NarrNetz is a german blended learning project of the Interdisciplinary Center for Narratology at the University of Hamburg. The project was sponsored with ELCH-funds and was realized from July 2005 to April 2007.
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NarrNetz is an e-learning component for blended learning activities that is supposed to give advanced students of the humanities and cultural studies a further insight into the understanding of Narratology, based on current research discourses. The current so called "postclassical" narratology follows a transmedial definition: it encompasses principally all forms of symbolic representation that have a narrative form. On the basis of such a media-neutral understanding of narrativity narratology evolved from an exclusive method of literature studies towards a transdisciplinary methodology. The NarrNetz project makes visible this process in three systematic sections:
- module I explains how action constitutes itself as a narrative infrastructure under different medial conditions (e.g. text, picture, film, comic, computer game etc.).
- module II discusses how this deep structure can be transposed into the surface structure of the narrative under the particular medial conditions.
- module III is concerned with specific possibilities of controlling perception and reception via perspective which distinguish narratives under the particular medial conditions.
Learning as a metaphor
NarrNetz itself is a narrative. LEARNING is metaphorically conceptualized as TRAVELING. The frame narrative – an animated intro film – leads the player into the learning- or traveling situation of NarrNetz. The player travels through three countries:
- AGENTIAE – focus: action
- SIERRA NARRATIONE – focus: narrative
- PERSPECTIVIUM – focus: perspective
These countries convey the contents and confront the traveler with different tasks.
Intro. The students Helen and Pablo are on vacation on the island Parataktika when they are ungently disturbed: The secret police arrests them. The intelligence service head Homer knows that Helen and Pablo can handle with the basics of narrative theory. He hopes that they can decipher single messages that he got from a neighboring state. Homer thinks the letters are part of a still incomplete narrative.
Quest. The whole narrative has to be found. That's why Homer sends Helen on a trip through the continent Narratologia. There she has to complete and combine the single text messages within a few weeks. Pablo is taken hostage.
The countries of Narratologia. The inhabitants of the several colonies of the three countries of Narratologia deal with different narratological concepts. Helen discusses with them intuitive perceptions of these concepts and gets to know details from the experts: In Agentiae she learns concepts of action like event, eventfulness, story as well as actant, motive and world knowledge. In Sierra Narratione Helen finds out how action is transposed media specific into the surface structure of the narrative. In Perspectivium the inhabitants tell her how perspective controls perception and reception of information in a narrative.
Travel conditions. Helen gets travel and language guides (glossaries) to the contries of Narratologia. She will get tasks (in the form of a quiz) that are associated with the overal quest. If she solves the tasks she can move on.
Bonus. After the journey through Narratologia Helen has helped the intelligence service head Homer with her reports so much that he lets her go back to Parataktika. Together with Homer the students solve the riddle of the text blocks. The students are free to go and take the ascertained text of the mysterious narrative with them.
The narratological learning contents in NarrNetz are designed as thematic clusters which contents can be worked on in partly self chosen order. Every cluster is introduced by a so called cut-scene. After that the students will work on the contents of particular moduls. The common methodological and theoretical focus of these particular moduls and their contents shall be picked up and deepened in a presence component.
The learning contents in detail:
Module I ("Agentiae"): action as narrative infrastructure
- logical and asthetic definitions of "action"
- the concept "action" from a narratological point of view
- narrative, discursive and systematic representations of "action"
Module I defines "action" narratologically as a reception construct that is built of single "events" that can be described as changes of state. On the basis of this fixing the possibilities of symbolic representation of these conception contents and knowledge elements that are used for building such reception constructs shall be discussed. This approach creates a fundament for a media comparative narratological analysis of the phenomenon "action".
Module II ("Sierra Narratione"): from infrastructure to surface structure of a narrative
- Histoire/Discours as fundamental narratological categories
- media specific conditions of action representation in comparison
- the role of "world knowledge" during the reception of action representations in a transmedial comparison
- the function of action-neutral representation elements: the "reality effect" in a transmedial comparison
Concerning the media specific form of the narrative the different strategies the particular media have for transforming abstract action designs into concrete symbol complexes are crucial. From Aristotele's Poetic to Lessing's Hamburgische Dramaturgie many discussed the question of medial boundary conditions of action representations; it is still the core of many modern approaches espacially in film aesthetics (Brannigan), but also in musicology (Seaton). Multimedia components and in particular flash animations play a crucial role in the demonstration of the different possibilities diachronic-linear organized representation media (text, film, music) have in contrast to synchronic ones (picture, sculpture).
The second aspect of this module is the role of world knowledge and the different possibilities the individual media have for its appellative activation (quote, association, hyperlinks etc.); here the problem of the so called "scripts" and "frames" (Schank/Abelson) are crucial. Especially script dependent interpretation possibilities can be demonstrated multimedialy, if a specific medial narrative is being combined with rival script appeals (e.g. "voice over" techniques versus subtitels in non-fictional reportage).
The third aspects deals with the role of action-neutral representation elements in different medial forms of narrative – i.e. basically the question how redundant informations that are crucial for the so called "reality effect" (Barthes) are transmitted. The leading question here is: On the basis of which criteria can redundancy in different medial contexts be identified and how is it interpreted?
Module III ("Perspectivium"): techniques of perspective in a transmedial comparison
- language based perspective
- visual and auditive controling of perception
- the role of epistemological antinomies: auto-reflection, mise-en-abyme and metalepsis
Within classical structuralistic narratology the question of "voice" (Genette) played a crucial role – i.e. the question of how the perspective of the narration process controls perception and interpretation. Here the technique of perspective in a media comparison shall be described with different examples (e.g. with keys and tempi in music; with light/shadow effects, coloring and optical perspective in film; with linguistic and rhetorical tab selection in texts etc.).