Monday, February 13, 2012

Ontology: Storyworlds

Ryan’s description of the contents of storyworlds (Ryan, 2011) provides a starting point for the development of a systematic structure for the narrative elements of transmedia narratives. Ryan identified the content of storyworlds as existents, settings, events, mental events, physical laws, and social laws (Ryan, 2011).
Chatman proposed a story structure that also contains events and existents (Chatman, 1978, p. 19), but their interrelationships differ from Ryan’s. In Chatman’s model, characters and setting are contained within the existents, while events are divided into kernels and satellites (Chatman, 1978, p. 19).
The development of a comprehensive and consistent structure for storyworlds is important for the future development of transmedia narratives. Ryan stated that ensuring stories involve the same existents, settings, and other characteristics of the storyworld and that the stories are mutually compatible will allow the development of multiple stories within the same storyworld (Ryan, 2011).
Using the same set of concepts identified by Ryan and Chapman – storyworlds, existents, events, settings, and stories – but reconfiguring the relationships between them slightly makes it possible to create a high level framework that easily accommodates the creation of multiple stories from within the same storyworld.
A few of the concepts offered by Ryan fall into categories lower down on the storyworld hierarchy, while mental events is a type of event. Physical and social laws fall within the concepts of mythos, topos, and ethos developed by Klastrup and Tosca. Klastrup and Tosca note that they specifically exclude events from the mythos of a storyworld (Klastrup & Tosca, 2011). This makes it logical to include events immediately below the storyworld in the hierarchy of elements, as Ryan has done.
Establishing the storyworld as the highest order category within the narrative design domain provides the foundation for a coherent structure with ample opportunity for expansion across the lower level concepts.

Concept map of the elements that comprise a storyworld
  • Storyworld: A storyworldis the structure within which all of the concepts, objects, entities, and relationships needed to construct a narrative exist. Properties of or elements contained within the storyworld are:
    • Temporal Dimension: A temporal dimension is an inherent property of a storyworld and by extension is part of the existents, events, settings, and stories that are contained within that storyworld. This temporal dimension is called “storyworld time”.
    • Genre: The genre for a storyworld defines the stylistic conventions for characters, roles, settings, events, and values that are used in the storyworld.
    • Existents: The existents are either significant objects or characters. (Ryan, Storyworlds Across Media, 2011) Further details on these two concepts are developed in the section on the ontology of existents.
    • Events: The events in a storyworld are the result of changes in the state of elements within the storyworld. Further details on events are developed in the section on the ontology of events.
    • Settings: A storyworld’s settings serve as the backdrop against which a narrative occurs. Further details on settings are developed in the section on the ontology of settings.
    • Story: A story emerges from the interrelationship of a storyworld’s existents, events, and settings.

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