Unspoken: Interactive Storytelling

Body language makes up over 50% of human interactions on the day to day basis. However, this body language is often coupled with speech to convey the whole message, and left by itself can sometimes be confounding and leave us playing a frustrating game of charades. Because of this, finding a specific instance when I only used motion and gestures to communicate something on my mind can be quite rare.

Lucky for me, I SCUBA dive. While SCUBA diving, it can be difficult to communicate unless we have visual contact with our diving partner. Because of this, we rely on the senses available to us, most pertinently sound, so we can then make visual contact and facilitate communication henceforth. On this particular instance, I was diving in the Bahamian island of Andros, in the reefs by the tongue of the ocean. Sea turtles in this area are quite rare at the depth my partner and I were diving at. This day I was lucky enough to spot one, but it was moving fast and away. My partner was exploring a section a short swim away from me and so I couldn’t get his attention through visuals.

As certified SCUBA divers we are taught a series of hand signals to indicate our status in certain situations: to slow descent, to go back to the surface, to report a problem with our equipment, etc. Everything that isn’t related to our well-being, however, is left up to interpretation. To get my partner’s attention I pulled out my multi-tool and tapped it against my oxygen tank several times. Under water the sound you hear most often is the sound of your own breathing, and everything else is muffled. This resulted in the taps piercing normality and me being able to gather my partner’s attention. Next was getting the message to look at the moving sea turtle. Not being able to use my words, I did the first thing that came to mind: I moved my body to a horizontal position with my arms and legs extended, and waved my arms up and down and pointed in the general direction of the turtle.

It was but a mere instant that passed before I saw an unusually large set of bubble coming from my buddy (in a response of surprise, I can only assume) and saw him swimming quickly towards me to be able to see the creature more closely. When we were together we expressed our excitement to each other via hand motions which to us in that moment could only represent largeness, beauty, and amazement.

This experience belongs to a kind that never really fade from the memory, because despite the lack of words, motions, gestures, and expressions represent something more easily remembered: a feeling.

Addendum:

The Gestures:
-Moving my body horizontally
-Waving my arms up and down
-Tapping my tank with my multitool
-Motioning size with my hands
-Pointing
The Combinations (Gesture+Posture):
-Body + Arms
-Size + Pointing

The fact that he was far away made my gestures more exaggerated and intensified to importance of them to him.
Being underwater made it more meaningful because anywhere else, we would have looked like dorks, but because SCUBA divers have to be in similar mindsets when diving, to us it was very serious and full of excitement.
SCUBA divers experience things underwater that no one else does, and being underwater is freeing, but also extremely dangerous. This knowledge and the feelings it brings us combined make for really interesting and immersive experiences.

Tyler Roman- Blog Assignment: Unspoken

Mmmm there wasn’t a scene that immediately sprung to mind when I thought of this prompt. However, thankfully it also mentions pets and I do have one memory that fit pretty well albeit the animal involved didn’t really belong to me.

Basically, my family was asked to dog sit for a couple of days and so, for a short while, my family four gained a new member. Small, energetic, and white, I remember how lovable and cute the dog was as it explored the unknown surroundings of my home. After getting acquainted with both my home and my family, I began the tender process of breaking down the barrier between stranger and friend, getting the dog to play with me inside the house was a mixture of patting my leg, whistling, and the usual combinations of “Here boy!” until eventually the dog and I had a good game of chase going on, I would walk around the house and the dog would follow.

However, it is this part of the story that for me defines the idea of unspoken. The basic path the dog and I took was always circular. I would speedwalk from living room to kitchen, to dining room, to doorway, and circle back to the living room. However, somewhere in the path from the kitchen and the dining room, there was this pretty big ottoman, larger than the dog at least. Every time I got to that point I would like the ottoman and the dog would not follow, instead, knowing that I would inevitably circle around, the dog would run the opposite direction and meet me on the on the other side. Eventually, perhaps in a moment of rare genius, I decided to pat the ottoman, the top, a gesture to the dog without spoken command that beckoned him to the top of that mysterious object without fear. And the dog responded, with a simple *hop* the dog joined me on the mysterious summit and thus connected the two previously known pathways. As the dog hopped down with me on the other side it was welcomed by the familiar scene of the dining room. Armed with this new knowledge the dog gained the courage to follow me whenever I climbed the ottoman and I could no longer get those seconds of rest from the chase and the dog would always leap after me once we had met that once unmovable object. Suddenly, there were no boundaries, and also, unfortunately, no room for rest, so out of all the things that remained unspoken that night my eventual exhaustion from that blazing ball of energy was sadly not one of them.

Part 2:

Taking into consideration the areas of kinesics and proxemics. I think that because the individual involved was a cute dog I was able to get a lot closer to it than if I was interacting with another human. And because I took the role of the teacher or carer in this sense I think that allowed me to give off the air of patience if that’s even possible. Posture-wise I remember that I physically crouched in order to lower the distance between the dog and I creating a smaller, closer, and more intimate space. The action of running around the room and beckoning the dog created a sense of purpose and intention, without followable vocal commands I was able to create a sense of connection between the dog and I. The gesture of patting the chair evoked the intention that the dog was supposed to be there, or was allowed to occupy that space. And that truly makes me wonder about that action. I mean, even humans, if you pat the chair next to you likely the person you are motioning to will take the seat, without any explicit command to do so. Why is that motion something that brings for that specific response? Overall it is interesting how the dynamic of interaction changes depending on the characters involved. Interacting with a new animal I was able to get much closer, both physically and emotionally, than if I was interacting with a new person. This came forth in my posture, positioning, proximity, and intent creating an environment that I believe the dog in question could take as safety, comfort, and fun. Allowing us to create a fun game as well as a sense of teamwork, despite the short amount of time we had coexisted together.

A Memorable Scene: Interactive Storytelling Blog Post

Picking a single scene from any of the movies, shows, or video games that I love so much is extremely difficult, as there have been many pieces of art and media that have deeply impacted my life since I was a child. For this particular assignment though, I am going to pick a scene from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The reasoning for having picked this scene, a scene where the protagonists, Anakin Skywalker (The Chosen One) and Obi-Wan Kenobi, are battling each other to the death, would be because of the overall awe it instilled in me as a child. The battle scene is epic and dynamic and it really feels like there is something huge on the line for both of these characters, depending on the outcome of their duel. The music in this scene, appropriately named “Battle of the Heroes,” highlights the intensity and tragedy of their fight and caused me to engage in their quarrel even more because since both of these characters were heroes up until the point where one of them fell to the darkness, hence the antagonism. The world of Star Wars in itself is highly inclusive and extremely engaging. It allows the viewer to dive in, and with the endless variety of characters, races and worlds, there is a story for everyone and that’s what drew me into this fictional universe.

The biggest reason, however, for picking this scene is that the concept of the lightsaber (and seeing  in action) is what allowed me to personally put myself in the story.  It made it possible for me to imagine myself wielding it and having tons of crazy adventures, and that the tool didn’t just belong to any one character, but that anyone worthy of it could wield it.

Having a world where you can have endless possibilities and escape the real world for a few hours is what makes this a very memorable scene.

 

 

 

 

Interactive Storytelling – Unspoken

Unspoken

Thinking of the situations that I have encountered last week, where I did not convey any thoughts using verbal of written language, one situation came up. As a Resident Assistant, I organize events for my residents. For my last event, I did shopping in a bakery and needed a receipt in order to be reimbursed. What turned out after almost a week was that the bakery did not include some crucial information on the receipt. I had to go back and request another one, which because of my poor language knowledge, was quite a task.

I brought the old receipt, a card with NYU’s tax information and improvised. That attempt to communicate with multiple bakery employees who did not understand what the ‘laowai’ wanted was probably quite hilarious to look at. It required a lot of pointing, waving my hands to communicate the universal ‘no’. At some point, I even had to ‘throw’ (did not actually throw it) the old receipt to show that it’s not right and that I don’t want it. I also had to point at, for example, the receipt printing machine.

When I think of it right now, I do not believe it was hard to communicate my needs without the use of either verbal or written language however, I did rely on the universal body language to convey my thoughts. Eventually, I even got the right receipt.

Blog: Unspoken

 

One unspoken moment that I can recall from this past week actually happened last night while my friends and I were trying to order food. We were sitting with a group of friends, and all of us were hungry, but my friend who has the food delivery app on his phone was lazy and taking too long to order food. By this point I was very hungry, and all my friends and family know that I use minimal words and usually communicate through facial expressions. No one was manifesting their hunger and I was growing impatient, so when my friend looked over at me, without saying anything to him, I just looked at him and nodded twice while simultaneously raising both eyebrows. Immediately, he laughed and said, “Ok, so that means I should order food right now, because you’re very hungry.”

That was exactly what I intended, and I usually do different facial expressions, especially through my eyes, to convey my thoughts, wants, or responses. So I suppose my friend needed to know that I usually don’t use words to communicate but try to be very expressive as to convey the right needs and emotions, so he was better able to “read my mind” rather than ask me what my face meant.

Addendum

In the exchange I was highly motivated to get my point across, because I was very hungry. Although I could’ve just told him to order the food, my first reaction was to make a facial expression indicating how I felt. As I have previously described, raising my eyebrows and looking a bit upset/angry gave my friend the understanding that I wanted him to order, especially since no one else manifested themselves. It wasn’t so much the posture, because I was lying down on one of the couches at the second floor cafe, but even though he was sitting at another one of the couches, not too close to mine, did not take away from his ability to “read” my face. However, before he asked the question, he turned his body towards me, and the rest of the group, and waited for me to look at him to finish asking the question. Although we were each sitting at a different place, at different angles from one another, we were still able to communicate. However, I feel like this example is non-conventional in the sense that there have been other instances where, depending on where a friend was standing and how far they were standing from me, I could not visually communicate with them as well. But I thought I would share this instance because my friend and I both laughed at how well he knew what I meant just by looking at my subtle expression. Perhaps friendship, and one’s ability to better understand you, does play a role in how well we can visually communicate our emotions and how accurately they are received.

Blog: Unspoken Getting the Check in China

One of the things that I learnt while in China is this hand gesture that signals “receipt”. It’s a gesture that one makes when they request a receipt from a waiter. To make the gesture, one put their left index finger on the tip of their right index finger, and the tip of their left thumb on the tip of the right thumb. From their, pull the fingers apart and make a clipping movement by bringing the thumb and index finger together. The entire action should look like you’re drawing a rectangle in the air.

The first time I did this was when I was out with my classmate at a Chinese restaurant. As she shouted “mai dan (receipt)”, she drew the imaginary receipt in case the waiter saw her but didn’t quite hear her request. Since then, I’ve always found myself doing just the same at the end of a meal. I even sometimes just gesture it out without actually saying the word “receipt”, since until this day, I can’t really tell apart the word for receipt (mai dan) and menu (can dan). So it’s often the case that I resort to this gesture and forget about speaking out loud at all. While in China, I find this gesture very useful, as 6/10 times I’ve used it, the waiters have always understood what I meant. However, outside China, I’m often met with puzzled looks.

When reading this week’s reading assignment, the section about coding. It seems that this gesture would fall under the category of iconic coding, where the gesture resembles the meaning in some way, i.e. the shape of a receipt paper (rectangle). Another part of the reading that reminds me of this gesture is when Paul Ekman mentioned that local culture and context matters. Again, outside China, I’m usually met with puzzled looks while gesturing the receipt move.

Interactive Storytelling: Unspoken

The assignment for week two is to elaborate on “a situation where you conveyed to someone a thought, a want, a direction or a response without speaking or writing any instructions.”

“What did you do to convey your thought or intent? What did the person [or pet] need to know already in order to understand you?”

So much of what we communicate to each other is in actions and body language. Communication therefore, is a rich thing to study as it can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. On a daily basis, I communicate with the people around me without speaking or writing. There are moments with friends and family when I ask them what the time is by tapping the top of my bare wrist and rotating my palms skyward. Even without a watch on my wrist (which is usually why I have the question in the first place), the wrist seems like a sign of what should be wrapped around it, giving us information.

Other instances of non verbal and non written communication include a finger to lips (indicating silence), a pointed head tilt (indicating instruction to follow), and outstretched arms (indicating an invitation to embrace). These signals can indicate these meanings in the right context. For example, outstretched arms can also be a way of drawing attention to the surroundings. However, these are ways I’ve communicated the meanings I’ve listed to people around me in the past.

Communication always gets easier when the various parties involved know each other well. Certain signals are unique to certain individuals and certain relationships. Perhaps that’s why things get misunderstood so easily. This assignment is helpful for me to think more critically about non verbal and non written communication, and hopefully even find more effective ways to communicate things across various mediums (such as through writing and images).

 

Blog: A Memorable Scene Busby Berkeley’s Overhead Shots

I can’t quite recall any memorable scene from any movie I’ve watched before, but I do think that some stills from Busby Berkeley’s works (which I have never seen) are very memorable to me. He is famous for overhead shots of dancers arranged in geometrical shapes. Being a choreographer, he naturally knows how to arrange bodies in space. However, being a film director that he was, he was aware of how angles also affect our perception of the arrangement of bodies in space.

Busby's Geometrical Arrangement

Still from Busby Berkeley's Dames (1934)

Still from Busby Berkeley’s Dames (1934)

These stills stand out to me because they offer me a perspective I’m rarely aware of, i.e. overhead. I mostly view things from the x or z axis and stills from Berkeley’s works make me realize that there’s more to what I usually see. He’s able to offer me something that’s not quite new, the y-axis has always been there, but also new because I’m never really aware of overhead shots or overhead perspective.

Moreover, Berkeley’s overhead shots are also impressive for the way the dancers are arranged. The execution of the arrangement is impressively precise and it shows a great teamwork between the dancers and Berkeley as a director.

To sum it up, Berkeley’s overhead shots are impressive because it makes me aware of what I have never been aware of as well as the precision of the arrangement.

Interactive Storytelling: A Memorable Scene

As someone who is very easily moved and surprised by the artistry of a good scene, I found it quite hard to pick a scene that I would deem “most memorable”. However, I did remember one of the first scenes that I found incredibly memorable from my childhood. I remember watching Snow White from Walt Disney and being especially shocked by the climactic scene where the evil witch falls from the cliff.

Amidst the darkness and incessant noise of rain and thunder, a crack bright lightning strikes and the witch tumbles off the cliff howling. The next part is what I remember most clearly, the pair of vultures on a branch nodding to each other with ugly smiles and flying down the cliff. I remember realizing what the vultures meant, that the witch was definitively dead and that all the trouble was over. The other meaning that made me shudder was the fact that the vultures were about to pick apart the remains of the witch. She died a terrible death and was not given an honorable burial, a terrifying punishment for her equally horrific actions. With merely an implication of what happened, the movie made me think about death and punishment. I felt a great deal more than I thought I would initially.

This is one of the scenes that have stayed with me since my childhood. Truly a memorable scene.