Interaction: Coauthor

How is your digital storytelling project shaped and co-authored between yourself and your audience?

Value your audience as authors of your story, turning media consumers into actors and participants. Current storytelling platforms allow for a unique relationship between creator and audience, where they both create works in "collective action," or what Pierre Lévy (1997) calls an aesthetic of “collective intelligence":

Rather than distribute a message to recipients who are outside the process of creation and invited to give meaning to a work of art belatedly, the artist now attempts to construct an environment, a system of communication and production, a collective event that implies its recipients, transforms interpreters into actors, enables interpretation to enter the loop with collective action” (p.123).

Johnathan Harris’ and Sep Kamvar’s (2006) applet We Feel Fine exhibits Lévy’s ideas as it exposes human emotions by uncovering hidden narratives in the blogosphere: “We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what’s on our blogs, what’s in our hearts, what’s in our minds.” The application collects “emotions”— which are marked on blogs by the phrase “I feel” or “I am feeling”— in an interactive Java application, where feelings “float” as dots, or sized dust-like spheres. Users can interact with these emotions through a variety of interfaces and infographics (or visual representations of data) that explore Web users' emotional landscapes. The audience is as much a part of this work as the designer telling the story.

In Khoi Vinh’s essay "Conversations with Networks" he similarly implores designers to embrace a sensitivity towards the user in creating digital environments:

Designing for social media is an exercise in negating the designer’s authorial privilege. Experiences that hope to reap the rewards of rich social interactions must be incredibly modest in demonstrating the storytelling skills of the designer, because they are very much in the business of creating the conditions under which these rewarding conversations can happen. They must allow the narrative to recede and the behaviors of the system to come forward (p. 131).

Every time we like, comment, share, or remix a work we are influencing the work through our feedback and insight. By attempting to more naturally allow "behaviors of the system to come forward," the designer provides the user narrative agency, and further immerses the user in a meaningful storytelling experience.