Judy Malloy, Editor

Jay Bushman
The Loose-Fish Project
Software: Twitter

Jay Bushman: Twitter Posts from The Good Captain

Exploring transmedia public narratives that move between Twitter, Blog, and paperback, Jay Bushman creates multiple pathways to retold narrative in his Loose-Fish Project.

Bushman is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker/new media story-teller whose work also includes the short film Orson Welles Sells His Soul to the Devil , which was screened at Film Fest New Haven and the Berlin Film Festival, among other venues. He was Transmedia Producer of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a year-long social media retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice which unfolded on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, among other social media platforms. He is currently Executive Producer and Co-Showrunner of Welcome To Sanditon, an interactive transmedia narrative based on Austen's unfinished novel.

The Loose-Fish Project was featured at the 2008 Electronic Literature Organization Conference in Vancouver, Washington.

More information about his work is available on Jay Bushman's homepage at http://jaybushman.com

Jay Bushman: The Loose-Fish Project

The goal of the Loose-Fish Project is to use various web-based media -- ideally free or low-cost -- as a platform for telling stories adapted from classic and public domain works. Ideally, the fictional story content becomes embedded in the non-fictive world of the wider web. One way of describing it is like an Alternate Reality Game, without the Game portion. The media for each story is chosen to mirror or augment some aspect of the story.

Loose-Fish #1: "The Good Captain"
"The Good Captain" is a science-fiction adaptation of the Herman Melville novella "Benito Cereno." Since the story relies heavily on the realtime, flawed POV of its main character, the medium I chose to use was the web service Twitter. Twitter limits its users to updates of 140 characters of text.

In writing the story, I relied on an adaptation method that I use regularly -- I downloaded a public domain e-text versiion of the original story, and pasted it into Microsoft Word, increasing the font to 16 point and the line spacing to Double, then printing out the story on three-holed punch paper and putting into a binder. The large text and double-spacing allowed me to focus on the line-by-line, beat-by-beat of the original, and the facing blank page is where I wrote the adaptation. That text was then entered into a specially formatted Word document, using a monospaced font and tweaked margins so that 140 characters of text took up exactly 2 lines of text. When the full story was written, this text was transferred to an Excel spreadsheet, where each grid equaled one story update. Once the story began, I would copy a spreadsheet cell into the Twitter interface and update the main page http://twitter.com/goodcaptain anywhere from 8 to 15 times per day. The full story took four months to unfold.

Users of Twitter have many ways of getting their content. The best -- for purposes of this story - are desktop-based clients that display a feed of the user's friends. Embedded in between these updates, they would get a chunk of story. Other users can get their Twitter messages on their phones via text messages or via IM. This was less successful for the story, as these users tended to mute their Twitter responses while asleep or while doing other activities, and not go back through their cache.

One thing that using Twitter for a storytelling mechanism required was a more frequent restating of the given circumstances of what was going on. When giving the full text to a couple of friends for comment, they read the whole story in one sitting, and commented that there was a lot of redundancy. But what might look like half a page of text on a page would actually dribble out to readers in the course of two weeks.

Another interesting thing that I encountered was that many readers apologized to me because they were unsure if they were "reading it correctly," which I took to be a by-product of expanding storytelling to an unfamiliar format. For these readers, I put together a paperback book version of the story --
a downloadable PDF, and a version for the Amazon Kindle.

Authoring Software


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