Iterative / Interactive Storytelling

“It’s A Black and White World” by Neil Gaiman and Simon Bisley (Batman: Black and White #2 (1996)

Technologies of storytelling have enabled and encouraged various forms of interaction and use, and it can be useful to situate more recent digital developments within longer traditions (and rebellions). In tracing these long and varied lineages, it’s interesting to see what is greeted with skepticism, what seems particularly innovative or exemplary, what looks better in hindsight, what doesn’t age well. And it’s helpful to remember how quickly the aesthetic dimensions, conditions of creation and reception, and material possibilities of digital storytelling have changed in a short period of time.

It’s probably not surprising to see “interactive” as an Important Adjective in this course, but “iterative” may seem less interesting or relevant to some of you. I’m thinking of iteration in a variety of digital and non-digital contexts: conventions of publication and creation (periodicals, television, social media), forms of collaboration (exquisite corpses, sampling, memes), conditions of production and reception (building brands, violating copyright, fact-checking fake news, becoming activists), what we talk about when we talk about digital storytelling (streams, serials, feeds, attention, distraction, performance). I’m interested in how narratives extend and change over time, the limitations and possibilities of repetition, the ways that our relationships to art and time and reality have been impacted by various forms of digital storytelling.

Forms of interaction and iteration can vary, and we’ll try to survey and discuss a range of works and criticism at the outset of the semester. The particular things on our syllabus reveal my own sense of how things look to me in early 2019: I’m interested in hearing more about your perspectives. In addition to class discussion, we’ll spend some time making and telling stories in forms that encourage interaction and iteration.