The Death of Geography?

In Jason Farman’s Stories, spaces, and bodies: The production of embodied space through mobile media storytelling, he discusses the advancements in technologies that provide new a new medium for storytelling. He highlights the capabilities of mobile technologies in terms of storytelling through the integration of space and user movement. Jeff Ritchie describes this extra involvement required of the user to receive the story as “really nontrivial effort.” Ritchie explains how mobile narratives require the user to use a lot of effort in terms of walking around to uncover and receive more parts of the story.

This idea of user movement was one major perk as seen by people who felt that majority of the public spent their time indoors, secluded from the world. Through these mobile narratives, people would be forced to get up and experience the world. Farman described a concern of the advancement of technology, using the term, “the death of geography.” This notion of our location mattering was seemingly destroyed by the internet. People from all over could interact no matter where they existed. However through the use of these mobile narratives, people were forced to explore in specific areas, and had to travel to certain points to continue the narrative. In causing people to travel to designated areas, spaces could hold a meaning that previously began fading as a result of information being easily acquired through the internet.

There is a huge potential for mobile narratives to create meaningful spaces. Ordinarily many areas could be easily looked over by people in passing. Through the use of creating a story, a person can give a space a more significant existence and can cause people to stop for a moment and enjoy the environment and escape reality for a second. Turning spaces into places with meaning is important because it can bring people in a community together to enjoy local places where they had a shared experience through mobile narratives. Additionally, mobile narratives are effective at getting people active and inspired to explore. Beyond narratives, games including Pokemon Go have been very effective at inspiring exploration amongst a large group of people.

In our world, where technology consumes everyday life, mobile narratives and games have found a method to bridge the gap between the virtual and reality. Additionally mobile narratives and games have shown promise in having the capability of creating meaning in spaces where normally nothing compelling would exist to draw people out.

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2 thoughts on “The Death of Geography?

  1. I agree with your point that mobile narratives can change a meaningless space into a meaningful place. I want to continue your point about Pokemon Go and how it has inspired many people to get up and explore.

    Before Pokemon Go was officially released, I read many articles on it, and I remember one of them saying that one of the main objectives in creating the game was to motivate people to go outside and explore their surroundings. And Pokemon Go did exactly that. Within six months, it has been downloaded over 500 million times worldwide. Why? I think it was because of the novelty of the idea.

    Pokemon already had a huge fan base in the gaming community, and the idea that we could enter the Pokemon world and become real Pokemon trainers was very appealing. Granted, locative narratives are not new. Niantic, the company that created Pokemon Go, also made a game called Ingress in before Pokemon Go. It is essentially the same game, but without Pokemon. So why is Pokemon Go so much more popular than Ingress? Because of the narrative value threshold, or, as Ritchie defines it, “a reward perceived to be greater than the effort required of the audience. The motivation for Pokemon Go is to “catch’em all,” and in order to do that, people were so excited to get out and moving. In order to counteract the death of geography, Nintendo connected the game to real-life surroundings with Pokestops which marked memorable locations in real life. And they did a very good job of helping people explore. But only in the beginning.

    As time passed, the novelty of the game was not enough to keep people playing. The motivation disappeared for several reasons. 1) There were not enough Pokemon to catch. There are 721 Pokemon from the beginning of time, but only 151 of them are featured in Pokemon Go. Seeing only the same Pokemon over and over again became boring. 2) Leveling up is too hard. Players want to be rewarded for playing, especially considering the really nontrivial effort of having to get up and move around in real life. However, once you reach about level 15, it became significantly harder to level up. There is not enough of a reward for playing. 3) There is no storyline. In the original Pokemon game and TV series, there is a story. You are a Pokemon trainer, aiming to defeat the Elite Four. But in Pokemon Go, there is no “ending” you are aiming for.

    In general, Pokemon Go was very successful in the beginning. There was a lot of hype and a lot of people began playing, but that excitement died very quickly (within a few months). I think it was a very good introduction to locative narratives, and it introduced the idea to many people. However, Pokemon Go was just not good enough to make locative narratives a big thing. There are too many bugs in gameplay and in motivation.

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  2. A thoughtful discussion on, among other things, the successes and failures of Pokemon Go. I wonder what it would take to build an effective narrative element into the game. If that could happen, we might have a truly successful AR storytelling platform.

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