virtualDavis

ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.
Twitter
@virtualDavis
Facebook
virtualDavis

Empathetic Storytelling

What does good, empathetic storytelling look like in the age of digitally augmented virtual reality? It might look a little like good, empathetic storytelling a century or two ago. Enveloping, enrapturing, and interactive.

Despite my misgivings about an increasingly post analog world, I’m intrigued with the possibilities for immersive, audience-centric storytelling that technology is enabling. And it looks like Empathic Media (@empatheticmedia) in Brooklyn just might be one of the players to watch…

Stories via virtual/augmented reality, 360° video, etc. (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

Virtual/augmented reality, 360° video, etc. (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

We believe that the combination of experiential, first-person storytelling approaches with virtual reality, 360 video, augmented reality and graphic journalism is the key to fostering empathy between storytellers and their subjects. (Source: Empathetic Media)

I’m onboard with “experiential, first-person storytelling”, but I have to admit that reading aloud, “virtual reality, 360 video, augmented reality and graphic journalism”, leaves a slightly tinny taste in my mouth. I take a swig of water, but it doesn’t quite wash away the acrid, faintly metallic aftertaste.

Good, empathetic storytelling liberates the story… allows the narrative to reinvent itself across media and across realities.

I’m not 100% sure why, especially because I’m truly fascinated with the dynamics of multimodal / transmedia storytelling. After all, a story doesn’t live in a book or a film or a song or a play or a graffiti mural. It is whispered — or chanted, shouted, burped — into existence with a book or a film or a song or a play or a graffiti mural… If the story is viable, it gasps and maybe it cries for a few seconds, and then it begins a wildly unpredictable life.

As it matures, it evolves. Maybe it mingles with other narratives. Maybe it’s a loner. But if it endures, it likely assumes many mantles.

Good, empathetic storytelling liberates the story from its book, its film, its song, etc. Good, empathetic storytelling allows the narrative to reinvent itself across media and across realities. And I suppose that digitally augmented virtual reality is just another mode, just another mantle, just another reinvention that vitalizes the story and [possibly] expands its accessibility. And yet, I’m skeptical that it is “the key to fostering empathy between storytellers and their subjects.” The key? I suspect there are many keys!

Story-boarding toward empathetic storytelling... (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

Story-boarding toward empathetic storytelling. (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

Cursive Nonsense, Nostalgia and Neurotransmission

A cursory (not cursive) relapse this morning into the pre digital age of handwritten correspondence and refrigerator reminders and maybe even illicitly passed classroom notes and mysterious marginalia

The Lost Virtue of Cursive by Mark Oppenheimer (Source: The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

“The Lost Virtue of Cursive” (Source: The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

Mark Oppenheimer’s reflection on “The Lost Virtue of Cursive” touched a poignant and sympathetic chord with me.

I can’t escape the conviction that cursive—writing it and knowing how to read it—represents some universal value… This is sheer nonsense, of course. (Source: Mark Oppenheimer, The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

I totally get his perspective. I’ve become a knee-jerk apologist for alternatives to digital communication. Not because I’m a Luddite. Quite the contrary, in fact. I’ve embraced the digital evolution since I was a youngster. I’m a digital native, thanks in large part to my parents who raised us on proto-PCs and insisted that we learn to code (remember Basic?) and touch type at a time when it was odd. Geeky even. For a couple of decades I’ve logged an unseemly portion of every day on digital keyboards.

And, of course, keyboarding has swallowed my handwriting whole… But when I do use my cursive, however seldom, it’s with a small rush of good feelings. Cursive, to me, is those letters at camp, and, later, letters from my parents at college… (Source: Mark Oppenheimer, The New Yorker, October 22, 2016)

So is it nostalgia then, a hankering for a patinated past that evokes my yearning for  pre digital alternatives? For cursive missives and fountain pen personalization and DNA dripping doodles? Probably, at least in part. But I refuse to believe that it’s just nostalgia. Nor am I willing to concede that writing and reading cursive is valueless.

Maybe I’m just stubborn. Or maybe, just maybe, cursive and hugs have something in common?

I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or any other stripe of scientific savant. Nor am I qualified to opine on the neurochemistry of happiness, not by a long shot. But I can’t help wondering if there isn’t a pretty potent connection between cursive communications and the blessed buzz of oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Maybe handmade communications provide a profoundly important bridge across the increasingly impersonal, even slightly aseptic modes of interpersonal communications that connect/isolate us in this exciting introduction to the 21st century. Could inky cursive and fingerprinted doodles and just-at-the-right-time hugs be distant cousins?

More than Hugs & Kisses

In response to this post my father, Gordon Davis, emailed me John Donne’s opening to “To Sir Henry Wotton”.

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls,
For thus, friends absent speak. ~ John Donne

Spot on. Thanks, Dad!

A Doodler’s Look at Paisleys (and Math)

The Math of Paisley by Liana Finck and Megan Amram (Source: New Yorker)

The Math of Paisley by Liana Finck and Megan Amram (Source: The New Yorker)

Math. Paisley. Doodle. Three steps from dread to happy place. I tip my hat to Megan Amram (writer) and Liana Finck (illustrator) for your Math: An Illustrated Guide (Source: The New Yorker, June 8, 2016). At last, the ultimate companion for the mathematically challenged! I speak doodle… not math.

Answers from the Woods

Gary Snyder

A Dent in a Bucket

Hammering a dent out of a bucket
a woodpecker
answers from the woods

Gary Snyder, “A Dent in a Bucket” from Danger on Peaks, 2004

Face-to-Face Flanerie

Face-to-Face Flanerie

I was flattered recently to have an early post (12+ years is practically ancient in cyberlandia!) about flanerie (“What is a Flâneur?“) resurface in the blogosphere courtesy of  The Concerned Canadian. In “The Art of Walking: Lessons from my Uncle” the author introduces us to his Uncle Philly, a wise, wondering, and wide-wandering Dublin flaneur.

It’s a good read.

The author touches on the difference between real life encounters (i.e. flesh-and-blood, non-digital interaction).

People want to know people. The current generation attempts to replicate this experience through the use of social networking and long distance communication. What’s missing though is the closeness which can only be created through face to face communication. (Source: The Concerned Canadian)

A Fuzzy Phantom of Face-to-Face

Face-to-Face FlanerieHe’s on to something. I’ve ruminated before on the upside of digital flanerie, but the relative retreat from face-to-face interaction is real. Digital social networks and long distance interaction are remarkable in many respects, especially for those of us who remember life before the internet, mobile phones, 24×7 connectivity, etc. But they are at best a fuzzy phantom of face-to-face interaction.

I am a collector of people, much to the regret of my tolerant bride, so I’m an easily sympathetic and an enthusiastic audience for The Concerned Canadian. It pleased me beyond description to read the words of a self-described millennial touting the merits of real life, face-to-face flanerie!

Thinking Disguised as Walking

Thinking Disguised as Walking (doodle collage by virtualDavis)

Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented society, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. ~ Rebecca Solnit (Source: Wanderlust: A History of Walking)

And, if the conditions are just right, sailing. Thinking. Walking. Sailing. Flanerie in a production oriented society…

Discovering Darlingside

“Pesticide is used to kill pests. Fratricide is when you kill your brother,” explains Darlingside’s Dave Senft. “A former teacher of ours used to say ‘kill your darlings,’ which is to say, if you fall in love with something you’ve written you should cross it out. We like that idea and we thought a good name for it might be ‘darlingcide’, but we changed the ‘c’ to an ‘s’ because we’re not super into death.” (Source: Darlingside)

I would love to include a link to the Deerfield magazine (where band member Don Mitchell went to high school), but it’s not online yet. Good article. Intrigued me enough to troll the internets for their sound. Found that intriguing video/song above and was doubly hooked. Doodle dreams?!?! And those harmonies of voice and strings…

“Each song and set of lyrics are created by all of us together, a sort of ‘group stream-of consciousness,’” Harris says. “So we moved away from a single lead vocalist and started gravitating towards singing in unison, passing the melody around, or harmonizing in four parts through an entire song.” Live and on record, they present a unified voice by clustering around a single condenser microphone and blending their voices in the room before they hit the mic. (Source: Darlingside)

I’m wearing out the CDs as I wind my way through this Adirondack spring. My favorite song? Whippoorwill. Enjoy.

Six Blogs: Where is Hyperlocal Media Headed?

Six Blogs: Where is Hyperlocal Media Headed?

Six Blogs: Where is Hyperlocal Media Headed? March 22, 7:30 PM, Whallonsburg Grange (Source: Lake Champlain Weekly)

The Grange in Whallonsburg continues their Lyceum series on March 22 with a presentation by writer and blogger George Davis. The current Lyceum Series at the Grange presents the history, evolution and significance of everyday things in an extraordinary way. Presenters, like George Davis, will look at six objects and discuss why they have had a lasting impact. Davis’ presentation, titled “Six Blogs,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information, call 518-963-4170. (Source: Sun Community News)

Thanks for the plug! And thanks also to Nelly Gomez at the Lake Champlain Weekly for this plug:

My Cartoon Crush on Ximena Maier

Ximena Maier (Source ximenamaier.com)

Ximena Maier (Source ximenamaier.com)

Ximena Maier () is a madrileña (but Scotland-based) illustrator, and she is — sin duda — my newest cartoon crush. My latest doodle dalliance. Right up there with Elizabeth Graeber, Oliver Hoeller (aka the visual flâneur), Mike Lowery, Hallie Bateman, and Keri Smith.

Ximena Maier… has been working as a full time freelance illustrator since 1999, mainly with Spanish newspapers and magazines. She also illustrates cookbooks, travel guides and children’s books. (Source: Ximena Maier)

I discovered Ximena Maier’s whimsical artwork when an Essex friend (and printer) shared a sumptuous letterpressed illustration of a scene from Anna Tasca Lanza‘s Sicilian cooking school. A delicate and doodle-y (not precious) black and white line drawing sumptuously sunken into paper nearly 1/8″ thick… Bliss.

It turns out that most/all of the illustrations at their website, annatascalanza.com, were created by Ximena Maier. If you like what you find, you may also want to visit Ximena Maier’s food blog, Lobstersquad, and her art blog, Ximenita dibuja.. Enjoy!

Old Books Smell like Vanilla

According to this video from Abe Books, “Chemists at University College, London have investigated the old book odor and concluded that old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper. The lead scientist described the smell as ‘A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.'” (Source: Huffington Post)

Secondhand bookstore fans are especially attuned to the olfactory wiles of dusty old tomes. Even as many of us shift our reading habits from printed books to digital books, we still wax nostalgic and romantic about the aesthetic pleasures of old book odor. But do old books smell like vanilla?

Stick your nose deep into an old book and inhale deeply… As it turns out, dozens of different chemicals that are emitted by paper, binding, ink, and glue… break down over time… One prominent compound results from the breakdown of lignin, a polymer found in plant cell walls, as well as paper. As it degrades, it’s converted into vanillin, a chemical naturally present in vanilla beans, accounting for the hints of vanilla. (Source: Vox)

I’m keen on old books and I’m keen on vanilla, but I’m not certain that old books smell like vanilla. According to Matija Strlic (the scientist who lead the 2009 study that has fueled recent aromatic rumination on old books), the grassy, tangy, and slightly vanilla smell of old aging books “is as much a part of the book as its contents.” I better keep sniffing…

Hat top to Todd Goff who brought the Vox article to my attention last summer. Yes, I’ve been dawdling and field testing ever since. Conclusions still pending!

%d bloggers like this: