I’ve spent a quiet weekend in Coventry, sorting out the flat and doing a little writing. While making soup on Friday I listened to a recording of Matt Webb‘s talk at dConstruct 2007 (MP3, slides and transcript). Despite Matt Webb’s misgivings about how well the talk worked, I found it fascinating. The presentation was alphabetical, a different point for each letter, the idea being that the ‘point’ of the talk would emerge for the listener – one of the points referenced was Grice’s conversational maxims and the idea of conversational implicature. The structure was impressive and a significant departure from the rule of ‘Say what you’re going to say, say it, then say what you’ve said‘. One of the things I’ve been thinking about this weekend is how the issues and structure of this presentation might apply to a work of fiction.
I found myself thinking of the talk yesterday afternoon on a trip round Ikea Coventry. The store is in a massive six-storey building in the city center. You start your shopping on the sixth floor and work your way down to the ground, which reminded me of a description of a modern slaughterhouse I read recently, where the animals enter at the top and are processed floor by floor.
Matt Webb’s talk referred to different types of game, including photoshop and soap operas. So much of Ikea seemed like a game: the arrows on the floor, the maps of each level (with ‘short cuts’ for experienced players), the elevators between levels, the signs showing you when you’d entered a new sub-level. We took almost 3 hours to play, although we did spend a long time on the cafe minigame at the end of the first level.
The overall experience was strange. Everything felt so neat and disposable, some goods so cheap you felt compelled to buy. Some of the shoppers we saw seemed lost and disorientated and the whole time I felt like a character in a Ballard novel, as if I was doing the most modern thing I could possibly do.
Still, the day had a happy ending as I bought my new desk. Now all I need in space in the study to erect it.