Does the web provide a radically different platform for story telling? How do we engage with and tell stories on a digital multimedia platform? These are some of the questions we had to ask ourselves at the MediaNet Academy last week. What we came up with was an exploration into the possibilities of digital story telling.

One of the marks of engagement with the internet is a loss of the linearity of experience found in other forms of media. Reading a book or watching a film or TV show follows a fairly standard beginning to end path, one dictated to us, to a significant degree, by the producer (author, director, journalist).

The stories we consume may experiment with unpredictable narrative paths (like the film Memento) but the path we as consumers take is given to us.

There will always be some, of course, who choose to read a newspaper article or novel by jumping in and out of the text at different places (less so with a rented film, and not at all for broadcast TV and cinema) but these are rare exceptions.

In using the web, however, it seems to me to be becoming far more common for us to forge our own path and guide ourselves around stories:

Scan the headlines or a news feed, follow a link, watch streamed footage, check wikipedia for background, check some related posts, scan a few comments… get bored, pick up a new story, follow some more links, find a different take on the subject, think about getting a coffee and the work you should probably get down to doing.

How deep we wish to go with a story, how much background, how many opinions, how much fact checking… so much of this is now up to us. Who is the narrator of the story we experience? Are we?

In small computer room with whitewashed walls and a single small window three of us worked for 36 hours to produce a ‘narrative platform’ for the story of Jo Bloggs. No one piece of text, no one video or radio show, not even one single website presents the story as a whole. The story is told through the viewers engagement with the network of links to blogs and pages and Facebook profiles. Every journey through the story will be different as the viewer finds her own path.

It’s a fictional story though the boundaries are fuzzy (but this isn’t new, think historical novel). If you want, you as a character can get involved in some of the same ways that we all have the potential to become part of the news stories that we read and watch every day.

Interesting stuff. D’ya get me?