Startled Cat has been re-imagining story – developing and implementing new narrative models that invite visitors to become active participants in the storytelling process. These models are both immersive – allowing visitors to walk into a story – and interactive. Far from being passive recipients, participants are encouraged to respond and contribute content to the stories, making their experiences both interactive and collaborative.
To date, we have three narrative models being used to tell stories across multiple media platforms and industries: Story Quests, Dialogues, and 3D Quilts.
I. STORY QUESTS
The concept of embarking on a quest – a journey in search of answers to questions and/or solutions to challenges – is a vital part of how we learn. Thanks to the interactive and immersive elements inherent in virtual worlds, Story Quests become more than just concepts. They are real, multi-dimensional experiences that are seen, felt, and co-created by participants. Moreover, they generate Narrative Synergy™ that magical sense of being part of something larger than yourself that’s generated when people gather to share and create stories.
The “Life and and Times of Uncle D” was created as a way to allay fears, debunk stereotypes and stigmas, and educate about HIV/AIDS. The Quest takes participants into and allows them to experience the life of someone who lived with HIV. They read Uncle D’s journal, listen to his phone messages, and visit the school where he taught. More importantly, they are asked to interact with particular elements in the Quest and respond with stories of their own.
To view the films made of the Uncle D Story Quest, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-7ZzR6o9hk
II. 3D QUILTS
Utilizing the 3D immersive properties of virtual space, Startled Cat has begun to build collections of dioramas/rooms laid out as giant Quilts. These 3D builds are ideal places for collaborative storytelilng projects focused around a central theme. Not only are they visually compelling places to store creative content, but they serve as hubs for community building across multiple media platforms as well.
The 3D AIDS Quilt
The 3D AIDS Quilt was born out of the realization that the key to eradicating HIV/AIDS lies in three basic principles – Education, Empathy and Empowerment. Education to raise awareness about prevention and treatment; empathy to debunk the stigmas and stereotypes associated with HIV infection; and the empowerment that results from having the knowledge and the tools to make a difference in the fight against AIDS. It was conceived as a tool for bringing individuals and leading HIV/AIDS organizations together in virtual space to create a global, engaged and diverse community committed to the eradication of HIV/AIDS. It is part of the larger Karuna Initiative, which uses story, creative collaboration, innovation, and the unique properties of virtual worlds to create positive, lasting change.
Children are Key
Recognizing that children between the ages of 12 and 18 are one of the most “at risk” populations when it comes to HIV infection, Karuna has partnered with Jokay Wollongong and educators working in the Jokaydia virtual world to bring the 3D AIDS Quilt Project to young people. Jokaydia Grid is the premiere educational world using the Opensim platform, and attracts a wide range of teachers and educational institutions from around the globe.
On Jokaydia, the 3D AIDS Quilt Project will include a peer mentoring and leadership component. With guidance and support from their instructors and parents, teens will be encouraged to not only contribute to the building of the Quilt, but to share the results with and mentor their peers. To this end, this multi-generational project will provide a robust web interface and social networking tools designed to make collaboration and sharing easy and fun.
Dialogues are deep conversations. Based on the belief that it is possible to cross divides and find common ground when people are brought together to share their stories, Dialogues create safe, supportive spaces for these conversations to take place. Within virtual worlds, the addition of anonymity and avatar presence have proven to be powerful ways to facilitate sharing during Dialogues.
The Veteran-Civilian Dialogues
Simply put, a Veteran-Civilian Dialogue brings civilians and veterans together to talk openly about their lives – to share experiences, tell stories, and begin to come to terms with how war has impacted their lives. Dialogues hosted by Intersections International, a global initiative dedicated to promoting justice, reconciliation and peace in the “real world,” began about two years ago in physical space.
The first virtual Veteran-Civilian Dialogues launched in Second Life on September 17, 2010.