Dissertation: Autoethnography Project Notes from Steyr, Austria

autoethnography, critical making, dissertation, reflective games

[NOTE: These notes are transcribed, annotated but unedited, from a handwritten version.]

PROJECT 02 for my dissertation. Sept 9th 2018.

I was hoping to find inspiration for this project in my travels. Before I even left, I was sort of dreading this trip. I was feeling exhausted but still had so much to do. I didn’t want to leave home and Tom because of all the work to be done, and also because we’ve been away from each other so long with no time to rest and just be in each other’s company. The first 24 hours of this trip were stressful and restless, with trains to catch and a new country to navigate, with the knowledge that when we arrived, we still wouldn’t be able to make it to the place we were staying [clarifying note: our train arrived at 11:17 but the last train to Steyr departed at 10:52]. The next day, we found out that the folks in charge of setup had been unable to get the project working, and when and how they told us this was a tad frustrating and unprofessional.

We fixed it.

Still, the frustration and exhaustion didn’t go away, and in many ways we struggled to feel welcomed to this place.

This is the first place I’ve felt truly out of place as a trans person. I’m not on on any sort of supplement to alter my hormones, but i guess with a binder and short hair, I “tip the scale” into an uncomfortable place for these people. I felt stared at, and was worried when someone approached me on the train platform to ask how I felt about gay and trans people. It wound up being a friendly conversation, but the whole place feels fraught. So. Discomfort and alienation, even from the people we’re supposed to be here with, is definitely a huge, present concern for me.

Yesterday was a bit better. We checked out more of the other exhibits, had to fix part of our installation that someone decided to fiddle with, and I had a long conversation with two older artists working in textiles. They’ve been collaborating for over twenty years (and they also totally thought I was a dude through most of this conversation. At least they thought I was a nice dude).

The installations that we saw and that discussion have got me tihnking about this project as a narrative wearable project about being a stranger in a strange land. I am also thinking of the wearable as a living, alien guide. Maybe using defamiliartization and recontextualization with language. I’m definitely thinking of the work of Blast Theory and ZU-UK.

A narrative you can experience and carry around with you.

I’m trying not to let myself get too bogged down in how technically difficult the concept will be at first. I could see this requiring QR, GPS, radio coms…

I also really do want to think about Augmented Reality and also interactive theater/escape the room projects.

I’d like this to not need to be site-specific. At the same time, I’m only one person. I’m not sure I can keep track of someone wandering through a truly open space.

What if someone wanders off, or gets lost?

I don’t want this to just be an app or a webpage people use on their phones. I want to highlight the interface. But phones come equipped with so much useful junk — the GPS, gyroscope, the QR scanner.

This is why I don’t think I want to narrow the focus and worry about scope or tech yet.

I’m also thinking of the voice that the writing in transgalactica uses — sort of rueful, sort of hopeful, but jaded, a tad bitter.

I’m also thinking about time travel because of the Time Travel RPG I’ve been running. And again, that whole ZU-UK, Place des Alts [explanatory note: a recent TAG project that started out as a collaborative piece between ZU-UK and TAG] inspiration.

I was really inspired by the MIT Cillia project. I wonder if there would be a way to access that.

A pocket companion, guiding you through an almost familiar, alien civilization…

Actually, it’s worth noting that I just finished Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

I guess I could maybe limit the scope to certain parts of the EV building, 10th+11th floors.

Players could play different parts — some the populace of this alien, different time, a few others the time travelers. Maybe something like two rooms and a boom?

I think having audio communication through some kind of wireless device would be nice. I think having some kind of costumes (I’m thinking scarves) could be nice.

The scope of the playtesting immediately comes to mind as a concern, but I’ll try to put that aside for now.

All of this makes me think that this might ultimately be that game about genderfeels that I wanted to make in some form.