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I met up with Nikki Pugh in the co-working space at STEAMhouse for our first Random String mentoring session. I’ve had a writing mentor before, but not a tech mentor, so we spent some time chatting about my work and what I wanted to explore during the Fellowship. I’m interested in maps, and telling stories that can also be journeys, so I want to look into GPS technology and see how I can use it in my work. I also want to look at digital forms of storytelling and see what’s possible. At the Residential in November, I learned that Nikki has much experience and knowledge in these areas, so she was a natural choice for a mentor.

We looked at Hannah Nicklin’s What We Mean When We Talk About Interaction,  where she breaks down “interactivity” into four levels – Reactive,  where the audience pushes a switch; Navigational, where the audience’s actions shape their experience, although the work is unchanged; Conversational, where the audience fundamentally shapes the work, but within a controlled construct; and Emergent, where within a framework, the audience/participant shapes context, content and the conclusion through their actions. This has made me really think about what I want the audience to get from my work, how I can engage people and create immersive experiences. It isn’t as simple as having a button for people to press and then calling the work “interactive”.

Then Nikki introduced me to Holly Gramazio’s How To Be A Blackbird, where I got low scores for city smarts, but high scores for love and musicality, and found out I am “the best at being a blackbird”. This gave me an idea of just what could be done using Twine, and also made me cry. Nikki extracted the code and showed me in Twine how the story/game looked when broken down into its many, many parts. It was complex and beautiful, but I could see how it worked, how the story was built. This is something I’ve done a lot with novels and short stories I’ve read. As a writer, I think it’s important, and probably just automatic, to notice how a writer has done something, made something happen, or caused me to feel a certain way. As well as reading the story, I also read underneath the story, look at language and devices. It’s a way of learning new things, about what works and what doesn’t, about how certain things work, and how I can use these principles in my own writing to become a better writer.

This session gave me tons to think about. Both in terms of what I want to work on, and what I need to know in order to do that. We decided our next session would focus on All Things GPS, and in the meantime, I would look into ways of telling stories and think about how to use technology to create emotional, human, responses.