AC Digital Networked Narratives 2020

There's more than one way to tell a story.

Tag: dnn

Link to Final Project Video and Author’s Statement

Published / by lailaalrifai

Here’s the link to the final project that I made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_eLiyORTvo

Author’s Statement: For this project two of the themes that I have incorporated to this project would be personal presence, as the story establishes on building upon details about the main character Siren and explaining her existence through a first person point of view. I also incorporated on the theme of platform affordances since I pretty much whatever technology that I could use to bring this attempt at the final project into fruition. There were some issues in executing in how this project would turn out but eventually there is a product involved. I hope that my audience would be more interested in the story so it can develop even more. I don’t think there are other pieces similar to the one that I’ve made. This video heavily takes in the most traditional method of storytelling in a digital sense.

Final Project – Crenshaw County

Published / by nchaviers

Link to the game/ARG/terminal

Link to the design doc

So, to say the least, I didn’t get this developed nearly as far as I wanted to. I think I started on something big later than I should have and all of my classes caught up to me. Ideally, this would be a whole big ARG and I’d post things a bit more discreetly, but the end of the semester has come to pass, so getting anything I have turned in is necessary.

What did I learn? Well, for one, giving yourself hard deadlines is super important. This has made me really reconsider how I go about working on projects and pace myself. I really need to start assignments as they’re assigned and need to make sure I give each element of the project plenty of time to consider. Things I thought would just take a moment took way longer. Pace, pace, pace.

I’d also say that while this didn’t go as planned, I think it would’ve been really cool to flesh out. I, at least, think it was a neat story and concept, and that the semester as a whole has really given me hope in being able to develop something cool story-wise.

So, ultimately, yes, it’s incomplete. It’s not nearly how I wanted this post or this project to be. But, I would say I’m definitely taking a lot away from it and want to do better on the next one.

Author’s Statement + Pings

Published / by sammmarsh

My project…did not turn out how I wanted it to. My vision was a digital narrative centered in a blog format that danced into ARG territory through links to both real and staged events. The narrative would be about a family trying to find, then rescue their missing son from this creepy academy that’s super mysterious and definitely interests the reader. It would culminate with a twine game that gave the reader multiple endings based on how they chose to go about the finale. Unfortunately…my project ended up as more of a hollow shell of this well-filled dream. A pale shadow of the bright light of my imagination. A cheap knock off of my designed designer product. This is due to a number of things, but I think the one that most effected me and my progress was the actual writing itself.

I’ve written short stories before, and while I’m not super good or skillful, I’ve definitely done better than I did here. In a regular short story, something good to remember is that because you don’t have as much time to tell your story you should focus your plot around a main character or a central event. You should structure the story to a “crux”, and that crux should be what you want to reveal about your main character or event that is hinted at, but not told to the reader beforehand.

Because of the format, I think I spent much more time on attempting to develop a sense of realism and not trying to craft an especially inspired narrative. I don’t know who my main character is–It should be Bonnie, but I think she ended up more as a storytelling vessel than a real character. I wanted her to have a progression from sweet to ferocious the more desperate and confused she became, but her mannerisms are all over the place and I don’t think there is a real way to track her progress between posts.

As I was writing this story I knew this, and spent a lot of time trying to fix it to no avail. I really should have asked for help or asked someone to review it, because I got in my head and ended up stressing out for a lot of time I could have been doing actually productive work.

As for Alexander’s themes, here are the main ones I was focusing on and how I implemented them.

  • Personal Presence–I think the way I incorporated personal presence and audience into this project is pretty interesting, even if it’s not amazing. In the beginning, the audience is addressed by Bonnie as readers of the blog. However, throughout the story they’re given a character to control that’s addressed in second person. I think it’s interesting to give the reader a character that represents them. I could see some people love being explicitly brought into the story, and some people feeling like their sense of immersion was broken.
  • Serial Structure–Ideally, my project would have been broken up into serial updates. I think if I was actually doing this, I would have asked for like a blog subscription list so posts (and games, but we’ll get to that) could be sent to readers inboxes. Now that I think about that more, that could be a really interesting way to tell a story. Even if it’s something more silly, like a food blogger who posts recipes and just keeps oversharing in the vamping for each recipe. Something for next time!
  • Social Framework–I didn’t really make a super large use of social framework. This is something I’d want to make a larger use of if I had more time, diffusing the story across multiple websites. I think that “scavenger hunt” aspect of Digital Narratives is really, really cool and I’m kind of kicking myself for not taking a bigger advantage of it.
  • Multiple Proscenia–Again, I dropped the ball on this theme too. Sorry to Multiple Proscenia.
  • Platform affordances–I used the backdating feature of WordPress to make the story look like it was released in a longer time span than it actually was. I was writing it late April/through May, and made it look like was released earlier this year. That was fun! I also briefly flirted with the idea of making a more lively comment section on Bonnie’s posts, but ended up scrapping the idea because it felt a little gimmicky. I posted like two comments from my account to foreshadow a plot point, but I think using the WordPress comment section could have been a lot of fun.

When working on this project, I was really inspired by Digital Stories like The Dionaea House and A Witch’s Word.

https://creepypasta.fandom.com/wiki/The_Dionaea_House

  • The Dionaea House was written by Eric Heisserer, and began in 2004. What’s super interesting to me about it and what I tried to replicate is that the story doesn’t pretend to be real through appearance. What I mean by that is, it isn’t posted on social media and presented as real. It is (or rather, was) housed within its own blog site and pretty much declares itself a story with the stylized texts that appears above every post. However, it still tried to capture the style of social media/blogging websites. I really liked this, because readers knew it wasn’t real but found themselves doubting due to the awesome writing. I wanted to emulate this, but I think I relied a little bit too much on presenting realism through my website. I included a whole page dedicated to make it look like Ben was a real person who had gone missing, which I think went a little too far in presenting fiction as reality and didn’t contribute very much to the story.
  • The Dionaea House never hit the mainstream, but was still very popular within internet culture. The way people found it was largely through sharing the link with friends and family. Today, its impacts can be seen in the large number of “creepypasta” stories that use the blurring of realism on the internet to create little snippets of horror.
  • How my project is similar: both use blog formats to tell stories, present a sense of realism on the internet to engage readers, are (meant to be) serial in update style
  • How my project is different: My project uses twine games, The Dionaea House uses multiple blogs, and The Dionaea House is just written a lot better.

https://rainbowstarbird.itch.io/a-witchs-word

  • A Witch’s Word is a short twine game by Mary, an Itchio user with the screen name RainbowStarbird. It was made last year, and while not extremely popular received a warm reception on the Itchio website. In the game’s comment section one person posted a poem they’d wrote a poem about it, they enjoyed the game so much. Mary hasn’t specifically stated her reasons for making it, and it is currently still the only game she has posted to Itchio.
  • A Witch’s Word uses Twine to tell a short story about a woman trying to pay back her debt to a witch. The player clicks through all the options until the true ending is revealed.
  • How my project is similar: Both make use of interactivity through Twine without really giving the reader much choice.
  • How my project is different: A Witch’s Word makes use of audio to create immersion, and has a better, more concise story that is rooted in the Twine game itself.

I think despite these similarities and differences, my project fits into a tradition of blending narrative and gameplay, and seeking to experiment with how the two can overlap. Digital Networked Narratives naturally foster this due to their inclination towards audience interactivity, and my pieces does add something new in this regard. It’s an original, if not overly inspired story that causes the reader to question how gameplay and story can be used to enrich the audience’ experience.

In my piece, I draw from the ideas of Raph Koster and Janet Murray in my. And, when I say I draw from their ideas, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily implemented them well. Koster talks about how narrative’s involvement in gameplay usually isn’t the forefront. Gameplay is presented as a challenge, and narrative is the reward for that challenge. However, he notes how Digital Stories have the potential to alter that and bring narrative in as a form of gameplay. Murray talks about how cyberdramas differ from traditional narratives through their branching, nonlinear way to storytelling that still holds weight through tonally appropriate sequencing.

Both of these authors have amazing ideas. The little puzzle that I made at the end was where I wanted to involve what they were saying. However, my story is still pretty linear. There’s only two real endings, and one “true” ending. It’s not really one of the vast, postmodern story-games Koster and Murray bring attention to. However, Murray writes that

“The first signs of this new storytelling are in the linear media, which seem to be outgrowing the strictures of the novel and movie in the same way that we might imagine a painting outgrowing the frame and morphing into a three-dimensional sculpture” (Murray).

This is where I think my project fits in. While the story is mostly linear, it shows a growth from beyond the traditional format of the short story through its involvement with cyberdrama elements and digital storytelling themes.

That’s it for my author’s statement. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

Also, here are the Student pings where I have ridden the coattails given constructive feedback to my fellow students.

This is on Nick’s Digital Story
Comment on Dalton’s Project Proposal

Fail Badge – My Procrastination

Published / by nchaviers

This isn’t so much a fail on anything specific as it is just carrying out projects as a whole.

As we arrive here the end of the semester, I’ve found myself in the same position I usually do with my media courses: on the last day of the semester, submitting whatever I can to the portfolio and crossing my fingers. Ideally, I would have paced myself to finish these projects like a week at a time (the class structure did help with this), but between my own motivation and the chaotic life-and-schedule changer that is this whole pandemic, I think I fell behind somewhere in each of my classes. I went from turning in work weekly to having to set my own schedule and work with the shifting ones of professors and assignments, going like 2 weeks at least without doing a single bit of work. Looking back, I probably could’ve gotten a lot done in that time – maybe writing this out for something else or maybe doing an extra critical review or two.

I think the end of the semester is where I get the most done, for better or for worse. While I do feel like I put out some of my better work in this self-imposed crunch time, I think I need to find the right balance of deadlines and personal time to just keep getting more projects out. I need to realize, even if I can’t go into my studio and edit something together, I can still write as much as I want from home. Especially with my independent study (keep an eye out here! no spoilers yet) coming up next semester, I’m going to really need to make sure I can stick to the deadlines I give myself.

Ideally, this is the last of my self imposed crunch times.

Critical Review – The Midnight Gospel

Published / by nchaviers
Trailer for Netflix’s The Midnight Gospel

Where discussion of what’s real meets the surreal.

Quite fittingly released on 4/20 this year, The Midnight Gospel has proven to be one of the more weird and out there productions by Netflix. A co-effort by comedian and podcast host Duncan Trussell and Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, this show takes place in an alternate dimension called the “Chromatic Ribbon”. It’s here that Clancy, voiced by Trussell, travels between various worlds and hosts his ‘spacecast’, wherein he interviews different beings, from characters like “Little President” and “The Love Barbarian” to “Death” and the actual Ram Dass (the only guest feature who doesn’t actually take on a moniker.

See the source image
Clancy, the show’s main character and interview host

The show, while being very visually appealing, will probably hit a bit more of a niche audience. Firstly, you have the stoner crowd looking for their colorful vibes outlet and an existential curious look at what makes up the world around us via the lens of another world. But you could also bring in an audience like myself who, while certainly interested in the topics of discussion and art style, are drawn to this unique blend of podcasting and animation.

To frame a narrative around something not meant as an episodic story is quite difficult and, while the narrative does feel kind of all over the place at times (which is where the general audience might limit or lose itself), the show works with what it has and manages to pull of something cohesive and entertaining, which is no small feat.

See the source image
Clancy at his trailer, where he’s usually at before every interview

Though it may attract a more specific audience, the choice to release this as an animated series is probably the best way to convey what’s being discussed in the podcast. You have these interviewees who, while engaging in and of themselves, are discussing these large abstract concepts like love, death, the effectiveness of drugs, and meditative mindfulness. However, by bringing in the narrative and the animation, you gain an entirely new depth of attention and engagement with the audience.

In one of our earlier readings, Alexander states that “A story without [a transformation of a state of being] will often feel flat, its emotional range blunted” (p.11). When you bring in this fictional narrative to these discussions, you also must make sure that the story doesn’t feel secondary or fall flat. As the episodes of the show progress, we learn more about Clancy, who he is, and why we care. We learn about the world and the characters inhabiting it while simultaneously engaging with these non-narrative podcast discussions.

I think this show succeeds at what it set out to do, bringing together fans of animation with fans of podcasting and fans of philosophy. By combining these elements of different media, the storied animation and podcasting, you get something totally unique to Netflix and unlike any show currently on air.

The Archives – Digital Story

Published / by nchaviers

For my digital story project, I wanted to make something that was a bit out there and a bit weird. This is the story of Bob, an employee worn out by his cubicle life, who’s asked to get something from the company’s archive room.

While this doesn’t really feature a consistent narration, there’s a clear narrative throughout of Bob (physically, through mild animation) moving throughout the office building. There’s a clear beginning (given the task), middle (journey to the archives), and the end (forgetting to close the doors in the end).

I’ve added some soundscapes and sound effects in the background. I feel like these help build the world around them and give the video a bit more life than static images with just voice would.

The images (characters, objects, and backgrounds) were all sourced from google, labelled for reuse. The sound effects are from freesound.org. The soundscapes were sourced from youtube, and I can add more crediting to the description if needed.

Boomer Search Story

Published / by dalton798

Here is a link to the search story I created. My goals with this search story were to create a humorous and feel good story about an older father trying to connect with his teenage sons. The inspiration for this story came from a Tik Tok that I had watched and which I included part of at the end of the search story. I paid close attention to trying to make it as realistic as possible in a humorous way by using “stereotypes” of older folks. For example, I started the story on Google, but decided to search “yahoo.com” as my first search. I also typed the entire search story very slowly using only my index finger, which is something my dad himself does when he types. I added a sad background track to the beginning of the story to simulate the idea that the father feels like he cannot connect with his kids who keep calling him a “boomer.” However, the video ends in a lighthearted and happy fashion, with the Tik Tok of the dad dancing with his sons and the happy expression on his face throughout the whole situation.

Ash Vlogs

Published / by dalton798

Ash Vlogs is a very creative, unique, and well put together alternate reality game (ARG) that was put together starting in 2018, and has continued to this day. Without giving away too many spoilers the story revolves around a young woman named “Ash” who has recently started a Youtube channel to vlog about her seemingly normal personal life, however things soon take a turn for the worse and the story grows into a much creepier darker mystery full of twists and turns. Due to the more mature nature that the Ash Vlogs content eventually grows into, a murder mystery story, I feel as if the intended audience for this ARG is more upper teenaged and adult players and viewers; this ARG was most certainly not intended for young audiences as it does get dark at certain times. With that being said, the ARG was definitely intended for people who enjoyed mystery and possibly already played ARG’s as keeping up with this story also takes a lot of time and effort in itself and the casual viewer may get lost or grow bored with it pretty easily. However, the deeper mystery behind the story, overall good production of the narrative, good acting by all characters involved helped Ash Vlogs to become one of the most well known and arguable successful ARG’s on the internet.

The Ash Vlogs series has almost all of the storytelling themes that Bryan Alexander describes in his book The New Digital Storytelling. The Ash Vlogs series has played out over multiple years and contains many different episodes and videos intertwined across multiple social media platforms. Through this, Ash Vlogs has been able to master the theme of a serial structure. If it were not for the success at perfecting this theme, Ash Vlogs would not still be around to this day, over 2 years after it was originally created. Not only this, but as I have previously mentioned, the ARG behind Ash Vlogs takes place over many different social media networks including, but not limited to: YouTube, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram. By doing this, the Ash Vlogs ARG uses the concept of multiple proscenia to its advantage and makes players of the game utilize many different avenues to figure out the story.

This ARG is also able to utilize the concepts of personal presence and social framework by allowing those playing the game to directly interact with the story and share their findings with one another. In fact, there are several different Subreddits, wikis, and Discord chats dedicated to solving the mystery behind Ash Vlogs. Not only have the creators of this story been able to utilize multiple online platforms to form their narrative, but there have also been several real world clues that players have had to find themselves. Through this the creators of the story are able to use many different platform affordances that they would not normally be able to by only using one online platform to create the story. Through the use and execution of all these ideas, the Ash Vlogs story has been able to continue for multiple years and is still successful in its own right.

Fail Badge

Published / by dalton798

It pains me to be writing this blog post, however it must be done. I like to think of myself as being successful at most things in life, however with every success there must always be failure. However, failure is not always a bad thing. In fact, failure is a very good thing and overall can be more beneficial to you in the long run than success. I think that I have properly earned my fail badge for this semester due to my main shortcoming in life, which is my procrastination. As I write this post for my blog I have come to realize that I am extremely behind on my portfolio assignments for this class. In fact, I have only done a few and there are only a couple more days left of the semester, so I am doing my best to knock out as many assignments as I possibly can today and tomorrow. I could do a lot of things like I have done in the past and blame this procrastination on the current situation that we all find ourselves in with the online schooling and the COVID-19 pandemic. Or I could blame it on the fact that I am working a full time job while also trying to start my own business for after I graduate in December. However, this time I am not going to do that. In fact the only thing that has really put me in the situation is myself and my nature to procrastinate on things and the lack of motivation that I have had. It is too late at this point to make excuses and try to justify things that I know I could have controlled. I know I had the time to work on one or two portfolio assignments a week even from home. However, for the most part I chose to f*** off and be absent minded and play Minecraft and Call of Duty: Warzone with my friends. Nevertheless, the time has come where I have to put my nose to the grindstone (or really my fingers to the keyboard) and grind out the portfolio assignments that I need to pass this class. I honestly hope anyone who is reading this is genuinely motivated by my own failures and learns from the mistakes that I have made so that you do not have to make them yourself.

Project Submission: Missing Ben Fisher

Published / by sammmarsh

Hi everyone! 🙂 Here’s a link to my final project. It’s a story based on WordPress with some mystery and some magic, and perhaps a twine game or two.

https://missingbenfisherblog.wordpress.com

I definitely could do way better if I had more time. My writing is not exactly prize-winning, and there were a lot of ideas that I had scrap because of time/coding knowledge constraints. However, at some point I think you have to be like Hannah Montana leaving her house and just blow a little kiss and walk away.

Just like that. Anyways, thanks Dr. Boessen and everyone for making this class super fun. Have a great summer!