Thursday, November 19, 2009

Online campaigning as collaborative diegesis

If your first thought is 'Huh' bear with me. I was at an interesting research seminar yesterday run here at Bournemouth by colleague Joe Flintham who was talking of the notion of a collaborative diegesis. Diegesis may sound a complex thing but it is something we are all familiar with, it is the world which is created by any narrative, that which involves us and we are transported to when we read a book, watch a film etc. For Joe, his work is on fiction and collaboration in stories using a range of media (see Hauntology for one of his experimental projects which invited people to add sounds while exploring a 'haunted' table with drawers). I was struck by the idea of a collaborative narrative which builds and develops a story and was thinking of its application beyond the world of fiction.

Here was my thought. Social Networking Sites are naturally collaborative, a profile page on Facebook, YouTube etc can be populated by the creator but also by visitors to that profile. Each contributing comment on a post, picture or video adds to the original item and so provides a further dimension that can be experienced by future visitors. Political profiles, be they fan pages, individual MP's pages or party video sites usually allow comments. The similarity with contributions to something like Hauntology is striking. Some are reflective on the original item; some tangential and related to the host, production values, spelling, whatever; some relate to the meta-narrative (big picture) such as a campaign or contest, values or a world view; they are each personal and had meaning at the time of their posting. Of course there is censorship of the contributions, and perhaps this results in a wholly supportive narrative, this is a necessary feature of oppositional politics. However is something like the contributions to the Post shown on the right, something which seems almost a unique feature of Obama's campaign and presidency in terms of the numbers contributing if nothing else, a collaborative diegesis? Is this creating a world constructed by a collaborative narrative which is enveloping Obama as the character at the centre? Is this narrative not only persuasive, in terms of the endorsements of Obama by the members of the Facebook community, but also transportational; does it conjure the image of a world in which Obama has a free hand, or the world he wants to create, and so why he should be supported. It was an idea inspired by Joe's talk and so all feedback and comments welcome.


joe said...

Darren, interesting questions...

I think there must be parallels and inter-relationships here between fictional and real-world 'diegeses': the world in which it is possible for Obama to pass a health reform bill must be prepared and constructed in advance, and surely the construction of this imaginative world is done performatively through not only Obama's administration and image-making processes, but also the participation of parts of the population who collectively flesh out the vision of the world (the diegesis?) that permits Obama's reforms, and in which sych reforms 'make sense'.

The many actors in this processes are perhaps made up at macro levels by party machines and media organisations, as well as the micro levels by citizen participants who in their own ways reflexively frame and interpret the narrative events and story developments so that they continue to be part of a coherent diegesis - which in this case might be the imaginative world which the Obama presidency seems to promise?

Patrick Brauckmann said...

Hi Darren,
sounds really interesting. I am adopting the question for my German Blog on Online-Campaigning:
THX, Patrick.

Darren G Lilleker said...

Hi Joe,
I think you have articulated my thinking far better than I did. One of the 'big ideas' of Web 2.0 that has been discussed is harnessing the power of the masses (crowd) in terms of promoting brands and products. I think this takes the idea of promotion a stage further in terms of the ehtos of the 'brand' or idea being developed through the collective narrative. Public story-telling about potential political changes creating a post-change diegesis. I like the idea, not quite sure what to do with it but like it!!

Patrick, thanks for the link, looks an interesting blog.

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