Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Stories, Bots, and Netprov (oh my!)

Another week of connected learning! I feel like I have a deeper understanding of this term with each passing week. Buckle up, I'm about to break down everything that's happened in this past week.

Five Card Flickr was an fun and surprisingly challenging exercise. Despite my love of stories (and presence in this class), I'm not a great storyteller. In real life, I tend to go on and on (which you might be able to tell from the rambling nature of my blogs), and I'm not much of a creative writer, so being presented with a creative writing assignment was daunting.

I was also faced with the challenge that I don't know how to write a short, quick story. It is so deeply ingrained in my head that a story follows a particular structure, that I had to really concentrate in order to tie the photos together. I felt better about this, upon reading Sandy's post, that I'm not the only one who gets trapped in the structure.

That being said, I did my best. My first experience with the random photos yielded these options:

From these photos, came my story "Wanderer." 

For the second part of Five Card Flickr, writing a different story with someone else's photoset, I chose this beautiful collection:

Kelli wrote a beautiful poem based on these photos called "Lucid Dreaming," which can be found here. My piece based on these photos is based on stream of conscious thoughts I had while considering each photos. It's not a story in the same way that my first attempt was, but it's a compilation of thoughts. I can be found here, and is called "Illumination."

Another assignment this week was to follow the bots suggested by @KairosHotBot. I tried twice and was given four options:

Bots are an interesting concept and they certainly do raise questions about authorship, as Professor Flores spoke about in last week's studio visit.  I think they can be entertaining, and the programming behind them is fascinating, as I came to learn from reading Robotic Poetics by William Winder, which I came across in doing some side research into the Digital Humanities. However, I think that bots are a lot like any other kind of account, you like what you like so you follow it, and the rest are pretty boring. I'm looking forward to unfollowing quite a few of these accounts. Perhaps this comes from my general opinion that random doesn't equal funny, and I think that these bots rely on random combinations of thoughts in order to get a laugh. I certainly found this to be the case with @lawandorderexo. @WorstLastWords, @BMovieGenerator, and @monstersubtypes all made me chuckle from time to time, but that was about it.

I will say that in exploring bots to follow for this week's class, I rediscovered a great account called KimKierkegaardashian, which is a bot mashup of the tweets of Kim Kardashian and Soren Kierkegaard, which is endlessly hilarious to me-- perhaps because I know the source material that the bot is pulling. Another bot that I personally enjoyed discovering was Magic Realism Bot, which made me laugh more regularly than the others-- perhaps because magical realism is already absurd and the bot made it all the more ridiculous. I also enjoyed discovering Why Can't We Date?, which I discovered through Laura's post, so thanks for that!
In general, bots are pretty hit-or-miss, for me. It was great to discover a few new fun accounts!

To close out this week's blog, we were invited to experience a studio visit with Mark Marino & Rob Wittig, who taught us about netprov. I've been involved in one netprov here at Kean, Air-B-N-Me, which was discussed in the course of the video. Air-B-N-Me was hosted in the spring 2016 semester, and the premise was that participants got the opportunity to "check out" of our lives, and allow others to "check in," and experience the moments that we'd rather miss. The netprov experience was totally new to me, and it was cool to be involved with creating a story with other contributors around the world-- very much a digital storytelling experience. \\

Something in particular that stood out to me in this studio visit was the discussion on truth, and how we know when someone is telling the truth. The short answer is, we don't. In the world of netprov, we make up our own stories and tell them to others who, in accordance with the netprov, go along with it. This is great in the world of fiction, but it gets scary when we question facts in real life. I've linked the part of the discussion I'm referring to below:

I don't care to get specifically political because political discussions aren't my style, and I find that they make more enemies than they make friends, so I'm going to leave my opinion at this-- I feel we live in a time where truth is subjective to the side you're on. One side tells one panicked story, the other side responds with panicked responses. Propaganda builds on propaganda. What's terrifying in all of this, is that a true narrative does exist. How do we find it? How do we find truth when life has turned into a real-life netprov? It's frightening.

Journalism is quite important to me. I worked on my undergrad's student newspaper for all four years of my undergraduate career. We were a small publication, but we worked hard at our jobs, and we saw when a ripple went through the campus because of a story we ran. We went to student newspaper conferences and heard speech after speech about the importance of good, solid reporting. But in reality, in "the real world," I'm not so sure that "good, solid news" is really a standard. We have to question everything and honestly, it's tiring--- but tiring is the goal. Whichever news outlet is leading the discussion wants the reader/viewer to get tired, so they accept the story as truth and further the narrative, instead of questioning. Maybe we do really live in one giant netprov.....

There's so much more to unpack but I risk my blog becoming an actual book, so I'll save that for class/hypothes.is discussion. This was a fantastic studio visit, and I'm glad I was able to see the faces behind netprov. I look forward to our discussion in class tomorrow!


  1. Hi Marissa! I got really interested towards the end of your blog. Your comments made me think about Dave (David). He was in our New Media's class. I think you and him would have a really interesting conversation.

    1. I remember him! That would be quite an interesting conversation, I always enjoyed his journalism perspective.

  2. I might ask you to cross out that second paragraph! Your wanderer story carried me on an arc of curiosity, left wanting to know what the wanderer was wandering from. It's extra fun for me because I had to seed the pool with my own photos, and I enjoy seeing what ways people imagine the places I know. You might appreciate that the first and last photos in that story, were taken at exactly the same place, Papago Park in Phoenix, and in opposite directions.

    And I do agree that the bots can be hit or miss, many, as you notice get tiring when you see their limits. And that's what the Magic Realism one does well (and I must check out that Kardashian one)... the ones that mix two different sources together are really hard to write so they work when randomly paired (you will get to try later in the semester).

    Thanks for being an active player in the activities.