Metaphor and life form in Pescatore's talk

Djaballah, Andy

During the discussion after the second talk, Guglielmo Pescatore’s “Narrative Ecosystems: a Multidisciplinary Approach to Media Worlds” there seemed to be some tentative contention, from the audience, about the literal (“scientific”) rather than merely metaphorical application of the term “ecosystem.” Ryan, in the earlier talk, rejected the metaphorical use of “world” as being too broad. Pescatore’s objection also pertained to the looseness of calling something metaphorical, but isn’t this, after all, a question of degrees? It was Borges who claimed that each word is a metaphor when you track down its etymology. (Harvard lectures, “The Metaphor” 1967)
Eric asked whether the life and death of a show like “Mad Men” would not be a subjective issue; implying that the scientificity of the characteristic of the ecosystem might lack some of the systematicity and structure typically associated with the sciences, natural or human. Does the implication of living in a television series (through its interface, as opposed to following its story) on one hand not involve us, the audience, in the ecosystem? Or does the biological aspect of narrative structure have a life that could be studied apart from our involvement?
On this same tangent, does the mediascape that provides the substrate for this world not constitute a life form of itself?


Great post! I missed Eric's comment, but it seems like "life or death" of Mad Men refers to its value: is it still a good show or not? Thus, this ecosystem describes a circulation of critique and judgment that is very much pegged to the story itself, first and foremost. It may be a broadly unscientific "sense" of a critical "climate" (more nature metaphors!), but that doesn't mean it can't be studied. I think the value of "ecosystem", in this situation, is that it describes a constant give and take between the story (one kind of objectively verifiable phenomenon) and critical reception (another kind). This give and take is not stable, and is thus, for all intents and purposes, subjective. Our reading of a story and our sense of critical reception are more granular and thus relatively more stable—given the various scales of temporality through which we interact with the ecosystem: i.e. the speed at which culture interacts with a work and the speed with which individuals do—and can be engaged with more objectively (and thus seem more scientific).

I'm intrigued by your idea of multiple life forms in the ecosystem, but I lost the thread of your last tangent a little bit. Are you suggesting that we might think of the mediascape as the world and various life forms as "entities" constituted by that world--they are thus OF this world, if no longer really in it? I take "mediascape" to be something very public, and these life forms to be something more personal, more subject to individual hermeneutics. Close?

The issue I wanted to raise is that we should not take a « World » for granted. I had the feeling that, in the formal approach of M-L Ryan talk it was the case. That is if you have characters, props, space and time then automatically you have a world.

The example of Mad Men was meant to illustrate this. That is : I had the impression that despite the fact that you have all it needs to make a world, for some reason, there is not anymore a Mad Men world in season 6. It is this very impression that I said might be subjective. Not, in general, the evaluation of weather there is or not a world.

Then I was asking if an ecological approach might be good for making an account of the fact that the world of a TV series might die.

And this was indeed one of the core of the conference’s question. Why is it that in some cases there is a huge appropriation by user of the feature of a world and in other case, even the richest publicity campaign cannot create such a hype. This is something that, I guess, that a mere formalist approach cannot understand.

Otherwise I was also under the impression that the problems raised by the concept of World were raised long ago in the famous debate on the notion of genre. In many sense, a genre is also a world. Todorov had a formalist, structuralist approach and many others (someone like Rick Altman for instance) were defending an organic conception of genre. As it is often the case in the humanities, the problem was never solved as such but was replaced by other concerns.

But I’m still thinking that Pescatore use of the idea of ecology is still very metaphorical. I’m sharing your idea that everything is at some point metaphorical. But then, might be a good thing to make account of how something emerge from this state to acquire a complete identity.

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