Michael Bojkowski

Writing Portfolio

DAE DCW T1 2017
Draft. Not final version.


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The established critic

The idea of the critic as a cultural voice—speaking on film, or music, or art etc.—has been built up over many decades. The origin of the modern day ‘professional’ critic can be traced back to the pre-internet era, and the influence of ‘Film Theory’ on film criticism which emerged around the time New Wave American cinema broke, in the late 1970s. This paid position, supported mostly by ‘traditional media’ such as newspapers and radio, has survived by living within a framework of personal references and silos built out of their own taste.

The trick with this type of critic is that these references and opinions are rarely ‘alien’ to their readers and followers, even if they are distinctly single minded in the manner in which they are communicated. It’s these conduits that allow these critics to connect with readers and followers within delineated fields. This is silently understood to be a position the established critic must maintain to be considered worthy of their title and/or status.

Pauline Kael, who was installed as film critic for The New Yorker from 1968 to 1991, was one of the modern world’s most well known film critics—although not necessarily for her insightfulness. But more for her eloquent defence of her often slim assessments. Readers were drawn, not only to her staunch opinions, but equally to the voracious manner in which she would defend them.

As Renata Adler wrote, in 1980, in a review of Kael’s book ‘When the Lights Go Down’: “…what is most striking is that she has, over the years, lost any notion of the legitimate borders of polemic. Mistaking lack of civility for vitality, she now substitutes for argument a protracted, obsessional invective… Her favourite, most characteristic device of this kind is the physical (she might say, visceral) image: images of sexual conduct, deviance, impotence, masturbation; also of indigestion, elimination, excrement. I do not mean to imply that these images are frequent, or that one has to look for them. They are relentless, inexorable.”

[See Plate 1 below]

Here is evidence that the established critic is expected, by their public, to silo themselves to keep their contribution to an over-arching discourse clear in its intent, by any means necessary. This well worn typology of the critic deals in only the definite—in concrete statements—that do not have to contain factual information, but should lead to a conclusive outcome. Without this view of certainty they cannot claim to be presenting any sort of cohesive argument that aims to lead the cultural conversation.

The online critic

Along with the emergence of online tools for documenting and communicating ideas around popular culture—such as blogs, message boards, tweets and comments—came the democratisation of criticism. Attached to this was an utopian ideal of the ‘level playing field’ upon which everyone and anyone could enact the role of the critic.

[See Plate 2.]

In his 2011, TV series, ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’, film maker Adam Curtis discussed the utopian ideals of the early software developers surrounding technology and how it be can used to effect community cohesion. He references the influence of the American architect Buckminster Fuller as a precursor that helped shape these ideals; “Fuller’s geodesic dome imitated the idea of the ecosystem. Each tiny strut was weak but when thousands were joined together to form a giant interconnecting web, they became strong and stable.”
In applying this ideal to society, and hence the technology used by societies, Curtis says, “Fuller realised there was going to have to be a conceptual shift in the way human beings saw their position in the world. Instead of seeing themselves as members of nations or classes or in hierarchies of power, people should instead see themselves as equal members of a global system.”

The voice of the online critic has grown from this vision of a communal voice, speaking in unison, contained within bubbles formed by structures, wherein the individual voice (or the established critic) was no longer needed. A vision of a ‘safe space’ is formed where the polarised, and polarising, statements of the established critic can be negated in favour of general consensus. In essence, a self-regulating system to contain criticality, or even cancel it out.

The reaction video

The reaction video striking example of this type of self-regulating system that online critics operate within. Reaction videos are a genre initiated by YouTube creators, using a consistent format that, when viewed as set, attempts to form a common consensus through volume and repetition.
Initially started as a way for fans to express their common appreciation for a particular film or TV show, copyright dictated that these fans couldn’t merely replay said film or TV show. So instead, they took to filming their own reactions whilst watching them instead (Channel 4’s TV program ‘Gogglebox’ works on a similar, although less malleable premise). This lead to fans reacting to original content produced by other YouTubers. This soon proved even more popular than reacting to externalised, traditional media. A breed of YouTube creators emerged, known as the ‘Reaction vloggers’, who quickly gained followers based on their recorded reactions, rapidly reposting and overlaying existing content to satisfy newly built fan bases of their own.

On YouTube ‘viewing time’ equals cash, so increased views can lead to a tangible income. A currency soon developed around the ‘reaction’ genre. A consequence of which was an erosion of the income for YouTube creators that were busy posting original material. These creators began to see their work re-posted over and over again, each time overlaid with more and more reactions. And these reactions started to come, not just from fans, but also from channels set up with the express purpose of eking out an income by reposting original content under the banner of ‘the reaction video’.

The goal of posting a ‘reaction’ video moved from that of a critique or appreciation of a particular type of content and from a singular point-of-view, to a homogenised mass of voices cashing in of this new form of criticism—all essentially saying exactly the same thing. The online critic, away from the silo of personal opinion, was subsumed into a self regulating economy whose ultimate outcome was a commonality or general consensus.

An infinite loop

In the YouTube video “Poppy reacts to Kids react to Poppy reacts to Kids react to Poppy“ (now deleted due to a copyright claim by the original creator), the reaction video as a genre is pushed towards it’s inevitable conclusion.

[See plate 3.]

A channel called ‘Fine Bros.’ that set up a series of videos of children reacting to YouTube content, had their cast react to a video by a YouTube creator known as ‘That Poppy’. That Poppy rose to prominence within YouTube, by posting short, succinct videos that offer a subtle critique of online behaviour particular to YouTube and social media. The character of ‘That Poppy’ portrayed in these in these videos performs an off-kilter, eerie type of mimicry that occasionally breaks down, leaving ‘That Poppy’ seemingly unsure of how to behave.

In the first iteration in this chain, ‘Kids react to Poppy’, the kids in question watch a selection of ‘That Poppy’s short videos, questioning her behaviour and commenting on her performance. The footage of these kids reactions, then become the main focus of a new video with the ‘That Poppy’ videos they’re reacting to resized and overlaid in over the top corner.

And this is where the reaction video normally ends. But in the instance of ‘Kids react to Poppy’, the creators decided to invite Poppy into their ‘Kids react’ studio to react to the kid’s reactions. In the resulting upload, ‘Poppy reads to Kids react to Poppy’, the character of ‘That Poppy’ seems to ignore the kids’ reactions and instead repeats the dialogue shown to the children in the original compilation, creating the possibility of an infinite loop. The kids are then invited back to react to the repeated reaction in a video titled ‘Kids react to Poppy reacts to Kids react to Poppy’. YouTube creator, Shawn Taylor went one step further and edited Poppy’s reaction video footage (reacting to the kids) over the top of this, creating another edition of the original loop.

The outcome of all this activity being that this one set of reaction videos, based on a common format, can be read as a never-ending loop whose original critical intent appears to diminish with every new version that is produced.

The super imposition

One of the striking differences then, between the aforementioned established (or ‘professional’) critic and the online critic, is that the established critic is usually hyper-conscious of their place within a network or community of other critics and the audience they are producing their reviews for. Superimposed on top of this is a broader network of traditional media that flows through similarly established entities, such as newspapers, TV, radio, podcasts and the various outlets set up by media companies similarly intent on defining distinct audiences for their offerings.

The online critic, on the other hand, deals in flatness. They deal in with the ‘level playing field’, where nuances of opinion are ironed out in order to gather the most amount of views. In doing this they seek the approval of all that encounter them, not just the avid devotion of the niche, or the few. With this ‘common consensus’ approach comes an amplification of a common view and rise in volume which can cause the established critic to become subsumed when faced with this wall of opinion.


So how does the established critic operate now that their former status as authoritarians has been eroded in the eyes of the public? A number of tactics have emerged...

One route is to follow the general consensus, as per the online critic. This leads to homogeneous statements that align across ideologies (by refusing to bleed across ideological boundaries). We saw this in recent reviews of Renzo Piano’s work for the Whitney Museum in New York, as pointed out by Michael Sorkin in his ‘critique of the critics’ for The Nation, entitled ‘Why has criticism of the Whitney been unmoored?’ In this manner, as witnessed by Sorkin, a group of established critics begin sharing similar opinions, repeating very nearly identical themes and/or drawing very similar conclusions—joining the common chorus, but also further diminishing their own presence and authority.

Another approach is to have a diverse opinion that some may share but offer it with knowing insight into it’s place in the firmament of critical opinion. Popular British film critic, Mark Kermode often does this with his insertion of the simple mantra, “other opinions are available”.

A duality of opinions

When thrust into the maelstrom of online conversation (often in the form of a type of text-based ‘phone-in’ during his live radio programme), Kermode has developed this phase as a way to position his silo-ed opinion within a more common consensus.
This is a simple and useful way to deploy a means of injecting a singular opinion whilst remaining part of the broader conversation.

This has also helped build a community around the critic that actively shares the idiosyncrasies of language used within the film programme (as evidenced by the appearance of a wikipedia of phases from the programme which has been set up by fans under the banner, ‘witterpedia’) without the need to reduce this language to common parlance.

In opposition to this community minded approach, Kermode often explicitly states when he identifies an outside opinion as ‘wrong’ and defends the role of the established critic as an isolationist, “In an ideal world, film critics wouldn’t have friends who are film makers and, actually, wouldn’t have friends ... I don’t go to red carpet affairs. I don’t go to film parties. Or parties. I don’t like film people. I don’t like people very much. In an ideal world, I would live a completely hermetically sealed existence.”

[See plate 4.]

It’s this duality—the switching between the encouragement of a diversity of viewpoints and formally stating the critic’s silo-ing of opinion that go on to demonstrate that there is room for criticism to evolve further, provided this duality, or a multiplicity, exists.

To further encourage this evolution, established critics need to prevent themselves from seeking common consensus and accept that online opinion is not an end—even if the critics voice is diminished. In fact, the established critic’s voice can be strengthened through the sheer volume of followers also expressing their own diverse, or not-so-diverse opinions. Allowing space for a range of opinions does not mean the death of the singular voice. In fact, discourse is enriched and broadened by the acknowledgement of a variety of forms of criticality. This ideal also allows new voices to travel up through the ranks and further develop unique ‘vantage points’ of their own, which is integral if the formal application of criticism is to evolve beyond current concerns.



  1. Cover artwork for Pauline Kael’s 1968 book, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’

  2. Image from US Patent No. US 3203144, ‘Laminar geodesic dome’, filed by Buckminster Fuller Richard on May 27, 1960.

  3. Still from the YouTube video, ‘Poppy reacts to kids react to Poppy reacts to kids react to Poppy’ by Shawn Taylor.

  4. Mark Kermode in front of a picture of his book, ‘Hatchet Job’, which contains the blurb, ‘Love Movies, Hate Critics’.

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April 28, 2020

It's not easy being blue

by Dr. Wayne Likavec Product Development & Quality Control Manager, DayGlo Color Corp.

The most popular color across the world is blue.

At least, that’s what the marketing world would have us believe. Three firms – Cheskin, MSI-ITM, and CMCD/Visual Symbols Library – worked together on a survey in 17 countries to determine people’s color preferences and the motives behind those decisions. From Canada to China, and from Belgium to Brazil, every country surveyed chose blue as their top color.

To give some idea of how popular blue is, 40% of all respondents worldwide chose it as their favorite color. The second favorite – purple – was only chosen by 14%.

It’s well known that we associate colors with emotions, products, and companies. Successful firms have been building their brands around color for many years and have, on occasion, created a universal color association that links a firm or product inexorably to a color in that market (see Coca-Cola and the color red). Companies understand the power of color – whether it is a part of the branding, the packaging, or even the product itself.

With blue, however, it is not so straightforward. So many brands have been linked to blue – Pepsi, America Express, Microsoft, IBM to name but a few – that the color space has become, in effect, over-saturated. This may especially be the case with packaging, where blue is also a popular background choice for products whose logo and brand may be a different color altogether.

It’s hard to build a brand with blue, but that doesn’t stop companies from trying. New and existing brands alike are turning to color to help boost sales and build their identity. And blue continues to remain a universally ‘safe’ color to use.

Standing Out In a Blue World

Against this (blue) background, how are companies to build a brand and package around a color that has, arguably, been the most popular choice for over 30 years?

Shades of Blue

The first thing to bear in mind is that, while ‘blue’ may be the most popular color in the world, very little is said about what shade of blue people are talking about.

Biologically speaking, our eyes can perceive 65,536 colors on the RGB scale that contain some degree of blue in them, although this would include any number of greens, browns and purples that would never be considered ‘blue’. A quick search on Wikipedia will bring up 60 recognized and named shades of blue in use, from the academic (Oxford Blue to Yale Blue) to the military (Air Force Blue or Navy Blue), and from the well-known (Denim or Tiffany Blue) to obscure (Phthalocyanine Blue BN or Zaffre). From another perspective, as of 2008, the carmaker Porsche had used over 70 different shades of blue in its vehicles over the years.

While some are inevitably far more popular than others, the first thing that brands need to be aware of is that there is enough room in the blue color space to find their own niche.

Color Fluorescence As far back as in the 1930s, when the founders of DayGlo first discovered pigments that glowed far brighter than normal under certain lighting conditions, there has been an interest in getting more out of color.

In the 1940s, that meant daylight fluorescent colors – shades that utilize a larger amount of both the visible light spectrum and the lower wavelengths compared to conventional ones and consequently are perceived by our eyes as far more intense colors. Those colors are visible everywhere in the consumer world today – one look in the detergents section of your local supermarket will show a range of brightly-colored packages and containers that stand out from the rest. It is the fluorescent pigments in their coloring and packaging that make those products seem to leap off the shelf.

And, yes, there is a fluorescent blue pigment available.

‘Fluorescent’ has consequently become synonymous with ‘bright’ and ‘bold’, which is not always the effect a company looks for. It is not well known, therefore, that fluorescents can also be used to create subtle shades in packaging that will catch the eye but not necessarily blind it!

At DayGlo, a good proportion of our business is in mixing fluorescent pigments with conventional colors, rather than using them on their own. Horizon Blue – our daylight fluorescent – is a very strong, bright blue indeed. Mix it with magenta, however, and it becomes a deep and rich purple; layer it instead with yellow and it becomes a luscious green. Neither of those resulting colors would be considered ‘fluorescent’, yet they retain enough of the chemical properties of that fluorescent that they emit more light, and more color, than conventional tones. Consequently, when used judiciously in packaging and products, they continue to catch the eye, even though the shades themselves are subtle.

This technology, therefore, brings another dimension to building a brand with blue, adding a touch of fluorescence to the brand’s chosen shade of blue for an extra effect – on the can, the box, or in the logo itself.

Color Special Effects:

Fluorescence is actually just one of the many color ‘special effects’ that can be used to distinguish blue products and packaging from one another, make them stand out, and ultimately build a brand identity. Here are some others.

Semi-transparent: These pigments are used in applications where consumers need to be able to see the contents of a package – such as food packaging or Tupperware containers. Traditionally that has meant a completely clear plastic needs to be used, but pigments are now available that can give a jewel-like color to the material without affecting its clarity.

Pearlescent: These pigments can be used in product packaging (and in some cases the ingredients themselves) to create a color ‘shift’ depending on how they are viewed. By layering colors together that can only be viewed at certain angles, the colors change before your eyes with a simple shift of your head.

Phosphorescent: These pigments only react to light under specific circumstances. Certain glow-in-the-dark pigments, for example, are ‘charged’ by exposure to visible light and then emit a bright and sustained blue afterglow when the lights have been turned off. Invisible fluorescent pigments, in contrast, can’t be seen in normal daylight, but produce a highly visible bright and vibrant blue color when exposed to ultraviolet light.

Putting It All Together

Blue may be the world’s most popular color, but there is clearly more than enough room within that color space for companies to build a brand identity through products and packaging that are both unique and eye-catching.

Consider partnering with color specialists, who can work with the materials available to you in order to achieve the exact color effect you are looking for to represent your brand. This can reduce the risk of costly delays in production and increase the likelihood of developing a color that will become identified with your brand and your line of products alone.

What is most important, however, is to go into the color selection process understanding all the options that are available with current technology. With probably close to 100 recognized shades of blue, and multiple color effects that can be applied to those shades, building a unique brand identity doesn’t just happen once in a blue moon….

Likavec, Wayne. "It's not easy being bl…

3. How To Read This Book

This is probably the greatest problem for anyone confronting a 500-page tome and being overwhelmed by the sheer mass of it. I have no good solution to the problem that today hardly anyone has the time any more to wade through hundreds of pages of verbal contortions. I have to write this account of my thoughts to give a documentation of where I had been, and how I got there. I hate to have other people wade through my verbiage as much as I dreaded to wade through thousands and thousands of pages of the collected verbiage of humanity to filter out those precious bits of knowing that I have now "between my ears". Of course, as I have already said, a hypermedia system would help a lot with this problem, but it costs many man years to bring all the material I have collected here into a suitable hypermedia representation. The infrastructure for this is not complete yet, and perhaps never will be. See also: THAUMAZEIN, p.115.

But there is a lighter side. Don't despair, and don't throw out the text just for this reason. First: The core matter is in the first four chapters, the rest is appendix. About half of the appendix is in German, anyway, so non-german speaking readers don't need to bother with this. This cuts the book in about half. So how do you best go about filtering out that rest the issues that suit you most? There are several different, time tested methods to apply. Lets list them:

3.1. The Jesuite Hyper Jump—Or the pinprick trick

The simplest thing I suggest you do with this text is that you open it somewhere at random and start to read. Never read more than interests you.

The method is called the "Jesuite Hyper Jump" because the Jesuites, who were on the whole very smart people, who had invented the most important hypermedia principle long before one could think of computers and random access memory storage devices. (Except Pascal, Leibniz, and Father Bouvet, of course. But this is another story.[2]) The Jesuites had found out that if you use a pin and stick it somewhere at random between the pages of the bible, and you open it, and read what's on that page, it will invariably give you the exact answer to all the questions that are bothering you at the moment. Of course that secret was never told outside the Jesuite circles, it was part of their secret spiritual weaponry with which they were so long successful as the spiritual elite troops of the Pope.[3] I have tried the trick myself, only to find out that it never worked for me. Only after long research I found out why it invariably worked for the Jesuites and not for me. First, you have to believe in the kind of God that the bible tries to impose on you as the one-and-only one there is. If you don't you are out of luck. Then, you should have a bible written in Greek, and you should know Greek as well as your mother tongue. This the Jesuites certainly did. It also works in Latin, but Greek is better. Of course, you must also be schooled in certain patterns of Jesuite Logic, and you won't get that outside the Jesuite circles either. If you know Sanskrit, you can do the same with the Rg Veda, or with the Bhagavad Gita, you can do it with the Koran, if you can read classical Arabic, or the Tora, if you read Hebrew, and so on.[4] But you should be very careful with modern language translations.[5] More on this in: ONOMA SEMEPHON, p.369.

3.2. Systematic methods

This is why I have included the "database section" and why it is so important. One of the little tricks that I found out while experimenting with outlining techniques is that if you write as many headings as I do, you arrive at a kind of short story of the book in the collected "detailed table of contents". So you can go through this section first, and look up subjects that interest you. If you then want to go on to other, related chapters, you can follow the Hypertext jumps. Since they are bi-directional, you can also follow a jump backwards, to come to material that relates to any subject matter. The same thing can be done with the index. Just find words in the index that seem to be of interest to you and read the relating chapters. You will find entry points that are suited to your tastes.

3.3. Picking the grapes: The essential structuring method

This is called so because the structure of this book is like a grape. You can go on picking each paragraph one by one, without having to go through any prescribed sequence. If you think you don't want to read one paragraph, just skip to another one. The outline structure corresponds to the risp of the grape, and each paragraph corresponds to a berry. The content of each paragraph corresponds roughly to the idea of its headline. The connection is not systematic, and as you notice, I often chose headlines that are modelled in style after newspaper headlines. Why not apply the information methods of newspapers to books also? There is a lot of know-how involved in designing good headlines, and the newspaper journalists know very much about that.

Unfortunately, scientific and philosophical writers often consider it below their dignity to write headlines. Shopenhauer may be the most extreme case. He writes only four headlines in his whole work, and they are absolutely uninformative: Erstes Buch, Zweites Buch... (first book, second book...). This forces you to wade through all his verbiage because you have not the slightest idea what is written in all this verbal morass until you have read it all. I consider this close to mental rape. Today the fundamental requirement of anything presented in writing is that there must be a structure that gives an indication what you are about to read, before you have to read it itself. This was already executed with the most exquisite craftsmanship by John Locke in his essay "Of human understanding". The way how he wrote it and structured it, should be a stringent minimal structuring principle for all literature that asserts to be scientific. Unfortunately that is rarely the case.

Even though I am not formally systematic about it, I have taken care that there is usually not more talked about in the paragraph, than what I have outlined in the title. This is a subtle dialectic, and if you follow it for a while, I believe you will get the hang of it. This is a technique that I haven't be able to find in any other book so far. I believe, that it would improve the art of book writing about 100% if this technique were widely practised. With modern word processors supporting the outlining technique, there is no problem at all using the method. And it would make the fast reading of books so much more efficient than it is now.

3.4. Never try to read the book cover to cover

This is the most exasperating and frustrating way to go about the reading. I have had to order the material in some way that seems logical to me today, and the same structure is entirely contra-productive tomorrow. I am quite glad I have the WinWord outline feature which allows me to move around whole sections of the book to different places, and I have used it often. I don't know how people in earlier ages could have written books without it. To choose an outline before writing confines you to one specific structure. If you know exactly what you are going to write, that is fine. But that is not the case with this book. This is the report of an ongoing work that is updated regularly. And if I get new insights, I must be able to change the structure of what I am writing.


3.2. Design and narrative story-telling intersect

In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’, Orwell wrote: “When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, … hunt about till you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start”.[^17] Either way,—words. Words forming narratives, words forming stories. Stories of objects, objects telling stories.

In facing the concept of the Anthropocene[^18] and the nightmare-ish visions conjured up by recent discussions around the “Sixth Mass Extinction”,[^19] “disaster capitalism”[^20] and the like, you see designers utilising narration and story telling time and again, and increasingly so. An urgent question for designers, of almost any discipline, whether they work with physical material or not, has become—why design more?[^21] When the resonance from designed objects have had dire consequences.[^22] Even designers who work in online or similarly intangible realms can’t escape the production of energy and waste due to the material nature of the technology they use.[^23]

Parallel to this, the term design has been repurposed in recent times to describe a wide, fracturing field of activity,[^24] unreliant on material outcomes—from IDEO’s concept of ‘design thinking’[^25] to ‘human centred design’ programmes,[^26] to very recent developments within game design which require the expertise of ‘Narrative designers’.[^27] As Bruno Latour observed, “the typically modernist divide between materiality on the one hand and design on the other is slowly being dissolved. The more objects are turned into things—that is, the more matters of facts are turned into matters of concern—the more they are rendered into objects of design”.[^28]

Reverse Orwell’s aforementioned procedure and words, narratives and stories can also produce objects… and away from perceived crises currently swirling around the designer’s usage and promotion through production of physical materials. Which is an occurrence you find in Narratology and the persistent presence of the diagram as a visual design tool.

One helpful way to describe a diagram is as a ‘structural illustration’. The origin of the word comes from the Greek term ‘dia’, meaning ‘through’ or ‘between’, suggesting something is connected or ‘a line is drawn’ from one thing to another, creating a scheme or a plan. A diagram is not ‘the thing’, it is a rendering of the thing—an explanation of it.[^29] A diagram has the appearance of data and information but is an illustration of said content, built to aid viewers in interpreting information.

When Narratologists began breaking apart, dissecting and reconfiguring structures within literature, the diagram became a potent tool for supporting this emerging discipline. Curiously though, what has happened so far is, instead of bringing clarity and focus to a subject, ‘diagramming’ within Narratology has been used to abstract, diffuse and build, often baffling, new forms. This has opened up literary theory to many other disciplines in the form of new types of structures and formulas ready to be emptied out and restocked. But it has also often made the original literature these structures may have been based on redundant. Thorndyke’s diagram^30 is a case in point which Logan Williams points out takes “a simple story,” and renders it “bewilderingly complex”.[^31]

[Image 1:
Thorndyke, Perry W. “Plot structure for stories used in Experiment I: (A) the Circle Island story; (B) the Old Farmer story.”from “Cognitive Structures in Comprehension and Memory of Narrative Discourse”]

The employing of diagrams in order to reorganise and restructure texts has been pivotal in the continuing abstraction of narratological outcomes. It has allowed Narratology to break away from its formalist background, albeit via intentionally structured (and very graphic means). Kathy Acker’s use of diagrams interjected into texts is often cited as a first introduction of post-modernist discourse to literary theory. Within her 1978 paperback, Blood and Guts in High School[^32] she uses various implements to disrupt narrative flow. The diagrams (or ‘dream maps’) she interjects have a crudely drawn, urgent and erratic style in opposition to Thorndyke’s starkly rationalised Narratological diagrams. Acker’s diagrammatical structures are also intermingled with text, illustrations and graphic details that render linear readings near void.

[Image 2:
Acker, Kathy. ‘A Map of my Dreams’, from Blood and Guts in High School. p.46–47]

Diagramming grew rapidly to become its own wing within Narratological studies. Mapping out a story or piece of literature, utilising the sorts of abstracted shapes developed within flow diagrams, not only forced a break in the visceral emotive baggage connected to story telling (the triggers) but also gave literature the sheen of scientific research. An illusion of impartiality could be easily achieved once lines, arrows and boxes intruded into the text, coercing it into fitting within these rigidly graphic systems.

Case study: Narrelations

[Image 3:
"First sketches and visual approaches dealing with the topic of narrative levels suggest a circular layout for nesting and relating different narrative levels.”[^33] ]

The ‘Narrelations’ project is a prime example of the abstraction of literature that diagrammatic readings of narratives allow. In this design, words within texts are analysed and then pushed to the side, away from the main graphic device which, at first, appears to have no text associated with it at all—just a circular form with bits of colour, plotted out around it’s circumference. The usability and ultimate usefulness of the tool is very much up for debate.[^34]

What is interesting is how narratology’s link to visual design is also laid bare within this project with a linear ‘design process’ thoroughly documented in an accompanying ‘behind the scenes’ article. The ‘design process’ undertaken starting with sketches and prototypes before moving onto working ‘mock-ups’ to enable “Usability Evaluations”, concluding with a range of designs, with one design selected as ready to take to completion.[^35]

The article accompanying the project positions it “at the intersection between literary studies, information visualisation, and interface design”. The project seeks to address the issue that… “despite a growing interest in text visualisation among literary scholars, so far, narrative visualisations are not designed to support the particular tasks involved in narratological analysis and often fail to reveal nuanced narratological features.”

As proof of the parallel paths design and literary theory have been taking, this project is a good example. As a tool for building Narratological structures for deployment in a range of fields, it is also of possible use but as a means for re-reading stories and narrative it falls short.


Narratology draws a clear connection between design and story telling, although it is undernourished by a lack of participation by design practitioners. To date, Narratology is a realm where design happens with very little input from designers. And yet, designers are employing narrative and story telling in the communicating of research and project work in increasing ways that suggest a fiction-based[^36] practice is possible. What becomes available to designers here is the means to identify new ways to capture and transmit research-based project work as well as gaining access to a wide range of disciplines from which mutually beneficial connections can be made.


[^16] Grimaldi, Silvia et al. ‘Narratives in Design: A Study of the Types, Applications and Functions of Narratives in Design Practice’. Praxis and Poetics, September 2013.
[^17] See note 11.
[^18] Donna Haraway, in an essay entitled “Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin” introduces this mass of similar ‘-ocenes’ before settling on a new terminology that seeks to address the use of Anthropocene as a catch-all which she titles ‘The Dithering’. See Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 159-165. See also, ‘pyrocene’ as mentioned in: Demos, T. J. “The Agency of Fire”. e-flux Journal #98, March 2019.
[^19] “Human activity is causing irreparable harm to the life on this world. Many current life forms will be extinct by the end of this century. We may right now be causing the Sixth Mass Extinction in Earth’s history.” Text taken from the Extinction Rebellion website, rebellion.earth/the-truth/the-emergency/ Accessed January 2020.
[^20] Klein, Naomi. The Shock Doctrine. Metropolitan Books, 2007. See also, ‘petro-capitalism’, ‘extinction capitalism’ etc.
[^21] Dutch Invertuals & FranklinTill’s recent collaborations are a good example of this new found concern amongst designers for reducing, reusing or avoiding materials altogether. See ‘Mutant Matters’, their combined show at Milan Design Week 2018, franklintill.com/work/mutant-matter-franklintill-x-dutch-invertuals-milan-2018 and their follow-up discussions as part of Dutch Design Week 2018 entitled, ‘Less. See also, Viewpoint #42, “Guilt-free”, franklintill.com/work/the-guilt-free-viewpoint Accessed January 2020.
[^22] DAE 2019 Information Design graduate Kirsten Spruit’s thesis project entitled, “A Space For Lingering” was born of the question of what to do if doing is too much, instead focusing on tools for non-productive exercises such as lingering and boredom as a useful state. kirstenspruit.com Accessed January 2020.
[^23] “We are often told that the world’s economy is dematerialising—that physical analog stuff is being replaced by digital data, and that this data has minimal ecological footprint. But not so fast. If the global IT industry were a country, only China and the United States would contribute more to climate change” Pearce, Fred. “Energy Hogs: Can World’s Huge Data Centers Be Made More Efficient?”. Yale Environment 360. April 2018. e360.yale.edu/features/energy-hogs-can-huge-data-centers-be-made-more-efficient Accessed January 2020.
[^24] In a similar way to which the term and activity around Narratology was been fractured and dispersed amongst a wide range of often divergent fields. See previous chapter.
[^25] Blurb from a recent introduction to IDEO’s ‘Design Thinking’ arena from their Executive Chair, Tim Brown, “Thinking like a designer can transform the way organisations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which is known as design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren't trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” designthinking.ideo.com Accessed January 2020.
[^26] See designkit.org/human-centered-design & humancentereddesign.org. Of course, the big question is when is design not human centred? Is design a human activity? Anti-speciesist might argue otherwise. Either way it is a much wider topic than the framing of this thesis currently allows.
[^27] See narrativedesigner.com and ustwo.com/join-us/jobs/4652251002 for a couple of examples of typical ‘Narrative Designer’ job descriptions. Accessed January 2020.
[^28] Latour, Bruno. ’A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design’. From a Keynote lecture for the Networks of Design meeting of the Design History Society Falmouth, Cornwall, September 2008. bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/112-DESIGN-CORNWALL-GB.pdf
[^29] Definition found via Liddell, Henry George & Scott, Robert. “A Greek-English Lexicon”. See perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057:entry=dia/
[^30] Thorndyke, Perry W. “Cognitive Structures in Comprehension and Memory of Narrative Discourse”. Cognitive Psychology, Volume 9, Issue 1, January 1977. Elsevier, 1977.
[^31] Williams, Logan. ‘Lessons From Narratology’. Buzzfeed. 2017. buzzfeed.com/loganwilliams/lessons-from-narratology Accessed January 2020.
[^32] Acker, Kathy. Blood and Guts in High School. Copyright, 1978. Grove Press, 1984. For the ‘Dream Maps’ see pp.46–51.
[^33] From an article on the development of Narrelations, a tool for Narratological research—Schwan, Hannah et al (project team). “Narrelations—Visualising Narrative Levels and their Correlations with Temporal Phenomena”. Digital Humanities Journal. Volume 13, Number 3, 2019. digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/13/3/000414/000414.html
[^34] Try it for yourself via uclab.fh-potsdam.de/narrelations/. Accessed January 2020.
[^35] See note 33.
[^36] For more on the intersection of design and fiction-based practises see ‘Fiction Practise. Prototyping the Otherworldly’, edited by Marianna Pestana, in which the speculative aspect of story telling, as employed by designers, is discussed and investigated. Onomatapee #174.

Bojkowski, Michael. 3.2. Design and nar…

Writing notes

The binary that wedges itself between ‘exterior’ and ‘interior’ can’t help but corrode. Melt into each other, is eaten away, is made porous. It seemed easier to keep insides in and outsides out. ‘Domestic’ spaces within Safe do a good job of separation. What excludes also contains.

Many experienced many forms of seclusion this year. I many ways we have been practising how best to seclude. What are the barest of parametres required? How much do you need to see what you look out? What is excluded and what is not missed.

[describe the immunity garden]

[diagnosis is language that triggers many things. Without it there is no treatment. If there is no diagnosis you remain unwell.

There are a couple of instances where it is discussed how speech is transmitted, like a communicable disease (cue ‘Language is a Virus’ … ah!)

When confines became stifling, how could they be corroded? What permeated walls and how were they made porous?

In Safe Carol moves through habitats. The home provides utmost seclusion. There is little to be made of what is ‘outside’. Views of the garden are obscured, although light is permitted entry…

As her malady accelerates, her housing become increasingly porous. Inside and outside separated by the thinest of veneers.

Peering out from available portals—the companion screens—the holes in the walls poked out by wifi signals—I could visit the area where Safe was filmed. The area had a messy history.

Someone mentions horror vacui. I stop to look this up. Wikipedia (because I am feeling lazy) says it relates to Aristotle and the expression "nature abhors an empty space.” It seems like a critique but also alludes to a state of being.

[Short note on beds and sleep]

Writing notes

On Porosity

Quote from script:

"Safe bodies need safe environments in which to live... and there are healthy alternatives that exist... for just about every toxic product... gas, or ventilation system out there."


"‘Porosity’ was the goal of the architects. Following the organic workings of a sea sponge, that was achieved. To reach the goals of MIT of designing a building that fosters interaction, the architects provided a 125-seat theater spanning two-stories, dozens of lounges scattered through the building, a night cafe, and street level dining to complement the 350 undergraduate rooms. These common spaces are where students meet to chat up and hold discussions through their campus life."

There is no escaping porosity.
Atoms do not allow it.

On Porosity

The Wrenwood Center is located at the "foothills of Albuquerque".
It is a "Cooperative Treatment Residency"

Carol searches for but does not find a suitable 'community'.
Not amongst fellow 'home makers', nor self actualisers.
She is more akin to Nell and Lester maybe.
Without the expressions of anger.

Carol doesn't find community in the human or non-human world.

Nell (as Taxi approaches):

"You're contaminating this entire area!"

(Filming location was downhill of the Rocketdyne nuclear testing site, reportedly still contaminated by nuclear waste which is making it's way from the top of the hills to the valleys below).

"Physician heal thyself."

Wrenwood introduction:

"Silent meals are observed at breakfast and lunch... with a side of the room for men, and a side for women. In addition, we ask you to refrain from smoking... drinking, and use of recreational drugs while on the premises... and we ask that you respect our practice of moderation in dress... and restraint in sexual interaction."

LOVE YOURSELF — an American Mantra.

Conquering problems by retreating into 'human'-ness, moving further away from nonhuman entities. Secluding the human and the self from all else. Self-isolation? Quarantining?

Carol's motivated to shed typical human accoutrements and become something else. She shuns human company, language, customs, structures. She does attempt to incorporate many of them but this makes her physically ill.

Lester goes full alien as Carol looks on.

"Is that Lester you're watching?
"I was just watching him go by."
"Poor Lester. He's just very, very afraid—afraid to eat, afraid to breathe."

"I still learning the words" = I don't want to talk to you. I HAVE to but I don't want to. Let's limit out interactions.

[Does Safe need any male characters by the end? Is it better off without them?]

Safe Viewing Notes 4