The Garden of Overlapping Paths: Peer Responses to Location-Based Narratives

Throughout our unit on location-based narratives, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing the significance of layering, and the ways in which digital tools and technologies allow us to create or reveal a narrative layer onto a physical or fictional place.

What we haven’t said, at least not explicitly, is that this can be seen as a kind of hypertextuality; if we imagine a place as a kind of text, than the digital narrative you each have built is another text ‘linked’ to the first. This is the definition of hypertextual.

For today’s peer workshop, we are going to explore how many other layers of hypertext we can impose on each location someone in class has chosen. What other stories exist in these places? How can we use those additional hypertextual layers to further develop, change, or re-imagine the story about that place we were trying to tell?

What  I’ll ask each of you to do, then, is to respond to a handful of your peer’s location-based narratives by writing your own story about that place. This is called a generative workshop, one wherein each author gives their story as a spark and allows other writers to create their own work in response to that spark. Of course, you don’t receive traditional ‘this is good’ or ‘this needs work’ feedback in this kind of a workshop, but you do learn a great deal about your place, which is the center of your piece.

Here are the logistics for how this will work.

  • Everyone will navigate to this open-edit Google doc, and, beside the next available “chapter” type the title of your narrative, followed by the names of all the authors involved. Then, click on the link embedded in your chapter.
  • This will take you to a separate Google doc that will hold all your responses. Type the title and authors of your location-based narrative at the top, beside the chapter heading, then make that text into a hyperlink to your narrative.
  • Once you have set up your narrative, return to the Table of Contents, and begin exploring other location-based narratives by following the links people have entered.
  • Specifically, I want everyone to visit 2-3 location-based narratives. Read and explore them thoroughly. Learn the story of that place. Then return to the Google doc bearing its title, and write into that document your own story of that location.
    • What you write will vary widely depending on your experience and the pieces you choose. You may write a true story of some memory or experience you have in that same place. You may write an anecdote or interesting history you know about that place second-hand. You may write something purely fictional or imagined. You might even respond by expanding or extending the author’s narrative, inserting yourself into the story they’ve begun.
    • I strongly encourage you to visit a variety of places; try not to only respond to locations that already have meaning or memory for you.
    • Your response should be 1-2 paragraphs long, and should include at least one embedded image (this may be of the location itself, your imagined version of that location, or something connected to your response, and it may be either original or found, though it shouldn’t be from the author’s narrative).
    • In addition to the image, please include a hyperlink to your personal blog somewhere in your response. This will be your “signature” so you needn’t sign your written entry.
  • Once you have written 2-3 thorough responses, return to the Table of Contents and visit your narrative’s document to see what’s emerged there. In the document, write 1-2 paragraphs reflecting on what has emerged there.
    • You may be surprised to discover similar stories or wildly different ones.
    • You may reflect on what a plethora of stories tells you about your place, or what an absence of stories means.

When you submit your finalized location-based narrative by posting it to your blog on Friday, it should be accompanied by an artist’s statement that details the following:

  • Why you chose this location, and what story you layered on top of it;
  • How you used digital technology to create or reveal that layer (that is, what cannot be seen in the physical world that can be experienced in your digital narrative);
  • What more you learned about your location from the feedback you received today;
  • and, how you could revise and expand your original location-based narrative into a collaborative, hypertextual, location-based narrative that includes or is changed by your peers’ stories about your shared location.

My hope is that this exercise and the accompanying artist’s statement will allow you to begin thinking about telling bigger stories, and dissolving the boundaries between what belongs to you and what belongs to everyone in the digital world, so that you may envision a more layered, more immersive, and more fully open digital final project.

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