In the penultimate part of Filmmaker and the MIT Open Documentary Lab's interview project with prominent transmedia figures, D. Fox Harrell, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Digital Media in the Comparative Media Studies Program and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, answers our questions....
MIT OpenDocLab: What are the most useful skills for an interactive storyteller? What are the tools of the trade?
Harrell: First of all, I think that social, cultural, and critical awareness and sensitivity are key. You cannot get anywhere without addressing meaning and the world around you. Sensitivity to the human condition comes first, but then you need to express it using an interactive system. Toward this end, I think that computational literacy is quite important. Let’s think about this using film as an example, clearly you can create films without traditional cinematic literacy. For example, think of Stan Brakhage just dropping moth wings onto film stock, right? You can do a lot of different things; it doesn’t preclude someone from attempting to make works in the field without that particular form of understanding. But if you want to do work that is in dialogue with some of the affordances of the computer, then computational literacy is important because it gives us ways of thinking that are useful. I’m not just talking about abstract data-structuring or the coding procedures, I am talking about mental frameworks for thinking through issues of how information can be structured and operated on in systematic ways more generally.