Expose Art Magazine (June 2016)
Walter Iriarte is a professor of English for New Media at Dakota State University (DSU) special-izing in Rhetorical Theory and Communication. Holding a Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication and Information Design, Dr. Iriarte explores the boundaries and impact digital technology has on human communication. Specifically, he currently researches how Minecraft’s space augments how we write, create, and explore the theories of Rhetoric and writing.
As an example, Dr. Iriarte designed a Minecraft memorial titled “The Jodi-Scott Memorial” that bridges space and writing to be both a spatial experience and act of multimodal communication. The project began with the tragic loss of Jodi Corely and Scott Johnson. Having no familial or professional ties, Dr. Iriarte wanted to test how writing can become not only a communicative act bringing people who knew and didn’t know Jodi and Scott but producing spatial dimensions that transform writing into a design and architectural process. For example, the Jodi-Scott Memorial is designed as a shrine that holds as its center piece the names of Jodi and Scott. The words themselves become the focal point of the memorial which forces Minecraft writers to strategically design writing to have the most meaningful impact on visitors and participants of the memorial. The question that Dr. Iriarte wants to tackle is whether writing can mean more than what is written. Experiencing the site in (virtual) person, players will notice that Scott’s name is wrapping around Jodi’s name written in glass along the memorial’s flooring. Thus, Scott’s name is eternally embracing and protecting Jodi through his own name. The last two “t’s” in Scott’s name take on a symbolic crosses that allows the sun to rise through it every morning, conveying a spiritual-like experience. These are all part of the design process in which Dr. Iriarte had in mind. Furthermore, Dr. Iriarte wanted to challenge the notion that memorials can no longer be claimed, produced, nor reserved for the elite members of society, but that Minecraft becomes a place for all, regardless of gender, race, or social status. For Iriarte, Minecraft becomes more than just a game, but a space for cultural impact to archive and create illogical notions that can never be produced outside virtual spaces. Writing, therefore, becomes an active ingredient in the production and design of Minecraft Memorials, a practice implemented in upper-level courses at DSU. Dr. Iriarte continues to advocate for students to poetically create, invent, and produce writing that takes on material-like structures to commemorate and impact culture (whether on or offline) in order to tap into their creative possibilities. Writing in a Minecraft space is no longer a passive symbol of language, but one that produces a spatial experience of creativity, inspiration, and digital memory bridging sound, image, interactivity and space (practices lost in literate practices of writing).
For further details, please contact Iriarte at: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out a video of the Jodi-Scott Memorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHPXWnosmvU