Traditional analyses of story structure focused on a story having an arc, a trajectory that in Hollywood is a formula (the 3 act structure). But as we saw last week with bots and generative poetry, and this week with netprov, the shape of networked narratives may be more complex.

Because Bots

With our activity last week of following / interacting with Twitter bots, a number of people have expressed interest in making their own bots (open participant Kevin @dogtrax already did check out @PeaceLoveAndBot).

We prefer you to have some time interacting with them first, and do plan to make this an activity in April, but will not stop anyone who is interested in trying now.

Some of the bot making is quite technical, two of the easier code-free approaches we suggest are:

If you do, make sure your bot greets us in #netnarr!

A Man with Chalk and a Blackboard Explains the Shape of Story

Watch author Kurt Vonnegut describe the structure of stories through a diagramming of a very familiar one. Along with humor, take note of Vonnegut’s style of telling a story about storytelling- how he plays with your expectations, use of misdirection, the way he uses pause, and inflection…

Or if you prefer infographics, try the one by graphic designer Maya Eilam or listen to a video where a brain scientist describes the “Vonnegot shape” in terms of the the brain’s responses to key emotions of stress and empathy.

You might want to think about a story you recently read or a film, and think how it might be mapped to the same coordinate system.

Maybe this only works for linear stories; as you do your work this week, and in your weekly blog post, give some thought to how, or if, you can possible map the shape of Networked Narratives, especially as we focus this week on stories that are played out in an improvised fashion.

Managing the Shape of Twitter

The shape and pace of activity in twitter is not easily described either. If you are new to twitter in this course, your view might be through the web interface or perhaps on your phone, where the focus is always on a fast flow of most current activity.

I (Alan) find a much better way to sort through twitter activity is with a tool called Tweetdeck that runs in a browser window. You log in with twitter (and you can connect multiple accounts, I have 12), and you create different “columns” that can show your mentions, private messages, and, most importantly, searches on hashtags, so you can more easily zero in on Networked Narratives activity:

A few of my tweetdeck columns…

Now as you know we sometimes have confusion over following the #netnarr hashtag and the tweets from the @netnarr account… in my Tweetdeck, I have one column that catches both.

This is digital alchemy you will not find in other courses (now I sound like a late night TV ad).

In Tweetdeck click the search (magnifying glass) icon, and enter #netnarr OR @netnarr — a search for either.

When the results appear, click the Add Column button at the bottom. Now you have a fixed columns to track everything we do in twitter. You can create many more types of columns (check out the + button)… and you can even schedule tweets in Tweetdeck.

Do you know all this twitter activity in #netnarr has a shape too?

Check this out:

We are running a special Google Spreadsheet that can archive, summarize, and here, visualize twitter activity on #netnarr or @netnarr

It might look like a yarn ball. The nodes are individual accounts, the larger ones are more active, and the lines represent connections by mentions or replies. So you might notice there are many isolated less connected nodes on the edge, and a dense ball of activity.

Upward and downward motions with your mouse. Trackpad can zoom in and out. See if you can find your own account in there. Or explore someone else’s. When you click a name, you can see details that represent their activity, like @writeannabella:

What does your own node say about your twitter activity? See if you can find the replay button that plays back your history.

Improv with Pechaflickr Stories Based on Random Photos

Pechaflickr is a site I built to help people practice thinking on their feet and to have fun too. Enter a single tag word to have to select random photos from the flickr photo sharing site. It creates a slide show where you see a new random photo every 20 seconds (you can open the advanced options to change the number of photos and/or the time between) and your goal is to try and talk about the images as if they belonged together.

We will do a group round of this in class Wednesday to practice our improve skills.

Open participants can try it with their friends and family at home. Your settings can be shared if you want someone else to try it with the same word.

Or for fun, check the option for “Heather” mode — when you save the link for your attempt, when you share it the tag will not be displayed, so the goal is to guess the tag. See if you can guess the tag for this 10 photo set.

Netprov Studio Visit Discussion

In class, we will review the Tuesday February 7 visit with Mark Marino & Rob Wittig to learn more about, and experience netprov.

If you cannot catch the live stream of the visit, you can watch it later on the archive (yeah, re-runs!). Our Kean University participants will again tweet out some direct links to key discussion points in the visit video, and there are many more resources on the event page including materials from Mark’s current “Fake News” course.

While we are not doing a live annotation event in class, you are encouraged to continue using to add commentary and augment the page.

What we will do live is…

Finding Magic Around Us: A Live Class Netprov

Stay tuned to #netnarr on twitter as we run our own netprov at Kean University in the library where our classroom is located. We are not yet revealing exactly what we are doing, and you can also do this with us from anywhere.

The details will be magically available by Wednesday 6:00 PM EST– Click (if you dare) for Magic.

Making Media This Week

This week’s media assignments are visual in nature, but rather than working with photos, are more in designing them in graphic editing software.

You can use whatever software you have available. Because not everybody has access to something like Photoshop, we suggest the free, open source Gimp or the web-based pixlr. You can do more with these programs because they allow you to work in layers and isolate elements as you edit – simpler paint programs are “destructive” as you edit.

So use what you can get your hands on legally. We are not looking for fantastic art (though we don’t mind seeing it) but more how you think about ideas and write about your efforts.

These assignments come from a bank of ones from the DS106 Digital Storytelling course. You will find examples previous DS106 students have done on the links below (we have changed a few of them up).

We are listing four assignment ideas- you should pick two to do for this week. These are not stories in themselves, but represent aspects, themes, or maybe parts of stories.

One Story / Four Icons

A classic (that means old) science fiction movie

Take a movie, book, story, and represent it in four icons, symbols, not photos. Do not include the name of the movie on your graphic, try to make us guess it (put the answer in your blog post) Look for icons at sites like the Noun Project. If you do this assignment as a single post, tag it 4iconstory.

Alternative Book Covers
Create the design for a book cover that completely changes the feel of the story, maybe to an opposite. Can you slip in an element of alchemy? In the example for the assignment, the dystopian future of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road looks positively cheery:

If you do this assignment as a single post, tag it altbookcover.

Make an Alchemy Propaganda Poster
Tap into the motif of old art time poster art; modify an existing one to change it’s meaning. Design a poster that promotes the art of Alchemy?

If you do this assignment as a single post, tag it propagandaposter.

Postcards from Magical Places
Long long ago, before there was internet, people like your parent might have sent home picture cards from places they traveled with hand-written notes. Design the front and back of a postcard from an imaginary or magical place, and what kind of message you might send from there. Include postage too!

If you do this assignment as a single post, tag it magicpostcards.

The Shape of a Checklist

After all this scrolling, now comes your favorite part, the list of STUFF TO DO!

  • Watch the archive and review the netprov resources from the Studio Visit with Mark Marion and Rob Wittig. We are not requiring it, but annotating the page again in is a great way to understand netprov together.
  • If you are not available when we do the Finding Magic class activity, review the activity in twitter, and try finding and sharing your own bits of local magic in twitter.
  • Do at least two Daily Digital Alchemies this week.
  • Keep reading and commenting on each other’s blog posts. If one of them is super inspiring, maybe consider tweeting out someone else’s blog post.
  • Write your weekly summary reflecting on the ideas of stories having shape, and what that might mean (or not) for things like E-Literature and netprov.

The Extra Goodies At The Bottom of the Page

Many of you, perhaps hundreds, or two, told me you liked having a treat at the end.

We got two!

Open participant Keegan Long-Wheeler (@keeganslw) is interested in finding people who might want to explore a bit of alchemy in the world of Minecraft. This is not strictly part of the course, but looks like fun.

Do some alchemy right there on your computer with Little Alchemy:

See what you can make by combining the basic elements. There are hundreds of things you can produce, including humans, motorcycles, T-rex, even time. Just from the elements (it also comes as a mobile app so you can do alchemy anywhere).

Featured Image: Calabi Yau (“a two-dimensional hypersurface of the quintic Calabi-Yau three-fold”) placed in the public domain.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine
Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet.


  1. Using your Pechaflickr on a regular basis to get 8 am students to wake up and all my students to loosen up. I use it as a warm up tool just like I used improv and vocal exercises at the beginning of my drama classes.

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