Tag Archives: narrative

Bus to Ballarat | Blog Narrative

We left our service apartment in a hurry, lacing up our boots in the lift. My friend, Lin, and I were making a day trip to a wildlife park in a Ballarat, a town 110 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. We arrived at Southern Cross station, only to find out that the train service had been disrupted, and we had two minutes to catch the only outbound bus to Ballarat. Thankfully, we did.

View from our bus window on the way to Ballarat, Victoria
View from our bus window on the way to Ballarat, Victoria

Our journey to the west was very pleasant. We passed pastoral scenes of cows, trees, hills and farms. Lin and I were beaming with anticipation about meeting kangaroos up close.

Two hours later, we arrived in the town of Ballarat which looked particularly empty that day. Having dozed off on the ride, we were the last of five passengers to alight. As we walked toward the rustic station doors, we heard a low voice call out from behind in Aussie-inflected Mandarin:

The man's first question in Mandarin
The man’s first question in Mandarin

Surprised, we turned around and saw a man in his early 30s. Before we could squeak out a response, he shot another question, this time in English: “Where are you from? Beijing? Shen Zhen?”

We courteously replied, Singapore. “Oh, Singapore,” he said, walking toward us and speaking enthusiastically about how lovely he thought our country was, except for our strict gum laws.

“Don’t people get caned for chewin’ gum?” he asked again. This seemed to be a common misconception so we assured him that chewing gum is allowed. However, selling gum might land one a hefty fine or a staycation at Changi prison.

“If you guys don’t chew gum, how d’you keep your teeth so white?” he asked with a deep smile.

“Dentists,” I replied, with a look of caution.

By then he had sat himself down on the bench by the station doors, closer than necessary, and we noticed that he had bandages on his right fist and forearm. While we were bundled up as thick as sheep in layers of fleece and wool, he was wearing nothing more than a shirt, bermuda shorts, socks and sandals. He continued his questioning, asking about our ages and what we were doing back home. Being a pair of non-confrontational Asian girls, we obliged, and he seemed a tad too happy upon hearing we were 21.

“So, what are you girls doing in Ballarat?” he asked, staring intently. With growing hesitation, we explained that we were on a day trip from Melbourne to visit the Ballarat Wildlife Park.

“I have a wildlife park. In my home.”

He replied in a serious tone. He proceeded to roll up his shorts, exposing even more of his legs to the chilly winter wind. Are crazy people usually climate-resistant? Lin glanced at me, trying to convey with her eyes that we should make an exit, however the man continued,

“You girls ought to be careful. There are many bad people in Ballarat… Why don’t you come to my place. I’m on the way to pick up my car.”

Upon hearing this proposition, we thanked him, declined and excused ourselves, insisting that we were late for our bus and were only in town to visit the (real) wildlife park. We left the station, debating the man’s intentions till we stopped at a map signboard outside, trying to orientate ourselves using our trusty Google Maps application. Panic set in when we noticed a lightly dressed sandalled figure approaching us from the periphery.

Google Street View of Ballarat Station with added notes
Google Street View of Ballarat Station

The man from the station had reappeared. “I’m going to pick up my car now, so I can show you around.” Gesturing at my mobile phone, he ordered, “Take down my number. O, FOUR, FOUR…”

Stunned, I only managed a vague “umm…” for a comeback before he continued, “Go on, O, FOUR, FOUR, TWO, SIX, TWO — ”

I interrupted him, maintaining that we were late. We thanked him, said a curt goodbye, and walked as fast as our short legs could take us without looking too obviously like we were running away. We glanced behind and saw that he was following us.

Born and raised catholic, my faith miraculously grows in proportion to fear. Barely religious, I started mumbling Hail Marys and making the sign of the cross every road junction.

I like to think that it was due to our masterful manoeuvring through side roads and alleys that he lost our trail. But, more likely, he got bored of following us after several blocks.

Despite getting lost once more, the Ballarat Wildlife Park was thoroughly enjoyable. At dusk, we left the town with two discoveries — firstly, kangaroos had surprisingly sharp genitalia; and secondly, perhaps we shouldn’t speak to strangers so indiscriminately.

Kangaroo basking at the Ballarat Wildlife Park
Kangaroo basking at the Ballarat Wildlife Park

Thoughts on Zimmerman’s four concepts

Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four naughty concepts in need of discipline  by Eric Zimmerman

It was an interesting read to see someone lay out varying definitions of these 4 terms (some more familiar than the rest), discuss them in depth, highlight the overlaps and limitations before eventually tearing apart the very definitions and explanations he had built. It felt like we know these words, yet not really.

What struck me most was the point regarding play. Zimmerman urges creators not to forcefully direct a play experience but rather to design a system and structure with the potential for play. We as creators cannot incite play but can instead create an environment which encourages and supports it.

Zimmerman also highlights how there is a narrative to be found in all media, games and creations. It teaches us a new way of viewing creative products, searching for the overall stories and ‘micro-narratives’ in each move, sequence and activity.

Project idea: Month

A month is a period of time that we share universally. What happens in a month? How much of the past months can we recall? When we recall a month that has passed, what comes to mind?

Perhaps it’s characterised by events; public holidays, birthdays, one-time occasions (i.e. marriages, celebrations, funerals, world events, injuries, natural disasters). I feel that a month really flies by and the days blend together and become indistinguishable.

This project will invite users to document the most significant thing that happens each day. Users would record a single piece of media in any form (images, music/sounds, words, article/headline, website link). The system will record the submission each day but will not show posts from other days of the month. Users will only be able to view these daily submissions at the end of the month, as an entire month and collated experience. The arrangement of the daily posts will also correspond to the layout of a calendar.

The posts would be anonymous, with no identity, descriptions or captions. Unlike social media, perhaps not having an audience which knows us personally and only viewing the happenings of a single day would reduce the level of curation; i.e. reduce our urge to document our month according to certain cohesive themes/colours/forms etc. or document only the ‘nice sexy moments’.

Ideally, the project will have users from all over the world. The database would store the ‘months’ of users around the world. People can access these ‘months’, and have a glimpse into the lives of others. These experiences may vary from the intimate and personal to a collective experience. For example, on 23 Jan 2016, posts from Singapore may include a sound clip of a birthday celebration, failing a school assignment or a picture of a large tree. On the other hand, many people in the US may post pictures of the blizzard which hit the east coast, showing snow covered cars and streets. The significant-happening-of-the-day can be something that shook you personally, or an event that shook the larger global community.

On a side note, experiences and happenings seem to dictate the tone of the month. Hmm… I wonder if other more subtle aspects can be recorded, like feelings and moods.