“Distributed Narratives”: “She Loves the Moon” by The Strangers

On September 8, 2007 by Christy

In 2004, well-known academic Jill Walker Rettberg (who among other things did a great piece a few years ago about the online drama Online Caroline by XPT) published a great paper called Distributed Narrative: Telling Stories Across Networks:

A new kind of narrative is emerging from the network: the distributed narrative. Distributed narratives don’t bring media together to make a total artwork. Distributed narratives explode the work altogether, sending fragments and shards across media, through the network and sometimes into the physical spaces that we live in.

Although I argue that a distributed narrative can be a total artwork, Walker nevertheless provides some canny observations about the phenomenon. For instance, these forms are explained according to three values:

1) Distribution in Time (can’t experience in a single session)
2) Distribution in Space (cannot experience in a single location or single medium)
3) Distribution of Authorship (collective, emergent authorship)

Among the works Walker discussed to illuminate the theory was Nick Montfort’s and Scott Rettberg’s Implementation, a sticker novel that I’ve referred to in my talks many times. It is novel that has each paragraph distributed across stickers all over the world. It is described on their site as follows:

Implementation is a novel about psychological warfare, American imperialism, sex, terror, identity, and the idea of place, a project that borrows from the traditions of net.art, mail art, sticker art, conceptual art, situationist theater, serial fiction, and guerilla viral marketing. The text was written collaboratively by Nick Montfort and Scott Rettberg with some contributions from others. Its initial incarnation was as a serial novel printed on sheets of stickers that were distributed in monthly installments.

Ludologist (game theorist) Dakota Reese Brown mentions a recent project that adds to Walker’s genre: a stencil story called She Loves the Moon. I cannot find any info about the creators, just the info and pics they provide at flickr:

Stencil

The mission stencil story is an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure story that takes place on the sidewalks of the Mission district in San Francisco. It is told in a new medium of storytelling that uses spraypainted stencils connected to each other by arrows. The streetscape is used as sort of an illustration to accompany each piece of text.

Its a love story with 2 characters who start in different locations. His story starts at 16th and Valencia, in front of the Crown Hotel / Limon Restaurant with the text “He Leaves his Lonely Apartment.” Her story starts at 21st and Guerrero in front of a stunning mansion with the text, “She Leaves her Lonely Apartment.” Eventually their paths merge, at the point where they meet, and their paths travel together until drama pulls them apart.

Their are two possible endings, happy and tragic, and two other points where the story can end unexpectedly if the viewer chooses the wrong ending. All in all, there are 4 possible endings.

Looks like fun!