A THEORETICAL INTERLUDE
daddylabyrinth is a long-term combination of instinct and planning. I've been writing about my "daddy issues" for as long as I've been writing, and becoming a daddy myself in 2005 brought on a host of new issues for me to write about. Bits and pieces of what you'll find here were written decades ago, and others were planned and outlined as part of larger works. Over the years I've had at least three different titles on the notebooks in which I collected my writings about my dad, but none of them stuck like this one has.
So that's the planning part. The instinct comes into play through associational thinking, which is uniquely enabled by electronic storytelling technology of the kind you're using here. I first discovered Scalar––originally developed at the University of Southern California as a tool for media scholarship––at the 2012 Electronic Literature Organization conference, and immediately knew that I had to use it to write my father/son book. Scalar's ability to connect nodes or units (to borrow Ian Bogost's formulation from Unit Operations) of narrative in a variety of ways drew me into what I've come to call "synaptic writing": following associations of the mind and psyche from one node to the next, following the Modernist premise of the stream of consciousness, and creating meaning (both for the reader and writer) through aggregation and interconnectedness between those units. My conception of polylinearity owes a lot to Jim Rosenberg, who has been working with the concept for decades. Scalar, in my eyes, maps the way our minds and psyches work by offering both straight-line versions of our personal narratives and (to quote Nick Montfort) the "twisty little passages" that our stories burrow within our minds.
Though the project is deeply personal, it nonetheless exists at the confluence of many ideas. In terms of literary theory, Wolfgang Iser is my main guy. His reader/response theory, which sort of lost out to the sexier French schools of criticism in the 1980s (Lacan, Derrida, etc.) is fundamentally suited to the internet/interactive age because he presages the extremely active role of the reader/viewer/user in constructing narrative. But a few other ideas and critics rolled around in my head as I formulated this work. daddylabyrinth is definitely a book conceived for the the personal screen (yes, I know how weird that sounds), an omnipresent device that engenders a new kind of cinematic experience––both in terms of production and consumption––than the big screen model most of us grew up with. Laura Rascaroli, in her monograph The Personal Camera and her edited volume Amateur Filmmaking, is superbly articulate in grasping this sea change and what it means to the future of storytelling.
At the core of this new storytelling ethos––and the core of daddylabyrinth––is intimacy with the reader. Though technology can be incredibly distancing, narrative technology like the one you're using right now offers a deep communion between author and audience. Art has always been about two people meeting; more specifically, it's about the experience of the uncertain places in me meeting the uncertain places in you. Together, we have a human experience that unites our uncertainty, and we become one.
New media platforms like Scalar appeal to me (and I believe they are the future of narrative) because they don't force storytellers into a false sense of coherence. They allow us to preserve the uncertainty and messiness of our tales––the associational thinking that goes into extracting emotional material from the mind of the author and lets it unfold, miraculously and alchemically, in the mind of the engaged, intimate reader/user/viewer.
See how uncertain things are between us these days? I don't even know what to call you yet.
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