Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thoughts on a Thinker. . . This Time With Feeling

Continuing from the last post, I've been considering some of the ideas from Howard Greenstein's podcast in which I participated with Nicole Lazzaro. We produced it at a think tank retreat a few weeks ago to flesh out some of the ideas that were presented briefly and with lightening speed. This happened all weekend, as these things tend to do when a group of smart people get together, hardly ever see each other, and have their say or test out their work.

About the Podcast

The podcast itself is not optimal -- we worked outside where the background activity sounds much more fun than the conversation. However, Nicole raised a few points that are worth pulling out and discussing further. One is the question, value, and nature of jargon raised by some of her naming conventions (covered before -- start here and scroll up).

The other is the meaning created in gaming when players are together in the same space. Jane McGonigal works brilliantly on this, but there's more to say, particularly in the context of games restricted to the computer screen.


Nicole and I spoke briefly on the phone about a challenge she's facing naming a group of emotional responses to gaming when more than one person is present. This class of responses fascinates me because it links performance online with that off-line.

In other words, how can content producers take advantage of performance online in a way that is unique to the Web and still incorporate the benefits from other media in that offer a rich relationship between audience and performance?

Most of all, theater comes to mind.

More Jargon: Words from Other Languages to Enrich Our Own

Back to the podcast: Nicole mentioned that there is a completely different quality to responses when gamers are playing in the same room. She said that the room becomes the game space, and the computer screen shrinks into the corner.

So this is what I came up with as a first shot -- to help describe this phenomenon:

Convocare -- The class of feelings that occur when one person or more joins another in the same space. These emotional responses require more than one personto be present body, not just in the abstract.

They include, among others, a sense of independence from, connection to, superiority over, competitiveness with, inferiority to, isolated from another. The key is that all feelings occur in relationship.

The convocare class of feelings can be broken down into other emotional responses (some listed above), each with its own precise description.

A Funny Thing Happens to Naming (But Not Necessarily Ha Ha)

Very few people would dispute that inspiration is the meeting point of emotional and intellectual insight. I know this because in over 20 years of educating professionals and young students, no one ever has.

However, at a certain point in our development as Westerners (the point depends on the culture), our cognitive intelligence is considered to be entirely independent of our intellectual capacity. This can happen in school or at home -- adults stop asking students how they feel about something and instead ask what they think. No one would ever do this to a four-year-old because it's impossible to conceive that the two pieces are separate.

The implications of using only half your brain effect people of every age, in every profession.

What's In a Name?

Only when we get down to a level of verbal precision equal with that of other cognitive research will emotional responses be integrated into the mix of cognition, even when the brain isn't mentioned.


Paula Vogel, my mentor in a past life of live theater and academic discourse (not necessarily together), has described empathy as a chemical reaction between bodies. There certainly is a different kind of experience in the live theater than in any other performance medium, and probably physical chemistry contributes.

However, there's more to it, and the Web will only benefit as we explore the relationship between audience and performance online.

Nicole is definitely on the right track.

No comments: