Mika Tuomola, new media script writer/director
Narrativity and Interactivity Studio, Interactive Institute of Sweden
Malmö University College, Sweden

Everyday Objects and Commedia dell'Arte in Designing Dramatic Action for Avatar Worlds

The presentation introduces how Commedia dell'Arte - a five hundred years old improvisational form of street theatre, the origins of which date back to primitive cultures - has been used as a design metaphor in a joint university and corporate project as creating a world script and narrative methods for the European culture based avatar world. The world writing process has taken place in Coronet Interactive Ltd. and in Medialab of Helsinki University of Art and Design in January-May 1999. The avatar world has been designed for Fujitsu's WorldsAway technology that produces worlds with "two and half dimension," as do the Commedia dell'Arte stages. Further, Commedia dell'Arte (CdA) was chosen as a design metaphor for the following reasons:

1. CdA is theatre in open interaction with its environment. It doesn't try to regulate the environment from above, but rather develops according to its audience, like do the virtual communities. The movement is from bottom to top: everyday human life and absurd accidents stand in the beginning rather than ceremonies given from above.
2. CdA shows that there can exist drama without the domination of prewritten text. CdA has developed an alternative of its own that uses well functional elements many times (chiusetti) and poorly functional elements only by accident. The dramatic method may be used in creating dramatic virtual communities that develop their text in real time as well.
3. CdA's history reminds us that a form of representation that does not maintain a living relationship with the surrounding reality will die, like will virtual communities of such nature.

"The primitive notion, usually developed among normative circles, of some linear development forward will be done away with. It will be found out that any truly relevant step forward is always accompanied with returning to primeval beginning, or more correctly, with renewal of the beginning. It is possible to move forward only by recollection, not by oblivion." (Mihail Baktin, 1979)

Mika Tuomola is a new media script writer/director, also a frequently requested consult, lecturer and writer on the field. Among his most recognised works are the award winning web drama "Daisy's Amazing Discoveries" (Coronet Interactive Ltd. 1996, http://www.coronet.fi/daisy/) and the philosophical strategy game "Socrates" (Werner Söderström Publishing Ltd. 1998) that won the prestigious EuroPrix'98 award for Best European Educational Multimedia Product. With a background in theatre, nearly all Mika's work is based on theatrical methodologies moved to the context of new media. Currently, he's working as the Creative Director of the Narrativity and Interactivity Studio of the Interactive Institute of Sweden.

In 1998, Mika completed his research "Commedia dell'Arte as a Design Metaphor for Multiuser Virtual Worlds" ordered by ICL-Fujitsu. The research has set up a design methodology for the avatar world production under planning in the new media production company Coronet Interactive Ltd. During 1998, Mika was also chosen Finland's Young Artist of the Year by Finland Festivals, and his article series on "Daisy" and the dramaturgy of virtual spaces was published in Digital Creativity (Issues 2 & 3 of Volume 9, Swets & Zeitlinger Publishing Ltd.).

The Commedia dell'Arte approach has proved practically successful in Mika's "Virtual community action design" workshop held in Malmö University Department of Art and Communication in October 1998. Further, the research results presented by invitation have excited practioners and academics both in the First Scandinavian PhD Winter School for New Media held in Malmö 22.-27.11.1998, as well as in the InterMedia foundation of Denmark in Aarhus 9.11.1998. Mika has also lectured about the subject in Finland for the University of Art and Design Medialab, as well as to the Avatars'98 conference in Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the League of Museums.


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