As digital natives, today’s typical students are quite familiar with utilising the internet to connect with others. Mobile applications allow users to upload content at a moment’s notice, affording real time sharing. Amateur bloggers, photographers, artists and authors are beginning to tell their own stories at an earlier age with the increased affordability and accessibility of technology.
“Web 2.0 Story-telling: The Emergence of a New Genre,” explores how social media and digital sharing networks have changed the landscape of traditional storytelling. Instead of a tale having the standard Freytag Pyramid structure (exposition – rising action – climax – falling action – denouement), these new stories are continually evolving through collaboration, commentary, and adaptation. (Alexander & Levine, 40) Information no longer exists as static text on a webpage, but is constantly revisable through efforts of not only the original author but through efforts of a worldwide audience.
The amount of sharing platforms that exist on the internet are virtually endless and span various forms of expression ranging from quick phone snap photography (through applications such as Instagram) to 140 character snippets of text (twitter). These tools not only allow users to share their thoughts and experiences, in essence their stories, in real time, but allows the public to comment, share, and build upon these stories with their own reactions. This in effect alters the story. The initial content or aim of the message may not change, but the path it follows as a result of interaction may transform it into something completely different than the author had originally intended.
In 2007, Alan Levine led a project that had an ultimate goal of utilising 50 separate, free, Web 2.0 tools capable of mixing medias (text, image, sound, etc.) to create an embeddable or linked message, to tell a simple story of a missing dog. The mission of the project was not to rank the tools but to show the potential of what already exists and prove how many tools exist in cyberspace that users may not be aware of. (Alexander & Levine, 51) The study also proved to show the dramatic increase in both the accessibility and breadth of collaborative, creative tools and the differing results that could occur from the use of one over the other.
Last spring, I completed a research proposal on the advantages of fandom in the world of education. Merriam-Webster defines fandom as “the state or attitude of being a fan.” In more specific terms, fandom involves being part of a community that shares a common interest in a particular piece of media (book, movie, television programme) or a person of interest (actor, sports star). Through the exploration of various social sharing sites, I found a large subculture of storytellers who have taken existing text of what they enjoy and have turned it into an entire community of transformative works including works of fiction, illustrations, remixed audio/video works and extensive commentary both based on the object of the fandom and that of a personal nature. Users, both anonymous and known, who agreed to participate in a questionnaire ranged in age from fourteen to sixty-five.
A reluctant, self-conscious writer, I found a forum for others to review my work as an anonymous author, writing under a penname. As a result of that work, I was asked to join a round-robin type of experimental, improvisational writing group. Each contributor is assigned a character, who already exists in a separate fictional world, but in the group story is taken out of their historical origins and thrust into a present day, modern working world situation. Though these existing characters already have well-established, recognizable attributes, individual authors can, and often, bring personal experience into their own writings, ultimately changing the original character. These changes are often subtle and not enough to make them unrecognizable, for there are established parameters to work under.
Each post in this fictional role play causes the next responding author to adapt and change his/her response, thus constantly changing the story. Since both the authors and the audience are internationally based, the story is asynchronous. Viewers and creators can participate at the leisure, though there is a bit of pressure for the characters to keep the story moving! At times when authors can be online at the same time, the story can be read as it is created (in real time); those readers who have busy schedules can “catch up” with the story at any time by going directly to the archive and reading the posts all together. This particular role play encourages audience participation, from simple commentary to active suggestions.
The research of last spring also led me to take an international journey of my own this semester. Notorious for living in the moment and eventually forgetting details of my travels, I decided that I would document this adventure online through posts on the social media site tumblr. Having lost my computer to hard drive failure, I have relied heavily on mobile technology to keep up with studies, classmates, friends and family. I have utilized multiple apps to edit photos, record video of experiences, type up quick notes and chat with those near and far. My photos have been commented upon and shared on Instagram and twitter, often leading to new and interesting connections. Notices of events posted on twitter and tumblr have led to my own success in navigating the other side of my professional life in a foreign land.
Social media has the ability to change everyone’s story. Comments and sharing often lead to the spread of information, resulting in an international scaffolding of knowledge. It is important to know how to navigate this vast world of information, however, being sure to question what is real and fictional. It is just as easy to share truth as it is to pass along fiction. The more we are willing to share, responsibly, the less restrictive the world becomes.
Alexander, B., and Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0 story-telling: The emergence of a new genre. Educause Review. 43(6), 40-56. Retrieved November 22, 2012, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0865.pdf
Fandom. (2012.) Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 22, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fandom
(If you are interested in viewing my travelogue, click HERE.)