Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Context - cinema or otherwise

I thought I might delve into the scriptwriting process a bit with this post. It's a bit theory heavy but often scriptwriters will skim over such things as context, which I think is vitally important to really crafting the visual narrative and adding depth to scripts - even if your creating b-grade cinema, you'll find really good b-grade writers have tilled the soil of their scripts with enough depth to produce some startlingly fruitful results. We may not immediately see it, but good writers know their material enough to be able to do this without thinking, and that is why so many cult and schlock films live on to this day as classics and can be watched hundreds of times over.

Understanding Context is a way for us to develop ideas of relevance for the user or task at which the user or viewer wishes to perform when accessing our material. When examining context we may want to keep some of the following factors in mind:

Identify meaning.
Interpretation/Intention
Characterization of entity
Disambiguation
Relevance
Assumptions of common knowledge

Identify the meaning behind what you are proposing to do. For example if I was going to create a Title Sequence for a documentary on Alexander the Great, I might use a rope font. The meaning and relevance of using this font would be because of the legend associated with Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot. If in my Title Sequence the font is cut as a transition between a following title "Legendary Leaders Series", I then further establish the meaning of my creative decision.

Interpretation and Intention are two important factors to consider when making decisions of context. You must consider the intention of the user as well as your own intention, these intentions may merge at one point or be entirely opposed. Interpretation can be assessed using a process of disambiguation as described below.

Disambiguation is where we ascertain different contexts or meaning that may be gleaned from the one source. In this way we can map a path to the most relevant option for our design decisions.

Characterization of entity ... an entity may be a place, a person, an object, a texture, a font,  a moving image, a sound ... if you are creating  a characterization  of an entity you  may be giving it a trait, a mood, an attitude. A pair of jeans that are ripped may characterize Rock 'n' Roll, a red and white stripy pole may characterize a Barber's Shop, and these characterizations depend on what we may call Common Knowledge.

Determining Common Knowledge is somewhat difficult but it may be examined by looking at the difference between "social norms" and "institutional rules". There is an interesting essay by Robyn Barnacle entitled "Gut Instinct: The body and learning" where she looks at how Hubert Dreyfus distinguishes the difference between these two ideas. Social Norms are something society as a collective negotiate in order to determine how to behave appropriately whereas Institutional Rules have been established and codified in order to be learned by society to establish a collective agreement on how to behave.

Transferring this idea to Common Knowledge, what do we construe as Common Knowledge as opposed to something we think everybody should know?

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