SXSW 2011: Interactive Narratives

Our panel this lunch hour would pair well with the panel featuring Ze Frank that we attended yesterday. The premise:

Literature need no longer be defined and combined by the objects that contain it—books and magazines and pages. New Media technologies like Augmented Reality, Transmedia Storytelling, and Interactive Stories offer new ways for narratives to be created and experienced. How can writers work to create new forms of storytelling? Experts who are committed to this vision will talk about examples of work and discuss the opportunities in this emerging field.

Old Model: Story is fixed (print story, for instance), and audience is captive and submissive.

New Model: A dynamic story that allows for personalized engagement and narrows the gap between writer and reader.

Do more than connect text and images on a page, i.e. a children’s book. Let’s try and make it into a “digital book.”

1.) Asset Assessment. Know what text assets you have, and which audio characteristics would accompany it.
2.) Visual Layout. Start with changing orientation to horizontal instead of vertical. When photos take the large part of the screen, put a text box on there with some opacity to see the image behind it. Or, since HTML5 allows it, you can write directly on the screen, without a text box.
3.) Interactive Elements.
– Allow the audience to move the photos on the page, personalize the scale, etc.
– Allow the audience to record into the book
– Allow the audience to color in a photo

Or, Use Social Media as a Narrative Platform

Character/scene development can happen with social profiles and blogs, creating an emotional connection. For example, illustrate the characters with profiles on Facebook. Use status update and photos to deepen the plot or introduce backstories. Use blogs to shift story perspective, highlight internal dialogue.

Activate audience participation by using microblogs like Twitter and Tumblr to create engagement and build community. It’s an opportunity for readers to share ideas about the story that can later be integrated into future story development. As feeds are shared and you’re having dialogue, you’re pulling more people in.

“With interactive storytelling, I feel like we have so many story tools to choose from,” said presenter Esther Lim. “Consider your audience and how they consume content. Design the level of reader participation you want to build. ID the best social media platforms for your story.”

Prepare for your audience, as different people engage in different ways. Typically, you’ll get three tiers of content consumers:

Passive Consumer
Occassional Participant/Lurker
The Die Hard Fan

Going Forward…
Just start with what you know, if you’re new to this. Why bother? On the business side, you can lower costs since marketing is built into the product. On the creative side, this is addictive and fulfilling.

Make it easy for people to participate and make it worthwhile with some sort of reward or personal satisfaction that someone could gain.

Example: A transmedia story told over a book, blog and video series. One of the characters said “If you want to help, send me an email.” They started giving the reader a series of tasks to get the reader to participate. QR codes would offer additional subplot.


Leave a Reply