Tuesday, March 12, 2013

End-Product of Our Class

So, I am really sorry for missing class yesterday.  I was feeling rather under the weather.

Having downloaded the recording of the class discussion and listened to it on iTunes (how great is modern technology?), I have to say that I'm excited by the idea of a major, multi-media collaborative project.  I'm still terrified of the idea of having to make another video, because good LORD those things are time-consuming.  But molding an introduction to Renaissance literature through video, audio, blogs, wikis, and so forth sounds really worthwhile.

The problem is that this class is geared towards creating an end-product, and we have a mere handful of weeks left to determine the shape of that end-product, delegate tasks, and build it.

Thus, I'm going to through out some ideas for the two groups to which I have been assigned:

Brave New World

Although it kills me to say it, I think video would be a great entry point for Brave New World texts.  It is--aside from video games and interactive fiction, neither of which have much cultural respect as art at this time--the newest art form in existence.  Groping our way through creating some sort of video product that introduces and expounds upon travel literature, scientific treatises, the novel, and proto-science fiction would most certainly mimic the journey of Renaissance writers, while making the texts relevant and interesting to a modern audience.

I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of a frame story, for several reasons.  First, I worry that not all of our texts would be able to slot easily into any kind of frame story, whether it be astronauts in the far future rediscovering the Renaissance or a time-traveling explorer meeting the authors of important texts.  Second, I think the video should be kept simple enough that large chunks of it can be created by individual students while at home.  We just do no have the time at this point to try to juggle 3+ people's schedules to allow for meeting and filming outside of class.  Third, we don't have any good costumes, and I have my artistic integrity to uphold!

Having said all that, I think it could be really interesting to, for example, create a mockumentary about students learning about Renaissance texts.  We could get some footage of our class time, with Professor Burton lecturing, the students in the back of the class dozing off or browsing Facebook, and a group of four students getting really excited and diving into the texts. 

We could create cut-away interview shots such as seen on The Office and Parks and Recreation where we discuss the texts and how we have engaged with them.  Those could be created at home on our respective webcams without a great deal of trouble, as we have already seen.  And we could script them or just do them free-form and cut together the best bits.

And we could tie it all together with an explanation of how to find out more about our class project or about the texts we reference.

Just a thought.


Audio drama, anyone?

One of the things that fascinated me about The Courtier was how the life of a courtier was demonstrated through the conversations and interactions between the characters as much as it was revealed through the discussions, themselves.  So a good, well-scripted audio drama might be able to do the same thing.

There are a bunch of ways to take this.  We could have an audio drama of courtiers discussing what life will be like in the future, with some "impromptu" poetry thrown in.  That would allow us to demonstrate sprezzatura while commenting on modern life and how it ties in with Renaissance movements.  Or we could have caricatures of ourselves haughtily discussing Renaissance court life as if we possessed sprezzatura.  Or we could have a fictional discussion between cyberpunk avatars in a virtual world discussing how the ideas of sprezzatura were integrated into the American culture during the early 21st century.  I don't know, I just think that an audio drama would really work for this theme.

I hope that my fellow classmates come to class tomorrow ready to lock down what our end-product should be.  See you then!


  1. I really like your points, Nate, about how we could deal with our limited time/resources/costumes and still make an enjoyable and exciting video series.
    I was amazed at what a little creativity could do, though, when I did my video (all I used was a dry erase board, ketchup and dark eyeshadow). I think it'd be really important at this point to bring together individually filmed bits rather than meet to film.
    I like the audio drama for Sprezza, too. Before, I was picturing something like those morning old lady talk shows, or a People or Cosmo magazine rip off... But I like this better.

  2. In your opinion, why is it that video games have not received cultural respect as art? Do you feel that's the case for the younger age groups as well, or is it something isolated to pre-video-game generations?

    1. Well, that's a big question, and does not have a simple answer.

      I think that a big part of the problem is exposure. Up until very, very recently (within the last five years or so), video games actively tried to be a niche market. Every big game that sold well was marketed to "hardcore gamers," which apparently means males between the ages of 12 and 35.

      Why the industry limited its target audience, I have no idea, but they're finally catching on to the fact that plenty of people are willing to play games. iOS and Android games do well across a wide demographic. Millions of people of all ages and video game experience enjoy Minecraft. "Girl gamers" are gradually pushing their way into the industry.

      But the fact remains that most games since the mid-80s were not marketed for a general audience. The film industry releases big movies with big stars for all kinds of movie-goers. And there are books for ANY taste. But finding a well-designed game for, say, a seven-year-old girl to play with her mother is extremely difficult, even today.

      This lack of proper exposure hurts the industry's artistic integrity. If people don't know about the artsy games like Journey, Kentucky Route Zero, Shadow of the Colossus, or what have you; if the only games they are aware of are simplistic games like Tetris and Angry Birds on the one hand and violent gun-fests like Halo and Call of Honor II: Metal of Duty on the other, they do not get a good picture of the industry.

      Film critic Roger Ebert famously claimed that video games, by their very nature, cannot EVER be art. In that same article, however, he also proudly states that he has never played a video game. Do you see the problem there? The artistic merit of the entire industry is being judged by a man who has no expertise in video games. He does not know the vernacular, he is not familiar with video game history or design processes, he doesn't know what is on the market. And yet many people accept his opinion, or come to that same conclusion on their own, through pure and unfortunate ignorance. They just don't KNOW.

      It could be compared to someone brushing off films as a whole because they caught brief snippets of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films that their young kids watch and the Michael Bay explode-a-thons that their teenagers watch. You cannot judge the artistic merit of an entire medium based on what is popular. Art is rarely popular. The best, most artistically-perfect films rarely make any money. Yet films are considered to have plenty of artistic value. In fact, we have award shows every year that celebrate the best actors, the best scripts, the best directors, the best soundtracks, the best costumes, and so forth.

      It doesn't help, of course, that the qualified and prolific video game critics are only writing for an indoctrinated audience. Their readers, for the most part, already know that their are great games out there that provide exceptionally cathartic and moving experiences, games that change the way they look at the world and themselves. But those critics are disconnected from general audiences. Subsequently, our culture continues to brush video games aside as silly distractions at best and destructive pastimes at worst.