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Breaking Out
July 4, 2012 5:04 AM   Subscribe

Breaking Out. This afternoon, in a lift in Manchester ... a BBC Research and Development experiment into new editorial formats.
posted by feelinglistless (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It took me a while to realise that it didn't just happen to be set in my city, but was in fact using my location to alter the discussion. I wonder what it does if you live in a shithole in the middle of nowhere...
posted by leo_r at 5:15 AM on July 4, 2012


The location stuff didn't really work for me (probably because I'm outside the UK), but it did remind me how wonderfully evocative radio drama can be.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:17 AM on July 4, 2012


Hmmm...Guess I shouldn't have declined when a service I never heard of (and wasn't named BBC) wanted my location information. Elevator needle slowly went up to the 4.5th floor and stopped dead.

I don't see a big future for this "format".
posted by Thorzdad at 5:41 AM on July 4, 2012


What happens when you watch it from Scotland?
posted by robcorr at 5:44 AM on July 4, 2012


I wonder what it does if you live in a shithole in the middle of nowhere...

I'm in such a shithole at present, and there didn't seem to be any location-ish stuff at all. I'm guessing when the lift mentioned 'your city' or referred to the 'Imperial War Museum' it should've said 'The Wirral' and, er, 'that U-Boat exhibit thing by the ferry terminal in Birkenhead that no one goes to'.

Chrome asked me to allow it to use my location, though, and it normally gets an accurate fix, so I was expecting it to set the play in Liverpool at least.

It's a shame there's no option to set a location, so those of us it can't find can 'visit' somewhere else.

The BBC R&D blog is well worth following - they seem to have inherited the mantle of the Radiophonic Workshop in terms of doing often quite bonkers stuff that stretches available technologies in new and interesting ways (aptly enough, they're working on making web versions of some Radiophonic Workshop equipment).
posted by jack_mo at 5:57 AM on July 4, 2012


What happens when you watch it from Scotland ?

This video contains content from Channel 5 and Zodiak Rights, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.

Second location-based web fail of the day.
posted by jack_mo at 5:58 AM on July 4, 2012


Oh wow, now I see what it did. Sadly for it, I live in Liverpool, and my 3 mobile dongle connects to the signal that's nearest and best at the time. At this time it was Manchester, but it could as easily have been Edinburgh. Nevertheless ...
posted by feelinglistless at 6:18 AM on July 4, 2012


Thou shalt not profile me....oh wait, all I say in my online profiles is bullshit, and I randomly generate fake searchers! Or maybe not.
posted by elpapacito at 6:31 AM on July 4, 2012


It's interesting stuff* - I know a guy who's been involved in this, Ian Forrester (aka Cubicgarden).

As a demonstration of the ability to create a compelling personalised story, I found it a bit mixed. I'm definitely impressed by how seamless it is, but despite the fact that I knew in advance that it was meant to be personalised stuff, because the robot was talking to the women rather than me, I didn't even notice the personalisation until fairly late along - and it sounds other people had a similar experience.

I would have thought that a first-person experience would have been more compelling and also highlighted what was going on better, as well as increasing the 'wow' factor. I wonder if the reason for *not* doing it that way is because it was written and produced more as a traditional R4 radio play.

Also: The text-to-speech was a bit hard for me to hear - it was going rather fast to properly understand, but then again I know it can be tricky to do via HTML.
posted by adrianhon at 7:01 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting - but they should let you pause it if you want to. That seems like a major oversight.
posted by DanCall at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2012


I had to take a phone call part-way through and since there's no way to pause it or to resume where I was it was a bit of a waste of time for me. I'm not going to listen to the beginning fluff all over again.

As for the location aspect, it seemed to be using London as my location which wasn't interesting since (a) I'm not in London and (b) UK media is so London-biased* that it didn't feel like anything new.

* At least until BBC Salford really takes off.
posted by milkb0at at 7:33 AM on July 4, 2012


My elevator seems to go to Floor 2 and stops, nothing seems to be clickable.

What happens?

I'm not sure unless it's really amazing, that I can consider audio drama a "new editorial format." It's more like one of humanity's oldest forms of narrative presentation.
posted by Miko at 9:25 AM on July 4, 2012


[I]t did remind me how wonderfully evocative radio drama can be.

Huh. I had the opposite reaction: I thought it totally failed as story-telling. Bad radio drama with bad tacked-on visuals, very proud of personalization that I didn't even notice. (Probably because I am outside the UK too.)

It reminded me of a movie I saw in New York in I think 1992 -- a "choose-your-own-adventure" interactive where the audience voted at key plot points. I just don't get that stuff. The technological innovation is interesting, I guess. But I have never listened to a drama or watched a movie and thought "that story would be so much more compelling if the name of the town was [my town's name]" or "I am frustrated because I would like to control where this story goes." This kind of thing just really strikes me as a solution in search of a problem.

I love the BBC though. Just not this project :-)
posted by Susan PG at 9:28 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The technological innovation is interesting, I guess.

This is why "content is king" is such a truism. It's always about the ideas and the story, not about the bells and whistles. When the desire to develop bells and whistles drives storytellying, you get a shitty story. SOmetimes these are fun and unique as one-off experiences, but unless they're put in the service of writers with real creative vision and the right understanding of storytelling, they're just curiosities.
posted by Miko at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think people are being a bit too hard on the project - it's at the 'Delia Derbyshire manages to get three really long tape loops to sync up with a homemade synth' stage, not the 'Delia produces the theme for Doctor Who and blows everyone's minds' stage.

If you look at the questionnaire they ask you to fill in after listening, you can see where they're headed with this - characters with familiar names, chase scenes that pass by your house, lovers assignations in your second favourite restaurant, a possible plot twist that hinges on whether or not it's raining in your back garden, a stolen painting that looks eerily familiar because it's based on a photo you took three years ago, &c..

All, admittedly, a bit creepy, but I suspect radio (or telly!) that is tuned in to your life and has ARG-ish aspects has the potential to be, I dunno, 'immersive' or 'engaging' in new ways - a pretty exciting prospect.

...unless they're put in the service of writers with real creative vision and the right understanding of storytelling, they're just curiosities.

Like I say, this is just at the tinkering stage, a proof of concept; it's meant to be a curiosity for an audience of nerds. But in the right hands its easy to see how these technologies could be used to make work with ideas and story to the fore. (As usual when this sort of thing pops up, I really wish Douglas Adams was still around to write stuff for... whatever this medium ends up being called.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:31 PM on July 4, 2012


characters with familiar names, chase scenes that pass by your house, lovers assignations in your second favourite restaurant, a possible plot twist that hinges on whether or not it's raining in your back garden, a stolen painting that looks eerily familiar because it's based on a photo you took three years ago

How would this make a story better, though?
posted by Miko at 6:49 PM on July 4, 2012


How would this make a story better, though?

It wouldn't, necessarily. Films aren't better than poems, TV series aren't better than novels, but the different forms allow authors to tell stories in different ways and technology can have an impact on that - eg. novels couldn't happen until the right paper and printing tech came along in the 15th Century, the epic sprawling TV dramas in fashion at the moment seem to be influenced by the viewing experience offerred by DVD box sets and DVRs.

As to the personalisation stuff, people already do it themselves in a sense - if a character in a novel you're reading happens to share a name with someone you know, or is described as looking like someone you know, your feelings toward that character are likely to be influenced by that on some level, at least at first. If an author could guarantee that sort of familiarity by, I dunno, giving MINOR CHARACTER blonde hair and the name Tim based on the fact that you went to the same school as a blonde Tim and still chat to him a lot on Facebook, they'd get to play around with your expectations and associations with blondness and, er, Timness.

That's not better than an author picking a name/hair colour and relying on wider cultural associations to evoke a response in her readership, but it's different in an interesting way for author and reader.
posted by jack_mo at 12:39 AM on July 5, 2012


Films aren't better than poems, TV series aren't better than novels, but the different forms allow authors to tell stories in different ways...

Hmm, but (a) the elements of a good story are quite narrow and simple and work in any format, and (b) this isn't a new format - it's audio drama plus images with some personalized information. It's not a new medium.

if a character in a novel you're reading happens to share a name with someone you know, or is described as looking like someone you know, your feelings toward that character are likely to be influenced by that on some level, at least at first.

This is something I haven't been aware of in a lifetime of reading. I think in fact the miraculous aspect of reading is the ability to escape into utter difference - to inhabit the body and thoughts of others or of the omniscient viewer. I think the last time I was touched by something personalized was when my grandmother ordered me a book from Disney that replaced the main character's name with my name and her house with my street address. I was five. It was a thrill. After that point, I can't say that associations from personal life governed my interest in characters from, say, Things Fall Apart or Huckleberry Finn, you know?
posted by Miko at 6:48 AM on July 5, 2012


epic sprawling TV dramas in fashion at the moment seem to be influenced by the viewing experience offerred by DVD box sets and DVRs.

Though they are enjoying a heyday, they aren't prompted by a new format, either. If DVD/streaming plays a role, it's as a delivery system which aids some of the popularization. But DVDs did not create this form or even serve as a catalyst to creativity. As evidence I give you Roots. The Thorn Birds. North & South. War and Remembrance. Brideshead Revisited. Twin Peaks. Inspector Morse. Rich Man Poor Man. The Paper Chase. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. EastEnders. Upstairs Downstairs. A Family at War. Hill Street Blues. Shogun. Lonesome Dove. I, Claudius. The Winds of War.

I think the perennial mistake made by tech developers is thinking that the format will create a new form of storytelling. As far as I'm aware, no one in the world yet has created a new form of storytelling; that's because storytelling and story structure are so deeply wired into our neurology that if you deviate from it, humans lose interest. All we have managed to do with technology is increase verisimilitude or dazzle up our stories with delightful performance tricks; but I don't think we've ever done anything there isn't an analogue for in, say, ancient Greek drama. A family saga is a family saga, a war saga is a war saga, a quest to improve one's destiny by overcoming obstacles is a quest to improve one's destiny by overcoming obstacles - these story forms are nearly as old as humanity, and none of that is because of DVDs, geolocation, or any other fillip of technology or delivery systems. Bad storytelling loses interest; good storytelling adds interest. You can use technology to do either, but without the basis of a solidly built narrative structure, you can dress it up all you want and people will wander off saying 'meh.' As with all forms of presentism, the idea that we can create new forms of creativity is flawed. We can only create new vehicles for creativity. The forms of human creativity change much, much more slowly, if at all.
posted by Miko at 7:03 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


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