When social media is perceived only as a vehicle for posting personal history narratives the potential for using its affordances to create literary narratives is lost. We can use social media’s speculative spaces to both create and experience a wide range of interactive and collaborative stories, both non-fiction and fiction. In 2009 The Royal Opera House used Twitter to crowd source Twitterdammerung, a collaborative venture to explore opera as a living art form and make it accessible to everyone. This inspired the Neil Gaiman book Hearts, Keys and Puppetry, a Twitter collaboration published as a BBC Audiobook, also in 2009. In 2014, Grammerly used its blog to crowd-source the book Frozen by Fire from 500 writers in 54 different countries. Crowdsourcing has become common for entertainment platforms such as Netfllix and a new generation of users has higher expectation of helping to shape online stories. High profile narrative experiments notwithstanding, the digital humanities continue to view social media most often as a vehicle for personal histories. This paper presents an ongoing social media and narrative project initiated in 2013 that encourages the broader perspective. It presents social media narratives created in 2019 by small teams of university students who were asked to engage in participatory story creation that used social media in all its affordances. Planning was through social media, content creation was through social media, and the narrative was played out through social media from Instant Messaging to Tweets, from Facebook to LinkedIn, from YouTube to Snap Chat. Students created their own non-fiction narratives (Atlanta Child Murders), explored contemporary fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale), and revisited canonical works (Romeo and Juliet) in ways that reflected their current media culture. One response to Romeo and Juliet shows the value of just such an approach, “I’ve never really connected to the story until now that I’ve seen how it plays out in apps I use every day.”
Dr. Krystina Madej is Professor of the Practice at Georgia Tech in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication. She researches and teaches about how humans have adapted their narratives to changing media throughout the centuries, Disney's approach to stories across media since the 1920s, and physical play and children's interaction with narrative-based digital games. Her books include Interactivity, Collaboration, and Authoring in Social Media, Physical Play and Children’s Digital Games, and the edited book Engaging Imagination and Developing Creativity. A second edition of the co-authored book Disney Stories: Getting to Digital, first published in 2012, was released in November 2020.
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