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This will probably be a short post (well see). Mainly, I wanted to point out why I think we read this chapter from Carroll. In short, we read this to give us an example that designing for affect, particularly humor or horror, is possible. Not only is it possible, Carroll lays out some of the mechanisms by which we experience this emotions and feelings. We have been talking a lot in class about individuality and connectedness between audience, designer, user, person. What Carroll’s account of horror and humor does is give us evidence that people respond to certain stimuli in very similar ways.

Carroll’s notion that we find a monster repulsive , impure, or threatening (Carroll’s necessary condition for a movie to be of the horror genre) is a recognition that we all, for the most part, agree what is repulsive, impure, or threatening. This suggests, strongly, that we are so constituted that there are simply uniting dispositions that allow us to experience horror and humor together. There is a commonality among our perceptions, understandings, and affect that allow for our shared reactions to horror or humor.  For design, this means that we can, sincerely, design for certain affects — and it works. The evidence of centuries of storytelling that have successfully engendered these emotions and feelings and audiences is enough evidence for us to move forward with this idea in our HCI work.

But, there are certain questions we must ask as we move forward. Literature and film are two different mediums though which humor and horror are achieved, UX design is a third. What are the cues, styles, stimuli of UX design so far as they can engender horror or humor? Are these different from film or literature, are they the same? How will we develop our language of affect for UX design? Has it already been developed? Are there formal criteria by which we must measure our UX design?

I like this paper a lot and it got me to think a lot about horror, comedy, the fine line in between and user reactions and response to context.

Specifically, such fictions are generally
designed to control and guide our emotional responses in such a way that, ideally,
horror audiences are supposed to react emotionally to the monsters featured in
horror fictions in the same manner that the characters in horror fictions react
emotionally to the monsters they meet there

Carroll mentions this and it really resonates with me. I think a major factor to what is humor and what is horror has to do with the reactions. For me, the reactions of the actors give the audience a context…is it horror or is it comedy. That being said people themselves bring something to the table and decided if it is infact horror or comedy.

So Jared just posted a video on Day-Z. Honestly what made that funny was the guy who was laughing at it. If I personally was playing that game and that happened, I would not hang around, I would head for the hills. It may be because I am in the studio alone this late, but in my context, that was terrifying.

And that brings me to my primary argument. In movies what separates horror from comedy is the reactions of the characters. Carroll points out that horror and comedy both have similarities especially since both of them seem to take a normal situation and juxtapose it with something opposite. Dracula is dead and not dead at the same time. With this juxtapositioning in mind, I want to show the difference in the way we interpret horror and comedy is based on the reactions of the characters. The walking dead vs Shaun of the dead would be ideal examples. Specifically their first encounters with zombies.

In the walking dead the main characters expression is of confusion and fear. Character reaction to Zombies TWD_Ep_101_Sneak-325

This is similar to what Carroll says. But the point is, the actor and his reactions tell us this is serious. There are other queues in the shots, but their reaction to an unusual situation tells us that we should be fearful for him.

Whereas in Shaun of the dead, the characters react very differently to the zombies. they at first sort of ignore them, but when they find out you have to destroy the brain to destroy the zombie they get a hold of their LP’s and proceed to throw it at the zombies

shaun-of-the-dead-records

It is this absurd reaction that tells the audience that this is comedy even though almost everything else is the same. You will never see this happen in the walking dead. The actors will never take their time and go through their LP collection while death approaches them slowly.

We can see how reactions of the characters can persuade our emotional reactions. Now let me give you an example in which we bring our own feelings into it. This is not horror related, but has to do with comedy.

In Inglorious Basterds there is a scene in which the Bastards have captured a group of Nazis and proceed to brutally interrogate them. What is interesting was the audiences reactions to the interrogation. People were laughing when they were graphically scalping heads, even when they beat a soldier to death with a baseball bat. It was funny primarily because we all know the Nazis were not good people (a dumb way to summarize it!)

Similarly in the movie, the Germans were watching a movie in which the Americans were dying…the Germans in the audience were laughing, but the audience in the real theater were not. We do not associate the death of American soldiers to fun.  What I am trying to say is that we as an audience also have a say in what is funny and what is horror. Our experiences and context definitely shape our reactions.

Thus in a similar fashion, I think Jared’s video is funny only and only because the guy is laughing….I swear, watch the video without the guys laughter and it becomes pretty scary!

 

Reading over some of the other posts here on Carroll’s excerpt on horror and humor, it looks like several other people also found interest in the oscillation between horror and humor. Part of what makes both genres independently so engaging in my mind is the fact that they are on the surface so diametrically opposed to one another, yet have a great deal of overlap in their triggers:

The movement from horror to humor or vice versa that strikes us as so counterintuitive, then, can be explained in terms of what horror and at least one kind of humor – namely, incongruity humor – share….On the map of mental states, horror and incongruity amusement are adjacent and partially overlapping regions. Given this affinity, movement from one to the other should not be unexpected. (Carroll, p252)

While many of the examples provided pertain to cinema, I think this relationship can also be explored in other mediums. For example, the PC game Day-Z presents a number of situations for these genres to intermingle. There are two key elements to Day-Z that allow for this intersection to occur: first, player-to-player encounters are infrequent, with wide stretches of wilderness or abandoned buildings forming much of the experience. Second, because the game is essentially every person for themselves (as a zombie-survival genre game) and death is permanent, any player encounters always carry the risk of losing potentially hours of progress.

With these two things in mind, the following video represents an example of the genres of horror and humor intersecting (the video is really dark, but stick with it):

 

In this clip, we can observe a player entering an abandoned building, most likely to loot for supplies. When he reaches the top floor, he spots a player wielding a fire ax, in the process of killing another player. As he flees the building, Tiny Tim’s “Dancing in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight” plays, triggered via the in-game voice-chat mechanism by the man with the axe. As our main protagonist runs, he is slowly pursued, heightening the tension and absurdity as the music continues to play. Then, when an altercation seems imminent, the offending player suddenly disappears, appearing to log off. The intention of this action seems a deliberate, trolling behavior, and the relief on our protagonist’s voice is apparent.

While there are many examples of this type of behavior in Day-Z, the fact that it is all player generated, coupled with the game’s frequent visual bugs results in a unique combination of tension and absurdity. In Day-Z, the players are both monsters and clowns, one and the same.

Contrary to what the title alludes to, the title is about an actor. Jeff made a comment today in class that made me recall a reaction I had recently while watching a movie called Trouble in Mind.

If anyone has ever really gotten me to talk about movies I have seen, and trust me there are not many, I am obsessed with the work of John Waters.  My favorites include an actor whose stage name is Divine.  Divine was part of a group known as the Dreamlanders, a group of friends and actors who are featured in Waters’s films.  I knew Divine had acted in a few films without Waters directing and later in his career, he was wanting to take more serious roles (which is why he declined being part of a Pink Flamingos sequel), one of which is Trouble in Mind.  

Jeff mentioned today in class that when you see Bruce Willis is in a film, you usually know what type of film it is going to be.  I can think of this with a few other actors, but that is aside the point.  I knew this movie was going to be different from what I had seen Divine in before, but I almost found it jarring how different it was.  John Waters’s films are known to be somewhat obscene and gross and Divine has been a part of it along the way, even as far as eating dog feces in the final scene of one movie.  Trouble in Mind was the complete opposite of that.  He still plays a somewhat kooky character, and, for the first time, played a role that included no scenes in which he was in drag.  I had a hard time getting past that.

However though, maybe this film is what Divine needed.  His character not had a personality and a character that could fit inside of a Waters film, but also a character that could be more related to at the same time.  He broke out of  what he was known for and confused the audience that knew him for his past work.  However, Trouble in Mind was created to be the opposite of a Waters film.  It was designed to be accessible and seen by the masses instead of a film that is only shown during a midnight showing.  If that is really what Divine was going for, he succeeded.

http://home.comcast.net/~flickhead/MidnightMovies.html. Accessed 4 March 2014. Used here under Educational Fair Use Only.

http://home.comcast.net/~flickhead/MidnightMovies.html. Accessed 4 March 2014. Used here under Educational Fair Use Only.

http://divineofficial.com/post/25641044268/kris-kristofferson-as-hawk-and-divine-as-hilly. Accessed 4. March 2014. Used here under Educational Fair Use only.

http://divineofficial.com/post/25641044268/kris-kristofferson-as-hawk-and-divine-as-hilly. Accessed 4. March 2014. Used here under Educational Fair Use only.

A walk on the lighter side… The Onion has Francis Ford Coppola astoundingly reveal that all three Godfather films take place in the same narrative universe.

“I did a similar thing having Carlo’s death in The Godfather carry over into the next two films,” Coppola continued. “You’ll notice he doesn’t show up in any of the others. That’s because he’s still dead in this one continuous storyline. […] It’s subtle, but once you pick up on a detail like this, you’ll start to notice many other little connections.”

http://www.theonion.com/articles/francis-ford-coppola-reveals-every-godfather-film,35423/

College Humor presents this shocking four-minute exposé of the engagement ring scam. To think what engagements could have been…

Observing the Observer

I present here an abstraction of art (of abstract expressionism, to be exact). And so ladies and gentlemen: the artist observes and reflects, and shares this embodied reflection with another who observes and reflects, and the critic observes and reflects on it all.

Indeed, the observer can only peer, metaphorically, and at some distance, over the artist’s shoulder as he engages with a work and derives meaning from it. Being so removed from the subject and the artist’s intent, it is easy to see the space for meaning-making to take on a life of its own, try as the artist might to guide the willful beast with what aesthetic coding he may hazard.

The critic has the benefit of observing this dialogue over and over again, across time and and observers and artists and encodings, but he too is constrained but what he has observed, and his own distance…

So this is mostly a gag post, because I ended up observing Nathan (read his post which is actually good! )

Nathan and the machine!

The thought I have is a question about critical design (which needs a lot more fleshing out).  Is bad design considered critical design? I mean, it does not fit the bill of problem setting, but it does make me (or Nathan or Denique or most people who have used the damn machine) reflect and think about the interaction. Mainly how bad it is, and more importantly, it makes me think about how things can be better. Isn’t that one of the goals of critical design? to make us think beyond the boundaries?

Again..this is not a serious post!

Reading this reading while still incredibly jet lagged was interesting. I found it amusing that this was like Danto’s love letter to Warhol.

As Danto says, “He turned the world we share into art, and turned himself into part of that world, and because we are the images we hold in common with everyone else, he became part of us. ” (83)

I can kind of see how the meaning behind Warhol’s Brillo Box, Empire, etc. can get someone excited though personally I’m not as excited as Danto about the subject. I do appreciate the perspective that this reading gives. There are many things that we take for granted today that we forget that in the past when that thing was new, it was a big deal (like airplanes). Most of us nowadays know who Warhol is and some of the art he’s done and it’s like yeah, he changed pop culture. For me, when I see Warhol’s stuff I just think “designy” and “cool”. I don’t really think much else so it was interesting to read about Danto’s philosophical approach to Warhol’s work. Though, I don’t know if I can appreciate his work in the ways that Danto does. Eight hours of Empire to make “the experience of time palpable, almost as if in a sensory deprivation experiment” is something that sounds “beautiful” the way Danto says it but personally, I don’t really want to experience.

It was also interesting for me to see in the reading how Warhol was perceived by some when his art came out. To some it was, “… too sunk in banality to rise even to the level of kitsch.” (62)

Even though this is a philosophical paper, to me, since this has a lot of reference to art (and because I’m a very visual person) I kind of wish that there were actual images in this reading.

Lastly before everything shuts off, I did find the jokes funny…

“A man sees what looks like an ordinary soap-pad carton in a shop win- dow and, needing to ship some books, asks the shopkeeper if he can have it. The shop turns out to be an art gallery and the shopkeeper a dealer who says: “That is a work of art, just now worth thirty thou- sand dollars.”

A man sees what looks like Warhol’s Brillo box in what looks like an art gallery, and asks the dealer, who turns out to be a shopkeeper, how much it is. The latter says the man can have it, he was going to throw it away anyway, it got placed in the window temporarily after it was unpacked. (65)

Though it wasn’t really LOL… it was more of a make me want to type “hahahahaha” funny…

Somehow, WordPress ate my long and arduous post but I will painstakingly recreate it for your viewing pleasure, to the best of my ability.

This post is going to be somewhat long and rambly but I haven’t posted on the blog in a while and I wanted to discuss a film that’s been giving me some pause for a while.

A few weeks ago I was watching Jurassic Park with my girlfriend Michelle and having a good time. It ended quite quickly, despite being over 2 hours long and reminded me of the discussion we’ve been having in Experience Design about flow. However, the thought that passed through my mind as I looked at the DVD sleeve is “boy is time sure relative”. I’ve been thinking about this as well as the discussion about horror and humor that the classes have had in the last week or so.

A few weeks before Jurassic Park, I was sitting on my futon, teeth clenched, fists tightened and the sound low. Shortly after I went to my room to lay in my bed alone with the lights off. Michelle asked me what was wrong since I was acting weird and my response was “I just finished watching Tetsuo: The Iron Man. I need to think for a litle bit.”

For a 67 minute film (and apparently there’s a 77 minute version that I may watch when I recover), this was a seemingly endless all-out assault on the senses. Despite that, it was engaging and drew me in for the duration, even if it was a fucked up menagerie of events from basically start to finish.

Let me post the plot synopsis from Wikipedia:

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The film opens with a man (called only “the man”, or the “Metal Fetishist”), cutting open a massive gash in his leg and then shoving a large threaded steel rod into the wound. Later, upon seeing maggots festering in the wound, he screams, runs out into the street, and is hit by a car. The driver of the car, a Japanese businessman, and his girlfriend try to cover up the mess by dumping the body into a ravine, but the dumped man gets revenge by forcing the businessman’s body to gradually metamorphose into a walking pile of scrap metal. This process starts when the driver finds a piece of metal stuck in his cheek while shaving. He tries to remove it, but realizes it is growing from the inside.

The scene shifts to the businessman at his home having breakfast, with a bandage over his cheek. The businessman receives a phone call, consisting of nothing but him and the other speaker (possibly his girlfriend) continuously saying “Hello?” to each other and thinking back to having sex after dumping the Metal Fetishist.

The first of several highly stylized chase scenes starts with the driver pursued through an underground train station by a woman whose body has been taken over by the Metal Fetishist. The businessman seems to win this encounter by breaking the back of the radically transformed woman (she begins the sequence as a demure office worker and ends it as a wild metal-infected woman) after even more metal has erupted on his ankles and arm.

The next segment is a terrifying dream sequence where the businessman’s girlfriend, transformed into an exotic dancer with a snake-like metal probe, terrorizes and rapes the businessman. After waking from this dream, the businessman and his girlfriend have sex at his apartment and eat erotically. As she eats each bite given to her, he hears the sounds of metal scraping. The businessman suddenly discovers his penis has mutated into a gargantuan power drill. A fight ensues where the businessman terrorizes his girlfriend, and acquires more and more metal on his body. She fights back and in the end impales herself on his drill and dies.

Helpless to do anything, the businessman, now the Iron Man, is visited by the Metal Fetishist, who emerges from his dead girlfriend’s corpse to show him a vision of a “New World” of nothing but metal and turn his cats into grotesque metal creatures. The Iron Man flees and is followed by the Metal Fetishist into an abandoned building. After the Metal Fetishist explains to the Iron Man how both of them became what they are, a final battle ensues. The Iron Man ends by attempting to merge himself with the Fetishist into a horrific two-headed metal monster. The two agree to turn the whole world into metal and rust it, scattering it into the dust of the universe by claiming “Our love can put an end to this fucking world. Let’s Go!” The duo charges through the streets of Japan in a horrific fusion of the two men and the accumulated metal, in a largely phallic form. The film ends with the words “GAME OVER” as opposed to “The End” after the closing credits.

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Long story short, the film explores a lot of different dark human emotions: fear of the unknown, of domination and/or rape, death, loss of control, etc.

What the synopsis doesn’t cover is some of the other things that make up the film: The pounding repetitive soundtrack, the jump cuts between reality and fiction, the minutes-long action sequences where frames are cut to create a stop-motion effect. The jump scares from awkward silence to deformed monsters chasing the main character. The fact that there’s only about 3-5 minutes of dialogue in the film. It’s a dizzying experience that makes the intro to Run Lola Run seem rather tame by comparison.  I would say that this film explores just about everything that makes something a horror film by the Carroll definition:

In Noël Carroll‘s ‘Philosophy of Horror,’ he postulates that a modern piece of horror fiction’s “monster,” villain, or a more inclusive menace must exhibit the following two triats:

  • A menace that is threatening – either physically, psychologically, socially, morally, spiritually, or some combination of the aforementioned.
  • A menace that is impure – that violates the generally accepted schemes of cultural categorization. “We consider impure that which is categorically contradictory[14]

What I think I took away from this film and the horror genre lectures is that there is room in interaction design to explore these negative and uncomfortable emotions. I think too often we focus on things that “make sense” or make us happy or function efficiently. There’s nothing wrong with plumbing the depths of our confused and primal existence which is covered by a thin veneer of normalcy. Films and literature have long explored (and games more recently) negative emotions: things with poor closure, things that make us angry or confused. Things that make us question ourselves.

We can make long-lasting and meaningful interactions and designs that stay with us, but we shouldn’t be afraid to explore that range of emotions that we often refuse to discuss: depression, hate, lust, anger, confusion, sadness, etc.

Watch the film if you’ve got a strong constitution.