Writing Digital Stories for an Interactive Audience

Panopticon Digital Story Proposal

One of the difficulties I have faced when writing the script for Panopticon arises from the awareness that the audience has agency in the story world. They can decide which content they want to look at and, because the story won’t automatically continue, they will need to choose to keep engaging with the content. I am worried that telling the story through a non-linear collection of moments and mediums will make Panopticon inaccessible and fail to engage the audience or hold their attention.

The Loop

Tarrant (2003, p. 201 – 202) points to Lev Manovich’s ‘proposition that the loop might be understood as ‘A Narrative Engine’ [where] interactivity becomes less about stopping and going, and more about the continuous re-direction of flow and energy’. The structure of the loop implies that the story needs to return to the same place, a place that can now be explored with new information and any momentum gained must be redirected. Sharing Panopticon through the Verse portal would allow us the opportunity for both linear, chapter-based, exploration and a duplicated landing page that would serve as the location for the loop. Within the boundary of this loop, the story content needs to include directions for the audience that indicate there is more specific information available in other mediums that will deepen the understanding and experience of the story.

Narrative Structure in Three Dimensions

The emergence of the transmedia form has required new structures for developing a narrative. One proposed structure depicts the narrative as three-dimensional, with one dimension being logical and linear as in traditional cinema or books, the second as the choices that audiences can make to influence the first dimension, and the third as the medium through which the story is delivered, which also recognises that there is a meta-level of experiencing the stories – a journey of connecting plot points across these dimensions (Bastiaens & Bouwknegt 2014). We started developing our story concept through a chronological, linear version of events and identified which mediums we would use to tell these parts of the story. Our next step would be to engage our audience through developing the other story dimensions, using tools that lend itself to the transmedia format.

Withholding or Misleading Information

One tool we can use is choosing to withhold some information from the story. Long (2007, p. 53) discusses playing on the audience’s desire for more knowledge, ‘building strategic gaps into a narrative to evoke a delicious sense of ‘uncertainty, mystery, or doubt’. To encourage the audience to make choices about the story, we can also offer alternative descriptions of events or moments depending on the medium it is told through. Bastiaens & Bouwknegt (2014, p. 1284) say that for, the user, this ‘offers the possibility to design his own significance within the text. […] each choice in paradigmatic design has the ability to differ and change according to personal interpretation.’

Hopefully, by implementing these ideas we will be able to create a rich experience that encourages deeper audience engagement with Panopticon.


Bastiaens, O & Bouwknegt, H 2014, ‘Transmedia and Semiotics, A Structural Model for Transmedia Dynamics’, in New Semiotics Between Tradition and Innovation: Proceedings of the 12th World Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS/AIS), New Bulgarian University, Sofia, 16 – 20 September, pp. 1279 – 1289, viewed 12 April 2018, <https://iris.unito.it/bitstream/2318/1645420/1/01_STANO_Con-Fusion%20Cuisines_New%20Semiotics.%20Between%20Tradition%20and%20Innovation.pdf#page=1279>.

Long, G 2007, ‘Transmedia Storytelling: Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company’, MSc, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts, viewed 12 April 2018 <http://www.geoffreylong.com/downloads/geoffreylong_transmediastorytelling.pdf>.

Tarrant, P 2003, ‘New Screen Media: Cinema/Art/Narrative’, Media & Education Magazine, 2003, Issue 136, pp. 201-202, viewed 12 April 2018 <https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/236471115?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo>.

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