5CollDH Undergraduate Fellow and Amherst College student Carl “Ott” Lindstrom has audience on the brain. His fellowship project is a multimedia Scalar exhibition tracking the changing relationship of the spectator with the media object from classic film to interactive video games to the immersive future of virtual reality. This is Ott’s first post of three; you can click through to read the second and third installments, or read an interview with Ott conducted by Jeffrey Moro.
“Write of the thing in the form the thing demands.”
I first encountered this phrase or some verisimilar permutation of it in my freshman seminar. Aptly titled “Things Matter” and taught by the illustrious Professor Hastie, this class was, by and large, exactly what it said on the tin: a collection of philosophical case studies focused on various Things and Why They Matter, with subjects ranging from antique teapots to chocolate bars to weird coverless books whose pages folded out like accordions.
I’m not afraid to admit that 18-year-old me was less that fond of this course. Entering college dead-set on an economics degree and full of teenaged hot-air, I was understandably less than enthused by the broadside of dense reading and complicated humanities thinking that greeted me on my first day in class. I’m pretty sure if someone told me during that course that in three years I’d be writing a thesis partially founded on principles of analysis and presentation learned in “Things Matter” and advised by that same professor who so cruelly subjected me to Barthes and Borges and Benjamin, I would have let loose with a hearty chuckle. Actually, come to think of it, knowing how I acted as an 18 year old, it would have probably been something more along the lines of a derisive snort and an eye roll.
Ain’t it funny how things shake out, huh?
In a nutshell, my Five College Digital Humanities Fellowship project is my Film and Media Studies thesis. Working with Professor Hastie as my adviser, I am creating a nonlinear digital essay presented through USC’s Scalar platform, analyzing the semiotic relationships between the spectator and the media object, focusing in succession on film, video games and virtual reality. Of course, as per this blog post’s introduction, I am writing in the form that the media object demands: my project is loosely structured in the form of an open-world video game, featuring a main line of arguments supplemented and supported by a variety of interconnected “side quests”, smaller case studies and arguments feeding back and forth into the primary thread of reasoning. Though the project is not quite as interactive as I had perhaps hoped when I started this long journey last summer (10 hours of GameMaker and one B+ semester of Java does not a programmer make), Scalar provides a powerful pathing tool and excellent support for multimedia content. As such, in addition to the written core of the thesis, I have made and am in the process of making several short video essays, expanding and illustrating various arguments made throughout the project.
Currently, I have finished the rough draft of all my writing and am beginning the slow and annoying process of editing and porting everything over into Scalar. There’s a light in the distance, but there’s still a whole lot of tunnel to go.