Shared universes and collaborative multimedia imagineering

June 6, 2007

John Abbe introduced me to the Wikipedia entry on shared universes which led me to one on collaborative writing, which took me to another on collaborative fiction. These describe the kinds of multiple-creator universes I imagine could be especially useful in building realistic, sufficiently complex imagineering stories to inspire and catalyze people to actually live (together) into positive futures — perhaps creating those futures as they go, through a juicy participatory feedback loop between Evolving Story, on the one hand, and Evolving Life, on the other.

In the “shared universe” article, one sentence in particular resonated strongly with my multi-media version of this possibility that originally inspired the Story Field Conference: “In a process similar to brand licensing, the intellectual property owners of established fictional settings at times allow others to author new material, creation an expanded universe. Such franchises, generally based on television programs or film, allow for series of novels, video games, original sound recordings and other media.” It isn’t so much the centralized “franchising” approach that caught my attention, as the expansive vision of what kinds of media could be woven into such a shared universe to carry its memes into the culture. There are probably many possible ways to organize such an undertaking other than franchising, many of which have not been developed. That part is up to us….

I believe that fictional (novels, comics, games) and non-fictional (factual, journalistic) media could intermingle such that wiki-like factual links to things like ecotipping points or cob construction — or links to news stories and feature articles — could be part of fictional works. On the other hand, journalists who focus on positive possibilities or participate in imagineering efforts could link to fictional worlds when describing people who are working on realizing those worlds, in whole or part.

Recently I finished reading Robert Lynn Asprin‘s novelish book of collaboratively written short stories about Thieves’ World which includes a fascinating final chapter describing how the collaboration emerged and proceeded. Also in Googling “collaborative novels” I ran across aMillionPenguins.com, Penguin Books’ experiment in mass-participation wiki-novel writing — and its juicy critique. It seems there is far more experimentation out there than I imagined.

I hope some Story Field Conference participants are (or become) well versed in these possibilities and can help catalyze something(s) exciting and creative along these lines at the conference. It seems like this kind of an approach could have a particularly potent impact on our culture’s story field.


Rupert Murdoch does multi-media story field work

May 16, 2007

The story below gives an example of story field change work being done from above (see also Al Gore’s work). I doubt these folks are going to change the institutional arrangements, power relationships, or unerlying assumptions of our political, governmental, and economic order. But they are doing work to shift the story field, in this case by influencing individual behaviors, and with a keen sense of the interrelationships among media. One of our jobs, I believe, is to shift the story field from the bottom up, in ways that actually change the underlying assumptions and patterns of the systems we live in, as David Korten’s piece below points out.

http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article2536869.ece

Murdoch: I’m proud to be green
News Corp boss orders his entire empire to convert and become a worldwide enthusiast for the environment
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
The Independent – 13 May 2007

In one of the most unexpected conversions since Saul of Tarsus hit the road to Damascus, Rupert Murdoch is turning into a green campaigner. He is making the whole of his worldwide operations carbon neutral and setting out to “educate and engage” his readers and viewers about global warming….

…the main thrust of the campaign will be “to inspire people to change their behaviour” through films, television productions and news operations. It will aim “to weave this issue into our content, make it dramatic, make it vivid, even sometimes make it fun”. As a start, MySpace is launching a channel devoted to climate change, and Fox television is developing “a solutions-based campaign”. Today’s Sunday Times and News of the World both major on plans by Gordon Brown for new eco-towns.

Mr Murdoch says: “Imagine if we succeed in inspiring our audiences to reduce their own impacts on climate change by just 1 per cent. That would be like turning the state of California off for almost two months.”