I think one of the most exciting–but terrifying–aspects of networked narratives is the inability to “pin them down.” They are constantly shifting creatures unto themselves. Stars in the night sky, telling a different tale with every step taken. From one view, this idea twinkles. But, from another, it doesn’t even register. The scope is ambiguous, subjective.
Perhaps unreal. We try to make charts and maps but new information is always coming in. Things that once shined, dim. And, things that didn’t exist, do. How is anyone supposed to account for that other than to create an account of the changes?
These thoughts about how stories inhabit digital spaces and take shape followed me through my journeys this week. More, thoughts about how digital mediums can influence a story’s unfolding itself kept me company. What affordances digital platforms can provide imagination and creativity–even engage it. What is possible in a networked narrative and why are these possibilities meaningful? Like, is there a larger application?
Re-imagining & Imagined Travel
Well, this week was a trip.
First, a stroll down memory lane. Re-imagining the cover art for a book from a series I really like and appreciate. You can check out the specifics here. My dabblings with Photoshop also brought back old times–from high school, where I learned how to use the program. Not going to lie, my work reveals my rustiness. But, I found the concept surrounding the work to be an enlightening exercise in thinking about the ways images convey stories in and of themselves. How, tweaking them ever so slightly can alter perception. How images are multi-faceted–given power through our perceptions of them.
From reading Elit and make my own work of Elit last semester, I know the power of a subtly or not-so-subtly placed image in a work. In some cases, it’s an “Easter Egg”, so to speak, for those who catch it. In others, it expands or extends the level of meaningful interaction with a work. Digital storytelling, in this respect, I think returns to the days of picture-books. It returns our appreciation for them as well as reinvents it.
While working on my second exercise this week, a postcard from a magickal place, I especially felt a sense of wonderment in creating with images. Perhaps that is in part because of the magickal realm I “traveled” to–look see for yourself (maybe take your chess skills out of their cerebral storage case). But, there was this sense that I was extending myself in my work–kind of allowing my readers to literally “see” inside my head. Inside my world. How I imagine. It’s something I always try to do in my more traditional storytelling ventures–something I think all of us try to do–but short of turning our work into a picture-book (with all the childlike connotations that go along with that) it’s not the always feasible or realize-able. Words can only do so much on their own. We are each unto our own imaginations.
Overall, I found myself thinking about story construction whilst working on these projects. What elements are necessary to tell a “full” story and which ones are superfluous? How many words vs. how many images. What conditions do I want to plop readers into? What associations do I want to play with? How compelling can I make this?
I felt very imaginative and I think my work reflects that, perhaps, more than anything else. Imagination is my favourite form of magic and drawing other people into it as much as I can is my favourite spell to cast.
Fold that Story
So, impromptu trips. Let’s spend a moment on those.
For those who don’t know or didn’t/couldn’t participate, Kevin (@dogtrax) started an open, networked narrative on Twitter this week using a program called Fold that Story (?) If I’m not mistaken about that last part. Anyway, participants were all given this opportunity to write blindly, as it were. Meaning this story was written in bits and pieces, of which, participants only saw a singular piece before their own bit. So, we didn’t access to the whole history of the narrative. We got 250 characters max at a time and had to come of with 250 characters of own to keep the story going. To be honest, I’m surprised this story we created wasn’t more incoherent. Check it out.
Telephone 2.0 comes to mind–that game where you try to pass along one message from person to person without it being too warped. Except, here, it’s a community of people trying to tell a story through interacting with each other, passing the message along to create.
It was a very enchanting experience and really captured the essence of the “unexpected” that I am personally really enjoying the more and more I’m able to experience it. Both times I contributed, I felt genuine surprise. In traditional literature, with all of the plot development that goes in, genuine surprise can be hard to come by–especially for more seasoned readers, if you will. So, I appreciate the small enjoyment of surprise when I can come by it.
In the wake of all of this story experimentation, I have decided to create a tag on my blog for bot prompts and the like–work inspired by what some consider to be random nonsense. Honestly, I love the free-associative-ness of Twitterbots. I find the creativity they provoke to be fascinating and facilitating.
I have long term work I’m cultivating inspired by this tweet. It’s about necromancy and reapers and the living dead. If that interests you and you like reading indie stories, you may enjoy this series. Part I, Part II (will update as I create)
As for the more general, stand-alone prompts. I’ve got 1 so far that I submitted for a dda this week. But, I’ve got a lot of prompts lined up that I will hopefully get to this weekend ^.^ @helterskelliter on twitter if you come across any interesting or bizarre/disturbing prompts.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short and sweet story about serial/ritual murder and implied cannibalism, this story may be for you.
Until today, I was having trouble placing this independent work in the greater scheme of my learning as it pertains to this course. But, during my first Studio Visit, something kind of clicked. So, let’s talk about that now.
Technical Difficulties Notwithstanding
(Anyone else scrolling through AO3 before this discussion or was that just me?)
So, I couldn’t figure out how to get my stupid mic to work for this Studio Visit (soundcloud). Which was a bummer. But, it didn’t end up taking anything away from my communication and my ability to interact with Elizabeth Minke and Flourish Klink (especially Flourish which was so cool ^.^ to like interact with a active creator in this field~~excuse the fangirling but, it’s kind of appropriate *nudge, nudge*). Anyway, one of the major things I took away from the discussion we had was this idea that writing fanfic and engaging with it can pave the way for larger accomplishments. Small acts of creativity can build upon each other or can inspire larger acts. In essence, you need these smaller acts in order for the larger ones to take shape.
In this way, my short stories are facilitators of greater creative thought. They exercise my imagination. Feed it. Nourish it. Nurture it. And, more creativity is never a bad thing when it comes to thinking about digital spaces and networked narratives.
Of course, this discussion on fanfiction and fan culture was infinitely fascinating and I still haven’t really wrapped my thoughts around all of its great points. Honestly, I don’t think I can. But, some other stand-out concepts for me were “tags” and “the illusion of representation.”
Being a fairly avid reader of fanfic, I’m pretty familiar with the functions of tags in the community. They help organize, mainly, and they help moderate–so people don’t have to read things that trigger them in some way or things that they just don’t enjoy or appreciate in a narrative. Having someone ask me in the chat about how tags censure was kind of shocking to me because of my own understandings. Tagging is voluntary–not strictly imposed. Creators, of their own volition, tag their work. And, the intent is to make the fandom space a safe environment. It is not to censure. I mean, in the fandoms I’m a part of, at least, I’ve never seen it used in a nefarious, agenda-forwarding way. Tags are a moderating force not a censuring one.
As for the illusion of representation, I definitely know it exists but, as a young white woman, I don’t think my personal context lends itself to me fully realizing how much of an issue this is. In one sense, I think that there is a lot to appreciate about the representation in fan communities. As an ace individual, I get to read stories with asexual characters I otherwise would not be able to. Mainstream media doesn’t really have a place for that or for other LGBTQA+ people (I’m aware that the A respresenting ace/aro people instead of allies is a contentious issue–moving on). So, I think, in some ways, fanfic and fandom are progressive and inclusive. But, I also think they can be exclusionary in other ways, specifically when it comes to race or ethnicity. There is certainly a shortage of POC representation in these spaces. And, even going back to LGBTQA+ representation, it’s only recently that healthier depictions of same-sex couples exist. Probably because the writers using these spaces are becoming more diverse themselves.
Anyway, there is just so much to unpack from this conversation. I can’t possibly do it all in one post. In class, maybe we can get more into how fandom fosters communal creativity that can be applied to this overarching idea of the civic imagination. What is appreciated in fandom that could be more appreciated outside of it?
I don’t think I have any answers to the questions I first posed about networked narratives and their designs. As close as I can tell, digital stories are constellations–they can be pieced together from various points and these points can sometimes exist vast distances from each other. Some can be bright while others are subtle. Some may take a while to appear while others have more immediacy attached to them.
And, mapping them out is a whole other story.
Twitter (birdie in the upper left-hand corner or in the navigation bar below, too!)
When enameling–adding colour to a metal surface via heat–you have to protect the side you are not adding colour to with a material called scalex. It prevents the intense heat of the kiln–that is for melting the glass particles that make enamel–from discoloring or possibly burning the metal. When you take your piece out of the kiln, the scalex, which dries to a solid substance before being put in the kiln, becomes a flimsy, paper-like layer that falls right off–revealing unharmed metal beneath. These paper remnants, I think, kind of embody that idea I mentioned earlier–doing small things for a larger creative act to shine.
I just wanted to share this mini-epiphany with you all.
Catch you on the flip-side!