The interactive nature of online media opens up a world of possibilities for storytellers. The first and most obvious reason, is that interactive media allows for optional diversions. Whilst audiences experienced traditional storytelling in a linear nature, online media can be interactive and therefore give more control to the audience. The second door opened by interactive media is that audiences are more accustomed to reading hypertexts, again giving storytellers greater flexibility in when and how the divulge information to their audiences.
I looked at three different examples of digital stories that used those elements in different ways. A story that uses online information to put the audience in the story quiet literally. A story that uses interactive media to create a choose your own adventure song and a trailer to a film which has created a vast online world to enhance the story. All three stories are different and make great use of the freedom allowed by interactive online media.
This piece is a short interactive digital horror film; it makes use of the Facebook app feature, which asks users to allow the app access to certain information from their Facebook profile. As this is a common occurrence most users won’t think twice about clicking the accept button. What follows is a pretty confronting and highly effective piece of horror filmmaking. Without any gore or violence the film would have most users petrified, simply because it puts you, the audience member as the central victim in a horror story. Using the information on your Facebook the story goes through the photos you’ve uploaded, searches your news feed whilst creepy mistimed music and an increasingly unstable Facebook stalker goes through your information, touching your photo on their screen. The stalker then uses Google maps to find your address and comes after you, leaving a warning note that one of your friends is next.
It’s a really good example of how digital storytelling can be individualized, making the story about a single audience member and placing them in the center of the story makes it much more confronting. A horror movie about a Facebook stalker would be written off, by most, as simply fiction. In comparison seeing your information, your details, your face in that movie suddenly makes it all the more real and personal.
One addition to the piece that would be worthwhile is a link to information on how to make your profile more secure. The piece creates such a real awareness of the need to be secure with your information online and I’m guessing a large amount of viewers would have taken the opportunity to be re-directed to that information.
One fun night is the first time I’d seen a really original use of interactive storytelling. Melbourne Comedy duo Anyone For Tennis combined the logic of Choose Your Own Adventure stories to a comedy song. The song is the story of a fun night out and after a minute the audience is asked to make a choice between theatre or dancing. The choice made by the audience determines how the next bit of the song goes. True to the tradition of Choose Your Own Adventure books all choices result in calamity and in this case result in one of two equally hilarious but tragic endings. The story doesn’t divert greatly from traditional song style, but it has enough interactivity to make it interesting and novel.
The trailer to the independent film Sound Of My Voice is the richest piece of digital storytelling I encountered. The trailer is simply the first 12 minutes of the film. However this is intermittingly interrupted by giving the audience the chance to click on a link to a piece of extra textual information to enhance what they are watching. In some cases these links are very directly related to what is happening in the narrative, but don’t really add to the story, for example a link to a video on how to escape zip ties. In other cases they are used to create mood, but most significantly they are used to create a sense of mystery around whether the story is a documentary or a film. There are a number of links to seemingly real characters and initiations to the cult being explored in the film and it creates a really tangible blurring of certainty about whether the trailer is fiction.
The story as a single linear narrative is intriguing and visual well crafted on it’s own, but the added hypertext features really shift the mood in certain places. They create a greater sense of intrigue and mystery. In this case the narrative is strong enough to hold your attention and the extra-textual information creates a sense of mystery that leads you back to the story. However there is a risk involved in breaking a fictional diegesis by directing audience out of the story. If the story hasn’t fully captured an audiences attention you risk them being distracted and choosing not to come back to your story. However when it’s done right it is a risk worth taking as it really enriches a story.