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corpse2corpse (working title)

Published onJan 16, 2019
corpse2corpse (working title)


We propose a collaborative storytelling tool, corpse2corpse that functions as a ‘massive multiplayer’ exquisite corpse game, in the style of large, collaborative internet artworks. Exquisite corpses are a method of composing a collective image or story, where participants take turns to contribute to the work. A key feature is that, while each contributor might be able to see a snapshot of the collective effort, the full scope of the work is only revealed at the end.

In this case, we suggest a text-based story, that starts with a single, open-ended sentence. Development of the story is divided into turns, where at each turn, two contributors are selected from the set of participants currently online. Each contributor has a minute to add a sentence to the story, at which point the other participants vote on which sentence they find more interesting as a continuation of the narrative. If a clear winner emerges, that sentence is selected, and the process continues, with again 2 random contributors selected to continue the story.

Existing examples:

  • /r/place

  • Twitch Plays Pokemon.

Where and how to share:

In contrast to massive collaborative artworks such as /r/place, however, corpse2corpse provides opportunities for the narrative to fork at points of juncture. When the vote is close to 50% either way (say, between 55 and 65), each group of voters is placed on a divergent path, and the stories then emerge in parallel. At the next turn, two random people are picked from within each diverging subgroup to continue that story, and the next sentence is voted on by the subgroup. As such, over time, hundreds of stories might emerge in parallel. To make the game more interesting, participants are not made directly aware when a branch has occurred, and are left to unravel where the stories diverged at the end. This emulates a situation in the original exquisite corpse, where you cannot see the full picture until the very end of the game.

Options: Techniques for then reading the story back are varied, with the possibility to substitute other branches within a particular narrative to see a different perspective on the story. This could be accomplished with an interface for navigating the tree structure of the story by scrolling through the text and, whenever a branch is met, choosing a direction to proceed. Another possibility might be to find some way to merge the stories (e.g. extracting the key ideas for each narrative and then generatively combining them), however this would be challenging to do for more than a few stories, and difficult to automate. Perhaps one way of addressing this would be to allow participants to vote on the discontinuation of their own branch, after which writers could either choose or be sent at random to other existing branches.

Outreach, iteration

Reddit — /r/place organizers + metacommunity?
Current small exquisite corpse communities
1000 people or so would make a good example

Book-signing events? Nanowrimo, story-sprint enthusiasts.

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