The final session of NILE 2008 kicked off with Tuula Nousiainen. Her presentation was about getting schoolchildren to design board games as part of a strategy to promote deep-reading skills. Andrew Stranieri then talked about his team’s work developing a web-based narrative construction environment, that was notable insofar as it used user-generated “snippets” so that “a large human knowledge of of narrative, drama and character responses are captured in the inferences that are used to generate narrative dynamically.”
Debbie Maxwell gave a fascinating presentation about her work with undergraduate digital media students. This was based around the idea of storytelling, and each student had to create a version of a given story as a new media object. What was particularly telling was the range of responses, from the usual repertory of Flash objects and short films, right through to a digital camp fire (where the storyteller could use a ring to change the colour of the ‘fire’) through to interactive puppets (see below).
In reality, the puppets were somewhat disappointing: they only look like puppets (i.e. they don’t actually move in performance) and interaction with them is limited to selecting which one is telling the story. You do this by, ahem, putting your finger in their mouth. All very odd, but it’s a good way of presenting a Rashomon-like experience, in theory at least.
What was particularly noteworthy about this work was the lengths Debbie had gone to to get the students involved in the idea of storytelling: she’d organized storytelling sessions with skilled storytellers, got the students to tell each other stories (including some via videolink to highlight the importance of presence), and actually organized a “mini-festival” called Timeless Tales to exhibit the students’ work. All very inspiring.
Michael Kiegel’s presentation was about the creation of a role-playing game that was designed to develop intercultural skills amongst teenagers. Monica Axelrod talked about the development of an interactive drama system that had as one of its design priorites a quick authoring process. Oksana Zelenko gave a very interesting and persuasive presentation on the participatory design process of software objects for children. Finally, Paul Oord presented on a constructivist “learn-work” e-learning environment he had been involved in creating.
All good stuff.
I enjoyed the conference on the whole. As usual with narrative, many different approaches from many different disciplines were in evidence. Whilst there was nothing that really blew me away I’ve come away with lots of new ideas, although these are for my teaching practice rather than my research work. If I had a criticism of the conference, it would be that too much was packed in: in particular, this meant there was little or no time for any plenary sessions, no chance to integrate any of the points of view, no real sense of coherence. I expect you could say that about most conferences…
So, the only thing left is my own presentation. I’ll post on it soon.
Thanks for sticking with it.