UW professor invites all to join “collective act of digital creativity”

Nov. 15, 2013

Led by UW-Madison Continuing Studies Professor Jesse Stommel, the massive artistic collaboration welcomes art, music, text, audio, tweets, digital comics, animation, video, and code.

Jesse Stommel

Beginning at 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 15 and ending 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, Nov. 17, the "Digital Writing Makerthon" is in Stommel's words: "an online flash mob, a lunatic ride through the digital world, hell-bent on producing a collaborative story 50,000 words long in just 48 hours."

To join the free online novel-writing action this weekend, sign up at http://www.readmake.com and follow @Jessifer, @slamteacher, and #readmake on Twitter.

Stommel says the rough plot is: "The author is dead. Print is dead. Storytelling has changed. Stories are no longer told to audiences, but by audiences."

A group of 20-40 people from around the country collaborated online Thursday to flesh out the plot outline, Stommel explained. The group describes it as:

"You are part of a crack team of storytellers, educators, students, and concerned citizens sent online to investigate the death of narrative. For this mission, you need all the resources of the Internet at the ready... and cooperation from every corner of literature itself.

For this investigation (rescue mission?), you'll work with others to write an account of the precarious health of narrative. It will also be up to you to resurrect the names, voices, and words of the greatest — and the most underrepresented — characters from literature, poetry, drama, television, movies, the Internet and more."

The Thursday group also drew up titles for the 20 chapters of the digital novel to assist the weekend collaborators. The first five are:

  • Ships at a Distance Have Every Man's Wish on Board
  • This is Not for You
  • It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged
  • And Gossamer Fidelity
  • Frisch weht der Wind

"Note that the fifth title is in German. We expect participation from around the world, so all languages are welcome," says Stommel, whose specialty is digital humanities.

In his teaching, Stommel describes his courses as experimental. "They focus on building learning communities and emphasize new forms of mass-collaboration," he notes. His personal website can be found at jessestommel.com.

Also the director and founder of Hybrid Pedagogy, a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology, Stommel's expertise is pedagogy, open education, social media, and digital publishing. He publishes regularly online at Inside Higher Ed, Bright Lights Film Journal, and in the Profhacker blog at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

--Mary Lock Albrecht