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Specialist or Generalist?
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:55 pm    Post subject: Specialist or Generalist? Reply with quote

Ok, so we've picked a persona. We have only so many hours a day to devote to developing an impression of that persona. Do we focus on only one or a few aspects of that persona's world and get very good at those in a relatively short time, or do we take a general approach to that persona's world and encapsulate every aspect possible into the limited time that you have, and take longer to develop a more complete persona?
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Rod L
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Joined: 16 May 2007
Posts: 226
Location: the Forks of the Yellowstone and Missouri
Real Name: Rod Lassey

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I try to be a generalist, and learn the varied skills and nuances that will, hopefully, make a believable impression. That said, I know there are some skills and experiences that I will probably not be able to gain any first-hand knowledge of. I, in all probability, will not be able to ride along side a buffalo, stick the muzzle of my NW gun in it's ribs, and pull the trigger. I can read about it, describe it to others based on that research, but it most likely will be secondary information rather than primary. That doesn't stop me from trying to experience the historical 'lifestyle' (for lack of a better word) that I am interested in, but I know that there will be limits to what I can or cannot do. Like it or not, I am in the 21st century.

I guess what I'm trying to say--to answer the question---is that I'd rather have a well-rounded and believable persona than be a specialist in a single aspect of that persona. Specialization can come later, when I've learned the basics.

I would add that developing the mindset, nuances, speech, etc. is the most difficult aspect of any persona--and one that I have the most work to do on. One can have the best gear in the world, but without the mindset, it just doesn't come off as believable.

Rod

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Pit
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 139
Location: Corydon Indiana
Real Name: Michael J Goodwin

PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We all would have had jobs in the period we represent.What our job is what we specialize in and is what we would be good at.We would also have had vast amounts of life experiances that would have shaped who we were.I think we must specialize in our jobs and flesh out our personnas t make a more rounded impression.

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Mario
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 560
Location: Mohawk Valley, NY
Real Name: Mario Doreste

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well it depends on the persona.

Take my RevWar impression. I was a tavern keeper/small farmer. Now I am raiding my former neighbors that kicked me out.

So the skills of a farmer are moot at this point. I'm not portraying the pre-war person and no events I go to/sponsor are civilian style. Frankly, I am not really interested in that facet of life.

So what I concentrate on are the military skills that I would have needed. Travelling, navigation, shooting, wilderness living, etc.

Mario

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carlilex
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mario wrote:
Well it depends on the persona.

Take my RevWar impression. I was a tavern keeper/small farmer. Now I am raiding my former neighbors that kicked me out.

So the skills of a farmer are moot at this point. I'm not portraying the pre-war person and no events I go to/sponsor are civilian style. Frankly, I am not really interested in that facet of life.

So what I concentrate on are the military skills that I would have needed. Travelling, navigation, shooting, wilderness living, etc.

Mario

But Mario, if you were a farmer, you would know how to farm, whether or not you use it at events is irrelevant. It's like saying I used to ride a bike, but now I have forgotten how because I have no need to do it anymore. My impression is a farmer as well, and I took last year off from reenacting and "learned" how to farm, on a micro scale, but still a learning experience. I now have a knowledge of taking care of 20+ chickens and a 4000+ sq ft garden, mostly 18th century style. So now I feel I can not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.... ok, maybe baby steps, but still steps, rather than saying "I'm a farmer" and not knowing the difference between a hoe and a shovel.
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Pit
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 139
Location: Corydon Indiana
Real Name: Michael J Goodwin

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Dave.Just because its the rev war going on doesnt mean commerce stops.It only stops when your dead.Even in the military you still had a job to do when you werent out.Wood cutting,butchering,working in the lab making cartridges for muskets and artillery, digging trenches,building out works and ect. ect.Its all up to the individual on how deep they wish to go.

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Rich Pierce
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 218
Location: St. Louis, MO
Real Name: Richard Pierce

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Mario is part of a unit, like Brandt's volunteers or something, where they may have a uniform, etc. That may affect how much of one's occupation they bring into their persona. But he does have a "regular" occupation and would be able to bring that into the impression. I agree that's important and in many cases, near the top of the list. A person's occupation determines a lot of their lifestyle and perspectives (then and now).
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Mario
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 560
Location: Mohawk Valley, NY
Real Name: Mario Doreste

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

carlilex wrote:






But Mario, if you were a farmer, you would know how to farm, whether or not you use it at events is irrelevant. It's like saying I used to ride a bike, but now I have forgotten how because I have no need to do it anymore.


It's perfectly relevant. If I was at Niagara (where no battles took place), I would be portraying the civilian side and would have much more of a need to have that skill under my belt.



carlilex wrote:

"I'm a farmer" and not knowing the difference between a hoe and a shovel.


But I don't say "I am a farmer".


Pit wrote:

I agree with Dave.Just because its the rev war going on doesnt mean commerce stops.


So? That commerce has little to do with my particular skill set. I am not a cog in the machine, just the beneficiary of it's end result.


Rich Pierce wrote:

I think Mario is part of a unit, like Brandt's volunteers or something, where they may have a uniform, etc. That may affect how much of one's occupation they bring into their persona. But he does have a "regular" occupation and would be able to bring that into the impression. I agree that's important and in many cases, near the top of the list. A person's occupation determines a lot of their lifestyle and perspectives (then and now).


FYI, Brant's Volunteers were unpaid Loyalist militia who wore civilian clothes (sometimes Indian dress). We lived in various Iroquois villages and later on were based out of Niagara. In either case, farming is not something I wpud be doing of really have the chance to talk about unless I was at one of these places.

Our provisioning came from raiding, not our own farming ability.

I understand where you guys are coming from, but I just disagree.

Mario

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carlilex
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mario wrote:

carlilex wrote:

"I'm a farmer" and not knowing the difference between a hoe and a shovel.


But I don't say "I am a farmer".


Mario

So what do you say when asked "What did you do before the war?" or "What will you do after the war is over?". I have been asked these questions by tourists and in my neck of the woods I feel I have to be able to talk intelligently about being a farmer, because it's a very real possibility the tourist asking the question is one.
I'm not trying to pick a fight, I am just trying to understand how some of the living history community can take certain parts of the culture and make it so important, yet ignore other parts completely.
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

carlilex wrote:
So what do you say when asked "What did you do before the war?" or "What will you do after the war is over?". I have been asked these questions by tourists and in my neck of the woods I feel I have to be able to talk intelligently about being a farmer, because it's a very real possibility the tourist asking the question is one.

You want to bring the persona home to them? Offer them a wormy 18th century apple. Then take a bite of one yourself. (Been there, done that, and the reaction is priceless.) LOL


Quote:
I'm not trying to pick a fight, I am just trying to understand how some of the living history community can take certain parts of the culture and make it so important, yet ignore other parts completely.

I think we're talking about establishing some believable context here, Dave.

Mario, let me ask you something. Would you say you're more in Living History for the sake of educating others, or for your own education? My guess is that it's the former. I don't believe I'd see the point in taking some of the pains I do for the sake of context either if I didn't think it would serve a purpose. I think we're zeroing in on an objectivist/subjectivist dichotomy here.


Details, details.....
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Swanny
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Joined: 17 May 2007
Posts: 186
Location: Two Rivers, Alaska
Real Name: Thomas Swan

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Do we focus on only one or a few aspects of that persona's world and get very good at those in a relatively short time, or do we take a general approach to that persona's world and encapsulate every aspect possible into the limited time that you have, and take longer to develop a more complete persona?


Actually, I've done (and still do) both.

My persona is that of a trader, and at events up here in Alaska I set up my store and pursue my trade just as my historical counterparts did. In that regard I'm a genaralist - performing nearly all the same tasks that my historical counterpart performed to achieve the same end.

I also specialize - as evidenced by my Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs project.

I think most of us probably do some of each as a matter of course. One needs to have a good grasp of his or her historical counterpart's daily lifestyle to offer a credible impression for either the public or for other reenactors, yet most of us are fascinated by some detail or another of our counterpart's life - and are inclined to give that detail a more thorough degree of study and/or exploration.

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Mario
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 560
Location: Mohawk Valley, NY
Real Name: Mario Doreste

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

carlilex wrote:


So what do you say when asked "What did you do before the war?" or "What will you do after the war is over?".


Actually, I haven't been asked either question.

But...basic facts about the farm economy can be answered fairly easily (most popular crop, etc)

The people I deal with ARE farmers (I'm in serious dairy country) so they have an idea about it already and don't seem to have any interest in that facet.

Actually, they come for the BANG! BANG! more than the history anyhow.


carlilex wrote:

I'm not trying to pick a fight, I am just trying to understand how some of the living history community can take certain parts of the culture and make it so important, yet ignore other parts completely.



Simply put, we all use a set time period to base our persona on. Mine is 1777-1781. In that time period, I would be fighting, not farming.

If I were to host a post-war event at Brantsford (ONT, Canada) where many of these guys settled, then it would behoove me (for the public and my own knowledge) to delve into the subject much more.

Jim,

You are correct in that this is mostly for ME. But as someone who attends public events and who likes interacting with the public, I do get enjoyment out of doing a little "teaching".


Mario

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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you're missing my point, Mario. What kind of provisions are you carrying? Where do they come from? Isn't that an aspect of any persona that's important, a small detail that your audience would find interesting, one that could be used to bring the persona home that much better?

I've been fiddling with raising heirlooms, esp. corn, for years, but it wasn't until I lost my commercial source for some of my "trekking" provisions that I began to really take an interest in raising my own, which in turn snowballed into a full-blown interest in 18th century agriculture. It didn't start out as my primary interest, just a way of supporting my primary interest. At the moment it is my primary interest, but eventually it'll fade back more into a supporting/contextual skill set as other interests become more prominent. In fact it does now. Every time I "trek" or reenact as a hunter or Indian Trader the right provisions are carried and eaten, and I know intimately where they come from. And it matters to me whether or not it does to anyone else.


Last edited by Jim Jacobs on Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:28 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jim Jacobs
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Swanny wrote:
I think most of us probably do some of each as a matter of course. One needs to have a good grasp of his or her historical counterpart's daily lifestyle to offer a credible impression for either the public or for other reenactors, yet most of us are fascinated by some detail or another of our counterpart's life - and are inclined to give that detail a more thorough degree of study and/or exploration.

I agree Swanny. See my comments to Mario above. I do wonder though which course different folks tend to take most often.

I was once accused of being a "dabbler", to which I answered, "True, but I've been dabbling for forty years." As long as there's some method to the madness it's all good, and you've got to look at persona development in the long term.
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Mario
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 560
Location: Mohawk Valley, NY
Real Name: Mario Doreste

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim Jacobs wrote:
Maybe you're missing my point, Mario. What kind of provisions are you carrying? Where do they come from? Isn't that an aspect of any persona that's important, a small detail that your audience would find interesting, one that could be used to bring the persona home that much better?



What I carry is representative of what my persona would have stolen from Rebels and after 1778/79, the provision issued out by the British military at Fort Niagara.[/quote]


Jim Jacobs wrote:

I've been fiddling with raising heirlooms, esp. corn, for years, but it wasn't until I lost my commercial source for some of my "trekking" provisions that I began to really take an interest in raising my own, which in turn snowballed into a full-blown interest in 18th century agriculture. It didn't start out as my primary interest, just a way of supporting my primary interest. At the moment it is my primary interest, but eventually it'll fade back more into a supporting/contextual skill set as other interests become more prominent. In fact it does now. Every time I "trek" or reenact as a hunter or Indian Trader the right provisions are carried and eaten, and I know intimately where they come from. And it matters to me whether or not it does to anyone else.


And I may do the same in time. But at this point the "riding, shooting, scavenging" is the more important (and more often used) skill set.

Mario

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