Posted by: Ingrid | October 11, 2010

The Narrative In My Head

The project “Where the Hell is Matt”, is a digital narrative of a guy from Connecticut named Matt and his travels to various countries around the world. This series may not fall under the same category as what some theorists would refer to as the traditional narrative of storytelling. In fact, some would say that his story is not a narrative at all without a formal script or text to frame the story. In the book, “Narrative Across Media”, author Marie-Laure Ryan describes narratives as possessing “a type of meaning that transcends aesthetics and entertainment” (p. 9).

Matt’s video journey certainly falls into this “transcending” category because the clips of him dancing evoke an emotion that you will always remember and take with you. I can recall seeing Matt and some of his early posts. I can’t tell you all of the cities that he has captured but I can tell you that each time I see it, I smile. I have an emotional tie to Matt and I don’t even know him. Why is that? For me, Matt’s narrative is all in my head and tells a story of a happy-go-lucky guy that has the opportunity to travel and see the world. It does not matter if this is true or not because the narrative has already been told to me non-verbally. The person sitting next to me may receive a different message which is why it is difficult to “identify positively the other elements of the presumed system” (Ryan, p. 8). In the new age of digital media, we must look at the theory, the structure of the narrative and the narrative itself to deconstruct and analyze the story that is being told.   

Ryan, M.-L. (2004). Narrative Across Media. University of Nebraska.



  1. What is interesting for me regarding Where is Matt…is that we all have a positive responce to his dance. The locations make it different, but yet it is still the same narrative. Do you wonder if anyone got a bad vibe from his dance?

    • I can’t imagine that anyone would be offended unless there were some cultural cues embedded in the dance. But that is unlikely. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit back and watch something without the fear of a hidden message…Matt is enjoying life.

  2. I like your point about an emotional component to narrative. Ryan seemed pretty focused on the intentionality of the author (“being a narrative” versus having “narrativity”) but if watching a video or seeing a dance evokes a clear emotional memory, that seems like an important element–no matter if the experience is different for each person and not what the author intended.

    • I agree with your statement about the importance emotional memory. I thought Matt’s adventures were filled with “narrativity”…I wonder if Matt ever thought about the narrative he was creating?

  3. As you guys pointed out it “possesses narrativity” and that’s ok according to the author. Personally, I don’t think it matters if he thought along about creating his video with storytelling in mind.

  4. Did you have the same response on all the videos? For me, the response was very different in the 2008 video versus the other ones. I think there’s initially a response of “well, that’s pretty cool that he has traveled the world to record himself dancing.” It’s a clever video travelogue, but I think it’s really most interesting for people who know him personally. But I think what adds a dimension to the narrative is the inclusion of so many other people in the 2008 video. I think that’s when the video becomes less about “him” and more about “us”.

  5. Agree!
    Matt’s story is definitely not the traditional type.
    I think in this digital age, the definition of “narrative” might need change somehow.
    What really captures audience’s attention? Is it juts story itself? Or is there something that even more compelling than the story?

  6. Ask Matt to talk about how he came about changing the narrative between the first two videos and the 2008 one. I think he can offer you some insight to his process of changing his narrative.

  7. You make an excellent point about the emotions evoked by Matt’s videos and the feelings of knowing him without ever meeting him. Not only has Matt introduced himself as character, he has developed his character in a way that makes the audience relate to him and like him. I like Matt. I’d like to sit down and have a beer with him. I am a little jealous though. What I wouldn’t give to travel the world on someone else’s dime.

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