(Students reading and writing the hypertext, on laptops and phones.)
As part of the Writing Carnival at IUP on October 20, 2017, the Center for Digital Humanities and Culture created a collaborative writing experience titled the Haunted Hypertext.
Visit the project: http://www.iupdhc.org/haunted/
Participants encountered an invitation to a story: “It began as a story set in a mid-Atlantic college town. As autumn leaves turn brown, visitors are invited to explore the paths that lead from one site to another. Perhaps you have heard rumors. Perhaps you hold the key to another piece of the story. Enter if you dare…”
When the festival began, readers could adventure throughsix different spaces. They could explore the abandoned mansion, graveyard, garden, warehouse, theater or schoolhouse, using a laptop or even their phone. But each one of these paths was incomplete or open-ended. So when they reached the stopping point of a branch, they were invited to invent the next passage to the story.
What is a hypertext?
Traditional print literature, from poems to stories, works with the linear constraints of the book. Hypertext names the branching, multi-linear web of possibilites that can be imagined when we shift to a spatial metaphor. Pages become passages, and each passage can lead to another. One passage can open to many, a path can lead you on an adventure, into a labyrinth, or toward an impossible dead end.
Over the source of two hours, 24 writers or pairs expanded the six basic scenes to a web text with 58 passages and 3819 words, the equivalent of 18 printed pages. The six initial passages branched into 19 paths.
The Haunted Hypertext was conceived by members of the IUP Center for Digital Humanities and Culture. The writing tool we are using is an “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories” called Twine. http://www.twinery.org
Unfortunately, Twine itself is designed for single authors and we wanted to create an opportunity for a large number of writers to come together, immerse themselves in the fictive space, and then add something to the shared text. Our solution was to embed a web survey in the hypertext, so that when readers were ready to write, they would be redirected to a submission form. Here they author a passage and submit it.
As this is happening, volunteers who are familiar with the use of Twine, take their contributions from the database, insert them into the appropriate space within the twine web, and then upload a new version to the website.
(IUP Graduate student Shane Sedlemyer, editing the Twine.)
Phase one of the project is published at:
Readers are now invited to “finish off” a number of branches which are incomplete. For several weeks after the festival, visitors are invited to bring “closure”; they can either redirect the story, so that it links back to (recursively) to an earlier passage or they can terminate the narrative. For example, perhaps “you” open the door to a closet, a bowling ball rolls out onto your head and you die; hopefully you can be more clever than that.
Visit one of the branches that need closure and use the “write” interface to complete the passage.
There will be one final update sometime after Halloween, where we’ll bring whatever degree of closure seems fitting.