Once upon a timeline...
Transmedia NZ's Fiona Milburn looks at how creative practitioners are using familiar social media tools as either standalone story platforms or as part of a wider story world.
This is the second post in a series, following on from A little bird told me… which looked at storytelling with twitter. Here are three further examples from storytellers who have utilised Facebook basics as simple, yet effective, storytelling devices.
1. Revealing Backstory
Dallas is the revival of a popular television drama that originally aired in the USA from 1978 to 1991. The original series centred on the power struggles of the Ewing clan, an enormously wealthy Texas family. The bitter rivalry between brothers J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) was legendary. In the new Dallas, this explosive family dynamic lives on with the next generation.
In preparation for the 2012 relaunch of its series, TNT created a Facebook Page to chronicle all 14 seasons of the original programme. Using Facebook’s Timeline, the page features photos, videos, check-ins and comments to introduce a new audience to the Ewing clan. And, for existing fans, the page also reveals what has occurred in the original characters’ lives in the 20 years since they last appeared on TV.
And, in a particularly nice touch, the Dallas Facebook Page was originally ‘voiced’ by J.R. Ewing: “I’ve laid it all out here for you and everyone else to see. All of my family’s secrets. It’s time for the world to know the truth about the Ewing family.” The Page has since been taken over by his son John Ross.
2. Character Exploration
Donnelyn Curtis, director of Special Collections, and her team at the University of Nevada, Reno have resurrected the lives of University students Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis, who met as undergraduates on campus in the early 20th century. Joe, who would eventually become president of Reno Newspapers, Inc., and Leola, his wife, are sharing moments and memories to Facebook The University’s Special Collections and University Archives Department are creating these posts from the couple’s photos and writings, from newspaper stories, and other historical accounts.
“We thought that it would be interesting to resurrect Joe and Leola and relive their younger years,” Curtis said in 2011. “Everyone is on Facebook, especially students; it gives current-day students a chance to know what happened historically on campus and to experience the vivid lives of the couple.”
3. Realtime Storytelling
Hawk Funn is described by its creators, Steve Lowtwait and Michael Smith, as social fiction: “a story told through social media. A cast of fictional characters post about their lives in the same way you and your friends do, except the posts follow a plot. It's a story told in real time.” And, because it's social, you can also comment and have conversations with the characters.
Hawk Funn is the story of an entrepreneur and eccentric family man who never goes indoors. In addition to Hawk, the cast of characters consists of: January Funn, his wife of sixteen years; their two children, Portia and Dieter; and Hawk’s best friend, Reuben Spancake. His camping business, Campanion Co., manufactures designer camp gear and also has its own Facebook page which you’ll find here.
Unfortunately, since first discovering Hawk Funn, the project has stalled. This is a shame because it had great transmedia promise. I was particularly interested in the creators’ plans to make Companion Co.’s products available for real-world purchase.
Finally, a word of caution … when using Facebook as a storytelling device, you should use Facebook Pages not Facebook Profiles. Originally Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis were set up as profiles rather than pages but their popularity, and attending media coverage, brought them to Facebook’s attention. Facebook then deleted the profiles because they violated Facebook's terms of service: “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.” [Statement of Rights and Responsibilities 4.1] Since their resurrection as pages, Joe & Leola have yet to regain their original following numbers.
Please feel free to share other examples from your favourite Facebook storytellers in the comments below.