There is more to narrative than just the story. Even finding a single agreed definition of narrative is difficult. Put simply a story refers to the events or plot points of a piece of writing, while Narrative refers to the way in which that story is told. Within the traditional print form of fiction narrative is generally (because there are always exceptions) linear and the reader’s engagement with the material is dictated by the author.
The online environment challenges this linear and author centric construction of narrative. Hypertext allows readers/viewers to engage with the narrative and direct the channels down which the story will flow. Though the interconnectivity and recursive links of a hypertext narrative could be seen as a highly controlled self-reflexive form of intertextuality: one where meaning is not only produced by the reader’s interaction with the text and texts outside the narrative, but also within the narrative itself and the author forces the reader to look at the texts which make up the work in different juxtapositions to create new meaning. However to see this or any other closed text, eg a game or other single or small group collaboratively authored work as genuinely surrendering the meaning making and construction of narrative to the reader/viewer is mistaken. These texts are as heavily narrated as a printed text, their focus and world view has been constructed by a person with a particular cultural and social identity which will emerge in the construction of the narrative. It will be understood within a certain cultural groups to a greater depth than top others. It is still a locked narrative which requires social and cultural capital to access it fully.
For the online environment, this means that the constructed texts like those found in “We tell stories.” (wetellstories, 2010) still need a governing authorial organisational voice to remain coherent. The platform has changed, and that changes the way the content is given, but not the dynamics of power in the print author/reader relationship. As Barrett Sheridan says of the collaborative online fiction created through wikinovel, “the wikinovel is nearly incomprehensible, and most of its prose atrocious.” (Sheridan, 2010) for narrative to work regardless of platform, a single unified voice is needed, even if this voice is not apparent.
Storify is a good example of a single organisational voice which can bring together the disparate voices of the cyber world together and render it into a coherent narrative for easy consumption. Storify allows for multiple voices and perspectives to be brought together, something which is not possible in traditional journalism, and presents them in a format that makes them intelligible. While storify does not write the content itself (it does offer context) (Tenore, 2011), it is serving an narrative role, it not the reader chooses what content to bring together, the reader once again is surrendering their authority over the text to a third party. Effectively they are placing a mediator between themselves and the information, the story that they wish to access. (Miller, 2011)
The fact that narrative, especially collective narratives, survives in the online environment, tells us about how we as humans make meaning The online environment gives us new tools to play with and exposes us to narratives that we may otherwise have had no idea existed. The online environment allows us to see the narratives of other cultures, to understand them on a level we may never have been able to do before, but it also shows that submitting to collective narratives is the cost of existing within a society. To stretch the narrative too far out of an agreed shape, like the wikinovel, renders us incomprehensible to our fellow humans and effectively marginalises us: which since narrative is ultimately for the purposes of communication and connection, is self defeating.
We tell stories, 2010, viewed 12th October 2014, http://wetellstories.co.uk/
Miller, C.C, 2011, Filtering the Social Web to Present News Items, NYTimes, viewed 12th October 2014, http://www.nytimes.co/2011/04/25/technology/internet/25storify.html?_r=4&src=b
Sheridan, B, 2010, Telling Stories the Online Way, Newsweek, viewed 12th October 2014, http://www.neswsweek.com/telling-stories-online-way-85783
Tenore, M.J, 2011, The 5 types of stories that make good Storifys, Pointer, viewed 12th October 2014, http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/153697/the-5-types-of-stories-that-make-good-storifys/