Last week I was at the University of Victoria for a Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) course on Digital Storytelling. Taught by the wonderful John Barber of WSU-Vancouver, I learned a lot about digital storytelling tools, theories, methods, structures, and more.
I went specifically with pedagogical application in mind, specifically podcasts, and now have lots of ideas. Many in the class were working on a specific project, which made my pedagogical focus feel a little less exciting (assignment design isn’t always as shiny as it could be), so I decided to join in and do some digital storytelling myself.
I took my own current research as inspiration and I used Twine to make a choose-your-own-adventure style story about attending a séance!
It’s not a finished, beautiful project but it’s a thing and you can play it! You can download it from my Dropbox and then open it in your browser. The html file might look scary to fellow non-coders, but just download the file and open it in whatever browser you like and it should just go!
One of the things I like about sharing this at its more simple state is that it shows what you can accomplish in a week with a little excitement about a new tool, some inspiration from ongoing research, and a good teacher (Thanks, John B.!)
Now a little bit about the process.
Twine was originally developed for making html-based games but increasingly some use it for telling non-linear stories. Now I loved, loved, loved the choose-your-own-adventure book series as a kid. I had tried to teach myself how to use Twine before, but it didn’t go so well. Probably since I didn’t have a project goal in mind and was rather just clicking around, it didn’t make any sense. So, as others in my DHSI course started working on their digital storytelling projects and my assignment design project looked less and less exciting, I figured – why not try again. And immediately my mind went to my current research on Spiritualism and material culture.
With planchettes, spirit cabinet, slate tablets, materializations, and more, the topic just seemed perfect for Twine. Thus, “A Saturday Evening Seance” was born. You start on the streets of Cleveland in 1874 and choose to enter the home of a Mrs. H—. You’ve heard about her abilities as a medium and decide to pay the $1 to attend a séance at her home. From there, you’ll make a variety of choices that will drive how the experience unfolds around you. I was able to make some of the interesting html whizbang fun happen (like mouseover macros and images) but I could never get the sound to work (I’ll keep trying but you’re missing out on a spooky, creaking door sound as you enter Mrs. H—‘s home).
A few notes about the story and the images. I went with Mrs. H— because it was common in 19th-century books about Spiritualism to keep some of the mediums anonymous and just use their initials. I went with Cleveland because I’m finding more examples from there than I would have expected (especially in What Converted Me to Spiritualism: One Hundred Testimonies).