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Netprov: Elements of an Emerging Form

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Abstract (in English): 

While improvisational theater has a well-documented history, the role of improvisation on the Internet has been only the topic of passing speculation (Laurel; Murray), either applied metaphorically to the user interface or in speculation on the nature of computer-mediated textual exchange particularly in the context of identity formation (Turkle). While improvisation is deeply connected to the authorial practices of players of MMORPGs and their MOO precursors (LaFarge) and to players of story-generation games such as Jason Rohrer’s “Sleep is Death” and to participants in ARGs, we are specifically interested in text-centered improvisation that has as its goal the creation of a narrative or narrative world, rather than primarily the development of a game experience.

In this paper, we propose to define a new category of collaborative authorship on the Web: Networked Improv Narrative (netprov), as a genre of electronic literature predicated on establishing contexts for online synchronous and asynchronous writing.  After briefly reviewing categories of theatrical improvisation especially the influence of Del Close, we will move into the immediate precursors of Internet improvisation.  The remainder of the paper will explore several creative works that epitomize networked improv, particularly works that we, the authors, have had direct involvement, including, The LA Flood ProjectBlue CompanyThe Los Wikiless Timespedia, the Chicago Soul ExchangeThe Ballad of Workstudy Seth, and Grace, Wit, and Charm. The structure of the paper takes on the spirit of collaboration of improv, as we banter back and forth in a dialogue about this emerging form.

 (Source: Authors' abstract)

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Scott Rettberg