Hello everyone! My name is Marc Ruppel. I am a researcher with the University of Maryland and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities with interests in digital and transmedia storytelling (i.e. stories that take place across different media) and, of course, LOST itself, a project that I've had a (un?)healthy obsession with since its inception. I've also been interested in the ways that the LOSTpedia community has helped to shape popular (and sometimes not-so-popular) interpretations of LOST, and I've made the case-- like many of you also have-- that LOST not only couldn't function as a story without such a community, but that we should consider sites like LOSTpedia to be an extension of the LOST property itself. In other words, it's great to finally be here writing about an exciting potential new avenue for studying LOST.
Over the past year or so, I have been collaborating with Derek Hansen from Maryland's iSchool and the Center for Advanced Study of Communities and Information on several projects that reference LOST and LOSTpedia, ranging from a study of educational Alternate Reality Games that cites The LOST Experience as a case study of what can (and sometimes shouldn't) be done with ARGs, as well as the visualization of LOSTpedia in itself as a social network with several levels of relationships between its users and content. The latter project, which has revealed some very interesting data about the different roles that users of LOSTpedia take on with regards to page edits, content management, etc., was accomplished using a tool called NodeXL, a plugin developed in partnership with Microsoft for use in their Excel software. NodeXL is basically a user-friendly means of visualizing network data of all sorts, one that eliminates some of the more cumbersome programming issues that prevent network research from being done at-large. (PM me if you'd like to hear more about the LOSTpedia network visualization-- as I said before, it has revealed some very cool stuff about the work being done at this wiki.)
More recently, Dr. Hansen and myself have been looking into ways to use NodeXL to visualize the network of relationships between the characters of LOST, and we decided that using the transcripts of the show (since they are simple text files at heart) would be the simplest way to 'scrape' for data and map the network itself. While this pursuit could be said to be partially inspired by Wired's visualization of character relationships, our aim is to provide a full, macro-level visualization of, say, the scene-by-scene co-appearances that characters make, one that can be limited (or de-limited) depending on which characters or episodes one chooses to highlight. A similar project to this was done a while back with Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, where it was revealed that, interestingly, alongside the main character of Jean Valjean, it was the street urchin, the somewhat minor Gavroche, who had the majority of links to the many characters in the novel, a fact that lends weight to someone who is generally overlooked in most interpretation and research (again, PM me if you'd like to know more about this).
We hope that our mapping of LOST accomplishes much of the same, although it is difficult to predict what shape a network of this scope will take. In the process of scraping the transcripts for data, however, our very smart programmer, Eric Norris, recognized a problem that many of you might have anticipated in our approach: Seasons 1-3 of the transcripts are notated very differently from seasons 4-6, a result, no doubt of the utilization of transcripts created by LOST-TV's Spooky (Seasons 1-3.11) and those created here. More specifically, here's what we found:
--some episode flashbacks have their beginning and ending marked (i.e. [Flashback] and then [End of Flashback]), while others just have [Flashback] marked; some use [Flashback] to signify [Flash Sideways], etc., while others make explicit note of such movements
--some episodes have no scene delimiters at all, and some episodes don't use horizontal lines or Act delimiters but instead [COMMERCIAL BREAK] as a delimiter (this appears to be one of the main differences between Spooky's transcriptions and those done here)
Obviously, in order to gather the data in a consistent way, we'll need these transcripts to adhere to the same notation methods. So here's our questions to all of you:
1) What notation system works best for you here? The one for Seasons 4-6?
2) Would there be any opposition to editing Spooky's earlier transcripts so that they are consistent with the later seasons?
Depending upon your answers, I'd like to start editing the transcripts ASAP (feel free to join in, of course! ) and create a page for whatever notations we might come up with here.
While my goals may seem a bit self-serving, I truly do believe that they help LOSTpedia as a whole, and allow those hoping to engage with the LOST narrative in the future a viable, clear means of doing so outside of the television show. I'm also quite excited to see what we find out through these visualizations-- and we plan to report back to all of you as soon as we have something to show! The massive contributions of wikis like LOSTpedia have already enabled a project like ours, and will continue to do so for others in the long foreseeable future. So while LOST may have formally ended, I think that our understanding of it is only really beginning. One ending leads only to another beginning. Seems appropriate for LOST, huh?
Thanks in advance for any replies/advice/criticism you might give us. I couldn't post links here because of spam filtering, so if you'd like any additional information about us or this project, just ask!
[Mods, this will be double-posted this in the Main Forum and Suggestions-- feel free to delete whatever thread you find unnecessary]