I have been waiting for this for quite a while. When a new medium arises it takes time for its innate structure (Codes and Conventions) to be discovered and understood. As the users of the medium come to understand, and then master these Codes and Conventions, new creative and artistic forms come into existence.
An example of this can be found on Twitter and at the Such Tweet Sorrow site. The Royal Shakespeare Company, working withMudlark ( a producer of mobile phone games, ARGs, virtual world experiences, digital arts adventures and social network narratives), have created the first social network theatrical production.
As the title suggests, this production is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Over five weeks of this performance, the audience can see, read, and participate in the Twitter updates – thoughts, messages, links or confessions – of Romeo, Juliet and four other characters.
The six actors generate their own dialogue, based on a script outline. The audience can interact/comment directly if they have a Twitter account. This is a natural outcome of the medium. The codes and conventions of a Social Network include real-time entries and interaction and participation.
In a way, Roz Chast’s ” The I.M.s of Romeo and Juliet” , a satirical cartoon for The New Yorker magazine, anticipates Such Tweet Sorrow. Chast’s work is a commentary on compression and speed of Instant Messaging. He humorously reduces the play to a few lines.
Romeo and Juliet – Text Messaging Version
Login: Romeo : R u awake? Want 2 chat?
Juliet: O Rom. Where4 art thou?
Romeo: Outside yr window.
Romeo: Had 2 come. feeling jiggy.
Juliet: B careful. My family h8 u.
Romeo: Tell me about it. What about u?
Juliet: ‘m up for marriage f u are.. Is tht a bit fwd?
Romeo: No. Yes. No. Oh, dsnt mat-r, 2moro @ 9?
Juliet: Luv U xxxx
Romeo: CU then xxxx
Friar: Do u?
Juliet: I do
Romeo: I do
Juliet: Come bck 2 bed. It’s the nightingale not the lark.
Juliet: !!! I ws wrong !!!. It’s the lark. U gotta go. Or die.
Romeo: Damn. I shouldn’t hv wasted Tybalt & gt banished.
Juliet: When CU again?
Romeo: Soon. Promise. Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu.
Juliet: Miss u big time.
Nurse: Yr mum says u have 2 marry Paris!!
Juliet: No way. Yuk yuk yuk. n-e-way, am mard 2 Rom.
Friar: Really? O no. U wl have 2 take potion that makes u look ded.
Romeo: J-why r u not returning my texts?
Romeo: RUOK? Am abroad but phone still works.
Romeo: TEXT ME!
Batty: Bad news. J dead. Sorry l8
Romeo: J-wish u wr able 2 read this…am now poisoning & and climbing in yr grave. LUV U Ju xxxx
Juliet: R-got yr text! Am alive! Ws faking it! Whr RU? Oh…
Friar: Vry bad situation.
Juliet: Nightmare. LUVU2. Always. Dagger. Ow!!! Logout
The reality is that the events would have stretched out, as in the original play and the Twitter production. Notice that reading the above text-dialogue would be tedious if it was extended. The Codes and Conventions of texting and tweeting include the real-time interaction and compressed messages.
Just as Shakespeare’s work was intended to be enjoyed as a live stage performance, the texting/tweeting performance has its own intended platform. It is best enjoyed as a daily/serialized experience ,which the audience can immerse themselves in through direct participation.
This 21st century audience expect to interact with the content of the message and shape or add to it, unlike Shakespeare’s intended audience, who would observe from the outside and only respond with applause, laughter, or hisses and boos. This new Social Network audience want entertainment that let’s them enter a Constructed Reality (like a novel or a play), participate as in a game, and interact as in a conversation. They also want to be creators and producers of media/art.
When we take these expectations and look at technological media trends such as the Wii, Touch Screen, and 3D movies and computer graphics, Star Trek’s holodeck & holo-novels and Matrix’s virtual reality doesn’t seem that far off.
2. Ponder on this: How do educators adapt their teaching modes to the Social Networking audience ?
3. There are a number of lesson plans and ideas based on Romeo and Juliet – Text Messaging Version.
Here is one example: Star-Crossed Lovers Online: Romeo and Juliet for a Digital Age