When coming up with an idea for our digital story, we weren’t sure which direction to take. While many stories take the ‘extended world’ approach and attempt to either allow for more possibilities or interactivity in a story as the Creating an Interactive Adventure post from The Fiction Engine points out, others simply present a linear story in a new, digitally enhanced way. Our story ended up somewhere in the middle, and became a choose your own pulp fiction more than anything. The final piece is technically 6 separate stories with their own character, but all crossover at at least one point, and some are dependent on each other, such as the snail and slug Twitter feeds.
We decided to use a different medium for five of the characters, but have The Matter Hatter character appear in each of these stories to make the whole seem more cohesive. The snail and slug stories both met their resolution by intertwining. We used a Twitter hashtag created by The Matter Hatter to believably connect the two gastropods, and then used Twitter’s reply feature to create conversations between them, leading to the end; a photo of the two together. We enjoyed the irony of such slow creatures delivering news in the fastest way possible. For Justin Treeber, (a talking tree that the Hatter introduces to song), we used time-lapse photography and motion keyframing in post to create a live drawing of his story. Using a marker to draw specific moments, and then erasing drawings for dramatic effect, we thought it would be a good way to convey the emotion of the piece, and uploaded the finished video to YouTube (see below) with some whimsical, vintage filters. This highlights the raw and unassuming nature of artists’ videos on YouTube, and is obviously making vague references to Justin Beiber.
Stereotypical caterpillars in the media eat a lot, so we thought Instagram would would convey overeating the best, as many users post photos of their food. Again, the Hatter makes an appearance as a dietician. Lastly, the gnomes’ adventures are documented in a travelog, referencing the travelling garden gnome phenomenon, which has been explored before, including in Amélie. The Hatter appears in the background for the observant eye to enjoy spotting, and the final image of the gnomes in the forest includes every other character at the end of their arc, effectively acting as a chronological end point. These stories can be read in any order using he main site, and the use of social media and sites with the ability to comment means these characters can be interacted with as well.
Our social media marketing strategy revolved around raising awareness. We created a Facebook page and Twitter hashtag in the lead-up to the main site going live in order to build hype and update anyone interested in the project. The Facebook page and Twitter hashtag carried similar messages, but having both allowed people to subscribe to and interact with the project in the manner they preferred. As the Justin Treeber video had finished uploading, we shared it on Facebook and Twitter as a ‘sneak peak’ of the digital story. Staggering content like this makes people more interested in coming back, and a short video is the most accessible and least intimidating medium we could use to introduce audiences to our digital story. This way, they become invested in the story world, and will be less distracted by the layout of the other stories. We were also able to instantly share the site the moment it went live, giving people a sense of real-time interaction. Clay Shirky’s statement from the flipped lecture, ‘sharing information is something we’re biased to do and to like doing’, is part of why we wanted to use social media as much as possible in this piece. We wanted people to be able to easily share and interact with our story using tools they were already very familiar with.