Saturday, July 21, 2007

Interactive Storytelling in Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal
Lusofona logo
I've added a new country to the list of places I've taught. This is my first-ever visit to Portugal, a place where not only do I not speak the language, I can't tell from looking at it how it should be pronounced. For example, I'm teaching at Universidade Lusófona, which I would expect to pronounce LU-so-FONE-A, but which is more correctly pronounced lu-ZOF-na. I think. Portuguese looks vaguely like Spanish with the tildes in the wrong places, but it sounds more like Russian -- there are a lot of strange gutteral vowels. And Lusófona, or Lusophone as we would put it in English, means "Portuguese-speaking." It's a private university with campuses all over the Portuguese-speaking world -- Portugal and Brazil of course, but also Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and other former colonies. I hadn't realized that Portugal's one-time empire had stretched so far.

University of Lusófona buildingsLike the University of Skövde in Sweden (another place I teach, rather frequently), Universidade Lusófona is housed in rather unprepossessing old military barracks. Fortunately the interiors have been completely rebuilt and are not nearly as depressing as that sounds. This campus is particularly dedicated to film, animation, and multimedia, so there are several studios, a motion-capture suite, a design workshop, and of course loads of computers.

I'm here to teach a four-day workshop on interactive storytelling to a group of students, with a couple of staff and professors thrown in. I'm giving the first of a series of modules, the most open-ended and theoretical one. After I'm done, the participants will be going on to do 3D modeling and animation with other instructors, building characters and locations from the games that they started designing in my workshop.

My only complaint -- as usual -- is that I'm not getting to see much of this new city. Everyone is hard at it all day, and I need to be there with them. But we're all going out to dinner tonight in the old town, so I'll get to see a little more of it, and perhaps some tomorrow afternoon. There's a fabulous castle here, according to the tourism websites...