Stakes and Scrying

— May 2013

Form-making gets a lot of attention today.

New forms are what people talk about. They win awards, clients, money, and the praise of your peers. Then they begin to be reused, adapted, and become a shorthand for certain kinds of storytelling. Our collective attention privileges the thing.

But it’s worth remembering that forms are the substrate of a process. What you see rests on experiments with framing word and image in certain ways, dividing and managing readers’ attention and rhythm and flow, and a whole mess of technological superglue that bonds them together.

More often than not, the form that gets copied, but not the process that made it. Maybe it’s because copying the thing is easier. But to mimic something without understanding why it works is to become a cargo cult, unlikely to reap the benefits you’re hoping for.

The thing doesn’t matter. It – along with the assumptions, gambles, and affordances inherent – is simply a stake in the ground.

This worked here. It allows the adjacent possible, the next set of forms, to be uncovered.

Maybe it’s also because the thinking behind form-making is hard to decipher, and that we’re rarely comfortable with talking about this stuff. Not in the open, anyway, and not nearly enough.

This piece was first published by The Pastry Box Project.