Monday, March 12, 2007

Good Karmen

This is late, but the important thing, really, is that I got it done. My New Media project pretty much ended up in the form I imagined about a week ago -- narrative text accompanied by, but in no way dependent upon, photo illustrations. It satisfies me for the moment even if it seems to have little to do with "new media." The package "Karmen and the Night" feels graphically complete even if it's a throwback to publishing forms of decades ago, more common to magazines than the Internet. (The narrative itself, as a piece of fiction, may have other issues, but I'm leaving those aside right now to address the process of completing the project.)

I began a few weeks ago by coming up with a narrative germ that surprised me in the way it arose from several disparate filaments coiling in my head without my awareness. Having what I thought to be the heart -- or at least the beginning -- of a story, I thought I'd tell it in the graphic novel format, converting photos into "comic book" images through Comic Life. The content of the photographs would have to conform to the narrative, but I believed I could do it. And why not? Most students in the class seemed to be playing with the idea of text wedded to visual imagery where each carrries its share of the narrative in its own way. Someone gave me tips about how to use Comic Life, so it seemed possible.

But there were other suggestions, too. Lauren handed me a liberating idea: Who says you have to use standard "comic book" images? To sequence the story within Comic Life, you can use photos rather than drawings or photo-to-drawing conversions. Tom then freed me altogether from any dependence on visuals two weeks ago when he suggested, indirectly, that I could put down all kinds of text to accompany photos -- as much text as I wanted for any one photo. These ideas were given to me at the same time that I had a collision with reality: It was becoming clear that I was writing a narrative that would demand a huge number of photos -- complete with actors in the right settings -- if I was to create a strong correlation between text and photo content. Very mundane considerations like time and talent reduced my choices still further: I had one actor/model and less than 45 minutes to work with her. If I was lucky, I'd get 3 or 4 photos out of the shoot to use with my story.

So in the end, I fell back on a not-very-new-media solution: The photos would be of a type that would only suggest elements of the story. They would create a mood rather than a strict correspondence with the story's content. It's a very old way of presenting fiction in print media. What makes it "new media" for me is that I created the visual look of the package in addition to its narrative content.

But there too I took the easiest route. In creating a page layout and publishing it on the Web, I was completely dependent on one of the techs in Meyer Library computer services (Ken). With his advice -- and again under time constraints -- I choose the simplest page layout possible, in Microsoft Word. Then, like many of the students in the class (and with Ken at my side), I put the page up on the Web through Google Pages. ... The layout is rough (I had problems transitioning from the Word layout to the Google-Pages html, but they're insignificant). ... I'll try tweaking the layout further after I publish this.

Technology and I are not on friendly terms, although we can function together. I know little regarding New Media applications and similar stuff. But struggling through this forced me to write a story and, however simple its look, to publish it.

Thanks to Tom and Adam and Ken and the other Meyer techs, and Jeremy Sabol and to Lauren, Allan and the other students.

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