Research, at least in-depth research, is not something I am used to. As a writer primarily dealing in fiction, specifically fictional worlds and settings, a large bulk of my brain’s processing power needs to go to creation, with research being more a secondary objective used to smooth out the details and rope the setting closer to reality so as to make it believable.

Putting together a proposal for a real-life research project made for an interesting challenge then, one that required me to tweak how I actually view research as a whole. Naturally it ought be something I was interested in and passionate about, but at the same time I needed to switch off, or at the very least, mentally rearrange aspects of my imagination. Assumption was an easy trap I was all too aware of and afraid of falling into while brainstorming ideas.

The topic I eventually settled on was one close to my own interests, namely fiction and its consumption in modern culture. Originally the research was going to revolve purely around the idea that sequels, adaptions and reboots were overly abundant. The questions and many of the core ideas from that avenue still remain in the final proposal, but it was not quite enough to really make for an interesting thesis, at least in my eyes. It needed an additional edge to it, that could compliment and help expand the field as a whole. This was where ideas of escapism and how this might fit in with the idea of the sequel came in.

Escapism as a topic is, I feel, inescapably tied to fiction which in turn is inescapably tied to human culture. However, this began to raise additional questions on exactly what is meant by ‘escapism’ and whether the modern definition of the term is really applicable to most people as a whole. At first I assumed it might be, even with a little tweaking, but quickly came to the conclusion that this was another opportunity to expand on the research as a whole by exploring the ideals of escapism and what it actually means to different people. The author may truly be dead; I did not want to force my own ideas of escapism onto others and it would surely only make for self-fulfilling research to do so. Thus, the questions began to open up and it became imperative to properly nail down how people feel about the term.

Giving people free reign to define escapism themselves could be argued to essentially split the research proposal into two, one dealing with the nature of the sequel and its relation with consumers, and the other how people feel about escapism. This could still be argued even as the proposal enters its final forms, but as noted the two areas of sequel and escapism are always going to be linked to some extent. How strong that link is may well depend on the public, and it is that link that forms a core part of the research, as many of the questions intended to be asked can be turned on their heads. If someone does not feel they consume fiction as a form of escapism, why don’t they feel this way? Such open questions may be more difficult to process but in the end the data would be far more valuable to studying this area of society, and can of course be refined into a more useful state as a part of the thesis.

The research needed for the report on Seven Stories was much more practical in nature, since it would involve physical equipment that might not be immediately available to the center, and a more specific form of expression that would be appropriate for a wider audience. The proposal itself was still, however, based in the realms of fiction. This of course was not just because fiction is my personal domain of interest, but simply due to Seven Stories being a large proponent of it. My proposal at its core remained just that, story, with only the elements of its telling being the true ‘creative’ centerpieces.

Science fiction is a great love of mine and the genre I am most interested in. Seven Stories does feature exhibits inspired by the ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ series, and although the franchise is a clear hit and very popular with audiences, I wondered if maybe its potential engagement with the genre could be taken further. Although ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ does technically fall under the scope of the genre, it is more inspired by particular common elements of it, rather than an exploration of its possible principles. This served as inspiration for myself to create a more speculative, ‘realistic,’ educational piece that was still enjoyable and not too grim, harsh or gritty for younger audiences.

Automation was the perfect avenue for this, being a phenomenon that will effect the younger generations even harder than it has the older, while also allowing for interesting means of expression. Rather than having the traditional storyteller telling everyone to sit comfortably, it made far more sense to use screen and synthesized voices. These resources are readily available with just a quick google search, with plenty of software fitting the bill and several companies that rent projectors or screens for reasonable prices.

The rise of technology in the home was another natural boon that fit in nicely with the proposal. Rather than alienated or confusing children, the use of screens and robotic voices will come naturally to most of them. Indeed, simply walking around Seven Stories revealed a number of children with access to phones, tablets and or other similar devices. It seemed clear then that a story about automation would be relevant enough for them to understand while also being educational and pushing them to understand and work with technology, rather than being left behind and unable to function in the modern world.

All that, I am a little guilty to admit I did not use many of the lessons or resources provided by many of the guest speakers as part of the module. Although Dan Smith and his Yossarian site was an interesting take on the traditional search engine, it felt somewhat gimmicky and has so far – with a few little play sessions – been used as little more than a thesaurus when looking for synonyms or potential metaphors. Its use as an actual search engine capable of quickly and easily gathering resources as a part of research has been limited.

Similarly, the ice cube… performance? Meditation technique? was a little too far out there to be of much practical use to me in creating and developing my ideas and approaches to research or other areas. I can relate somewhat to the idea of different sensory reactions to the same situation, reflecting on the passage of time and so forth, but I feel the true meaning of what she was trying to get across was perhaps lost in translation.

Serena Korda’s work in picking up natural interplanetary signals was by far the most interesting on a personal level, but again on a practical level was maybe a little bit too niche. There is certainly some applications to be had in using the sounds and data (especially the use of wavelength and frequency, I’d suspect) in the use of music or perhaps as fun details to include as part of a bigger fictional setting. Of course, the scientific data itself could make for important material in ensuring realism and accuracy in any sort of sci-fi portrayal, this I won’t content, but the method of doing obtaining it – though again interesting and fun to engage with – is both somewhat impractical for the level of payoff.

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