymades that I had at my disposal.

The readymade I found wasn’t what one would expect. I kept thinking, “what trope can I play off of,” but was continuously blanking in the middle of conversations with other characters. Eventually, there was only one readymade that I could come up with. What would Jersey do in this situation? Well, that was easy because I was in that situation. Once I started just playing a character that was very similar to my own, the experience was not only more enjoyable, but I was able to contribute to the story more. 

I think what also made this situation difficult to handle at first was the blurring of the magic circle. In the beginning stages, there were some players who were already in character, and there were some players who weren’t. I had to constantly switch back and forth at the beginning; I had a hard time fully getting into another mindset if I had to constantly step in and out of the magic circle.

In addition, some of the safety mechanics made it tough to fully be in character. Of course, this is not to say that they shouldn’t be present, I am just noting that they were hard for me to manage. I had to be Joe while    Jersey looked and made sure that the situation and the other players’ emotions behind their characters were okay. With the constant blurring and complicated juggling of personalities, I was unable to fully get into a different character and as a result just ended up playing a similar version to myself.

In the end, though, I am less disappointed than I was immediately after it. If I don’t think I’m an interesting enough character to play, then what does that say about what I think of myself? In addition, since many other characters didn’t have a grasp of my personality outside of the classroom setting, or at all if they were from DePaul, Joe was still a fresh experience for the players involved.

Play and Innovation

I wanted to speak more on the question from Tuesday about how can aspects of play allow us to solve problems. I am taking a course centered around Science and Technology studies. Our most recent discussion was about how the way we produce scientific knowledge has traditionally been thought of as a retroactive process. The image the world carried was that a scientist came up with a hypothesis, went into a lab, proved or disproved their hypothesis, then left.

Anthropologists such as Andrew Pickering point out that this is seldom the case. Instead, ideas and new technologies are what he calls ‘temporally emergent.’ Instead of a scientist going in with a set goal, they go in open to a new goal, and usually come out with something different than what they started. To relate it a bit more to the general class, it’s like when you write a paper. If you start out with a thesis, it likely won’t be the same thesis by the end of the paper. There are an infinite number of factors at any given moment (both social and physical) than open up the possibility of new experiences, or ideas.

This idea of temporal emergence in the science field is very similar to what Spolin describes. Specifically, when she states that when is a moment where “the answer just comes.” I believe that as people grow older and switch from a “play” mindset to a “work” mindset, play becomes something almost taboo. Our reading on the Situationists International expands on this subject, arguing that society has created a dichotomy of leisure time and work time, leaving little to no room for play to be embedded in our lives.

But to tie it all together, I believe that the childish nature of play and improvisation, mainly that of being open to new experiences, and focusing on the process rather than the final product that in the way that Spolin describes, is essential to finding innovative solutions to problems. There is one story that I believe is a testament to this.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was a mathematician from the early 20th century. He never had a formal college education, but went on to solve problems in mathematics that were considered unsolvable. These theorems he came up with still have a deep impact on stem fields today. At first, no professor was willing to believe that this uneducated man just came up with the solution to an impossible problem that they had been working on for years. But once he was given the opportunity to explain himself, professors were shocked, noting that his methodologies were of the most obscure that they had ever seen.

Many note that the reason Ramanujan was able to come up with such great theories is because he was not confined to the same rules of mathematics that college-educated mathematicians were. There were no mental routes that seemed unworthy of pursuing for Ramanujan. One can say that he was more open and “playful” with how he approached math, and as a result, was able to solve incredible problems. There are more examples that I recommend looking into, such as George Dantzig, but the point is clear: “playfulness” allows for innovation and solutions to problems that could not be solved without this approach.

Risks of External Environment in ARGs

Today, our team presented on Pac Manhattan. One of the aspects of the game that I found really intriguing was how it navigated safety (not well, in my opinion). There were antidotes about players waited until the last possible moment to cross streets to strategically gain an advantage. In other words, if a ghost decided to run after Pacman, they would be hit by a car.

In Pervasive Games, Montola speaks about using the unpredictability of the external environment to always guarantee a unique experience. Everything in the real world becomes an object that can be manipulated for the purposes of the game. Montola also points out the risks associated with this, however. For instance, players may unethically involve non-players, or in the case of Pac Manhattan, could potentially become dangerous.

I believe Pac Manhattan could easily become dangerous if someone experiences intense tunnel-vision, and the designers did not account for this well. Sure, the players were college students who presumably can handle the situation more rationally than a child, but Pac Manhattan is one of the unique ARGs that can be recreated. It isn’t inconceivable that some kids somewhere may try to play the game amongst each other and get hurt.