Stories have fascinated us for thousands of years. They have made up our folklore, our mythologies, as well as the religious stories that have informed certain moral codes. They are without a doubt a part of our society, our history and how we communicate. Today, stories continue to captivate us and we still respond to them on an emotional level. But while the stories may not change, the method used to tell them definitely has.
Initially shared verbally, then in print, then in auditoriums, then on television and now online, the next stage in storytelling is upon us: Interactive Story-telling. Neil Gaiman, the author of Coraline, is leading this trend. Together with the BBC, he’s using his Twitter account (a social networking tool, for those readers behind the times and likely reading this in print opposed to online) to write an audio book with the audience. Neil “tweets” the opening line of the story, and in 140 characters or less (the maximum length of a tweet), members of the audience sequentially add lines. It’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” fiction to the extreme.
An experiment similar to Gaiman’s is London’s Royal Opera House’s twitter-based composition, Twitterdammerung: The Twitter Opera. No joke, this work was written tweet-by-tweet by over 900 people, and is receiving a mass amount of positive reviews. With critical acclaim, be prepared for more experiments of this kind in the future.
Similar is the Multi-platform Experience. It was once believed that an audience could have a completely “immersive” experience sitting in a dark theatre in front of an enormous screen with earth-rattling sound. That’s no longer the case for audiences today.
Take, for instance, a little television series called Lost. Well, “enormous franchise” might be more accurate. Lost has expanded its story of plane-crash survivors on a bizarre island into several platforms. Mobisodes available online and can reveal clues to the show’s ever-evolving mysteries, and include scenes which paint characters in a new light. Online interactive games allow the audience to become a character on the island and explore it for themselves. Want to know more about the inter-textuality of the show’s literary references or physics allusions? Pop in a disc from your season box-set into a Blu-ray player and participate in “Lost University,” where instructors take you through the subtext made possible by these references. At your local bookstore you can pick a copy of “Bad Twin,” a novel written by one of the characters in the show’s universe. Websites for the fictional Dharma Initiative and Hanso Corporation are accessible to viewers online. Finally, even phone numbers for the show’s Oceanic Airlines are available for the audience to call and to retrieve information.
All this demonstrates how the story has spilled over into the real world, blurring the lines between where the story begins and ends. No longer are we simply being shown or told a story, but now we can truly become a part of the fiction. Indeed, we’ve officially moved on from the “Information Age” and into the “Digital Age,” and can become a part of the information and content available.