Last week, I set up a collaborative writing exercise in Moodle. Below is the result; I think Susie’s contribution would be a more fitting end to the story but I do like Andy’s bathetic and disconnected contribution!
I think that this exercise was successful to a degree; a narrative was produced and the students reflected on and incorporated some of the ideas which we have been exploring in recent weeks.
The narrative doesn’t succeed as a story however; there is a lack of cohesion and development after the first few entries. I think more scaffolding from me as a teacher might help: some comments and suggestions after each entry about where the story might go next and what might be incorporated.
I’d be interested to explore the potential for other spaces and media to support collaborative narratives: would more visual media afford a richer narrative stream? Could video ‘pass-the-baton’ work as well for the production of stories as it has for Karen’s space/mini-bio task? How about Second Life as a space to generate stories, not just characters and settings? As a former English teacher, such opportunities and possibilities are exciting and offer the potential for plurivocal, multimedia, rich and complex narratives for students to engage with and produce.
The Theatre of Space: a Collaborative Tale
Elegant evening gowns swept along the theatre aisles as the people made their way excitedly to their seats, ushered along the corridors by the flickering gaslights. Their chatter rose to the vaulted ceiling and echoed around the theatre walls. They had been chosen, Professor Marcello had said. Come tomorrow night you will be shown! I will show you how the world will be! A world without walls, where we communicate as quickly as our thoughts can travel, and printed words will hang on clouds in the air. You will be amazed!
The tuning violins slowed as the pianist sat down at his instrument with an exuberant flourish of his coat tails. His hands poised dramatically above the keys as the curtains slowly opened.
At the top of the stairs, a tall, ashen man sat quietly in the red velvet chair, his beady eyes slightly squinting against the heavy cigar smoke which hung in the air. He listened to the chatter dim as Professor Marcello emerged from the darkness of the stage, holding a small black box as tenderly as a fragile butterfly. And with a deep slow breath, the man rose to his feet.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Rhizome’ said the man. The curtains opened and the audience gasped. A sense of fear and dread filled the room and the tall, ashen man retreated. The rhizome stood on the stage, powerful and omnipresent, tenticles twitched and flailed simultaneously. The first few rows of the audience were sslowly getting covered in rhizome goo. The rhizome opened her mouth to speak and a slow whine came out of all of her mouthes as she growled: ‘I am region, I am network, I am institution, I am fire.’ The rhizome stopped and a tentacle flew back to the furthest row in the audience where….
…stood the diminutive space-time detective, Alacratisa. A wry smile crossed her face, “Gotcha Root Face” see intoned, and pressed the shimmering virtual button at her fingertip.
The beautiful surroundings of the theatre wobbled and then collapsed into a pile of pixels which blew away, as sand in a storm. The dilapidated interior of the antiquated theatre stood in their place. The musty air filled Alacratisa’s nostrils as the code-space implants withdrew their steely tentacles from her elven nose. She turned to Hamish’s avatar, “Well, professor McRae, there’s your event. The smooth surface of the fabric underwent catastrophic corruption when the Rhizome interfered with the natural order. The striations are there for all to see.”
“Hum,” mused erudite tutor in his Scottish brogue, “but the theatre’s still so beautiful.”
Just then the the gaslights began to splutter. Then BANG! Stars burst from first one and then the next. Green swirls and stars filled the Theatre. Reflecting from the many ornate surfaces. All at once the the fireworks burst forth from every fitting. Professor McRae gasped in awe – “I almost can’t believe this is real life”.
The damp air clung to my clothes as I shuffled through the dark. The crunching underfoot, undermined my feeling of security. Whispers of wind, caressed my face, as I walked closer to the edge of the stairway. As the cold reached my legs, I could feel the hairs rising on my neck. In the distance a flickering faint light drew my attention, I walked to it, feeling uncomfortable yet drawn to the light. I walked more surefooted as my need to reach the light became more urgent. At last I reached the goal and the gentle running of water could be heard inside, Feeling for the entrance I grasped the handle and pushed it, applying more pressure to open the door, it moved. Suddenly surrounded, and bathed in white light I relaxed, and breathed easy, I had found the toilet…
2 Replies to “The Theatre of Space…continued”
Interesting reflections, it sounds as if the need for a coherent narrative is very powerful. So perhaps some structure is best for this kind of learning experience? Is this something you could use in your own teaching practice?
The idea came from a paper exercise which I used to use in class whereby every student would start a story and then would pass it on to the next student to continue and so on. This class-based activity was more structured as I used to align each pass of the paper with a key requirement of narrative structure, e.g., exposition, complication, climax, resolution/denouement. I wasn’t able to do that here as I didn’t know how many contributions there would be. I do like the idea of exploring other possibilities for narrative playfulness through multi-modal story-telling. My experience of Second Life over the last few weeks has also brought ideas about how VWs could be used to work on characterisation and setting within story-telling.