CKamp introduced us to Xtranormal last week with her screening of the viral masterpiece “I want to be a college professor,” whereupon I became utterly giddy about the possibilities of creating my own video (the result was a brief sketch in which I cast Ted Nelson as the tech guy). Turns out Blaine was equally inspired to create a couple of vids, too. If you need advice on how to How to Lose Investors and Alienate Bond-holders, then his are required viewing.
While my interest in Xtranormal started out as something of a lark, I’m now trying to think about it more academically: Could this tool be useful in the classroom? Where might something like this fit into our discussion of New Media? One key to understanding the irresistible allure of Xtranormal, I think, is to realize that it affords us a way to do something we’ve already been doing for 30,000 years: Puppetry. In this case, though, digital puppetry. A Google search for “puppetry history” served up a link to a site that looked like it had been attacked by the Geocities-izer, but there was in fact a very telling observation on that site that brings me back to this week’s reading by Sherry Turkle:
It seems to me, man has always been interested in creating and controlling other worlds, as well as in trying to define his own. Puppetry, to me, is an extension of one’s self. It may be motivated by the need to explain, explore, embrace or critique the human condition. It is still, one of the safest ways to act out, act up, entertain, educate, commiserate, wonder out loud, unburden yourself or release your feelings. I have used it, along with my story telling to fulfill my need to see the good guys win and justice done. It has always been both a sword and a shield to me. It is my armor in a world of frustrations and disappointments, when indeed, the bad hats seem to be ahead in this game, we call Life. In short, I have found Puppet Theater to be a wonderful place to find peace of mind and spirit.
As I read this, I immediately called to mind the video game enthusiasts Turkle writes about in Video Games and Computer Holding Power (post forthcoming on that) and how they sought escape in video games in the same manner–and for the same reasons–as our anonymous puppeteer quoted above. Interesting.
Back to Xtranormal… Here’s a brainstorm of some possible scenarios where this service might be handy:
- Demonstrating effective interviewing techniques for job applicants or journalists
- Role play for would-be counselors and therapists (similar to above, what and what not to say)
- A story boarding tool, where dialogue for an original movie scene may be quickly roughed out
Granted, the potential for any video created in Xtranormal to be more humorous and distracting than educational may be a barrier to its adoption in the classroom, but still–it’s yet another resource in the digital storytelling toolbox.