Participatory StoryTelling

As I was thinking about our Twitter story, certain elements of the story made an impression on me and became the focus of this reflection. There are two characters and one artifact that I found intriguing and worth investigating. At the project outset, I had several ideas for a media project that would be fun to create for retelling the Twitter story. I thought about creating a board game where you advanced along a storyboard collecting tokens ($) or earning changes to advance or losing a turn to be held behind. As I created the different targets (gaining tokens, advancement, or waiting) I began looking through the story for relevant points. Some ideas included:


  • your birth certificate was found – take a token
  • your phone is vibrating – take a token


  • click-click-click-Flash – advance 2 spaces
  • You find a bill of sale – advance 2 spaces


  • you get stopped for questioning by @lott – lose a turn
  • Mom? Mom I can’t hear you – lose a turn
  • You get hit by a car – lose a turn

I wasn’t quite sure how to execute the game in a digital format without a lot of programming. Perhaps, a Prezi presentation along with some kind of digital dice?

I also began storyboarding a comic that I thought I would create using pixton. I haven’t played around much with pixton and thought it would be a good challenge. The storyline that began taking shape involved a young girl getting on an airplane. Between falling asleep listening to an audio story and overhearing a conversation between her young seatmate and his/her mother, “Diane” (the mother’s name on the Kye birth certificate)  remembered a strange mix of a story involving her mother who had recently died, static from a movie about a bear and cat that her seatmate was watching, and a crime investigator. As she departs the plane at her destination and is walking down the street (followed by a 3-legged cat) she bumps into a plaid-shirt wearing-cop rather abruptly. Then she arrives at an attorney’s office where she is collecting what remains of her dead mother’s estate: a box. I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull off the complexity of the props needed for the cartoon and I knew that my drawing ability wouldn’t be nearly good enough.

I also thought about creating a screencast movie where a female detective was reviewing a case journal belonging to an investigator who had disappeared. I was going to recreate some of the notes that @lott might have written in his notebook. Items like:

“Went to visit Ren to follow through with our deal but Ren reluctant to pony up with the goods.”

“Followed security breach at Raleigh City WV City hall to find out what I can about the birth certificate.”

“I have the box in possession. It hums. What could that mean? I’ve got to find out how to access it.”

Of course, on the last page of the case journal, there would be a big splotch of pancake syrup.


I also hadn’t gotten beyond my idea of creating a physical object that could be printed out, manipulated, and then used as a container for telling the story. If you recall, my original AR project idea was to create a globe that could be printed out and used as a trigger image with different creation stories for overlays. I kept running into difficulties finding a good trigger images.  And since it was a physical object, it would have to be augmented in order to use digital media. So I was resolved to create a “fortune teller” or “cootie catcher” as I remember calling it in elementary school. As I worked my way from the inside of the fortune teller to the outside, I really began to concentrate on the elements of the story that stood out for me and would eventually become four “fortunes.” Then as I began thinking about the words that would be at the first level of the catcher and they were Ren, Kye, Cat, and Box. All three-letter words. Hmmm…doesn’t make for much variation! After some rethinking, the first level became: Ren, mystery box, 3-legged cat, and @lottruminates.

StoryCloudInteractive site:

(For some reason, this version of WordPress, or my theme, seems to be stripping object codes so I’m not able to embed the interactive webie site…the same thing happened with the Pearl Object code.)

I then started creating my media pieces. As I began to create triggers for my media overlays I realized that I was creating an unnecessary barrier to accessing the media pieces and that the act of making first level and then second level choices weren’t necessarily related to my reflection and that you, my peers, probably didn’t want to print, cut, and fold a fortune teller and then, be required to find the Aurasma channel and use a mobile device to see the media pieces. Exactly what was this adding to the story? So, one board game, one comic, one screencast, and six draft fortune teller versions later, ladies and gentlemen….the media pieces without the unnecessary barriers:

Participating in the story was at times, frustrating. I was disappointed several times when the story wasn’t going in the direction that I imaged and had to decide if I wanted to turn it around (in 140 characters) or just go with it. I was first disappointed when the gender of Kye and Ren was so quickly established. Then the disappointment changed to intrigue when the birth certificate was posted. Was the certificate the same Kye or another Kye? I got hung up on the old phrase, “oh if only the picture could talk” and went with it.



In the beginning, I had to get my head around whether Twitter was part of the storytelling or just a mechanism to tell the story. Did it really matter who was sending the tweet ? Did KyeKye2000’s posts take on a different meaning because they were from the fictional Kye or not? Was KyeKey2000 real?  I introduced CU8RQT…it was an attempt to introduce a new character that wasn’t well thought out and didn’t work out well. As it became clear that the Twitter’s post name wasn’t important, tweets that contained “@CU8RQT said (or insert other verb)” plus adding the story’s hashtag didn’t leave enough characters to create a tweet that contributed to the story. Very often, for each tweet, every letter and space held a valuable place and wording had to be selected very carefully and not wasted. In many ways, @lottruminates took on the role that I envisioned @CU8RQT portraying in the story….but obviously much better executed as the character became one that several of us used.

When the cat and bear were introduced they immediately reminded me of characters from some of the folktales about Brer Rabbit. I also had in my mind that their relationship to each other was similar to C-3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars in that they had this dependent relationship and that it was required that they function together. I found the bear quite sympathetic and not threatening at all.


And Niko, I’m pretty sure that he/she was manipulating the entire story. Had we been able to continue I think it would have been my goal to make it clear that he/she was really in charge.

Towards the end of the five weeks, several days passed without anyone adding a tweet and it was frustrating to have the story stop, ending with one of my tweets which I felt wasn’t a very good conclusion. I was very relieved  to see that my peers added more posts to create a better conclusion.


14 thoughts on “Participatory StoryTelling

  1. I like the videos, they definitely continue the story beyond Twitter. But of all your insight into the participatory story, I really liked the idea of a girls dream on an airplane. That’s exactly how I feel about the story sometimes, it’s such a strange mix of ideas that it can only be accounted for by having multiple sources that are almost completely unrelated.

    I’m curious what software you use to create your videos, especially the special effects in the BC video and the voice change in the interview.

    Thanks for making and sharing these.

    • I too really liked the girl’s dream on the plane. I probably should have pursued that more. This experience has been so interesting for me. I’m still curious about our story and what it all meant! I think we all have different interpretations which probably comes from our interpreting our own posts in the story.

      I used screenflow to edit the videos. I have found that screenflow has a really easy interface and has enough features to that you can choose to use or not. I recorded the audio first using Audacity and that is also where I changed the voice using the “Change the pitch effect. I used my iPhone on a Joby tripod to capture the video. I actually started the audio clip on my laptop so I could get the gestures synched with the “bear”. I had some issues capturing the shadow without capturing too much of my hand. I uploaded the iPhone movie and the audacity clip to screen flow. In screen flow you can separate the audio from the video which is what I did for all by the first few seconds where you hear someone walking…that was a lucky mistake! I also used screenflow to edit the movie trailer.

      Meet Bear:

  2. Pingback: Participatory Storytelling |

  3. I really appreciate reading your posts, Heidi, because you take us through your impressively creative thought processes. A cootie catcher?! What a cool idea! I think that and the boardgame offer something I was also trying to capture in my version of our story too – that there are multiple possibilities/directions for the story to go. I think that, for anyone trying to capture the whole story, it would have to be broken down into multiple storylines that become either diverging possibilities, or as your comic idea suggested – multiple layers linked more by coincidence than by a linear narrative. Our story is sort of ridiculous as a single, linear narrative.

    The videos you created are great. I like how they take some relatively minor characters in the story and shift our understanding of the story by telling from that perspective. Was this your intention? Why did you choose the bear and the bc, as opposed to other characters? You really managed to create characters for them in your videos – the birth certificate is a cynical, sort of tired-with-the-world character, and the bear is a sort of ho-hum follower. They are great characterizations, and set a sort of sarcastic tone for the whole story – they both seem to be implying that the whole thing was a bit ridiculous. And they’re FUNNY! I laughed through both of them. I also like that you managed to integrate a few of our tweets word-for-word. I recognized the line in the bc video, about Lott and his nametage, and I think the context you created around that tweet was perfect – I totally believed this was something the bc would say.

    Thanks for sharing, Heidi! And I echo Adam – would love to know what you used to create the videos!

    • Thanks Kendell – this was a lot of fun, although I still wonder if I really understand exactly what was going on in our story. I have to admit, I don’t think I was aware of it at the time, I’ve ready many novels in which each of the chapters in the story is told from the point of view of the characters involved. The characters often have different viewpoints and interpret the same event so differently. I have also been reading a lot of non-fiction where different historical events are being told by people who come from entirely different perspectives. I guess I chose the more minor characters because I thought I understand them better. And I still think they played an important role in the story.

      I replied to Adam’s inquiry about the software – Screenflow is awesome!

  4. Heidi- I think you have the most creative ideas! I really like that you share your numerous attempts at formalizing an idea, and how divergent each one is from the other. Your posts read like an explosion of ingenuity. 🙂 I enjoyed the story you told about the girl on the plane as it would wrap up some of the more ambiguous moments from our post. And the screencast with the female detective? So clever! The cootie catcher would also have been a fun way to tell the story. I can’t believe that you basically had four different solutions for this project, when I could barely make one happen.

    You killed me with the blabberized birth certificate and the interview with bear. The shredding of the entire race of BCs- ha! I also loved how BC told the story of his/her creation. The birth certificate was definitely an item that stuck with many of us as we created our interpretations, so it was entertaining to see you treat it as a character with a back story. The shadow bear interview was just classic. Was that a puppet or just a shadow of your hand? Either way, the gestures are perfect. (“And then there was a kid, boy or girl, I don’t know, kids make me nervous”- so funny. Also: “You owe me one for eating my leg. Remember that?”) Bear’s voice and lack of enthusiasm were hilarious. I was also glad that you ended on a pancake note. I wanted to, but creating a bear holding pancakes was more Gimp than I felt like dealing with at the time. 🙂

    My only comment for improvement would be to consider changing the order of a few of the embedded videos. To my eye, the YouTube labeled Niko, the talking BC, and the interview with bear didn’t seem to follow the text they followed. Also, it seems that you have two extra URL links underneath the Niko video.

    On a side, and more personal, note, how do you find that ideas come to you? I am very interested in the creative process and I’m curious how/where/when you find your inspiration.

    • Thanks for complementary comments. You are totally correct about the placement of the videos and links. Something got messaged up and I’ve fixed their order – I have no idea what happened!

      Your question about the creative process in a good one. I’m not sure I have an answer for you. Since our story seemed to be going in so many directions, I was pretty sure I didn’t understand it enough to be able to sum it up with one piece. That is why your idea of the newscast is so great. You have individual pieces but in the end, I think you came up with a conclusion. I started brainstorming ideas for the board game by writing down key elements but then I wasn’t sure if I had enough to pull that off, so I thought about how I could use what I had for a different project. I guess each time I hit a roadblock I switched direction. Sometimes the switch in the direction pays off and sometimes you go back to square 1.

  5. So, my browser deleted my comment as I was typing, so you’re going to get a condensed version out of frustration:

    – I think it’s interesting that you went for the direction of the board game and the “cootie catcher” (thanks Kendall, never heard that before) because the original story was neither a game (it was participatory, but not gameplay or goal focused) and because neither board game nor paper fortune tellers are digital, so you’ve shifted entirely away from the original format (aurasma notwithstanding, obviously)

    – I agree with Adam and you that the story was frustrating because it had no satisfying ending. It couldn’t have an ending though, because as Adam and I both pointed out, it had no direction. It was too focused on competition to be cohesive.

    – That talking birth certificate video made me sad about my untouched paperwork in the same way that Toy Story makes you sad about old toys

    – I really appreciate the ambition in your ideas about how to adapt the story

    – I am so frustrated that my browser closed randomly and deleted the comment I had made 😦

    • I understand your frustration about loosing comments and for that very reason, I began writing my comments in a text or google docs file and cutting and pasting into blog posts. A couple of years ago that exact thing to me!

      You are spot on about the board game and cootie catcher ideas not being digital and that was among one of the reasons that I dropped them. The cootie catcher was going to be augmented, so in that regard it would be using a digital format to tell a story, but getting to that point would definitely not be using digital means.

      I think for me, the one of the goals for the story was to find out what was in the box, and why everyone seemed to want it. The contents for the box wasn’t defined until late in the story, so for me, that was the goal focus. I think the bear video probably comes the closest of my three media pieces to talk about the box. Introduction of the birth certificate and its meaning was never answered, which left it up to each of us to guess its importance. And Niko, just kind of scared me. Perhaps I should have concentrated on just one of these characters or ideas, that might have been a better adaptation.

  6. I am so glad that you outline your project ideas because, for me, it opens up the possibilities of the various directions a project like this could take, many I would not have thought about. Like the fortune teller and the board game. I like that you took something immaterial and nebulous and thought about making it tangible. There is certain sounds and textures in physical objects that cannot be simulated the same with digital compositions: like the smell of a book, the clicking of the game piece for Monopoly as the person moves to their square, the flipping of the paper of the fortune teller. I like your ideas because it brings these limitations of the digital to my mind and they really make me think out side the box, no pun about the box in the story intended.
    And I did not think of Niko being creepy but it totally fits! The analysis on how you saw the cat and the bear as Star Wars characters or as characters from Brer Rabbit was apt too. You presented a good analysis over the story.
    The word cloud was a neat visual for me to think about how, even though there are only 140 characters, how many words are repeated.
    The videos were placed well in your post and I liked the anthropomorphized birth certificate questioning its fallibility. These documents are often thought of as legal evidence but you are right, people make mistakes and there is a lot that happens at that moment that could mess up these kind of records. I like what you have added here to add that ambiguity back.
    Only one suggestion for grammar: I believe Twitter is a proper noun and should be capitalized. Otherwise, I did not see any mechanical issues.

    • Thanks for the grammar check…I fixed it. It has really been interesting to see how each of us have processed the story – we all came away with something different. A good question to ask would be if these ideas were ones that we developed after the story was completed or if they grew as the story progressed over the five weeks. That would be interesting to ask each other.

  7. Heidi,

    I loved the bear behind a screen. And, his relationship with cat (YIKES!) You gave me a whole new perspective on the story, thanks to that Bear with his voice and disposition. I wondered why he was being interviewed.

    Your other ideas (aside from the airplane) make me think about _participatory_ and _interaction_ two elements with the Twitter story, which is a good connection. As people have already pointed out, it is interesting how these elements (interaction and participation) mean that the narrative won’t be cohesive and linear.

    I like that you had a purpose (if it would have continued) of making Niko the driving character.

    In general, this assignment has me thinking about the universe we all created together and how it lives on in these assignments.


    • I remember as a teenager playing with dolls with the kids I was babysitting. You would have to make up conversations for the doll you were portraying. Very often, I would get reprimanded for not saying the right thing and being told, “No, you’re supposed to say this…” This girl had in her mind what the story was and how it would unfold, and I wasn’t following her storyline.

  8. Hi Heidi,

    There are already a lot of great comments on your post so I will keep it brief. I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate and think it is important that you share your creative process. The opportunities for brainstorming, trying something new, failure and dead ends are intrinsic to games and storytelling. I love that our cohort has made the connections between games and storytelling on multiple occasions.

    I too enjoyed your videos.

    Thank you for sharing!


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