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Author Topic: [Dark Ages Vampire] Assessing Creative Agenda  (Read 3029 times)
Frank Tarcikowski
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« on: January 24, 2008, 04:15:35 PM »

Over in this<thing<Dracon<That<even though
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Reithan
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« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2008, 04:44:10 PM »

Contrary to your statement, I think I had a pretty good bead on it being Sim even before you got the summary at the bottom. Due to a few factors here.

Exploration: Our characters came to the city of Constantinople around 1250 AD. They . They found their place, chose which leader to follow. Picked their enemies. Picked their lovers. Lost their lovers. One (mine) created a new Vampire, a troubled relationship. One PC became the thrall in a blood bond to another PC. There were some dramatic scenes, fights and the likes, in between. Major NPCs died the final death. Around 1350 AD, the PCs fled the invasion by the Muslims.

Techniques and Ephemera: Plain old role-playing. The players played their characters, the GM did everything else. Rules were applied mostly as written. Significant dice rolls were about combat, the use of disciplines, and resisting frenzy. Willpower points were spent. Blood pool was used to boost attributes in combat. Combat did not happen every session, but when it happened, there was some serious rules strategizing going on. Across the game, OOC commentary was constantly present. A lot of scenes were played with only one character in the scene, but all players strongly engaged, making suggestions and comments.
Added a little formatting here to help pick things out.
1. You focused a lot on things like dates and name - historical-type info.
2. You described finding out about society there, nothing about themes or going in after phat lewts.
3. You mentioned 'dramtic scenes' and 'fights' and being 'in between' the other exploration, as-in secondary in importance.
4. The GM kept control of the setting and rules, while the players just hung out in his arena.

Now, as mentioned in the previous thread, nothing here is specifically a Sim technique or Exploratory focus, however, this overall theme of your Techniques, added to your overall focus in Exploration makes this a very Pro-Sim situation. Sure, even with all this in place, you could have played a decidedly Nar or Gam game, but the deck's stacked against that.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is, to me, similar to Ron's essay on "System Matters". The system matters, but so does everything else. Everything matters.
To me, it's a fallacy to say you can have a ton of Techniques, System, Exploration and Social Contract in place that all support a certain CA, and then say that those will have no bearing on what your final CA becomes. Even if you defy that leaning and go to a different CA, they're still going to make a mark on it.

If someone disagrees, I would like to find some example to the contrary. Find me an example of a cohesive, functioning game that has the majority of it's components slated towards a certain CA(CA1), yet the play itself ended up in another CA(CA2), without having CA1 even as a 'Secondary'.

I don't think it's possible outside of theory, personally.
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Caldis
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2008, 06:22:41 PM »

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Reithan
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« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2008, 07:08:09 PM »

Well I think your missing something Reithan.  Frank gift wrapped it for you in the way he presented it and the fact that he mentioned it was a sim game in the previous thread plus he added it in his conclusion.  Even then he's right that the short descriptions he gave could mean or describe any CA, his description could work for a very nar game of Heroquest as easily as it did his sim game of Vampire.
[...]
So you see simple statements thrown into a bigger conversation can gum up the gears.  You see one of the above and think he's talking gamism or nar but he's not.
I get what you're saying here, but I'm saying, look at the bigger picture. Sure he had 1-2 gamist things there, and he had 2-3 Narr things, but he had 4+ Sim leaning Techniques right there. So, overall, the trend in his playstyle was towards Sim.

Thus, his group would more EASILY be playing Sim here. Sure he COULD play Nar, or even Gamist. But it would require working AROUND those techniques, rather than just letting them do their thing.

I'll just refer back to Ron's "System Matters" article for an example of what I'm talking about - I think I'm citing it correctly here.

He said there, that a system that lent itself to one CA well COULD be shoehorned into another - but why bother? Why not just play a game more suited to what you want to be playing? In short, why try to do long-range sniping with a shotgun? Just use a rifle! Sure, shotguns are great, but for long range accuracy you'll end up modding it to hell, when you could have just picked up a rifle to start with.

I do believe getting a better idea of what CA your group is going for would help your discussion on getting characters invested in a community.
[...]
What I'd ask from you Reithan is you could give a summary of your game similar to the form Frank used.  Social contract is big - who are the players in your group and what's your relationship with them.  Give us more on the exploration - what kind of situations do the pc's find themselves in, what are the most memorable ones that you think the whole group enjoyed.  Techniques and ephemera can help as well - when did the dice come out, are suggest from the other players allowed?

Another thing I'd ask is this, You want community to matter in this game but why?  How do you see a strong player investment in community fitting back into what your group enjoys about the game?
Sure, I think this is a good idea, too. I'll see what I can do. It might not be as good as Frank's, though.

Social Contract: We're a group of players that met over an online MMO and after our guild in that game broke up after a few months we decided we had a friendship worth keeping around and looked into other things to do together. As such, we now play other online games together, as well as 2 RPGs that we play using a combination of MSN Messenger and Ventrillo voice chat. We're all adults (18+).

Exploration: The characters came into the game as newly indoctrinated into their respective orders and given a 'gift' of an area for their cabal to call its own. This is Monterey, CA. They, so far have met with several supernatural treats in their area, attempted politics with a few different groups and had both alliances and enemies made. (more the latter than the former). They engaged in some intra-party conflict and exploration of adult themes for a while. They tried investigating some local mysteries but gave up on that quickly. They've had their share of loss and gain (still, more the former than the latter).

Techniques and Ephemera: The players and GM collaborated on the setting, the 'goals' for play and the parameters for what was acceptable in characters and their behavior. One of the initally created characters was secretly (only that player and the GM knew) a hostile NPC spy. Dice rolls, due to restrictions from internet play are handled soley by the GM, and some of the players don't understand the system used very well. Rules apply MAINLY as written, with the exception of a few minor house rules to allow interesting character concepts and to eliminate some rules loopholes and confusions. Combat is actually fairly rare (maybe 1 out of 5 sessions) but battled intensely and in-detail when it happens. Willpower is spent often, as is mana. Most spells cast are improvised, though some characters are learning the importance of rotes in relation to character effectiveness.
Social roles are only called for in key situations or situations where one or the other party is directly opposed to the other (anything else is just sort of moot anyway). Scene framing is handled mainly by common suggestion and is open to all participants, though any element that's in-question usually comes down to a die-roll on a relevant attribute (Say, Intelligence+Streetwise to find an underground rave downtown). NPCs are authored mainly by the GM, as a default, though players may contribute as well.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2008, 11:10:10 PM »

Quote
To me, it's a fallacy to say you can have a ton of Techniques, System, Exploration and Social Contract in place that all support a certain CA, and then say that those will have no bearing on what your final CA becomes.

The point is: They don't. That description of Techniques and Ephemera up there? Fits 100% for the Reign game I'll play in tonight. Which is totally Narrativist.

- Frank
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2008, 12:58:43 AM »

i]is<
Quote
Let's say that the following transcript, which also happens to be a story, arose from one or more sessions of role-playing.
Lord Gyrax rules over a realm in which a big dragon has begun to ravage the countryside. The lord prepares himself to deal with it, perhaps trying to settle some internal strife among his followers or allies. He also meets this beautiful, mysterious woman named Javenne who aids him at times, and they develop a romance. Then he learns that she and the dragon are one and the same, as she's been cursed to become a dragon periodically in a kind of Ladyhawke situation, and he must decide whether to kill her. Meanwhile, she struggles to control the curse, using her dragon-powers to quell an uprising in the realm led by a traitorous ally. Eventually he goes to the Underworld instead and confronts the god who cursed her, and trades his youth to the god to lift the curse. He returns, and the curse is detached from her, but still rampaging around as a dragon. So they slay the dragon together, and return as a couple, still united although he's now all old, to his home.
The real question: after reading the transcript and recognizing it as a story, what can be said about the Creative Agenda that was involved during the role-playing? The answer is, absolutely nothing.Quote
Let's say that the following transcript, which also happens to be a story, arose from one or more sessions of role-playing.
Lord Gyrax rules over a realm in which a big dragon has begun to ravage the countryside. The lord prepares himself to deal with it, perhaps trying to settle some internal strife among his followers or allies. He also meets this beautiful, mysterious woman named Javenne who aids him at times, and they develop a romance. Then he learns that she and the dragon are one and the same, as she's been cursed to become a dragon periodically in a kind of Ladyhawke situation, and he must decide whether to kill her. Meanwhile, she struggles to control the curse, using her dragon-powers to quell an uprising in the realm led by a traitorous ally. Eventually he goes to the Underworld instead and confronts the god who cursed her, and trades his youth to the god to lift the curse. He returns, and the curse is detached from her, but still rampaging around as a dragon. So they slay the dragon together, and return as a couple, still united although he's now all old, to his home.
The real question: after reading the transcript and recognizing it as a story, what can be said about the Creative Agenda that was involved during the role-playing? The answer is, absolutely nothing.
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Reithan
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2008, 11:36:17 AM »

Quote
To me, it's a fallacy to say you can have a ton of Techniques, System, Exploration and Social Contract in place that all support a certain CA, and then say that those will have no bearing on what your final CA becomes.

The point is: They don't. That description of Techniques and Ephemera up there? Fits 100% for the Reign game I'll play in tonight. Which is totally Narrativist.
To me, by definition they HAVE TO.

An Ephemera is ANYTHING done at the table. A technique is a combination/grouping of those Emphemera.

So, to say that a CA has absolutely nothing to do with anything that actually happened during a game, you may as well just say "Well, you just sort of randomly assign a CA - they're not really determined by anything."

If you had a coherent CA - it was do to SOMETHING that was going on in your games. Those somethings are Ephemera. Those Ephemera can be classed into groups as Techniques.

So, if your CA is determined by Ephemera and Ephemera can be grouped in Techniques, then YES Techniques determine your CA.

The point, I think, and I could be totally off-base here, that Ron & others have consistantly made is that your CA is not the sum of all your Ephemera - just the sum of the ones that were important to your group. So, you can have a lot of false leads these...you can reference TONS of Techniques and Ephemera and if you don't make any note of which ones were REALLY important to your group then it all means nothing.

What I was saying above though it you had a detectable 'theme' or 'trend' to your Techniques. That theme would influence your CA. Now, sure, you could easily have just been doing all that stuff by coincidence and in fact the only 'important' bits to you was the Nar bits and thus you played a Nar game...but as the majority of the mentioned Techniques trended towards Sim, I guessed (and in this case correctly) that the CA was Sim.

Yes, it's still a guess. But, it's an educated guess.

Similarly, if someone said "My group's interested in exploring Nar play" then you could probably suggest some Systems, Techniques or Ephemera to try that would help support or enhance that style of CA.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2008, 01:04:44 PM »

Hey Reithan, let me set one thing straight: My purpose in this thread was not to put up some thesis for argument. The purpose was me explaining the Big Model to you, because you expressed your frustration at not understanding, and I'm pretty sure I do understand. Of course, you'll have to believe me that I understand (maybe this helps). You don't have to give me that credit, and if you don't, that will be fair enough and I won't be offended. In that case, however, I suggest that someone else (specifically, Ron) should take over, because then it makes little sense for me to go on. Your call.

- Frank
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Reithan
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« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2008, 03:04:48 PM »

Hey Reithan, let me set one thing straight: My purpose in this thread was not to put up some thesis for argument. The purpose was me explaining the Big Model to you, because you expressed your frustration at not understanding, and I'm pretty sure I do understand. Of course, you'll have to believe me that I understand (maybe this helps). You don't have to give me that credit, and if you don't, that will be fair enough and I won't be offended. In that case, however, I suggest that someone else (specifically, Ron) should take over, because then it makes little sense for me to go on.
Ok, Frank. I wasn't replying on your assumed basis of me arguing with your, or competing with you or trying to proove you wrong.
Though, your assertation that basically your points are not up for discussion is, imo, not a very good standpoint. Anyone who is unwilling to discuss his beliefs is fundamentally weakening them.

Now, I do believe you understand what you're saying - or I wouldn't even be paying attention to you, but I don't believe I have to take everything you say as gospel without explaination.

The only point I'm trying to discuss here, which you seem either unwilling or able to do at this moment is already said in your very own post that you just referenced:

Attention: Creative Agenda is the full picture! It is recognized when watching a group play for a longer instance, with special attention to moments where specific priorities may conflict with each other<
You said it, Ron agreed with it, and I'm trying to draw attention to it, yet now somehow I'm the badguy? I don't get that.

I'm saying what you've both already said: Creative agenda includes all points and parts of a roleplaying experience. That includes System. That includes Techniques. That includes Ephemera and Color and all the other great things I've read about in the Big Model. I didn't come up with this idea. I'm just regurgitating it.

What I have come up with on my own, which, I think, is a pretty basic inference, is that as all of these things are peices of your CA, they all have an EFFECT on your CA. Each individual peice itself may not innately determine what your CA is - but they ALL affect it.

To that end, many times Ron, in his articles has mentioned Techniques or System which more readily support or enhance a given CA than another. Sure you can use them for other CAs and they may work just fine, but they have a 'bias' toward a given CA.

My inference here, is that if you look at "the full picture" (your definition of a CA) and notice an overal trend in the bias of the individual pieces of the group's roleplaying experience, then that overall bias will have a large effect on the group's CA. I really don't see this as reaching very far, logically. Take, for instance your assertation that one should pay "attention to moments where specific priorities may conflict with each other". Any Technique or Ephemera used by a group has been used for a reason. Either it's the only one they know, it's the best one they like, or it's just better than the others they know for the given gaming experience. Given that each piece MAY (not always) display a bias towards a certain CA, it's logical to assume that, over time, a group playing under a given CA will tend to swap out pieces of their full picture for other pieces that will better support their CA - pieces with a 'bias' towards that CA.

So, if one looks at a game that's gone on for more than just a short time, or at a game played by players with more than a couple GOOD games under their belts collectively, one should assume that most of the Techniques and Ephemera and whatnot that are in play are there for a reason. Those reasons may also include that individual component's 'bias'. So, if you notice an overarching trend in the 'bias' of all peices, then, I think, logically, you would be able to make a fairly educated guess that this 'bias' indicates the group's CA.

If I have made a mistake in my logic somewhere here, or if you find that this does not hold up under scrutiny I would, and I mean this completely honestly and seriously, LOVE to have it pointed out.

NOTE: By 'pointed out' I do NOT mean just going, "NO, you're wrong!" But, to actually explain it to me WHY, HOW or WHERE I have become flawed in my thinking.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2008, 04:56:34 PM »

The question is: Do we talk about the Big Model, state of the art, what it says, period? Then there is no argument, there is explanation. Or are we talking about whether the Big Model is a good model to begin with? I'm not interested in that.

I don't know, I thought my example was a really good one because it has those parts in it that, with your technical approach, look like Gam and Nar telltales when they really aren't. I used this example for exactly that reason: Because I think it illustrates well how CA is an underlying principle, and not "what happens each single moment". It's more like "what it keeps coming back to". If that example doesn't work for you, because you went right for what you perceived as the Sim telltales and ignored the rest... hm. I guess then I don't know what else to say.
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2008, 05:17:59 PM »

I don't think the question is "is the model good" but rather "how does one apply it".  How does one go from identifying a CA and then deciding to do or not do a specific thing to support or encourage it?  If CA cannot be related to techniques or ephemera in any meaningful sense then we do not really have a useful tool.  At present it seems the only function of CA is to apply a label to an observed behaviour, which is all very well for broad descriptive purposes but what actual functional USE is it?  We don't seem able to say, if I want to design a game or alter a play style, I should seek out these techniques and avoid those.  And if we can't do that, how can we have a discussion amongst real people as to what to do, what to change, or why something should be changed?
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Reithan
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2008, 06:05:19 PM »

The question is: Do we talk about the Big Model, state of the art, what it says, period? Then there is no argument, there is explanation. Or are we talking about whether the Big Model is a good model to begin with? I'm not interested in that.
Agreed, 100%. I do think it's a good model. I can see great examples of it in play in just about any successful game I've ever run or played in.

I don't know, I thought my example was a really good one because it has those parts in it that, with your technical approach, look like Gam and Nar telltales when they really aren't. I used this example for exactly that reason: Because I think it illustrates well how CA is an underlying principle, and not "what happens each single moment". It's more like "what it keeps coming back to". If that example doesn't work for you, because you went right for what you perceived as the Sim telltales and ignored the rest... hm. I guess then I don't know what else to say.
Did you even read through my last post or just skim it and go "tl;dr, lol!"
This is the exact point I went over in my last post. I am NOT talking about individual Techniques or Ephemera. I am NOT talking about a "single moment".
I AM talking about "what it keeps coming back to" and the "underlying principles".
I did NOT ignore the other parts that weren't Sim-related. I did NOT skip straight to the Sim.
Please re-read my previous post. PLEASE.

I don't think the question is "is the model good" but rather "how does one apply it".  How does one go from identifying a CA and then deciding to do or not do a specific thing to support or encourage it?  If CA cannot be related to techniques or ephemera in any meaningful sense then we do not really have a useful tool.  At present it seems the only function of CA is to apply a label to an observed behaviour, which is all very well for broad descriptive purposes but what actual functional USE is it?  We don't seem able to say, if I want to design a game or alter a play style, I should seek out these techniques and avoid those.  And if we can't do that, how can we have a discussion amongst real people as to what to do, what to change, or why something should be changed?
BANG! Spot on. Fucking bullseye. Two thumbs up on this one.
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Caldis
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2008, 11:43:01 PM »


I think this discussion is veering off onto a weird little side trip that isnt going to be very fruitful.  I'd suggest we move past the theoretical discussion of the model and get back to the actual games.

What I see different between Frank's description of his game and yours is an agenda, a force that's driving the whole group towards a common goal.  The techniques and ephemera his group is using may be supportive of that goal but they dont define the goal.  The goal exists beyond the techniques, it uses the techniques to achieve something.  I think that may be the problem with discussing your game, you (or the group) dont seem to have a goal or at least not one that's clearly defined.  You are looking for techniques that will sort out the problems but if your group doesnt share a goal and you just try and find techniques to suit a goal of your choosing you may just end up butting heads.  I see that in the parent thread discussion on how the players turtle and avoid becoming part of the community whenever any possible threat shows up.  I also see you wanting to get the players to invest in community but I dont really see you saying why you want that investment?  How does investing in the community relate back to any agenda you've been trying to aim for?

Does this make sense to you?  I dont want to come across as patronizing but we really need to move past this discussion on what constitutes agenda to move on with your game.  If we need to go over this yet I'm willing to continue but I'd rather get on to discussing that summary I asked you to provide.

To be clear the big error I see in your thoughts (and it may just be the way you are wording it not meshing with the way I hear things) is that techniques are part of the creative agenda when they arent, they are tools that support it.  Those same tools used slightly differently may support another agenda.  We can make out CA by seeing how the tools are used and inferring the reason why they were used that way but just by knowing what they are they dont really tell us that much.



 
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2008, 03:01:14 AM »

Gareth, you are right, and I am not a Big Model fanboy if you believe it. I'm not saying there should be no talk about what you are pointing at and I certainly have my own thoughts on it. I'm saying three things instead: 1) I'm not interested in that, for personal reasons, which I ask the participants in this thread to respect. 2) Without actual play examples, statements about what "affects" which just hang there, without much meaning. 3) Before one starts questioning the Model, one should first understand what it really says.

Reithan, again, I understand your frustration. Boy have I been pissed by all these guys telling me I didn't understand when I first came to the Forge. Of course there is a connection between Techniques and Creative Agenda. But if I re-read some of your comments from the parent thread, and what you say here, there is a missing link. The missing link is the Reward Cycle. Check me on this:

Role-playing, as an activity, consists of four layers of the Big Model: Social Contract, Exploration, Techniques and Ephemera. All of these are present, to a degree, when you roleplay, as an activity. Creative Agenda may or may not be present and shared. So just because you are doing certain things on Ephemera or Techniques level which seem to lead to a certain goal, may mean different things:

* You are just using that Technique and heading that perceived goal out of habit. For example, not telling a player what his character doesn't know, because it "has to be like that" so you can "immerse".

* You are doing something, on Ephemera or Techniques level, because you like it and it's fun, but there is no direct connection between it and your Creative Agenda. For example, a whitty in-character dialogue that has everybody laughing.

* There is a specific feedback between you doing whatever you are doing and the game's long term pay-off, it ties into your Creative Agenda. In my above play Example, talking to a major NPC and learning new things about them and their history, for example.

(None-exhaustive list.)

I'm talking about observing a group in play and assessing Creative Agenda. What you say about how Techniques are relevant ("System does matter", basically), is all nice but not particularly helpful when you're still assessing CA. Once you have done that, and are sure there is a Shared CA and which one, then you can tell what Techniques work in that context, which ones are broken, which ones are fun but not relevant to CA, and which ones that are not applied yet maybe might fit in well.

In the parent thread, I suggested to focus on Techniques instead of Creative Agenda for a different reason, which I've explained over there: Because I think that your primary problem is killing those die-hard habits, and when you do, then Creative Agenda will work out given a few sessions. The problem is that I am working on a very thin base of information and a lot of assumptions, which is why I may be totally wrong about it, which is why for explanatory purposes, I posted about my own game instead. I mean hey, I didn't even know it was a VoIP game when I posted to the parent thread.

So if your purpose in this thread is to understand what you are missing right now, check out Reward Cycle, as a concept. The difference between play with a Shared CA in place and other play (incoherent or just "agenda-less") is a reliable Reward Cycle. And in those first three parapgraphs where I talk about my game, there is no information with regard to Reward Cycles. Which is why, if you guessed it was Sim from those three paragraphs, that was a guess but nothing more. There was no way to be sure about it. Cool?

- Frank
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2008, 04:15:44 AM »

Oh, and also, I'd like to second this, word by word:

To be clear the big error I see in your thoughts (and it may just be the way you are wording it not meshing with the way I hear things) is that techniques are part of the creative agenda when they arent, they are tools that support it.  Those same tools used slightly differently may support another agenda.  We can make out CA by seeing how the tools are used and inferring the reason why they were used that way but just by knowing what they are they dont really tell us that much.
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