3. The Method

TIN (Techniques for Interactive Narratives) is a method for using interactive stories, such as RPG to build up knowledge and competencies through the participation and co-authorship present in this form of narratives. It was developed based on a constructivist approach: Paulo Freire’s “pedagogy of autonomy”, Carmen Neve’s “pedagogy of authorship” and the concepts of “flexible learning”.

Tabletop RPG arrived in Brazil in the mid 1980′s brought by kids who had studied in the USA. The hobby increased until 2001, diminishing from this point on due to poor sales and lack of interest from major companies. Nowadays, it is experiencing a small scale revival, but it still largely a very small part of Brazil’s economy and culture.

RPG applications to educational purposes started in 1998 and continued to grow with a series of symposiums in Sao Paulo (2002), Rio de Janeiro (2002) and Curitiba (2003). It lost momentum since 2008, with no symposiums about RPG in education since 2006. There’s still research and local applications being made by individuals.

Our first experiment with TIN happened in 2008 during our PhD researches, with first year (15) and third year (17) high school students in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Players were required to present a voluntary and a mandatory written production based on their RPG experiences. Even groups that presented a small voluntary production did present a mandatory production of much higher quality than they had previously done for other written works in class.

POETIC DESIGN is a design method developed during the TIN experiments to conceive the RPG supports to be tested. It is based in the three stage mimetic process postulated by Paul Ricoeur and in the semiology of Roland Barthes:

>> Mimesis 1: prefiguration of the work in which elements such as symbolic aspects, action comprehension, characters and their relations, plot and others come into play;

>> Mimesis 2: the representation of the action, the organization of the elements, the work itself that can innovate in relation to a tradition or can sediment reaffirming it;

>> Mimesis 3: the reception of the work by the reader that undergoes a subject refiguration by doing it.

It is a design method conceived from a humanistic point of view that may have many aims, but one specific intention: to question.

Technological POV: Design aims to find aesthetical and functional solutions to a problem – emphasizes the problem definition stage and the client’s needs.

Humanistic POV: Design searches for aesthetical and functional expressions for many different goals – emphasizes the conceptual stage and the process of meaning attribution in the different languages involved in the object created.

Due to this method, the crucial difference from other RPGs resides in the fact that Incorporeal will only be developed if the players contribute to it. That means there is a starting point – the initial kit used in the applications – made by the first authors – us – but the game will only gain supplements and new settings and new rules if the players play it and publish their material.

Between 2008 and 2009 we made three workshops: one with some of the teachers of the same school where we made the first experiment to capacitate them to use the Incorporeal Project methods with their students and also had good results; another worshop with students of post-graduate course “Design in Reading” at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro where students presented creations in both printed and digital support; and a third with students – who were already school teachers – of post-graduate course “Computers applied to Education”.

Lately, Fernando Hernandez’ project pedagogy educational method was added  as a vital perspective to unite the designing method of Poetic Design with the educational purposes of TIN.

The results of previous TIN+Poetic Design experiments lead us to develop the Incorporeal Kit as a didactic material that would allow both present and distance applications following these general steps:

Pre-production: setting/support poetic design

  • Conceptualization: selection of a theme and it’s narrative elements and visual representations
  • Data gathering: research about the theme and visual references
  • Confection: narrative and visual configuration and material sinthesis
  • Justification: Identity Manual or Design Bible explaining all the choices.

Production: workshop

TIN: first 3 to 4 hour session with the participants in which they will be introduced to the project, choose one among the Incorporeal settings available and create their characters.

Poetic Design: 3 to 4 hour session when the players will conceptualize their chosen narrative elements (characters, events, setting elements) to begin to translate them into any chosen media (comics, animation, video, painting, poetry, music, whatever). This material should be posted into the Incorporeal Kit Moodle.

TIN: 3 to 4 hour sessions when the participants experience a previously prepared interactive story in table-top RPG format. The session can also happen online.

Poetic Design: 3 to 4 hour sessions when the players bring data previously gathered and begin Confection exercises from sketches to the final support; the last session concerns the Justification step of Poetic Design when participants should defend their choices.

Post-production: upon the authorization of the participants their creations will be incorporated into the Incorporeal Kit hypersupports, thus becoming available to other participants as a new edition of the setting and it’s supports.

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