Ideas

Moonshot ideas, radical collaborations. Information to feed your imagination.

  • The Crab and the Butterfly: Semicolon Services in the 21st Century

    The Crab and the Butterfly: Semicolon Services in the 21st Century

    We are sentimental creatures. And by this I mean to say that we have the capacity to balance our emotions with our mental facility. From Wiktionary, we learn this about the word sentimental and its origins: “A vogue word mid-18c. with wide application, commonly a thought colored by or proceeding from emotion” (1762). The word sentimental suggests a balance: the human balance.

    The Crab and the Butterfly: Semicolon Services in the 21st Century

    Home sapiens sensualis

    We are sentimental creatures.  And by this I mean to say that we have the capacity to balance our emotions with our mental facility.  From Wiktionary, we learn this about the word sentimental and its origins: “A vogue word mid-18c. with wide application, commonly a thought colored by or proceeding from emotion” (1762).  The word sentimental suggests a balance: the human balance.

    At our worst, we are motivated by instant emotion and behave as instinctual lizardbots, reacting to life with mirror jihads and fast food.  Or, equally bad, we can be Vulcanesque in avoiding emotion, numbed by too large a dose of cautious logic.  At best, we temper our immediate emotions with experience, consideration, comprehension.  When emotions rise from and result in intelligent, cognitive reaction we achieve worldview, thoughtful action, true choices. This requires a porous barrier between emotions and thought.  Also, this fluidity requires one to stand back, take stock, and act in the world from an emotionally considered space.  This is no easy task.  It requires practice and exercise.

    Art—whether theater, object, literature, or interactive media— kindles our humanity.  Art is the perfect way to practice operating from emotion and intellect simultaneously.  So often, art provokes an immediate emotional response that makes us think.  Or it makes us think until we are suddenly laughing with joy.  And by art, I am inclined to a broad definition: any artifactual catalyst for sentimental experience.  It softens that barrier between emotion and thought, allows us to be truly sentimental.  It allows us the proper amount of self-consciousness to be real people.  I want to have at least one art experience a day.

    In Madness, Rack, and Honey, Mary Reuffle tells us, “Theatre requires you draw a circle around the action and observe from outside the circle.  In other words, self-consciousness is theatre.”  I propose we replace theatre with art: “[art] requires you draw a circle around the action and observe from outside the circle.  In other words, self-consciousness is [art].”  That done, let’s play with the metaphor: extending the boundary makes art more available; it makes more of our experience part of the production and increases the surface area of art in our lives, thereby increasing the opportunity to encounter an art experience.

    Semicolon Services

    The UX and paratext of digital experiences (i.e. film, TV, story, gaming) draws that circle.  In most instances, the boundary is akin to a hard stop, a period.  The action is on the page or screen, on the other side of a physical divide.  In punctuation terms, there is a hard stop, a period, between the media (paper, screen, console) and you.  I propose we experiment with making this barrier a semicolon instead.  Defined as “a mark that connects complete speech acts and ties them together,” the semicolon represents a more fluid experience.  The semicolon allows flow without full stops.  It shows relation between statements, not division.  And this is the promise of digital technology: digitized delivery may soften the boundary between art and our lives.

    Aldus in His Printing Establishment at VeniceThe modern mark and usage of the semicolon was invented by Aldo Manuzio (also known as Aldus Manutius), the 16th-century printer responsible for other such durable innovations as italics, modern comma usage, and inexpensive pocket-size books.  In contemporary terms, he was a senior User Experience entrepreneur working to improve the print platform.  In fact, the first “word processing” program I ever purchased was PageMaker, by a Seattle company named for Aldus.  Their logo has his image right there on the floppy disk, drawing a straight line from some dusty Italian atelier to my equally dusty but likely smokier dorm room.

    Aldus PageMaker DiscLogos can be instructive this way.  Aldus’ (the man) own logo was also significant.  His work was adorned with a dolphin and anchor emblem borrowed from an ancient Roman coin.  Here it is, beneath some of his revolutionary italic print.  The dolphin and anchor symbol was associated with some folksy ancient Roman wisdom, at once a motto and a koan: “Festina lente” (literally “make haste slowly”).  A lovely sentiment, this.  It urges a balance of intent and care, emotion and consideration.  This adage was commonly applied and portrayed in the Renaissance.

    Dolphin and anchorIn addition to the anchor and dolphin, one finds “Festina lente” represented as a crab and butterfly or as a hare within a snail shell.  And as the mighty semicolon!  It says HARD STOP and MOVE ALONG at once.  Festina lente: a true contradiction.  Koan as punctuation!  As such, it’s a spy amidst the other marks, a non-mark that only speaks to the essence of things.  It’s about meaning, not mechanics; it’s a fluid boundary—a low fence at most, a sign at the border at least.

     

     

     

    Festina and semicolon

    Semicolons can make some people uncomfortable, which is a good sign.  Kurt Vonnegut warned, “Here is a lesson in creative writing.  First rule: Do not use semicolons.  They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.”  Good!  Good!  That’s the spirit.  This hints at the sort of shamanistic madness required to fuel real innovation.

    Also, consider the portrayal of the semicolon in this poem by Elizabeth Austen:

    On Punctuation

    not for me the dogma of the period
    preaching order and a sure conclusion
    and no not for me the prissy
    formality or tight-lipped fence
    of the colon and as for the semi-
    colon call it what it is
    a period slumming
    with the commas
    a poser at the bar
    feigning liberation with one hand
    tightening the leash with the other
    oh give me the headlong run-on
    fragment dangling its feet
    over the edge give me the sly
    comma with its come-hither
    wave teasing all the characters
    on either side give me ellipses
    not just a gang of periods
    a trail of possibilities
    or give me the sweet interrupting dash
    the running leaping joining dash all the voices
    gleeing out over one another
    oh if I must
    punctuate
    give me the YIPPEE
    of the exclamation point
    give me give me the curling
    cupping curve mounting the period
    with voluptuous uncertainty

    Austen, aside from eroticizing the question mark for me forever, summarizes evocatively what is so mysterious about the semicolon.  It’s a drunken madman at the gate.  A winking stranger that says “come here” and “run away” ;).

    That’s the sort of border I want to construct between digitally mediated experiences (film, TV, game, story) and physical life experiences.  The line around the theatre is porous.  The semicolon allows art to leak out of its containment field.  Let us all—artists, UX professionals, entrepreneurs—hasten slowly to innovate in this curious, relational, semicolon realm; we can improve our sentimental souls by so doing.

    I hereby offer semicolon services to all comers—let’s work together to soften the boundary and integrate digital experiences into the wider world.

  • Stage the Future 2: The Second International Conference on Science Fiction Theatre

    Stage the Future 2: The Second International Conference on Science Fiction Theatre

    Sponsored by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Call for papers: submissions due by January 15,…

    Stage the Future 2: The Second International Conference on Science Fiction Theatre

    Sponsored by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

    Call for papers: submissions due by January 15, 2015 to stagethefuture@gmail.com – see below for submission guidelines

    Following a successful first conference in the UK, Stage the Future 2 invites abstract submissions for the second annual international science fiction theatre conference to be hosted at Arizona State University on March 6-7, 2015. We welcome papers, panels, and performances that examine and explore the unique attributes live performance offers to science fiction and those that science fiction offers to live performance.

    Science fiction theatre has been steadily emerging and growing into a diverse and global community of artists – from the Science Fiction Theatre Company of Boston, Gideon Productions, OtherWorld and the Vampire Cowboys Theatre in the US to Superbolt, WholeHog, and Stars or Mars in the UK, as well as the annual Sci-Fest theatre festival in Los Angeles – who recognize that the stage has singular qualities, different from literature and film, for engaging the technical and scientific advancements of our modern age.

    The stage can offer wholly unique and original experiences of science fiction that move beyond the boundaries of other mediums. As Susan Sontag has suggested, science fiction literature and film are frequently viewed as two halves of a binary, wherein novels are structured around the intellectual intricacies of hard science, while film provides the viewer with the sensory experience of “science.” Theatre, however, is a platform for both intellectual and sensual elaborations that can transcend such binaries. In this spirit, we call for artists, scholars, critics, and scientists to share ideas on how science fiction theatre may better explore the complexities and contradictions of contemporary scientific practice, particularly in the context of STEM education, sustainable innovation, gender and racial equality, and rational engagement with religion and experiences of the metaphysical.

    In addition to traditional notions of theatre, we welcome diverse views on not just what is considered science fiction, but also what can be considered theatrical engagement with science fiction. Dancers, digital and social media artists, and musicians are equally encouraged to present material that engages science fiction themes for live audiences that are either physically or tele-present.

    The conference welcomes proposals for presentations, roundtables and performances from any discipline and theoretical perspective. Please send a title and a 300 word abstract (as a Word document) for a 20 minute paper or a performance, along with your name, affiliation, and 100 word biography, to stagethefuture@gmail.com by January 15, 2015.

    Topics might include but are not limited to:

    –Future and alternate histories
    –Utopias, dystopias, political SF theatre
    –Non-human and post-human characters
    –Steampunk, cyberpunk, and other -punks on stage
    –Space opera and science fiction opera
    –Apocalypse and post-apocalyptic societies
    –Genetic engineering, cyborgs, clones, A.I.
    –Ecological science fiction
    –Science fiction and dance
    –Menippean satire
    –Planetary romance
    –Adapting science fiction
    –Contemporary fantasy and horror theatres

    Papers presented at the conference will be considered for publication.

    The conference is organized by: Christos Callow, PhD candidate, Birkbeck, University of London; Susan Gray, PhD candidate, Royal Holloway, University of London; Boyd Branch, Visiting Assistant Professor, Arizona State University; Carol Stewart, PhD candidate and Instructor, Bellarmine University; Lance Gharavi, Associate Professor, Arizona State University; and Carrie J. Cole, Assistant Professor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

  • Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

    Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

    This piece is written by Luu Nguyen, and was originally published at ASU News. One of CSI’s major upcoming projects is the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project, which will…

    Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

    This piece is written by Luu Nguyen, and was originally published at ASU News. One of CSI’s major upcoming projects is the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project, which will organize a broad range of activities to celebrate the bicentennial of the writing and publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 2016-2018. 

    Dubbing the mash-up “Beauty and the Beast,” the Arizona State University’s Department of English presents two separately offered spring 2015 hybrid courses – one on Frankenstein and the other on Jane Austen – in the same time slot, to help students make the most of their packed schedules.

    Both literature-based offerings meet from 9 to 10:15 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, alternating in-class and hybrid days. Students may take just one course or both.

    “Frankenstein and Its Others” (ENG 401) is taught by Mark Lussier, professor and chair of the English department. His course meets in person on Thursdays and online on Tuesdays. Students will delve into not only the written works about this “hideous progeny,” but will uncover how the Frankenstein novels influenced classic cinema as well.

    Texts to be explored include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which inspired many others), as well as Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jeykyll and Mr. Hyde and H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Film adaptions of these works include Gothic (1986), Blade Runner (1982) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990), among others.

    In celebration of the upcoming Frankenstein bicentennial (1818-2018), this class is a unique starting point for the university’s bicentennial project, exploring the intersection of science and literature to bring the creature alive once more.

    “Jane Austen (Women & Literature)” (ENG 364) introduces all things Jane Austen in an unusual team-taught structure, meeting in person on Tuesdays and online on Thursdays. The course, jokingly described as “married couple argues about Austen and tries to teach you something in the process,” is instructed by Austen scholars Devoney Looser and George Justice, who are husband and wife. They are both professors of English; Justice also serves as dean of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

    Texts to be discussed include Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and shorter works, including her raucous juvenilia. The course will explore Austen’s humor, irony and social criticism, looking at the ways she’s been used in popular culture.

    In answering the questions, “Why is Jane Austen so popular?” and “Is she just the author of ‘chick lit,’ best served up with zombies or vampires?” the course dissects historical and contemporary Jane Austen fandom. Looser and Justice hope that students come away with knowledge about Austen and about how reading her can inform new understandings of literature, love and life.

    Interested students may visit the Department of English’s website for enrollment information.