006z-extras:-

Simple simulation - the story, the narrative:

Let's consider simulations some more.  Let's look at how stories function. Perhaps it will illustrate how thinking inside a context or simulation works.  This section is concerned with raising issues around the idea of narrative. 

When you read a story, you have experiences. If the story is good, you suspend disbelief and experience the story "from inside". But if you study a few things about writing stories, you learn about plots and types of plots.  After you learn about plot types, you can begin to understand how they play out in stories.  You can read a story and apprehend the kind of plot being used. 

Instead of being in the narrative, you see through the narrative. This may often cause you to stop suspending disbelief, sometimes it doesn't. A good story can have an engaging narrative, even if you know where the story is going. Like a good movie, you can read it more than once. 

It's easy, even without studying, to see narratives get repeated over and over. Video games often use the same narrative devices. By seeing through a narrative, the story/movie/video game becomes much less interesting. This is the basic problem of sequels; you already know the plot

Video games show the problem with narratives at many levels. There are narratives in fighting sequences. There is a narrative taking place for the level. And there is a whole game narrative. These narrative structures guide action in the game. After a while, the narrative may be to stale or restrictive and that's usually about the time you stop playing. 

This way of guiding action is used not just in video games but in all sorts of real life situations. Jobs have narratives. Mornings have narratives, Bed-times have narratives. Meals have narratives. Is it any wonder chores, or school suck so much? They have boring narratives. 

Some narratives are useful though. For instance, we have narratives for automobile driving. Driving narratives create safe behavior. And when someone does not follow the narrative, when they behave unpredictably, that is when accidents happen. 

We have created narratives from many experiences. The seasons are one common narrative structure. 

I've used narrative here in a very loose sense. Almost as a sequence of events or actions. At it's base, this is what a narrative is. A beginning, some stuff, the end. 

Narratives in stories often use the device of conflict to keep the story moving along. In video games, the action is itself the conflict. But in video games the kinds of actions, say the sequence of button pushing, is it's own mini-narrative. If you don't follow the right sequence you can die. or if you follow a special sequence you can have a 'special move'. 

Because narratives describe a sequence of action, narratives act as representations for experiences that change. For example, going from point A to point B, or changing from one state to another. A sequence of events, a transformation, a cycle - narratives are representations of changes.  Narratives describe actions that may, can, will, or should happen. Do you see how even these words imply a certain kind of narrative?

Change is one basis for differentiation in experience. If there was no change, there would there be no experience. This might explain why narratives seem to play such a central role in human life.

Narratives give us structures to implement and understand change. Limiting narratives limits our understanding and ability.  Limited narratives also create a sameness to experience.  A limited mythology creates a limited way to understand the world.  Being limited to certain stories, limits us to the kinds of possibilities we see for ourselves and the world. 

This is the great joy of educational discovery.  To be exposed to different kinds of stories and experiences open us up to new and different possibilities.  And very often it lets us connect to others who are telling a story similar to our own. 

The internet is the great story mediator.  It connects people with all kinds of experiences to each and can free them from the limitations of the narratives available in their local culture.  Limited mediums of expression naturally limit the kinds of narratives and stories that can be told.  A more unlimited medium allows for a great expansion of narrative possibilities.  And it allows for a greater freedom from narrative descriptions of all kinds.  

A 3 minute song is not the same as an hours long operatic cycle.  Our narrative mediums create narrative possibilities. 

personal transformation is an example of following different narratives then then the one a person imagines.  And not all transformations are necessarily good!  The struggle of self development is often one that varies from the narrative that is imagined.

Cultures, groups, tribes, companies, friends, families, individuals all engage in constructing narratives for ourselves.  This narrative making is an act of make believe.  

We make narratives and then believe in them. 

Narratives, belief, and the suspension of disbelief, are all instances of make believe.  A child makes up a story.  Journalists makes up stories too.  So do presidents and shop keepers.  

For example, we do not describe car crashes as issues about timing.  But in fact car crashes can be avoided simply by altering the timing of all the stops and starts and speeds of the vehicles that preceded a crash.  Of course that may result in some other crash.  And that kind of billiard ball point of view can get vey complicated very fast.  But this is not how we think about our environment and experiences.  We use stories.   And the fatalism of stories, of a plot is something we assume to be a feature of existence. 


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