[Open Source Cinema] The Future of Storytelling

Open Source Cinema: A Web of Hyper-Cinema | Dan O’Sullivan | Spring 2018 | NYU ITP

Assignment: Save a story as data on a server. See notes for details. Begin to think about the future of storytelling.

The beginning of this course is timing out perfectly with the one-credit course I’m also taking this weekend, “Blockchain Fiction.” There seems to be a similar thread between the two related to democratizing systems––whether they are financial, social, or cultural. Specifically I’ve been thinking about specialized knowledge:

In medieval times, illiteracy was the norm and scribes and clergy were the only ones who had the means and time to achieve the training necessary to read and write.

Are we in a new era where those who can code are the new scribes? Nowadays, computation and filmmaking are the expensive pastimes that only the privileged few with the time and resources––or the sheer tenacity––have the ability to be trained in these specialized, technical skill sets.

The ubiquity code and the image (moving or otherwise) in our everyday lives––whether it’s a logistical tool or entertainment––will necessarily increase the number of people who understand code and cameras and sound and editing etc. What I find lacking in the cultural conversation however is the idea that people will at the same time advance in their visual culture literacy.

The stories we tell and how we tell them affect our understanding of the world and therefore affect our understanding of the possible. What would our world look like if the stories we experienced truly captured the wealth of experience there is in the world?

Save a Story as Data – CONEPTUALLY

Before understanding what exactly we were being asked to do, I created a janky JSON to try and represent what I considered the elements of cinema:


Save a Story as Data on a Server – FOR REAL

Then I figured out that we were supposed to literally make a server and and save visual representations of what we considered elements of a story––in the conceptual sense rather than the literal “how to make a movie” sense. The basic elements of a story in my mind are as follows:

Given Circumstances (an acting term that describes the base reality of the scene/story)
Inciting Incident (a literary term to describe an event that sets off the conflict of the story… the thing that disrupts the given circumstances)
Antagonist (this can be a literal person or not, just whatever the protagonist is working against)
Character Arc/Hero’s Journey
Resolution/Catharsis (I am not of the mind that there must be catharsis in the Aristotelian sense of poetics but there must be some sort of through-line or cohesion for it to be considered a story)

I created a Mlab database, downloaded Dan’s code that allows you to drag and drop images directly into an Mlab… only I couldn’t get it work as I had seen it demonstrated in class. It took me a while to figure out that while the images weren’t showing up in the screen, they were still being saved as object in the Mlab. For some reason, their sizes were defaulting to 0. Then I couldn’t even get the images to save when I dragged them. So I ended up just copy and pasting each object and URL into the object and image dimensions by hand  to make it work. I ended up with this representation of the Aristotelian ideal of drama: