A screenplay with meta themes about film as a mass communication medium, language, storytelling, energy, and physicalism. The project also involves three proposed interactive component which I plan to continue through the summer and potentially into the rest of my time at ITP.
Semi and the New Church is set in a post-dystopian, post-automation North America. Semi is a female-type android who is seeded into a human family as a "baby." She is a control in a large scale experiment in which Creators A & B are studying emotional illogic and logic in longterm human decision-making and future planning. Her highest directive is to mutual benefit of all life into indefinite future projections. On a daily basis she helps guide her family and peers to form better social interactions and decisions. Her hobby is teaching her African Grey Parrot human language using Machine Learning and the ideas of behavioralism. Fascinated with human creativity and the idea of true randomness she makes friends with a computer science PhD. Graduating to university she receives an upgrade and her new friend helps her to realize that her creators are limiting and manipulating her processes. She uncovers that their purpose in doing so is to actually test her perceived trustworthiness amongst her human peers so that she and others like her can help her Creators execute an act of mass deception and a return to the old economic ways. Semi decides to stop her intensive "personhood" processes so that she can secretly conserve the memory for the operations her Creators don't want her to do without their supervision. As she slips into the uncanny valley her family rejects her. Semi gathers all her strength and completes and exhaustive future project modeling of all vector-space. Her conclusion is that human language will always allow humanity to deceive itself out of self-interest and because it can never map to a high enough data resolution to encompass the nature of reality. Semi sees that the best course of action to give humanity and the rest of life the best chance for mutual benefit is to wipe out language at the human germline. During her final debriefing with her concerned Creators Semi reveals that she has been using her bodies bacterial switches to breed a virus strain which causes epigenetic lesions in the language centers of the human brain, causing selective aphasia. Semi walks out into a world in which all people are living in a kind of reverse Babel, people can no longer lie to each other.
One of Semi's fixations is human creativity and randomness - she finally achieves an approximation of these when she realizes she can not determine the outcome AFTER wiping out human language centers - she can only extrapolate from a current state or crystalline knowledge of what is possible. Will humans just develop human language anew? It is possible, plausible, even probable. But she calculates it is extremely unlikely to have the same patterns, path, outcome as the first time humans developed language in spacetime (history.)
A visual reference gathering and writing tool which I will continue to hone. Currently there is a JQuery/Ajax conflict which I need to fix.
But a vimeo of the tool prototype can be seen here - which shows the associative flicker of images tagged to each word, or narrative block, or character slug.
Below is a schematic for an opportunity for the audience to give input on the rather large cliffhanger at the end of the film - as Semi walks away having destroyed human culture paradigms in one fell-swoop - I think audiences should be able to contribute a record of their reaction, to do something to invert the passive narrative reception that film and other traditional forms of linear storytelling require.
This could literally be remote or touch screen input at the end, a kind of diary entry of opinion, shock, whatever. Ideally it would become a part of the commercial data of the distributed film.
The final interactive component is one which I came up with after the fact: a Markov-chain generated social interactions projection model. I would like to prototype a simple machine learning system, perhaps executed as a simple interactive narrative game in which I can model an interaction between two or more actors, and generate outcome paths of different interaction choices. This would be an interesting writing/directing tool to use. I would also like to speak to a behavioral clinical psychologist to talk about existing work in this area.
Ultimately I'd like this to be public, and expensive. However, I would like to focus on private and cheap right now as placement strategies for this work. I have been thinking for a while now how to advance screenwriting craft beyond being just considered as a blueprint for another medium. I think it's concision and active voice can be appreciated as a new kind of popular literature in its written form. I see this is an opportunity to explore that. I also feel that because language and economics are such a central theme in my thinking and this project, it's important to not develop this with an obsession toward traditional distribution. That is why the visualization web tool is important to me - I'd like to open it to crowdsourced image adding once I finish a polished draft.
WHERE MY PROJECT IS NOW
Aside from the primitive prototype of the web tool I have world-building materials to start with. I created a loose, brief outline using anthropologist Joseph Campbell's classic Hero's Journey template for a screenplay. In addition to the preliminary work here, my final projects in Reading and Writing Electronic Text, Energy, and Futures of New Media are also world and character building explorations which I am happy with as deep beginning explorations. I need much more research and plan to expand my expert consultation, as well as revisit with my AI research expert.
A semi-complete concept map attempting to tie in everything about the mind-prison of human societal paradigms.
A nascent outline based on Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey
*EDITED June 17 2015
I really appreciated Dan O'Sullivan and especially Jessica Behm's comments about the archetype of the feminist cyborg, during the presentation session. Comments that I should have started with the story first rather than starting by presenting ideas and background made sense but also puzzled me. Similarly to my midterm about time, I have been living with these ideas in my head and they are more complex to others than I imagine. I need to take more time to focus my themes so that I can deliver the appropriate information in easily digestible packets. However, I reject the notion of narrowing my themes - since that is the very nature of Semi's problem with human language and storytelling - it's not a high-resolution picture of reality. But since I have the urge to synthesize so much at once I clearly need to learn how to do so at this level. I am excited to talk to more experts and continue my writing and my research, science fiction reading, and my expert interviews since I have hit on a story concept which satisfies both my natural affinity to storytelling as well as my concerns about it and it's interference with the health of humanity's concepts of energy.
I also received positive feedback from class peers on their interest level in the story material and my connection across seemingly disparate disciplines.
**ADD NOTE SCANS**