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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Jonathan Walton on September 28, 2005, 11:32:10 AM



Title: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on September 28, 2005, 11:32:10 AM
Emergancy theory help needed!

I'm in the middle of finishing the first draft of an article called Negotiated Narratives: Roleplaying and the Aesthetics of the Middle Ground, which is a sort of "first salvo" in my efforts to build a foundation for the aesthetic study of roleplaying.  And I'm about to talk about SIS (Shared Imagined Space) in the context of similar concepts in other disciplines, such as Richard White's "middle ground" and the "between space" talked about by Nicolas Standaert.

The problem is that I don't agree with the way Ron characterised SIS in The Provisional Glossary, which reads:

Quote
Shared Imagined Space (SIS, Shared Imagination)

The fictional content of play as it is established among participants through role-playing interactions. See also Transcript (which is a summary of the SIS after play) and Exploration (a near or total synonym).

This surprised me a great deal when the glossary was first published because, after two years of SIS-related discussions, I didn't feel that SIS was at all equivilent to Ron's "Exploration."  Exploration (v.), the way Ron uses it, means "imagining stuff" or "participating in the imagination process," and Exploration (n.) means "that which is imagined."  And the "space" in SIS, in my understanding, does not refer to the collective daydreams that accompany roleplaying, but a metaphorical space within which these daydreams occur, something that is both the means by which Exploration occurs and a product of the group coming together to roleplay.

In other words, I always viewed SIS as a kind of mental "in-between space" within which the players (being distinct individuals) come together to collaborate on imaginary stuff.  SIS, in my mind, was something created by a group of people coming together to roleplay.  It was the stage on which roleplaying happened, a set of normalized expectations that created the context within which Exploration was possible.  SIS, in my mind, was more an outgrowth of the Social Contract, which lays the groundwork for how players interact with each other.  SIS was the Social Contract painted across the imaginary landscape.  It was the way in which elements of personal Exploration became group Exploration.  It was what made it possible for me to say, "In the land of Gunther dwelled the most beautiful woman who had ever lived," and for you to begin imagining that without any prompting.

In any case, my understanding (or misunderstanding) of SIS isn't really the point.  The point is that I would like to be able to talk definitively about SIS and it appears that I don't have the same understanding of it as Ron.  So what I'm asking for is:

1) Am I just completely off my rocker, here?  Should I go with Ron's definition and assume that everyone else pretty much though SIS pretty much was Exploration?

2) Have there been other attempts to define SIS that were more like what I'm describing or at least significantly different than Ron's definition?  I poked around The Forge a little bit, but couldn't come up with anything that really caught the eye.

In any case, thanks for whatever aid you can provide.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Valamir on September 28, 2005, 12:26:29 PM
In The model as seen by Valamir (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=12181.0) I dedicated a section to the Shared Imaginary Space and how it relates to Exploration which may be of some use to you.



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: talysman on September 28, 2005, 01:48:11 PM
Emergancy theory help needed!

I'm in the middle of finishing the first draft of an article called Negotiated Narratives: Roleplaying and the Aesthetics of the Middle Ground, which is a sort of "first salvo" in my efforts to build a foundation for the aesthetic study of roleplaying.  And I'm about to talk about SIS (Shared Imagined Space) in the context of similar concepts in other disciplines, such as Richard White's "middle ground" and the "between space" talked about by Nicolas Standaert.

The problem is that I don't agree with the way Ron characterised SIS in The Provisional Glossary, which reads:

Quote
Shared Imagined Space (SIS, Shared Imagination)

The fictional content of play as it is established among participants through role-playing interactions. See also Transcript (which is a summary of the SIS after play) and Exploration (a near or total synonym).

This surprised me a great deal when the glossary was first published because, after two years of SIS-related discussions, I didn't feel that SIS was at all equivilent to Ron's "Exploration."  Exploration (v.), the way Ron uses it, means "imagining stuff" or "participating in the imagination process," and Exploration (n.) means "that which is imagined."  And the "space" in SIS, in my understanding, does not refer to the collective daydreams that accompany roleplaying, but a metaphorical space within which these daydreams occur, something that is both the means by which Exploration occurs and a product of the group coming together to roleplay.

In other words, I always viewed SIS as a kind of mental "in-between space" within which the players (being distinct individuals) come together to collaborate on imaginary stuff.  SIS, in my mind, was something created by a group of people coming together to roleplay.  It was the stage on which roleplaying happened, a set of normalized expectations that created the context within which Exploration was possible.  SIS, in my mind, was more an outgrowth of the Social Contract, which lays the groundwork for how players interact with each other.  SIS was the Social Contract painted across the imaginary landscape.  It was the way in which elements of personal Exploration became group Exploration.  It was what made it possible for me to say, "In the land of Gunther dwelled the most beautiful woman who had ever lived," and for you to begin imagining that without any prompting.

In any case, my understanding (or misunderstanding) of SIS isn't really the point.  The point is that I would like to be able to talk definitively about SIS and it appears that I don't have the same understanding of it as Ron.  So what I'm asking for is:

1) Am I just completely off my rocker, here?  Should I go with Ron's definition and assume that everyone else pretty much though SIS pretty much was Exploration?

2) Have there been other attempts to define SIS that were more like what I'm describing or at least significantly different than Ron's definition?  I poked around The Forge a little bit, but couldn't come up with anything that really caught the eye.

I'm not sure I see a difference between how you define SIS and how Ron defines it, other than a shift in focus from the content of the SIS to the social contract establishing the boundaries of that content. I don't Ron ever claimed the Exploration applied to personal (not shared) imaginings; it's always the share imaginings as they are played out, within the concept of the group and following whatever social contract is in effect. breaking the social contrct always results in some of the players not sharing the imaginings offered, so it results in the breakdown of the SIS.

to put it another way: when the group comes together, they decide on an imaginary gameboard ("Tolkein's Middle Earth, but re-imagined as '40s Noir") and on imaginary tokens to use on that gameboard ("no cops or outright criminals, all elves are lotharios or femme fatales",) plus any restrictions on moving the tokens ("no PC death unless the owning player agrees".) all of this together, as well as the approved events of play, is the SIS. what "actually happens" to evolve the SIS in play is the Transcript; anything that happened only in one player's head or that was rejected by the group in play doesn't make it into the Transcript.

the only way I see your understanding of SIS as being in conflict with that definition is if you are defining SIS as excluding the imaginary content; but in that case, the SIS would be the social contract, and there would be no need of a separate term (plus, defining Simulationism in contrast to Gamism/Narrativism would be more problematic.)


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 28, 2005, 02:24:01 PM
Hiya,

This might help: Shared means shared among us via communication, not common to us in terms of known or unknown overlap.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Valamir on September 28, 2005, 02:54:45 PM
For big picture purposes I don't think there's enough functional difference to worry about.

I tend to think that Ron's definition is unnecessarily narrow.  In my earlier article I defined the SIS precisely as the areas of common overlap.

By my thinking this enables us to compare for broader discussion the shared imaginary space as it exists in movies, books, and plays vs. how it exists for roleplaying games.

For me the key difference is that Roleplaying = Shared Imaginary Space + Exploration.  Whereas watching a movie has Shared Imaginary Space but no Exploration.

This to me seems a more useful construct than to say SIS = Exploration which then begs the question of why have two terms for the same thing.

But...in actual practice, if one is primarily discussing Roleplaying Games, the definitions wind up being so similar as to cause to fundamental break regardless of which perspective you prefer.  However, if you're going to draw upon other media forms in your examination of aesthetics in roleplaying you might find my broader interpretation more useful to that purpose.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Silmenume on September 28, 2005, 03:27:28 PM
Hey Jonathan,

I've actually done a fair amount of thinking and some posting on this very topic.  I would love to discuss this in depth with you, but I am pressed for time at the moment.  However I have found a couple of links that might be of some interest to you...

  • Shared Imagined Space, Shared Text (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14893.0)
  • Goals and G/N and S (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15081.0)
  • My post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15616.msg167525#msg167525) in Callan's Beyond Credibility Thread. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15616.0)
  • This is tangentially relatedThoughts on the role of game design - musings (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?t=14188)
  • Regarding the "actual moment(s)” of Role-play. (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16217.0)

This was a quick search, but I hope that the links I have provided have enough relevance to be helpful.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on September 28, 2005, 03:46:07 PM
If you're looking for a "definitive" answer, that answer is only going to come from Ron, so I'm not going to touch it.

In answer to your #2, I had a whack at what's happening in roleplaying that I put here (http://ludisto.blogspot.com/2005/08/interaction-model-version-first.html) with extra clarifications in later posts.  I don't know how useful it will be to you, though, since I pretty much reject the SIS as having any sort of reality that isn't virtual.

That said, should this thread be in the GNS Model Discussion forum?


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: John Kim on September 28, 2005, 09:59:34 PM

1) Am I just completely off my rocker, here?  Should I go with Ron's definition and assume that everyone else pretty much though SIS pretty much was Exploration?

2) Have there been other attempts to define SIS that were more like what I'm describing or at least significantly different than Ron's definition?  I poked around The Forge a little bit, but couldn't come up with anything that really caught the eye.

Well, I don't think you're off your rocker, but I'm opposed to definitional wars.  If there is an established definition of SIS, then I see no good reason for arguing that it "really" is something else.  Coin a new phrase!  "Shared Imaginary Space" was coined by Fang Langford in a reply on The Conflict Is Yours (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=4994.msg49911#msg49911). Also check out the TheoryTopics Wiki on Doyce's site for its "Shared Imaginary Space" entry (http://random.average-bear.com/TheoryTopics/SharedImaginarySpace).  Also, I'd encourage you to add notes to the definition there.  It makes the wiki more useful. 

As a term for something larger, I think you might want to look at The Process Model of Role-playing (http://temppeli.org/rpg/process_model/KP2005-article/) which defines a "Shared Space of Imagining" which is larger than the Shared Imaginary Space.  I also recently commented on this on my RPG blog, in a post Thoughts on RPG Models (http://www.livejournal.com/users/jhkimrpg/10337.html). 

In short, I can completely understand the desire to define a space which is larger than the purely imaginary space.  However, I think it should have a new term rather than trying to redefine ones which currently mean something else. 



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on September 29, 2005, 09:12:25 AM
Ralph, John L., Ron, Jay, Joshua, and John K., many thanks for your posts and links.  I think I have a much better idea, now, of how the term arose, how it's been used, and what people are doing with it now.  I also had additional help from Ben Lehman, Dev, and re-reading Vincent's animated gif model of roleplaying.

Seems like people are struggling to talk about the complex relationship between:

1. The Physical & Historical Context of This Unique Play Experience (which effects everything)
2. Individual Physical & Historical Context
3. Individual Imagination
4. The Social Contract/Discourse Community/Community of Practice, which enables...
5. Interplayer Communication/Production & Reception
-- 5a. Unproductive Communication (a dead end, but still vital to the experience)
-- 5b. Productive Communication, which creates...
6. Somewhat Normalized Individual Imagination/Shared Imagination

I'm leaving the whole idea of "space" out of this description, since I think it confused matters.  Do you folks consider that to be a fair summery of the different pieces involved?

As a side comment, Ralph, I think this model would apply to all media, but many would cross out the "Production" part and just deal with "Reception."  Still, theatrical acting and the actual creation of artistic works would, I believe, include production, at least on the part of the artists, if not the audiences.  So the actual performance or creation of media (if you were the performer/creator) would be modeled like roleplaying, but being an audience member, just like being a non-participating observer of a roleplaying session, would have to be modeled differently.  However, as my actor friends are quick to tell me, audiences actually "perform" too, to a certain extent, affecting the overall performance experience.  It's just that the degree to which they are actual producers of the experience is far less than the actual actors.  So maybe the model doesn't change.  The focus of it just shifts.

Quick example: seeing Serenity on opening night with a enthusiastic crowd is very different from watching it in an empty theater months later.  So saying that there's no Exploration involved in a group activity like movie watching?  I don't know.  There is certainly a degree to which the crowd can perform along with or even "talk back" to artworks that seem static, totally changing the way the experience feels.  But these questions aren't necessarily what we're talking about here and don't even necessarily involve roleplaying.  Just something to consider.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on September 29, 2005, 09:28:43 AM
Your summary of all the many layers of what goes into articulating what roleplaying is looks good, Jonathan.  It's a lot more complex than we often give it credit for!

As for your comparison with other art forms, I'll agree and disagree.  Roleplaying is somewhat unique because its audience is its producers far more than in other art forms.  However, strictly speaking the audience is always involved in the creation of meaning and I can make a pretty compelling argument that the audience is in fact more important to the creation of meaning than the original "artist."  While this can certainly tangent off into not-remotely-roleplaying-land, some day I really want to take a good comparative look between RPGs and other art, because I think that conflation of audience and artist is the compelling and essential thing that makes roleplaying what it is, and marks roleplaying as a rather revolutionary medium.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: John Kim on September 29, 2005, 12:07:03 PM

I'm leaving the whole idea of "space" out of this description, since I think it confused matters.  Do you folks consider that to be a fair summery of the different pieces involved?

That seems fair, but note that interpersonal communication isn't the only channel by which imaginations can be shared.  i.e. Both people read the same book (which could be a game book or a novel or a non-fiction book), and thus they have an overlapping vision of what, say, Queensland is like.  So does your #6 Shared Imagination include the full overlap or only what has been directly communicated in play.  This distinction is important for the differences between high-detail background games (like HarnMaster) versus less-detailed background games where almost everything is invented during play. 



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on September 29, 2005, 01:01:42 PM
If you'll allow me to sharpen your point a little, John, this becomes especially puissant in "collectible" RPGs with supplement after supplement after supplement, and different players in the same game may have read a different set of books before beginning play.  Therefore, their impressions of what a certain vampire clan might be like may be very common or wildly different.  How does this material become shared?


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on September 29, 2005, 05:50:48 PM
I think this is a misleading direction to head.  Let me try to explain why.

Example: Red is a social construct. Your mommy pointed at something when you were a kid and said, "Honey, that's red."  When you play a game and one player says, "The ork's wearing a red scarf," each player references what they know about red, scarves, and orks.  They know about red from their mommies, they know about scarves from personal experience, and they know about orks from reading the game book.  Sure, having all the players read the game book did something to normalize what they think about orks.  But if you want to talk about pre-game, uncommunicated, but still shared knowledge, then we have to talk about red and scarves too.

So, in my model, uncommunicated shared knowledge is just part of Individual Histories or Socio-Historical Context.  The players share a lot of common information.  About what swords are, for instance.  This didn't come from the game book.  They learned about swords before they knew what roleplaying is.  They also share a language and all sorts of other cultural traits and information.  This all helps the players by making them not have to communicate every little thing.  You don't have to explain what red is or what an ork is.

I don't think HarnMaster requires more references to pre-existing knowledge than other games.  It just requires references to knowledge that most people don't already have.  Which is why it requires a bit more effort to pad everyone up before play begins.

Does that make sense?


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on September 30, 2005, 08:40:14 AM
Sure, Jonathan, and I think that's a tidy little solution to the question.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: John Kim on September 30, 2005, 12:24:46 PM

So, in my model, uncommunicated shared knowledge is just part of Individual Histories or Socio-Historical Context.  The players share a lot of common information.  About what swords are, for instance.  This didn't come from the game book.  They learned about swords before they knew what roleplaying is.  They also share a language and all sorts of other cultural traits and information.  This all helps the players by making them not have to communicate every little thing.  You don't have to explain what red is or what an ork is.

I don't think HarnMaster requires more references to pre-existing knowledge than other games.  It just requires references to knowledge that most people don't already have.  Which is why it requires a bit more effort to pad everyone up before play begins.

Just to be clear -- you're saying a lot of information (like all sorts of details in Harn) is imagined in common between players but not part of the Shared Imaginary Space.  Rather, it is just part of Socio-Historical Context.  Is that right?  If so, I would like to question this. 

Particularly in the case of a detailed background, this makes the "Shared Imaginary Space" only a small fraction of the players' Individual Imaginary Spaces.  In particular, taking myself as an example, I often don't keep track of where and when I learned something about the fictional reality.  i.e. How the city watch works, say -- Was that something from the written background, or something we discussed out-of-game, or did it come up and get established in a prior session?  Depending on the answer, this might or might not be a part of your definition of Shared Imaginary Space. 

To me in practice, what I most often care about is what the players all imagine.  So, for example, if I want to use a known location -- I will go with a location that all the players are familiar with, i.e. that they all imagine.  It might be something established in the background, or in a prior session, or that the players just all know from other sources. 



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Silmenume on September 30, 2005, 10:40:14 PM
Hey Jonathan!

I want to write more in your current thread on the SIS - but alas time...

Real quickly my take is fairly simple and is the following -

The "Shared Imagined Space" is a "fact space."  This is the arena of statements which have successfully negotiated their way through the Lumpley Principle.  They were shared and agreed upon.  That's it - that's all there is.  I tend to think of it as filled with objects.  These objects can have qualities like color or mood, but are things nonetheless.

The fact that the Lumpley Principle is indispensable to role-play implies that unlike a chess board or monopoly board there is no objective external "reality" in role-play that we can all reference - IOW we the Players must all agree to what is happening where.  Why?  Because it is each individual Player who has the responsibility for keeping the shared facts straight in their head.  We attempt to make sure this happens by making sure everyone at least agrees to what is "fact" when it is ratified - after that is someone forgets it gets a bit sticky.  Time is one quality that does not "flow" in the SIS.  Further statements and system are required to "change" things from one state to the next.

In tying in with Creative Agenda - how each individual Player interprets what the established facts mean is up to the individual.  One might see Challenge in the established fact space (SIS) another might see Premise.  The best way to make sure that everyone is looking at the facts from a similar angel is Social Contract.  We are all Gamists or Simulationists or Narrativists.  Supporting the expression of a given CA is Mechanics (game design). The point is, though, what goes on inside each Players head does not mean anything to the SIS until something is communicated/shared.  (I call what goes on inside the Player’s head as a result of Exploration {the sharing, negotiating, and adding of “facts” into the SIS} the “Affect Space.”)

So to me the SIS = "post Lumpley Principle facts."

Everything else (source material, mechanics, currency employment, etc.) can be mined for ideas regarding what to input and what is acceptable as input (think of Chris' Bricolage thread where he discusses "structures") - but those things are not part of the "fact space/SIS."  Every Player* has a individual representation of the SIS in their own heads that is supposed to be in sync with everyone else - actually its a big part of the reason for mechanics design.  The cool part is that mechanics perform two functions.  One essential, one aesthetic.  Essential = Lumpley Principle.  Aesthetic = facilitates and helps direct/shape CA expression.

I hope this helps you in some way.

* When I say every player I mean every player who is directly involved with the SIS at that moment. *


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on October 01, 2005, 02:50:27 AM
This is just nitpicking, but since the discussion is quite technical, I'll have a go anyway.

Jay you say that SIS is what there is in each player's mind, shared through communication, with the risk of there being different recallings later on. Source material is not part of the SIS, but might be used to feed it.

My claim is that there are parts of the SIS that are indeed in the participant's minds, but also in objective external "reality" as you put it. When our GM draws up the dungeon's map as we crawl along, that is most certainly exactly an external reflection of what we should be having in our minds (if we don't, then play wrecks up). Same with the classic: "You see this!" [GM shows a picture of a huge underground city]

As soon as this "source material" has been used to feed the SIS and the participants have acknowledged it, how could it not be part of the SIS? It will be used again session after session because it is more reliable than anybody's memory.

While I agree that source material which has not been acknowledged (explicitely or tacitly) is not part of the SIS, that which has must be part of it (as long as the participants don't agree on something which changes this fact). Of course, this depends on the participants having in mind that they should reference the dungeon map for any statement they make with a relation to it, but what they imagine from there passes through a very physical and external object before getting back, and it is most definetely shared with all the others
Furthermore this claim does not disrupt Ron's definition of SIS, since nowhere does he state that SIS is only contained in someone's mind. It's just fictional content established through play, and a dungeon map most certainly is fictional material.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 01, 2005, 11:15:10 AM
John, I think we're talking about the same things in different ways.  My more detailed diagramm of "Shared Imagination" was going to look like this:

Code:
6. Negotiated Narrative
   a. Common Imagination
          i. Implicit
         ii. Communicated
   b. Adjusted Imagination
   c. Unadjusted Imagination

So what happens is you have a bunch of Individual Imaginations, right?  And then you go through the Production & Reception process of negotiation.  And the outcome is this thing called SIS, which I'm calling Negotiated Narrative, just to move away from a term that doesn't mean quite what I think it does.  And Negotiated Narrative consists of:

1. the imagined bits that the players have in common including both Implicit (things that weren't communicated during play, but they still share, for whatever reason, including shared background knowledge and sheer coincidence) and Communicated (stuff that was expressed and survived the negotiation process).

2. individual imagined bits that are not shared in common but have been adjusted by the communication.  for example: Player A  declares, "my character stands triumphantly over the body of the dead ork" even though Player B was in the middle of imagining his character doing the exact same thing.  so Player B, instead, imagines his character brooding in the corner and glancing menacingly at Player A's char, even though he says nothing.  this still "happened" in my model, though on an individual not group level.  and Player B could later communicate this past event to the group, for example, by having his character say: "I can't believe you!  always hogging all the glory, like with that dead ork!  that made me so mad!"

3. individual imaginings that aren't shared at all and were not altered by the actions of the rest of the group.  for instance, you imagine that the window has tattered curtains or that you sword glows blue in the dark.  this is really a large part of the play experience, since, often times, the degree of detail that is communicated pales in comparison to player imaginations.  you're making a large part of the expeirence up on you own.  of course, this can become #2 or #3 pretty easily.  if you say, "I use the curtains as a blindfold" and the GM says, "there are no curtains," you've got #1 (There Are No Curtains).  if the GM says, "in the darkness of the cave, nothing is visible," you might be forced to shift your uncommunicated ideas about the glowing sword (#2) or say, "hey, my sword glows" (#1).

And a possible premise, at this point, is that the Anglo-American play idiom, coming from D&D, is mostly concerned with #1 there, packing in background knowledge and focusing on the stuff that gets communicated.  White Wolf and a few other forces tried to expand the focus more towards #2 & #3, but I would say they were only somewhat successful and only for certain audiences.  The Nordic larp idiom, on the other hand, is much more happy playing around with #2 & #3, with their focus on immersion and play experiences that are shared physically and socially, but where mental imaginings stay more private.

Hopefully that addresses the concerns of Simenume and Artanis too.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: John Kim on October 03, 2005, 08:18:10 AM

And a possible premise, at this point, is that the Anglo-American play idiom, coming from D&D, is mostly concerned with #1 there, packing in background knowledge and focusing on the stuff that gets communicated.  White Wolf and a few other forces tried to expand the focus more towards #2 & #3, but I would say they were only somewhat successful and only for certain audiences.  The Nordic larp idiom, on the other hand, is much more happy playing around with #2 & #3, with their focus on immersion and play experiences that are shared physically and socially, but where mental imaginings stay more private.

I'm fine with your categories #1, #2, and #3.  So Shared Imagined Space = Negotiated Narrative, and that includes both things which are agreed upon in-play and things which are shared due to out-of-game overlap and/or agreement.  Is that right?

As for your premise, I'm not sure I see that mental imaginings are any more private in Nordic larp.  The physical sharing of Nordic larp is in-character -- i.e. you're physically communicating to others what your character is doing.  So the differences is between (in larp) physical and verbal performance versus (in tabletop) verbal performance and verbal narration.  These are all mental imaginings based on physically/verbally communicated information.  I see the difference as being mainly between communicating environment and communicating character.  So in a tabletop game, you may communicate more more of what you imagine the room looks like -- but you'll communicate less about what you imagine your character is doing, details of her mannerisms, and so forth. 



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on October 03, 2005, 10:59:36 AM
While I agree that source material which has not been acknowledged (explicitely or tacitly) is not part of the SIS, that which has must be part of it.

Cristoph, I'm going to have to get more technical on you.  If SIS is assumed to be the imagined content that the players have in common, it's all insubstantial mental constructs.  That the GM pulls out a picture or draws a map will inspire in the players mental constructs that closely resemble the map, but the physical map never enters into the SIS; it's just a representation of information that is (should) be in the SIS.

Also consider a player that can't read maps, for instance; his mental construct of spatial relationships in the SIS will be different from the amatuer cartographer sitting next to him; the 'exact' relationships as described on the map will then not be common, and therefore won't be in the SIS.

Maps and props are useful and cool and provide lots of ambiance, but they aren't ever really in the imagination.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Jonathan Walton on October 03, 2005, 01:51:18 PM
Seems like we now have two conversations going on at once :)

John, I think we're good now.  Thanks for clarifying my misconceptions of Nordic-style play.  It was a tentative proposal because I haven't yet witnessed those wacky Scandinavians in practice and was basing things on hearsay.  I guess I'll leave that point out until I know better.  Also, I think I may be moving away from talking about "negotiated narrative" or narrative of any kind, and just sticking with the individual imagination in forms #1, 2, and 3.  Probably simpler that way, since I can imagine a few play styles that might be considered non-narrative, or not consistently narrative.  Don't want to create more problems for myself.

Thanks muchly, everyone!


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 03, 2005, 02:59:32 PM
If SIS is assumed to be the imagined content that the players have in common, it's all insubstantial mental constructs.  That the GM pulls out a picture or draws a map will inspire in the players mental constructs that closely resemble the map, but the physical map never enters into the SIS; it's just a representation of information that is (should) be in the SIS.


Well, if the SiS is truly "imagined" then, of course, the map will not, and cannot, enter into it. But I think the issues of definition around SiS seem too ambiguous to rule that inclusion out. More specifically, I think the following issues should be scrutinized separately: A. What does the definition convey, as it stands? (Or definitions, as there are alternative versions.). And B. What is the element of roleplaying that SiS strives to conceptualize?

As to the definition and the term itself, I think it would be healthy to approach the term in a portioned manner: I.e if one agrees upon a term Shared Imagined Space, one should be able to specify equally why it's "shared", why it's "imagined" and why it's a "space".

For example: As you pointed out earlier, a visual map is not part of anyone's imagination - and hence cannot really be part of SiS. Yet - to be a part of SiS, by similar criterion that you use, something would equally have to be shared - and someone's imaginary representation of the map cannot really be shared. So, defining along the name SiS, as it stands, map really cannot take part in it - in any way, or any form.

Is this really what is desired?

If not, I can reason out two routes of approach (there are probably others, of course):

One could stick fast with the term and argue for a new angle on the concept of imagination: This would have to do away with most of what we know of imagination, and theories based on it, as they are rooted to understanding of imagination that is deeply personal.

In addition, one would have to explicate the workings of this shared imagination, and how it comes to be shared. It would not suffice to explain that we share communication based on our personal imaginations - for this would not be sharing imagination, but communication about it. In other words - not a particularly easy route to take.

Or, one could argue that SiS does not really strive to convey shared imagination, perhaps even a space. In light of this possibility, trying to glean a sort of general consensus for SiS (or rather the element of roleplaying it strives to bring forth), I found the following three quotes illuminating when read back-to-back: First one is the the glossary definition, second from Jay's post on this thread (I'm certainly not trying to hold his "feet to the fire" based on a paragraph of post - on the contrary, I found his way of definition interesting, by itself, and as a contrast) and third from Ralph's great post on the model to which he linked to, earlier in this thread.


Quote from: Provisional Glossary
Shared Imagined Space (SIS, Shared Imagination)

The fictional content of play as it is established among participants through role-playing interactions. See also Transcript (which is a summary of the SIS after play) and Exploration (a near or total synonym).

The "Shared Imagined Space" is a "fact space."  This is the arena of statements which have successfully negotiated their way through the Lumpley Principle.  They were shared and agreed upon.  That's it - that's all there is.  I tend to think of it as filled with objects.  These objects can have qualities like color or mood, but are things nonetheless.

The Shared Imaginary Space (SiS) is the arena in which role-playing takes place.  It is the equivalent of the game board for play.  The SiS is simply the sum total of all knowledge about the game, game world, in game events, characters, etc that has been introduced, presented to, and agreed upon by all of the players at the table.

Unfortunately, barring mind melding abilities, the SiS can never truly be shared directly among the participants.  Rather, each participant has their own Individual Imaginary Space where the game is taking place for them.  The Shared Imaginary Space can then be seen as the theoretical construct which encompasses all of the elements that each Individual Imaginary Space has in common.  Whatever elements that are the same across individuals is then part of the SiS.


There seems to be some threads of consensus present, but, on the whole, the term Shared Imagined Space comes out fairly ambiguous, especially as a tool of definition. Jay defines SiS as "fact space" which, to me, makes more sense than the Shared Imagined Space, conceptually. But "fact space", as definition, is radically different in its emphasis; going with this definition, the term SiS would become fairly misleading - and it would also balance things differently. Also, its hard for me to see "facts" forming a space - perhaps a union or a collective... but these are not spaces, per se.

Ralph, on the other hand, likens the space to a game board. This comparison has interesting potential - but seems to clash with the next sentence defining SiS as sum of all knowledge. Its hard to see this sum as a board (more like a collective, once again) unless the board is meant metaphorically.

Ralph also recognizes the problem of sharing imagination I noted earlier - but then defines SiS as "theoretical construct which encompasses all of the elements that each Individual Imaginary Space has in common" (note the preference of the word "imaginary" instead of "imagined"). But this is problematic because the possible common element is not the Individual Imaginary Spaces, but rather communication about them - and communication, in whatever form, is not the same as imagination.

To me, the thematic problem here seems to be the lack of explication between personal-interpersonal, or similar dichotomy. Its a problem in Ralph's definition as pointed out above, and its an underlying problem in the glossary definition (which Ralph seems to recognize, and strives to take into account - but this might really be a quixotic exercise, given the problems of sharing imagination to begin with). And, its also the dominant problem with the paradoxical map scenario that this post started with.

Likewise, it seems to be an underlying problem in Jay's definition, although in this case further description might sooth out the issue, at least to an extent: What is this "space" and where is it? Are these facts meant as personal understandings, or interpersonal representations? Perhaps both? If so, how does the "space" occur between them?

But, in general, the prevalence of this problem leads me to surmise that the lack of explication of personal-interpersonal (or self-other, even subjective-objective - something along these lines anyway) dichotomy might be the source of this persistent "muddyness" of SiS, leading to paradoxes such as the example with the map, in themselves well-reasoned (its not Joshua's reasoning that builds up that paradoxical situation).

Cheers,



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on October 03, 2005, 05:52:26 PM
Yet - to be a part of SiS, by similar criterion that you use, something would equally have to be shared - and someone's imaginary representation of the map cannot really be shared.

Replace 'map' with 'anything' and you have the reason why I abandoned the concept in my own understanding of roleplaying.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 03, 2005, 08:07:35 PM
Yet - to be a part of SiS, by similar criterion that you use, something would equally have to be shared - and someone's imaginary representation of the map cannot really be shared.

Replace 'map' with 'anything' and you have the reason why I abandoned the concept in my own understanding of roleplaying.


Yeah - as you can infer from my long-winded cataloguing of the concept's problems, I more or less concur with you. If one tries to stay true to its words, SiS is inherently paradoxical. If one develops a personal understanding of it, distancing oneself from the words, things tend to get muddy communicationwise.

This was one of the things I tried to concretize by quoting the definitions, back-to-back. Each makes a stab a definition - but you cannot make them concur with each other, no matter how hard you try. Moreover, none of them manages to define something that is "shared", "imagined" and a "space" - in fact, the modest successes seem to come by distancing the definition from those words. So, the problem seems to lie at the root - in the term itself.

But, on the other hand, I still think that the issue of sharing is extremely crucial to roleplaying, and hence of high importance and interest. Undoubtedly, there is sharing in some form or another; there is also some kind of commonality of knowledge - without these, there would not be, say, something like a setting, or even roleplaying in general. So personally I'm not giving up on the area - I just think that it should be defined in a way radically different from "shared imagined space".

I was actually cooking up a much longer post, in answer to yours, with a sort of rudimentary, sketched model dividing roleplaying between personal and interpersonal elements. Got it to about 70% mark, then ran out of mojo, time, brainpower... anyway, I have to finish it later.

But even based on the preliminary pieces, I would already assert that things often considered the essence of SiS (setting knowledge, information about characters etc.) ultimately rely on personal, private basis. True, we do correlative work by sharing references (words, images, other documents etc.), and through these seek commonality of knowledge and response, even though this knowledge is unavoidably personal (everyone knows which King holds the Magthingy currently, remembering to recall the Magthingy by concept into their personal considerations when that King is mentioned).

But equally, we rely on the differences of understanding. Even the knowledge we work to correlate, make common (and hence in play we talk... and talk) ultimately depends on the personal differences and private viewpoints (unexpressed, but fueling the emerging words) to make things unexpected, interesting. Without the differences they instill on common issues, there is really nothing to talk or game about. Sharing is an act, (sensual) references its tools - but the basis is always personal.



Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: contracycle on October 04, 2005, 12:56:43 AM
IMO the SIS is a synthesis of communicated individual imaginings.  The individual imaginings will always go further than the shared SIS; negotiating that complexity is one of the things that mechanics do.

I'll illustrate by showing than Jonathans three aspects are matched perfectly by a multiple-access database.

#1 is the stuff that we all share through prior info or active communication.  Analogy: I make a change in the database, and this is reflected to all clients opening the dabatase.  It is communicated - pushed - out to the client machines from the central node in order to ensure consistency.

#2 Indicates clash about two people attempting simultaneous access to change something in the database.  This cannot be allowed for consistency reasons; therefore the system priviliges one to make a change, and only one, at a time.  Any implications of this change will come out in the use of or reference to this data.

#3 Is similar to when you make a change in your local copy of the database, but when you attempt to replicate with the central copy, you encounter a warning or problem that your change is inconsistent with someone elses change.  Again, this is a problem the database cannot solve and the users will have to negotiate as to which is correct.

Hence the SIS, like a database, is always BOTH individual and shared.  Control over the SIS is mediated BECUASE individual discrepancies necessarily exist in the "local copy".  There is a constant interaction between the local copy and the central node, an interaction that is (mostly) governed by having the permission, AKA credibility, to make changes on the central node.

Pekkok, you say:
Quote
Ralph also recognizes the problem of sharing imagination I noted earlier - but then defines SiS as "theoretical construct which encompasses all of the elements that each Individual Imaginary Space has in common" (note the preference of the word "imaginary" instead of "imagined"). But this is problematic because the possible common element is not the Individual Imaginary Spaces, but rather communication about them - and communication, in whatever form, is not the same as imagination.

No, communication is not the same as imagination, but communication is absolutely critical to the formation of a SHARED imaginary space, and that is why it has such a prominent place in the definition.  If it was not communicated, it might as well not exist... it DOES NOT exist in anyone elses imaginary space.  The act of communicaiton synchronises the various IS's; from that synthesis arises a genuine shared imaginary space that, as is pointed out above,  consists only of this imagined items the players have in common.  Without communication there can be no shared space at all, no central node, and therefore, no game.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 04, 2005, 05:45:36 AM

I'll illustrate by showing than Jonathans three aspects are matched perfectly by a multiple-access database.

#1 is the stuff that we all share through prior info or active communication.  Analogy: I make a change in the database, and this is reflected to all clients opening the dabatase.  It is communicated - pushed - out to the client machines from the central node in order to ensure consistency.

#2 Indicates clash about two people attempting simultaneous access to change something in the database.  This cannot be allowed for consistency reasons; therefore the system priviliges one to make a change, and only one, at a time.  Any implications of this change will come out in the use of or reference to this data.

#3 Is similar to when you make a change in your local copy of the database, but when you attempt to replicate with the central copy, you encounter a warning or problem that your change is inconsistent with someone elses change.  Again, this is a problem the database cannot solve and the users will have to negotiate as to which is correct.

Hence the SIS, like a database, is always BOTH individual and shared.  Control over the SIS is mediated BECUASE individual discrepancies necessarily exist in the "local copy".  There is a constant interaction between the local copy and the central node, an interaction that is (mostly) governed by having the permission, AKA credibility, to make changes on the central node.


But by lumping shared and personal together (referring to them as database, and its local "copy"), this example relies on the assumption that there is some shared presence I can simply copy to my head, and what I copied then "is" my imagination. If I make changes to my copy of imagination, I can upload these changes back, and they become immediately visible in a sort of totality of shared imagination, downloadable for everyone to replace their imaginations, as is.

To underline the difference between the sharing and personal understanding, let me make a small corresponding example:

I'll write (or probably speak if we are in a gaming situation) to you the following expression: "a yellow car".

As I wrote those words, I had an image of a car my head - can I "upload" this image to you using those words? Using more words? No, of course not. The image in my head includes surface patterns, shapes, the condition of wheels, a little bit of environment, weather and light conditions, etc.

And those are just the easy part: For it also has brought to my mind aesthetic judgments (I'll like the color - not "yellow" but what I see), what memories it brings with it (it's a similar model to a car that my father once had), possibilities, impressions (the car is a bit on the cheap side, and the environment seems high-class - somehow I find this humorous, but also a bit mysterious since it does not seem that humorous; in fact, this discrepancy seems to me the foremost and dominant thought as I think of that "yellow car").

I can of course try to say: "A yellow car that is a bit on the cheap side, in an environment that seems high-class - somehow this seems humorous, but also a bit mysterious since it does not seem that humorous." But what people understand and imagine, based on that expression, will vary wildly - even their sense of humour alone is probably quite different. So adding further words does not cure the problem.

What the expression in words does do is add a reference: I can later refer to it by saying "That yellow car that you saw earlier comes around the corner". The words are shared - understanding of them is not.


No, communication is not the same as imagination, but communication is absolutely critical to the formation of a SHARED imaginary space, and that is why it has such a prominent place in the definition.  If it was not communicated, it might as well not exist... it DOES NOT exist in anyone elses imaginary space.


As I've tried to concretize above, there is no reasonable way to equate what happens in the personal level, and what happens on an interpersonal level. Between these levels there's a radical difference in kind: So it does not make sense to call them both imagined spaces - one shared, others individual.

Personal level contains thought processes, memory: understanding, interpretation, imagination. It can plausibly be referred as a mental space.

But what is shared are (sensual) references: words, images, documents. But what is imagined, even understood through these is once again on a personal level.

Now, if these two very different levels, personal thoughts and interpersonal references (you could also call them signs, if you will), are lumped together under the same type, analytical problems will ensue, sooner or later. To me, they already seem fairly prevalent, given how differently people solve the problems of defining SiS.

Cheers,


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: contracycle on October 04, 2005, 07:50:48 AM
But by lumping shared and personal together (referring to them as database, and its local "copy"), this example relies on the assumption that there is some shared presence I can simply copy to my head, and what I copied then "is" my imagination. If I make changes to my copy of imagination, I can upload these changes back, and they become immediately visible in a sort of totality of shared imagination, downloadable for everyone to replace their imaginations, as is.

Yes, roughly.  But we need not get carry away with the issue of precision - good enough is good enough.

Quote
As I wrote those words, I had an image of a car my head - can I "upload" this image to you using those words? Using more words? No, of course not. The image in my head includes surface patterns, shapes, the condition of wheels, a little bit of environment, weather and light conditions, etc.

Right.  Theres a lot of implied, non-explicit information here.  This is related to the topic of bricolage in RPG.

Quote
I can of course try to say: "A yellow car that is a bit on the cheap side, in an environment that seems high-class - somehow this seems humorous, but also a bit mysterious since it does not seem that humorous." But what people understand and imagine, based on that expression, will vary wildly - even their sense of humour alone is probably quite different. So adding further words does not cure the problem.

Its certainly the case that a picture speaks a thousand words, and that the inherent limitation of bandwidth prevents a fully comprehensive mutuality of individual imaginations.  But, unless there is a discrepancy between STATEMENTS, it doesn't matter.  Lets say, I visualise a slightly different colour of yellow to the colour you imagine.  Does it matter?  Almost certainly not - almost certainly, agreeing on "yellow" will be sufficient for 99% of purposes.

And if there is a discrepancy, then that discrepancy will emerge in the ongoing challenge-response interaction of RPG's.  For example, we have not yet specified if its a two seater or a four seater.  However, as soon as anyone needs to take an action on that basis, they will either ask "how many seats does this car have", or they will assume one answer or the other, and whoever is in authority will either correct the assumption or endorse it.

Quote
Now, if these two very different levels, personal thoughts and interpersonal references (you could also call them signs, if you will), are lumped together under the same type, analytical problems will ensue, sooner or later. To me, they already seem fairly prevalent, given how differently people solve the problems of defining SiS.

I'm not dismissing the potential for discrepancy but I do not think it is significant.  I would say that in all practical contexts, we are aware of the partiality of information, that we do not have a direct line into the other persons head to see what they imagine.  But in practical terms this is not a blockage because we can and do communicate, and air our misunderstandings for clarification, and refine our private imaginings to the point at which they are at least not contradictory in a game-breaking way.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: C. Edwards on October 04, 2005, 12:10:20 PM
I'm in agreement with Gareth.

There is an incredible amount going on 'behind the scenes' when we are imagining; bricolage, pattern recognition, extrapolation, references to our own internal logic and knowledge. Communication and game rules allow us to unify and integrate our separate imaginings. Translate imagining into a group oriented process as opposed to an individual process.

There is always going to be some noise in the signal, but like Gareth says, 99% of the time that noise is going to have no noticeable effect on play. In those instances where it does, we continue the process of communication until an acceptable likeness of the message is delivered. When communication breaks down, when a game text gives a distorted or contradictory statement of how communication should proceed or credibility should be distributed, that's where the process of creating a shared imagined space encounters the most difficulty.

-Chris


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: C. Edwards on October 04, 2005, 12:40:37 PM
One thing I wanted to add.

Communication IS the space. The act of sharing,attempting to communicate our own imaginings, creates a 'space' of mutual dialogue. The dialogue links our seperate minds and feelings together. And no, you can't bestow your own understanding to someone else, but you can express your ideas, mental images, and emotions for your friends to absorb and then translate into their own internal language.

-Chris


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 04, 2005, 12:53:57 PM
There is an incredible amount going on 'behind the scenes' when we are imagining; bricolage, pattern recognition, extrapolation, references to our own internal logic and knowledge. Communication and game rules allow us to unify and integrate our separate imaginings. Translate imagining into a group oriented process as opposed to an individual process.

There is always going to be some noise in the signal, but like Gareth says, 99% of the time that noise is going to have no noticeable effect on play. In those instances where it does, we continue the process of communication until an acceptable likeness of the message is delivered. When communication breaks down, when a game text gives a distorted or contradictory statement of how communication should proceed or credibility should be distributed, that's where the process of creating a shared imagined space encounters the most difficulty.


Two quick questions:

1. What is the element that you are attributing here as "noise"? How would you describe it? From your post, the most likely candidate seems personal thought processes that you describe just before you invoke the term.

2. I know of no modern communication theory that equates communication, in the form of words for example, with sharing of imagination. In fact, for my understanding most of the scientific field explicitly denies that equation and stresses the importance of differences between the two (this is my understanding of Lévi-Strauss also, which I note since you use the concept of bricolage). On what basis you have come to the conclusion that communication can be sharing of imagination?


Cheers,


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on October 04, 2005, 01:02:29 PM
Well, communication may be part of the space, but it can't be the whole space -- past acts of communication have to be included in the space, as well, so there would have to be a sort of transcript of communicative acts.  Secondly, some acts of communication are accepted into the SIS while some are not (Lumpley Principle), so you need a determining factor (the System) either 'inside' the SIS or external to but still interacting with the SIS.  Either way, not all acts of communication at the gaming table will be included in the SIS.

At best, the SIS is 'the set of all acts of communication which have been ratified by the System/players'.  Which, as Pekkok points out, is not imagination by any means.

But here's the thing that gets me: as an expressly virtual space with no substantial existence, it's impossible to address the SIS with any procedures of play.  There's nothing to latch on to that can be reliably assumed to exist as shared understanding.  There is no way to reliably confirm that something is 'in' or 'out' of the shared understanding.  We can mark off hit points on our character sheets -- that's concrete and can be referenced -- but we have no reliable method to determine and share what that means in the SIS -- is my guy scraped, bruised, bloody, dying, perfectly fine?  I can decide that and you can decide that but we cannot decide the same thing together.  In really technical terms, our signifiers and referents have only tenuous connections -- because the referents don't exist except in this virtual state in a virtual space.

Perhaps you find the reliability of reference 'close enough' or within acceptable tolerances; I'd just cast a lot of doubt that the parity of internal conceptions of six players around a table is anywhere near what we often assume it is.  In any case, this argument, basically "Who cares if it's ugly, it works!" only dodges the question about what is really happening, and until we have a better idea of what we are doing, any attempts to hit the SIS with precision are based on a flawed understanding.  This isn't what's happening, so why should we write our procedures of play as if it was?


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: C. Edwards on October 04, 2005, 01:45:46 PM
Hey Pekko,

Good questions, thank you. Answering them will help me work through some of my relatively unformed ideas on the subject.

1) Noise can be created by anything that promotes a disparity in the mental images provoked by a sign. Two people hear the word 'yellow' in the description of an automobile and each forms a mental image, one using a different shade of yellow than the other. Noise can come from having a different set of experiences and differences in individual communication techniques, but at base it stems from the fundamental differences in our personal meanings of a sign, of 'yellow'.

The noise potential in the signal is there before we've even attempted to communicate. It's built in and ever present. The quality of our dialogue, who we are involved in the dialogue with, and the ideas that we are attempting to communicate will all have an effect on the actual message that the other person receives. So the more skilled we are at communicating with each other, and if we are in agreement on who has the credibility to override another individual's personal meaning of a sign with their own personal meaning, and if we have clear protocols to rely on should difficulties in communication arise, the more likely we are to be able to come to a similar and acceptable shared meaning of a sign (even if only temporarily).

2) Sloppy language on my part. When I refered to sharing of imagination I was referring to the process by where, through exchange of words, body language, and other signals, we attempt to create in another person's mind mental images and emotional content similar to our own.

I want to stress that for the purposes of a role playing game that similarity is all that is needed most of the time. The details, when they are called upon in play, can usually be agreed upon quickly and easily. Shared imagined space refers not so much to some sort of group mind as to the constant dialogue we are in involved in during play that helps our individual mental images conform to one another.

Did any of that actually answer your questions?

-Chris


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: C. Edwards on October 04, 2005, 02:22:55 PM
Hey Joshua,

I think my response to Pekko may address some of your concerns. I'm just not sure that most of what you're saying need to be concerns, and I don't mean that to be me dismissive. I'll elaborate.

Play procedures are ( currently, mostly?) based upon external observable player behavior. I'm not knocking it. We have some great tools with which to craft a play experience. But being based on external behavior, and not the impulses and internal interactions that lead to that behavior, they're going to seem a little crude at times. I see this as akin to treating the symptoms and not the disease.

I fully agree that there is no absolutely reliable way to determine what is and what is not a part of the SIS or to confirm the unity of vision of those contents. But this is the state of communication in general. This is what it means to be an individual. Maybe someday we'll develop telepathy, flawless empathy, or at least a better understanding of the workings of our own minds and interpersonal interactions. It sounds to me though like you're proposing we just don't do any work on role playing theory until we understand everything with splendid perfection.

I'm all for working from the inside out, I was just saying as much and about this same general subject on my blog recently, but I don't think that our efforts to work from the outside in should be put on hold. It doesn't seem to me like we're ignoring what is really going on. We're just describing it differently in the only way we currently know how. It may remain the only way we know for a long, long time.

-Chris


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on October 04, 2005, 02:25:54 PM
I'm getting extremely confused guys.

Allright, so SIS has an "I" for imagined in it's name. But Ron's definition talks about "fictional content of play". Not imaginery stuff only in peoples head. A map is a content of play established through participant interaction (the way the players explore the dungeon affects the way it is drawn out by the GM).
Even more extreme an example: LARP. How could the environnement, the characters, etc. possibly be only in people's minds? Of course, the perception of something is a purely mental thing, but I mean, you can say that for the perception of your everyday life, and I don't think it would bring us anywhere to be talking of SIS in this context.
Physical things can very much be fictional contents. Something can be fictional without being a completely mental construct.
Basically, what I'm saying is that there is no point in creating a dichotomy between physical and mental contents (actually, that's a huge philosophical question: is there any difference at all?)


Quote from: Joshua
Also consider a player that can't read maps, for instance; his mental construct of spatial relationships in the SIS will be different from the amatuer cartographer sitting next to him; the 'exact' relationships as described on the map will then not be common, and therefore won't be in the SIS.
.
Somebody who can't read maps has a communication problem, as would somebody who suffered from deafness. I don't see how taking such a problematic situation proves any point at all. Of course for this group maps can't be used as a proper means for establishing SIS, but that doesn't invalidate the idea on a global scale.
Even if one manages to communicate efficiently, each participant's perception will be different. Just compare how two people imagine scenes of a same book.
As Chris says in his last post, similarity is all we ever realistically are going to get. Exact conformity of vision is pure wishing, probably even more so when one doesn't use concrete physical help.

Chris's view stresses the communicative act as being essential. While I'm not sure if this covers what has already been established, it reinforces my opinion that there is no point in having a dichotomy between physical and mental contents of the dialogue. They're both present, in my opinion.


With Jonathan's breakdown, I'm failing to see why we consider individual imaginings as part of SIS or Negotiated Narrative. They have not been negotiated at all, that's precisely what makes them individual imaginings. As soon as someone's individual imagining is communicated, others will consider if it fits their ideals, negotiate and then let some statement enter the SIS. Before that, I fail to see how it can be interesting to consider individual imaginings for talking about play on a group-level, which is what we really are concerned about when designing RPGs (and why this whole site exists, or am I lost?). What each participant does on top of that in purely individual imaginings is, well, inaccessible.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on October 04, 2005, 03:17:06 PM
Chris --

I'm not saying let's throw our hands up in the air and give up, by any means.  I personally have come to a satisfactory conclusion that the SIS is not a useful concept for designing games because the game can't interact with the SIS.  Therefore I don't see any use in designing games with an intent to directly affect the SIS.  I find it far more useful to design games whose procedures directly affect the acts of communication that we perform around the table.  At least for my purposes, this simplifies a great deal and makes for a clearer and far more visceral experience at the table.  I get to write about what the players are actually doing, rather than the impossible ideal which we gamers have been telling ourselves we try to acheive every time we sit down to roleplay.  Discarding the SIS has made the entire design process far clearer for me.  But enough devil's advotating.

Cristoph --

Consider the following: a book is not fiction.  A book is a very real and substantial artifact on which real and substantial ink is patterened on the real and substantial pages.  The story encoded into those ink scribbles may be fictional, but the book is not.  Similarily, a physical map is not fictional, but the information that its physical structure conveys can be.  The physical map isn't what goes into the SIS, because this is an impossibility; it's the information on the map that goes into the SIS -- that information can be shared and imagined, while the physical map can just be, y'know, folded and maybe used as a hat.  The players will make in-game decisions based on the fictional information written on the map (the corridor turns west) not on the physical attributes of the map (someone spilled soda on the map, so now that forest is a big ink-smudge swamp).

Your LARP example is a good one, and it took me some thinking to get through it.  In a LARP, we're usually painting an 'overlay' of imagined content over the real world in which we roleplay.  It's a lot like the fictional information that's encoded on the physical map.  I imagine my fellow players as having fangs, or turning into bats, or that their boffer stick truly is a terribly frightening weapon.  When in a combat scene, I don't imagine "My friend Joe is by that box," I imagine "Sir Reynolds is next to the cache of explosives."  Sure, there are some things that translate into the game without being changed.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!  But the real, physical cigar never enters into the SIS because the real cigar is not imagined -- we imagine a cigar very similar to the real one in front of us.

The guy who can't read maps proves that the map doesn't enter into the SIS, but the information encoded in the map -- information that they are unable to decode -- is what 'should' enter into the SIS.  Your deaf player is an even better example.  If you signed to this player, the gestures don't enter into the SIS, but the information conveyed by the gestures do.  Really, this all boils down to sign and referent.  We can use all manner of signs in the procedures of play, but none of those signs ever enter into the SIS; only their referents appear there.  The map is not the territory.

Back to Devil's Advocate:  Lastly, individual imaginings are essential to roleplaying because that's where everything starts, and (when you get down to the nitty-gritty) that's where all the fictional details of the game reside.  Instead of creating rules that attempt to refer to and affect the elelements in the SIS, we can create rules that refer to and affect our individual understandings of the fictional content.  These imaginings are only inaccessible so long as they are uncommunicated; once they are communicated they are shared between the players' imaginations -- not in exactitude, but in ever-increasing parity through the action of the game.  And that is, by my definition, what we call roleplaying.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 04, 2005, 04:13:33 PM
But here's the thing that gets me: as an expressly virtual space with no substantial existence, it's impossible to address the SIS with any procedures of play.  There's nothing to latch on to that can be reliably assumed to exist as shared understanding.  There is no way to reliably confirm that something is 'in' or 'out' of the shared understanding.  We can mark off hit points on our character sheets -- that's concrete and can be referenced -- but we have no reliable method to determine and share what that means in the SIS -- is my guy scraped, bruised, bloody, dying, perfectly fine?  I can decide that and you can decide that but we cannot decide the same thing together.  In really technical terms, our signifiers and referents have only tenuous connections -- because the referents don't exist except in this virtual state in a virtual space.


First of all, good post: commendations for bringing the discussion closer to practice of roleplaying.

I don't think there is a reliable method to determine how a certain change (like a change in character's condition) will be understood by the players. To keep this concrete - think of a case where a character is described as "bruised" - using that very word as the reference. Now, the players may imagine this in a myriad of ways - so, if we wanted the bruise to be located, we would make certain that we express a connection in words, like "he has a bruise on the shoulder". But, the "problem" here is that each description, rather than exhausting the avenues of personal imagination, often fuel it. Once again, a bruise on the shoulder can be imagined in a myriad of ways (was there blood or not? can the bruise be seen through clothing? does it curtail movement?).

We can of course expend yet more words on the issue - but the limits of time, words, importance of issues practically always leave us with certain correlation of words (everyone recalls the expression "bruise on the shoulder" in relation to that character - at least for a while) and myriad possibilities of imagination, extending from these expressions - with determinate references entailing indeterminate imaginations, branching out for each player. And this condition will not change.

But what we can do, to raise determination, is to become more aware of our use of expressive references, and the possibilities of interpretation they entail (which are of course endless - but certain things are more likely than others) - how our expressions are likely to "behave". Also, conscious of the personal, private level as the "real world" of roleplaying (where roleplaying actualizes), we would be aware that expressing something instigates thought, first and foremost. And while this might not sound much, this type of awareness holds promising potential, especially when brought to the level of systematic thinking, or system proper.

A further example: Think of a system where players are obligated to make a short descriptive phrase of the damage their characters receive, which the GM has described in general terms. Like: GM: "The metallic bird brushes against Valois' shoulder - he gets a bruise (system-level term of the degree of damage)" Player: "Its wing slices trough my shirt and cuts three small wounds in parallel - the sliced shirt starts to redden from the trickling blood".

Now, how would a game change by this small addition? First of all, the players would probably become more conscious of their character's wounds - also of other's wounds (because they have been instigated to think about the issue more - most of this thinking would not be expressed in the game, but would affect their play style); characters around them would be more likely to comment on the wounds (and the character might remember to get a new shirt for the evening gala); they might also be inspired to make a record of their scars in their character sheets (this would become absurd in many combat-heavy games, which often rely on the de-emphasis of this issue in the player's imagination - by taking out the references to specific damage); etc.

Why does this change happen? Because a (systematic) type of referencing has been added, and the references it brings up instigate certain types of causal chains on a personal level of thought. And while most of these thoughts go undescribed, unseen in the game, they are a vital part of it, affecting the game in an essential way by changing how the players consider their characters, thus causing changes in the player's expressions.

Now, one can only analyse this type of phenomenon by differentiating between the personal and interpersonal level - and that's exactly the issue that SiS glosses over - even hides by glossing it over. And this, I think, reflects back to what you wrote in your comment, Joshua. SiS remains detached from the processes of play because it glosses over many of the important processes creating this "space of play" (for lack of a better reference) - especially those processes that arise from the interplay between personal and interpersonal layers.

Cheers,


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Alan on October 04, 2005, 04:16:21 PM
This thread seems to have taken a simple concept to some very bizarre places.

...have come to a satisfactory conclusion that the SIS is not a useful concept for designing games because the game can't interact with the SIS.

Yoicks!  This is like saying that the rules of hockey don't interact with the puck.  Good heavens.

The content of the SIS is all material mutually agreed on by the participants, whether it is in their individual heads or on paper somewhere.  They need only communicate to confirm that their expectations are the same, and the SIS exists.  There's no distinction about where the information is recorded, the only requirement is that it is shared.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: C. Edwards on October 04, 2005, 05:02:31 PM
Joshua,

I dont think that we're saying different things. My perception of the SIS is as a process dependent entirely on the communication between participants. Without that communication there is no 'shared' and the 'space' shrinks down to encompass exactly one individual's thoughts.

A game cannot interact with anything. People can interact according to the rules of a game thereby entering into play of that game. Play is nothing if not a process of communication.

The integrity of the SIS is all about the quality of communication between the participants.

-Chris


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 04, 2005, 05:27:31 PM
Hey Pekko,

Good questions, thank you. Answering them will help me work through some of my relatively unformed ideas on the subject.


And thank you, too, for your thorough answers.


1) Noise can be created by anything that promotes a disparity in the mental images provoked by a sign. Two people hear the word 'yellow' in the description of an automobile and each forms a mental image, one using a different shade of yellow than the other. Noise can come from having a different set of experiences and differences in individual communication techniques, but at base it stems from the fundamental differences in our personal meanings of a sign, of 'yellow'.

The noise potential in the signal is there before we've even attempted to communicate. It's built in and ever present. The quality of our dialogue, who we are involved in the dialogue with, and the ideas that we are attempting to communicate will all have an effect on the actual message that the other person receives. So the more skilled we are at communicating with each other, and if we are in agreement on who has the credibility to override another individual's personal meaning of a sign with their own personal meaning, and if we have clear protocols to rely on should difficulties in communication arise, the more likely we are to be able to come to a similar and acceptable shared meaning of a sign (even if only temporarily).


Ok, thanks again. The reason I asked was that I have run into this concept of noise many times (one of the reasons for its prevalence might be its presence in the old Shannon-Weaver model of communication) - but have never been able to grasp it. Sure, I understand what people mean by miscommunication, to a certain extent at least - but the dichotomy of signal-to-noise still confounds me.

For think of the following: Suppose that you were talking with a friend about an NPC present for the first time in the game you both were in earlier, and heard everything that was said about him (quite a lot - he was an important character). Now, suppose that somehow you could remove all the "noise" from this discussion - your discussion would be pure signal when you talked about that character.

So then, in the context of that character, would you still have anything to talk about? If you would, what kind of issues could you talk about, and what kind of expressions would be useless?

On the surface, this might seem easy to answer. But scrutinizing what such a thing as pure signal could entail, answering it becomes quite hard, at least for me. When one chooses to say/write something, there's a lot of thought behind it, partaking in its emergence. What parts of those thoughts would be included in the signal? All of them? If so, would that not create a mind-meld scenario, or even a sort of possession?

(Anyway, this is getting off-topic, so I stop here - just wanted to explain why I asked. You can take these questions here as rhetorical)


Cheers,


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 04, 2005, 05:56:12 PM
Back to Devil's Advocate:  Lastly, individual imaginings are essential to roleplaying because that's where everything starts, and (when you get down to the nitty-gritty) that's where all the fictional details of the game reside.  Instead of creating rules that attempt to refer to and affect the elelements in the SIS, we can create rules that refer to and affect our individual understandings of the fictional content.  These imaginings are only inaccessible so long as they are uncommunicated; once they are communicated they are shared between the players' imaginations -- not in exactitude, but in ever-increasing parity through the action of the game.  And that is, by my definition, what we call roleplaying.


Hmm, interesting angle to player's personal thoughts, unlike the one I was yapping about in earlier post. As to creating "rules that refer to and affect our individual understandings of the fictional content" I think in a certain sense we do this already: For, what is a character but a way of affecting an individual understanding of the fictional content? Or the GM? (I have for a while considered things like characters as "methods of interpretation" since we rely on the fact that they create different viewpoints to play.)

But I think you are right in underlining this viewpoint. I don't think design possibilities are generally surveyed from angle. Emphasizing it might bring up some refreshing designs.

Cheers,


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Josh Roby on October 04, 2005, 08:39:29 PM
Yoicks!  This is like saying that the rules of hockey don't interact with the puck.

It's more like saying that the dimension of depth doesn't interact with the genre of cell animation.  I'm not saying that the SIS doesn't exist; I'm saying that if I can't use it, touch it, or interact with it, I'm going to stop trying and let it develop on its own.  I can write rules for what people do; I can't write rules for what people imagine.

Pekkok, just about everything you said?  Yes.

Chris -- if you equate the SIS with the acts of communication that occur during roleplaying, I'd say you're a lot closer to something that's functionally useful for game design than referencing this 'space' that exists without any substance and no reliable way to reference or affect it.  It sounds a lot like what I wrote up as the Interaction Model -- if you've got the time and inclination, it's an article not too far back in my blog, linked in my sig.


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Silmenume on October 04, 2005, 10:55:57 PM
Hey there Joshua and Pekko!

Without trying to sound like a weenie, but have either of your read Ritual Discourse in Role-Playing Games (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/ritual_discourse_in_RPGs.html), Not Lectures on Theory [LONG!] (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?t=10283), On RPGs and Text [LONG] (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=13560.0), Bricolage APPLIED (finally!) (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?t=14371)?  Many, many, many of the ideas you are wrestling with are covered in great depth in those links.

The SIS is not an ontological entity.  The phrase, “Shared Imagined Space” is a conceit that a theorist created to describe a phenomenon so that said phenomenon may be discussed.  That phenomenon occurs whether we have given it a sign or not.  Chris’ article on Ritual Discourse goes a long way to describing why there “feels” to be a difference between what we are doing while “role-playing” and when we are not “role-playing.”  He described it as ritualization and I think it is a great place to go to begin to unravel some of these knots which have arisen in this thread.  I mean stuff like the nature of signifiers, referents (and the fact we can never, ever get to a referent by using signs), structures, ritual space (which has bearing on the issue of the existence of the SIS), etc. and how they work in role-play. 

All four of the above links above go into great detail about linguistics, ritual, myth, bricolage, the Big Model and Exploration.  They are all worth a read as they are all germane to what has been wrestled with in the latter portion of this thread.

(Pekko – my feet aren’t uncomfortably hot yet!)

(Christoph – I will address your post to me!)


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on October 05, 2005, 04:12:23 AM
I probably agree with Joshua now that I see where he's getting at!

I will go read those discussions, Jay, thanks. I only read the last and got a look a the first up to now. So maybe if you're short on time as you suggested in an earlier post, leave the answer to my post be for the while being, I might understand your point better after those reads (and will get back to it).


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: pekkok on October 05, 2005, 04:43:23 PM
Hey there Joshua and Pekko!

Without trying to sound like a weenie, but have either of your read Ritual Discourse in Role-Playing Games (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/ritual_discourse_in_RPGs.html), Not Lectures on Theory [LONG!] (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?t=10283), On RPGs and Text [LONG] (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=13560.0), Bricolage APPLIED (finally!) (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?t=14371)?  Many, many, many of the ideas you are wrestling with are covered in great depth in those links.


I had read the article on Ritual Discourse and the Application of Bricolage (ran into a link somewhere else on the forum) earlier, but the others were new to me, thanks - great links, all in all.

I find Lehrich's approach thoughtful and fair-minded - I agree with many of his characterizations, such as the breakage of assumed meaning-language link coming into bloom with Nietzsche which he outlines in "On RPGs and Text". There are other culmination points, but if you pick one to summarize the issue, Nietzsche fits the bill. Incidentally one of Nietzsche's crucial texts on this issue, from his youth, is online: On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (http://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/tls.htm) (the title varies a bit depending on the translation - the text is about 7 book pages in length). One can pick many "faults" with this text's style of argument, but personally I cannot but love its "burning lucidity" and its courage to face up to language.

I also agree with him that the concept of bricolage holds potential in relation to roleplaying (well, at least as I know it from The Savage Mind - I am under the assumption that the concept has had quite a lot of use in sociology, but I am not familiar with the specifics - concepts tend to "drift" when heavily used). But I do hope it does not become a sort of catch-all concept (bricolage here, bricolage there - its b-b-b-b-b-b-b-bricolage everywhere!) - these just wear out to banality, eventually. Its a typically "modernish heidegger-frenchish semantish" concept - more an engine, a "generator" of meaning, rather than a stabilizing monument to "withold" meaning - and there other good ones where that came from (sources like other recent frenchies, and Big Daddy Heidegger, of course).

I disagree, though, with his characterisation of Derrida's concept of supplement (warning: pedantic nitpicking follows): I would approach the concept by outlining how processing a word is rooted on recalling, bringing forth earlier understanding - hence rooted on something "not present" or, in other words, relying on something "absent". In sum, meaning "here" is a guise and cover for understanding with a "not here" (and actually not anywhere, for there is no locatable place for the meaning of any word - in fact, a presence that relies on itself, that is "simply there", is inconceivable).

To that approach one should add that each application and deciphering of a word alters the further understanding of its meaning (Think of the meaning of the word "Hamlet" before you read the play, and after - where does the change in the word's understanding come from but its decipherment in changing contexts?). Hence a meaning once deciphered will never happen again, as is: meaning "taking place" is simultaneously a supplement of meaning, its alteration. (Derrida's other favorite, the concept of "iteration" is in the same neigborhood as "supplement").

But like I said, this is really more of a nitpick, and not all that important unless you have an unhealthy interest for theory of meaning.

More of importance, I think he overstretches the terms syuzhet (or sjuzhet) and fabula. The terms are already wildly overused (especially in narrative film theory); one should not stretch these poor terms even more! Especially when the modern theory of narrative offers so many alternatives: Tzvetan Todorov's different models of narrative in "Poetics of Prose" and later, Gerard Genette's alternative take on Todorov, Thomas Pavel's interesting later models, David Herman's "Story Logic" and its causal, syntactic take on narrative, concepts like spatial narrative (I personally recommend Wendy Faris' "Labyrinths of Language: Symbolic Landscape and Narrative Design in Modern Fiction" - even if you don't like the literature analysis, her dissectation of the concept of labyrinth in the beginning is wonderful), etc. All this richness - and that is barely a scratch of the surface - yet its once again those ever-green, near-centenary brothers: sjuzhet and fabula.

I actually like his idea of analysing roleplaying through the concept of myth (not through sjuzhet and fabula, though - but I guess I made that clear). But I don't you can put myth and literature on contrary terms (as in: myth rather than literature) as he seems to do - I think literature is actually fueled by mythic structures.

This is getting lengthy, so I'll summarize the rest: Great posts a lot of them, and I appreciate that you point them out. But I don't think any of those posts directly addresses the issue of SiS overlooking the differences between the personal and interpersonal in roleplaying, and how this difference affects our acts of communication, "sharing" (this is not to fault the posts, certainly - that's not their aim, after all). True, the concept of bricolage can be used to analyse certain issues of personal thought as a process of roleplaying - but its more a viewpoint on certain operations of personal thought, rather than a general model of them. Ritual, while once again an apt choice of concept for the analysis of roleplaying, addresses a yet different issue: It gives an alternative analytic angle on roleplaying as activity, a social phenomenon.

But I made my point, or points, in the previous posts. I think the way forward is to cook up a sketch explicating personal-interpersonal dichotomy in roleplaying, and see what it can offer. I did already sketch something on the issue, like I mentioned earlier - but as of this saturday, I'm going to be devoured by the Big Bear (i.e. heading to Russia) for a week, and I doubt I'll get it finished before that. But I'll get back to it later, promise.


Dasvidaniya (And that, folks, is about 30% of my "expertise in Russian": means "goodbye", spelling probably questionable - and I'm not even leaving until saturday. How low will a man stoop - just to insert a tinge of exotic color),


Title: Re: SIS: Beyond the Glossary (Help!)
Post by: Silmenume on October 06, 2005, 12:02:17 AM
Hey Jonathan,

Hopefully this isn’t too late to be useful, but I finally have a few moments to respond to you.

1) Am I just completely off my rocker, here?  Should I go with Ron's definition and assume that everyone else pretty much though SIS pretty much was Exploration?

I’m not going to comment on your sanity, but I will say that I do not buy that the SIS and Exploration are equivalents or near equivalents.  To me, the most basic and profound distinction between Exploration and SIS is that Exploration is a process and the SIS is a virtual construct that is created and acted upon via the Exploration process.

2)Have there been other attempts to define SIS that were more like what I'm describing or at least significantly different than Ron's definition?  I poked around The Forge a little bit, but couldn't come up with anything that really caught the eye.

You might try Shared Imagined Space, Shared Text (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?t=14893) started by Victor Gijsbers.  I don’t know if you want to wade through the following, but below are some specific posts that I contributed that touch on this topic - at least tangentially.

  • A post I made in Shared Imagined Space, Shared Text (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14893.msg160128#msg160128)
  • Goals and G/N and S (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15081.msg160843#msg160843)
  • The first couple of paragraphs in this extremely lengthy post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15173.msg162177#msg162177)
  • Exploration Is *REALLY* King - or - System Doesn't Matter As (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15213.msg162748#msg162748)
  • More on Task Resolution to facilitate Narrativism (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15369.msg164286#msg164286)
  • Beyond Credibility (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15616.msg167525#msg167525)
  • Parts of this post (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16217.msg172681#msg172681) also deal directly with the SIS and related issues.

I hope the linked posts above add some helpful elements to your ruminations.  As I said before, this is a topic that is of great interest to me.