I have been a member of the COST Action 18230 — Interactive Narrative Design for Complexity Representations since September 2020. I could join the Action thanks to my supervisor, Prof. Marina Grishakova, whose book “Narrative Complexity: Cognition, Embodiment, Evolution” has been one of the foundational works for the Action: one of the work packages is named “Conceptualizing Narrative Complexity”.
The aim of this COST action is to build a network for the interdisciplinary study of the potential Interactive Digital Narratives (IDNs) have as means to addressing complexity as a societal challenge. The project looks at how IDNs can be used to better represent complex issues like migration crises and climate change and to make their user experience and comprehend these complex phenomena.
The Action touches topics that are very similar to my PhD topic (developed before discovering the existence of INDCOR): I am investigating the use of complex systems theory to understand narrative cognition in video games. My perspective is still slightly different – I look at representations as complex, while the Action looks at representations of complexity – but the two are in a position of mutual reinforcement and have many common points.
The participation to this network has been very beneficial for me both at a professional and at a personal level. I am currently part of the “Extended Core Group” of the network as a Virtual Networking Grantee. I am also part of the editorial team for one of the white papers of the Action, and member of the steering committee organizing a high-profiles outreaching event for next September. All of these opportunities have been very helpful in expanding my network and bringing new collaborations to my attention (e.g. I have a few joint publications and presentations currently in review with other INDCOR members). Thanks to the Action I could also get to know many people with whom a strong bond has been established.
Both the white papers and the outreaching event have the scope to inform designers, journalists, educators, NGOs and policymakers about our proposal to use IDNs to better explain complex topics to the general public. The Action also has a contract with Routledge for an Open Access Encyclopedia, to be published by the end of 2024, which could potentially have a great impact on academic discourses in the area.
I have not had the opportunity to participate in other COST Actions yet, but I know from COST evaluation reports of INDCOR that we have been one of the most active networks also during pandemic times.
I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest covered by a COST Action to get in touch with the respective chairs, as the participation is very rewarding. Even though it is true that COST funds are intended to cover travels and not actual work, the dedication of the people involved and the mutual support of the members, both to achieve personal goals and greater, overall outcomes, have the undeniable and otherwise unobtainable advantage of creating stronger communities and stronger collaborations. Many achievements that INDCOR already obtained (both as a group and for its members) would have been unreachable even by fully funded teams. This is because during the meetings sponsored by COST it became evident that creating a larger network of researchers is beneficial also in many indirect ways, like connecting distantly related ideas, discussing different perspectives and, not less important, mutually supporting each other also on a psychological level. While other funding schemes end up bringing together groups of nice but unknown colleagues, COST Actions form groups of friends working on the same topic, which brings along a completely different commitment to the cause and sense of participation to the field. And unity is strength, as sometimes is said.
Mattia Bellini, Doctoral Researcher, University of Tartu, Institute oInstitute of Cultural Research, Research group on Narrative, Culture, and Cognition