Where Satire and Social Media Converge: Netprov at #NetNarr

NetProv hangout for NetNarr

I was able to join a “studio visit” video hangout yesterday afternoon with the fine folks over at Networked Narratives and the strange (compliment!) minds behind what is known as Netprov. Essentially, Netprov taps into the possibilities of digital and social media spaces to create a sort of “networked improvisation.”

Netprov Quote

You can read more about the Netprov idea at the website, but these points stuck out at me, in reading and listening to the Rob Wittig and Mark Marino (I didn’t talk much in the Hangout because Mark and Rob had so much to say, and it seemed best to give the Kean graduate students time to ask questions):

  • Netprov creates stories that are networked, collaborative and improvised in real time
  • Netprov is collaborative and incorporates participatory contributions from readers
  • Netprov is designed for episodic and incomplete reading
  • When somebody makes a fake Twitter account of an object or a critter — that is Netprov
  • When somebody creates a make-believe event  and blogs about it in real time — that is Netprov

They gave some examples from OccupyMLA to a sort of flash mob project on Twitter where a group people pretend to be watching a television show and live-tweeting it to a I Work for the Web fake campaign against the tech companies using users’ sharing to make profit. There are other, stranger, odder, cooler projects at their site, too (including a recent 5-gender dating Netprov project. Do I have that right? Really?)

Here’s what I am pondering now, asked by Mia Zamora in the visit: how does a Netprov parody and satire move beyond humor and into changing the real world for the better? (This is part of Mia’s continued reference to “civic imagination.”)

Can it?

Rob and Mark, both college professors, say Netprov can and Netprov does, because the satire element forces the “actors” to be attuned to the why and what they are doing, and that often brings to the surface deeper cultural constructs. Rob also talked quite a bit about the “fake news” element of our media world, and how projects like Netprov can showcase the absurdity of the PR-spun alternative realities that politicians and media like to spin (as well as that lone person in their basement, pumping out fake news for clickbait profit).

Bowling Green Massacre, anyone? (Maybe the new administration is pulling off some epic, large-scale Netprov on us all? I shoulda asked that question in the hangout).

Terry Elliott has put the Hangout video into Vialogues for further study, and he invites you and us to listen and add comments. Oh, and he may have begun a little comment/margin/annotation Netprov there, too. All in the spirit! Get improvising!

Peace (improvised but real),


  1. I think Mia asked a question that had already been answered. Their OccupyMLA netprov was just that ‘civic imagination’ (altho that term seems like one big hawking loogie of academic phlegm to me). OccupyMLA was a civic enactment, not an imagining. And yes, you should have asked whether we are being punkt by Drumph. You still can. Netprov anyone? BTW, I was practicing a one-man improv in the Twitter chat. And also, BTW, my capcha writing here might be considered netprov, too. And we been doing that for long time.

    antispamikopita: gayest it
    K: Whaddya means ‘gayest it’?
    T: You know.
    K: No, I don’t. Tease it out for me.
    T: No, cuz that will make me a tease.
    K: Oh, please.
    T: What I mean is that he is the happiest IT guy I know.
    K: No way.
    T: Yes, he is so happy. And he works IT.
    K: Really?
    T: Really. What else could it mean?
    K: Are you naive or just a jerk?
    T: Do I have to choose?
    K: Yes.
    T: Ok, Alex, I will go with Naive for 500.

  2. Thanks to Terry and Kevin I followed you guys into the two NetNarr videos using Vialogue, so you can see my comments there.

    I’m conflicted on this.

    On the one hand, I see smug, sophisticated “white guys” putting fake content into Twitter (Facebook too?) that further confuses what is truth and what is fiction and what is lies and manipulation. Who’s to say the New York Times is not really just a different form of NetProv.

    Thus, finding a way to trust, get’s even more difficult.

    On the other hand, a good story has the potential to cut through the clutter of traditional social media and TV and draw attention to very real problems. The OccupyMLA seemed to do this.

    Maybe what concerns me most is that people in privilege can jump in and out of these problems when they wish. It’s not real to them (as I think Terry was saying).

    For us to imagineer solutions to complex problems we not only need to have short term bursts of creativity, we need to have long-term efforts to turn ideas into solutions. Netprov could help, or it could add to the clutter.

    I don’t know.

    • Great points, Daniel, and your concerns are valid. Where are the lines? And yes, it does seem as if our ability to trust any message has eroded to the point of … something, and that something is not good.
      I don’t know, either.

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