Social Media Narrative:
The Rutgers Camden Digital Studies Center
Facebook, November 16 - 21, 2016
M ark C. Marino is a new media writer, whose work has appeared in the James Joyce Quarterly, the Electronic Literature Collection, The Iowa Review Web, Hypperhiz, The New River Journal, and SpringGun Press. Marino's current work also includes netprovs (often with Rob Wittig) and electronic literature for children, created with his family. A noted collaborative scholar in the digital humanities, he teaches writing at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab, including the Critical Code Studies Working Group. Additionally, in 2011, he taught Game Studies and Critical Code Studies as a Fulbright Specialist at the University of Bergen. His works creatively explore contemporary culture and issues. Inventive, interesting, and utilizing a wide range of software and applications, among many others, they include Stravinsky's Muse; Labyrinth: The Rulebook without Game; 12 Easy Lessons to Better Time Travel, and The LA Flood Project, a collaborative locative narrative.
I'd like to speak to the issues of trolls. Some of netprov's most controversial projects have involved trolling -- though the trolls were not under our bridges but we were (mostly I am) the trolls (troll) under theirs. But I'll let you decide whether we are troublesome trolls (like the President), musical trolls (like Justin Timberlake), or fishing trolls (like those folks dragging multiple fishing lines in the hopes of many bites). This last kind seems closest to the troll mask we wear in order to instigate play in netprov.
Let me explain. As Rob Wittig, has defined them, netprovs are improvisations played out over networked digital media, such as SNSs or online forums. Some of them have been framed as open fictions (Thermophiles in Love, IWFW, Air-B-N-Me, Mem-Eraze). Others are not. For example, when we played out @Tempspence, we did not tell @SpencerPratt's followers that we were about to write a story. Or in one of my earliest netprovs, later titled The Ballad of Workstudy Seth, I did not announce that the main character, my ersatz workstudy student, was fictional. I just started telling a story.
The most controversial of these projects was @occupymla, in which Rob and I played out a fictional Occupy movement protesting the Modern Language Association. That project went on for nearly 1.5 years, and we only revealed at the very end that it was a fiction. Needless to say, some were none too pleased. However, the issues we were raising (adjunct rights, in particular) put us and our jobs (as contingent faculty) in peril.
But we weren't truly trolling in any of these projects. We weren't trying to be "bad actors" in the sense of stereotypical troll behavior. Instead, we were performing our roles in the midst of networks where the rules of play are tenuous at best. More to the point, we were performing purposeful artistic and critical interventions on networks by breaking the rules -- which on media platforms that are only a nanosecond old can at best only be considered, like The Pirate Code, to be suggestions.
I say "we," but the impulse to walk on the edge is usually mine. Rob jumps in and supports these projects in his own brilliant and generous way, but he generally prefers open netprovs, ones that announce their fictional quality, so that we don't hurt anyone. And I'm grateful to him for that caution.
That said, he's the first point out that literary history (From Gulliver's Travels to the Bronx Zoo's Cobra) is full of authors saying they were someone they weren't -- not just in the stories but on the covers of these works! I hope that in some small way our trolling, if it be that, may incite and inspire, by pushing us out of the commercialized verified identities of Facebait back to a moment when we saw Internet identities as performance -- times like the late 20th -- or perhaps more like the 18th Century!
Transcript of Mark Marino's Netprov conversation