︎Back to Interactive & Experience Design

Fall 2021 ︎︎︎ SUNY Purchase ︎︎︎ (DES3090) Interactive & Experience Design

Viewing Party: Darmok


Above is the super exciting trailer for “Darmok” (S05, E02) of Star Trek: The Next Generation! This preview actually totally sells the episode incorrectly (though the monster is kinda cool looking for television of the era). As you’ll see pretty early on, it has a clear relationship to language, failure, and learning.

As you watch this, think about how this relates to situations of new learning, expression, and how it might impact how you approach programming.

Sci-fi bullshit thing that may be important

I like to rewatch these things for when I assign them, but at the time I’m constructing this page I haven’t rewatched it, so I don’t remember if this specific thing comes up. It may help to know there is something in the Star Trek universe called a “universal translator”, a device which translates known alien languages (it is supposed to be in their comm badges apparently, I thought it was just in their ear). In the show, this is the in-universe reason why a Klingon or Vulcan character appears to speak English and they don’t have to muddle through that stuff every episode. The crux of this episode becomes, as you’ll see not the content of the message but the meaning and syntax of the content.

How to Watch

You can watch this episode via Paramount Plus or Netflix. I’m not sure if Paramount Plus has the same versions but I’d highly recommend trying to watch on one of these platforms as they were recently rescanned and brought up to Blu-ray quality and they look great. If you’re not able to watch via those platforms I can provide a link to a more dubious website where it can be watched for free. Because of the nature of the website I won’t link it here︎

Questions to be ready to discuss and think about as you watch this

  • What did you think of the episode in general?
  • Does this hold up? Is it possibly a little bit racist (it is okay if yes, or okay if no)
  • What similar situations have you faced with learning something or shifting the paradigm of something that might be familiar?
  • How do you react to confusion or frustrating situations?
  • Picard can understand the words the Tamarians use, but not the syntax and meaning in the syntactical connections of ideas how might that relate to programming?
  • In English how does myth help us communicate and concretize ideas?
  • If you’ve done any programming, or learned a new language before does Picard’s experience relate to yours?

Some contextualizing videos/other critiques after you’ve watched the episode

Your assignment 

  • Please take notes on your reactions and feelings on the episode and make sure to upload them to the spreadsheet for class. It is fine to note your initial reactions but please make sure you extrapolate out your ideas into full sentences. For example “Wow that’s crazy!” Is not very helpful, but “The cliffhangar at the end of act 1 really heightened the stakes in the two people not being able to understand each other!” Additionally be ready to discuss said notes.

︎Back to Interactive & Experience Design