Project Timeline 2005–2010

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New Formulation of OTB — Morphology – Narrative — Recursion

1. Hugh’s summation of the overall aim of the project:

To develop a strategic set of conversations around the future of television.

This summation describes an approach that caters to the needs of the industry folks and of the academics. For industry, this approach gives the participants nimbleness, ‘fitness’, readiness, responsiveness. [Note: they should not expect predictions; rather they should expect to develop a well-informed analytical and speculative capability.] For the academics, this approach gives information about how industry has been thinking up till now and how they can and cannot think as things changes; the approach also gives the academics a test-domain in which to develop not only new theories about the workings and possibilities of narrative but also practical workshop in which narrative scene-setting and plotting are played out by real-world narrators.

2. Scenarios and Narratives

Ross proposes that we should keep in view two crucial, carefully differentiated notions: (a) scenarios and (b) narratives. Scenarios are complex settings, or sets of drivers out of which a large number of narrative lines can be drawn. Ie a scenario implies and gives rise to many narrative; a scenario is not the same as a narrative. The first thing we have to do is establish valid and provocative scenarios. This is a good task for the informed outsider. Then the expert insiders should tell narratives out of those scenarios. Ie the narrating needs intimate knowledge deployed in response to the provocations of the scenarios.

In other words, there are morphological tasks (ie listing the drivers in a provocative array) and narratological tasks (ie delineating stories out of the morphological array.) CF de Certeau’s distinction between the map and the tour, or Saussure’s distinction between the langue and the parole.

A scenario is really a list or a field of key influences. A scenario is usually a mix of characters, contextual tendencies or plot actions already at play, moods, tones of address. Out of the listed or arrays influences or drivers, a narrative line can be told. NOTE: the narrative does not encompass everything in the scenario. The narrative comes out of the scenario. And there are likely to be dozens of narratives possible from any one scenario.

[Think of THEATRESPORTS: the scenario is proposed and then each team runs several different improvised narratives out of the scenario. Then there is review (applause or not) from the audience. The directors/producers generate the scenario; the expert actors tell the story out of the scenario. The audience and reviews generate discourse about the narratives. The process starts again. We spiral repeatedly in a 3-part circuit: Scenario Generation-Narration-Discursive Reflection. Which leads to more scenario formation etc etc.]

3. Mind Mapping

In our project, the mind-map is something that already makes us distinctive. The mind map is a mega scenario that’s too big to be narratively useful, but it morphologically very rich. So, from the mind-map we can develop develop several clusters or practicable scenarios. Out of these clustered scenarios, narrative can be delineated. The OTB tea’s role is to develop the overall mindmap and then to develop provocative clusters or sub-scenarios. Then we take these scenarios to the industry experts and get/help them to narrate. NB it is important that we don’t step in an narrate for them. This has to be an active, venturesome exercise by the industry folks, otherwise they have no chance of developing the nimbleness and fitness that should come from the project. NB we can also take the scenarios to a different set of ‘experts’ — writing students at UTS and UNSW. NB once the narratives have been generated, we must review what was produced and then the cycle starts again with other scenarios.

Ie the OTB reams does the morphological work and the the discursive review, but not the narrative work.

NOTE: because the television scene is so complex and changeful, it’s important that we concentrate on the multiple scenarios rather than the multiple narratives. We are delving into a complex situation rather than a complicated one. The industry folks need to be spinning narratives constantly, nut not multiple narratives from just one scenario. It’s important to develop the ability to see multiple scenarios. We have an advantage already here, with the mindmap that already exists and with the interactive mindmap that’s being developed. The industry folks need to be presented with provocative, clearly and boldly informed scenarios which stimulate their insider’s knowledge so that they spin narrative out of them. This is where we are useful and distinctive — offering surpassing but valid scenarios or lists of drivers, building on the work already done with the mind-maps.