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sprawling non-fiction project: ideas? (Read 18604 times)
Jessica Abel
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sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Feb 15th, 2013, 9:36am
 
Hi all,

I'm new to TBX-- have made a couple small investigations, and it's already very useful. Now, I'm trying to figure out how to use it to solve a very tough nut. Any hints, and pointers to appropriate tutorials, screencasts, or whatever, much appreciated. I do have the tinderbox tutorial files, but don't really know what to do with them.

OK, here's the project: I'm working on a book (a comic book, actually) about how various radio shows craft narrative. I'm talking to up to 8 or 10 shows/producers, some for 30 or 40 hours, some for more like 1 hour. There's an obvious approach to the material, which is chronological. touch on each of the stages of work, and talk about how they fit into the overall narrative project. It's got drama, a ticking clock, the kind of stuff you want to move the story. But it seems to me the book will be more powerful if there's a way to organize it ALSO via thematic concerns, i.e. the role of "voice" in radio narrative.

To reorganize solely on that basis, however, could sap the book of narrative drive. So I'm trying to figure out how to organize notes derived from interviews and research that have complex layers of information: the who/what show part, the what stage of the process part, the what thematic point does this make part, the how does this connect to other shows' way of working part...and then figure out how to look at it in different ways, foregrounding one element or another, and then organizing info based on that.

I've found and tried the Mark A clarify on "note reviewer" http://shoantel.clarify-it.com/d/tc2qag, and I'm thinking of duplicating that tag idea with other criteria: show title, staff members, etc. Although typing that, I'm thinking, shouldn't they all be tags?

Another specific question: as I derive scenes from interviews, I'm tempted to make notes that are children of the raw interview transcription, and figure out some way to have them automatically take on the same staff, date, show, etc. But then I can't move this stuff around on the map, because it'll be nested. And also, can't figure out the action language for the OnAdd box: $Staff= ???. If I do figure this out, and then later move the note, will it retain those attributes?

Anyway...as I said, newbie. Sorry to ask so many questions at once. If there's anything out there to point me in the right direction, please post.

thanks.
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« Last Edit: Feb 15th, 2013, 10:04am by Jessica Abel »  
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #1 - Feb 15th, 2013, 10:01am
 
I love Radio: An Illustrated Guide.  You're that Jessica Abel?  Small world!

You may have seen John McPhee’s recent essay in The New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/01/14/130114fa_fact_mcphee (Jan 14) on this very subject -- finding a good structure for a sprawling nonfiction.

I like to begin with lots of notes scattered in a big map -- much as McPhee describes laying piles of interview notes out on a big table, rearranging them until he found a suitable place to begin.  Clustering and reclustering helps one discover new possibilities and breaks down the tendency to reach for familiar chronological arrangements.  (Since you're writing a comic, you can also think about using characters or sets to establish linkage across scenes, and your map might let you find opportunities to do this.)

I know comic creator Phoebe Gloeckner (Diary of a Teenage Girl, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1583940634/ravenblondstudio) drops by here from time to time, and she might have some pertinent ideas Smiley
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Jessica Abel
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #2 - Feb 15th, 2013, 10:11am
 
Oh man, Mark, you're too fast! I just edited my first post while you were writing back.

Yes, thanks, I'm THAT Jessica Abel! Very flattered. And yes, I'm working on an expanded, much much longer version of/successor to, Radio: an Illustrated Guide. Phoebe uses TBX? Very cool. She's such a smart thinker. I might call her to get her take.

Anyway, the specific bit I added, which contains more of an actual question, is this:

"Another specific question: as I derive scenes from interviews, I'm tempted to make notes that are children of the raw interview transcription, and figure out some way to have them automatically take on the same staff, date, show, etc. But then I can't move this stuff around on the map, because it'll be nested. And also, can't figure out the action language for the OnAdd box: $Staff= ???. If I do figure this out, and then later move the note, will it retain those attributes? "

I have done the make-piles-on-a-map thing, and it's great. Totally helped me nail a series of blog posts. But I'm at a loss as to how to even bring notes into TBX this time--there's so much material, I don't know where to start. Thus looking at structural things that might help me suck notes out of the reams and reams of semi-transcribed, um, STUFF I have. I will read McPhee's article. Haven't yet. I have to take a break on this anyway. I'm going cross-eyed!

thanks--

Jessica
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #3 - Feb 15th, 2013, 11:40am
 
Somebody actually reads my Clarify articles  Smiley Smiley  Smiley  (I'd even forgotten writing that one!)

Quote:
can't figure out the action language for the OnAdd box: $Staff= ???


Probably best to just ask this a a new thread. To help you we'll need to understand where the data for the $Staff attribute will come from. It might either be set in code as a literal (fixed) value or perhaps be read from somewhere else.

As you're starting out I'd concur Mark B's suggestion of one big Map. You can always rearrange later and, the really cool thing about Tinderbox, it doesn't just mean a total do-over after you've put in loads of work on the data. Also remember there's rarely only one way to do things. A course of action may not suit your style or may have misunderstood your intent, so do ask again if spinning your wheels.

Side point. whilst child notes of notes on your map aren't immediately visible, they can easily be see in other views like Outline. Below, in the the same file, seen in Map and Outline view at the same time.



So while you can't 'see' the children of 'cow' in the map you can can see/work on them via the outline (or some other view) without disturbing the map. Perhaps you find the map icon sub-map for notes with children a bit distracting. You could then do this (same source document as above):



All I did was selected 'cow' put my cursor over the bottom of the title bar and then pulled downwards to hid the sub map (more). How to tell there are children? It's subtle, both bottom corners of the icon are rounded. Too subtle perhaps, so I also gave it a border (how?). Doesn't have to be orange, doesn't have to be a border, but i hope you get the idea. You can can keep a quite simple map whilst using nuances to indicate 'hidden' info.
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« Last Edit: Feb 15th, 2013, 12:32pm by Mark Anderson »  

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Sumner Gerard
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #4 - Feb 15th, 2013, 2:19pm
 
I've found Tinderbox a great tool for extracting and organizing ideas from longish unstructured transcripts so I thought I'd chime in here with some ideas that have worked for me. (I'm a user without a technical background.)

Quote:
I'm tempted to make notes that are children of the raw interview transcription, and figure out some way to have them automatically take on the same staff, date, show, etc

One easy approach I've used is to add as many user attributes as needed, say $Staff and $Show. Open the note that contains the raw interview transcription, make $Staff and $Show key attributes, and fill in the values that all the future children notes should have for those attributes.  Then in the OnAdd Action box of that (transcription) note, put:

  $Staff|=$Staff(parent);$Show|=$Show(parent)

Then whenever a new child note is created, or a note created elsewhere is moved into that container, Tinderbox will add the values it finds in the parent (transcription) note to the new child note if the child note does not already have values there (just change the |= to = if you want Tinderbox to always overwrite any existing values that might happen to be there).

Quote:
If I ... later move the note, will it retain those attributes?

Yes, indeed. You can leave the notes where they are and work with them there as Mark A illustrates. You can also move them and they'll keep the values... unless you don't want them to keep the values, in which case you can easily change them with other actions.

Those who prefer more visual and spacial cues and like everything on one big flat map, and have enough screen space, can also just link newly created individual notes to a transcription "source" note and start organizing things that way. Tinderbox provides ways to pull the values from a source into the user attributes of individual notes linked to it, if that is needed later at some point.

Couple of other thoughts:

The Explode feature is really handy for breaking up long transcripts into more manageable chunks and extracting themes and ideas from them.

And if some interviews are in audio or video form, Tinderbox can easily link (via a small AppleScript) to specific time spots within an audio or video.
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« Last Edit: Feb 15th, 2013, 2:23pm by Sumner Gerard »  
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bob stepno
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #5 - Feb 15th, 2013, 2:45pm
 
MarkB & Jessica... Thanks for mentioning "Radio: An Illustrated Guide." I was pleasantly surprised to find the $2 (!) PDF edition at TAL and will look forward to (&recommend to students) the new edition. As well as the "Tinderbox Does Radio" update. Smiley
And maybe I'll go back to Tinderbox when I try to sort a WordPress blog into a book manuscript next summer... my "retirement from fulltime teaching" project at jheroes dot com (speaking of radio).
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« Last Edit: Feb 15th, 2013, 3:40pm by bob stepno »  
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Jessica Abel
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #6 - Feb 18th, 2013, 10:40am
 
I like the notion of working simultaneously on map and outline. I think that may help.

Great idea, too re: using explode, and linking to time codes. Sumner: do you have a script you use to do that?

I'm still deeply in the weeds on this, but it's so great to have this forum to turn to!

Thanks!
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #7 - Feb 18th, 2013, 12:26pm
 
Sumner described using AppleScript (along with iTunes) to make links playing a sound file at a given offset in this thread (he may remember some other places I've missed). If you want to follow up on that topic, I suggest adding to the linked topic - or starting a new one if you want to take a different tack to the one discussed there.

Explode itself isn't automated (at least in v5.x). Actually, that's for good reasons as a new user could easily get in a real mess with a runaway automated process. FWIW, such automation been requested as a feature for the more experienced user, especially those who do a lot of import. Here's some more on the  Explode feature. Regardless, whilst you can't just tell TB to grab a file, import it and explode it, the manually triggered note Explode process always creates a new "Exploded Text" subcontainer to the note being exploded. That new sub-container holds all the exploded notes. So, if you're exploding a lot, you can use an agent that looks for such containers and introduce some automation that way. Thus there is power there, though again it's a topic in itself and something to feel your way into.

At simplest you can use Explode to simple split a long passage of text into sentences and paragraphs. If your source text is unambiguously formatted there is also scope to retrieve specific pieces of text into attributes - though that's quite advanced usage.

Although it seems intuitive that someone must have done exactly your task before, experience proves otherwise. So, don't worry if you've looked at Explode being discussed here and it's subtlety different to your own needs. Just start a new thread and tell use the nuances of the process with which you're having problems.
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« Last Edit: Feb 18th, 2013, 12:26pm by Mark Anderson »  

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Sumner Gerard
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #8 - Feb 19th, 2013, 4:10pm
 
And if one doesn't like the iTunes library for taming video/audio sources in sprawling projects, here's a way Tinderbox can work with QuickTime Player.
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« Last Edit: Feb 19th, 2013, 4:14pm by Sumner Gerard »  
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Re: sprawling non-fiction project: ideas?
Reply #9 - Jun 6th, 2013, 11:26am
 
Off-Topic replies have been moved to this Topic.
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