I went along to the Expanded Narrative symposium at the weekend; with papers placed into four different titles, Story, Performance, Games and Sound it highlighted a common theme throughout, we just want to tell stories; we are all trying to create ‘narratives’ through different forms that ‘expand’ the storytelling experience. Poetry, for instance, is ‘ideally suited to harnessing new technologies’ (Dr Lytton Smith, University of Hertfordshire). The form, having line breaks lends itself to being broken up and re-arranged and works perfectly on Twitter. Sited work can use audiences to interact with rather than just receive and Misha Myers (Falmouth University) uses real and imaginary worlds and stories in her work. She engages with many diverse groups who co-author the work and is currently working alongside farmers in India to help promote the farming industry through computer gaming.
Mobile phones have sensors built into them making them perfect receptors for sound walks or locative narratives (both needing to be experienced within a specified site). This is a technological form that both games makers and performance makers have jumped onto as the technology has become more refined. Here James Brocklehurst, lecturer in Communication Arts at Plymouth University talked us through the design process and visual media involved in creating a locative narrative app.
From Jane Grants’s ‘Soft Moon‘ where ancient records of astrophysics create other worlds in the universe and give us insights into our own world at the same time, to Dr Chris Speed’s idea of the future where objects will interact with us, illustrate the age old desire to create stories. We looked at performances without actors, where the audience create the story (Small Town by Coney), and mobile phone games developed by Michael Straeubig because, he believes, we’ve forgotten what it means to play. Finally I participated in the performance of The Unbuilt Room by Seth Kriebel, where a group of six people explore a place through memory and imagination. The audience are given certain rules, we are told where we are, and we decide whether we want to go North, South, East or West (sometimes we don’t have all those choices), we then have to keep a memory of our route working as a group together. We do not know what our story is when we start but narratives emerge as we play. Billed as a performance it was also very much a game the audience played, my only criticism being that at twenty minutes it was too short.
These scenarios certainly illustrated the aim of the symposium reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of Expanded Narrative, as they say…
‘The reader, relocated, becomes a player, co-author or participant. How can we design, develop and experience locative sound, participatory theatre, pervasive and mobile games, flash fiction and works yet to be defined? Through the consideration of these questions, the symposium aims to promote knowledge exchange and collaboration between practitioners from the arts, academia and the creative industries’.