Grab a phone, it’s time to assemble your story tribe

StoryCode SG co-organisers, L to R: Don Bosco, Diogo Martins, Marco Sparmberg

By Don Bosco, StoryCode SG co-organiser

For the past few years, I’ve been collaborating with StoryCode Singapore to organise local storyhacking sessions.

One of our popular formats has been a simple rapid story prototyping activity, using basic drawing and recycled materials. Participants make up stories about a costumed hero known as Captain Cardboard. He’s an eco-champion, and his nemesis is an unethical entrepreneur named Bruce Boh.

Here are photos and session notes from our previous Captain Cardboard meetup sessions:

#1 — https://medium.com/@StoryCodeSG/captain-carboard-vs-bruce-boh-c03ba4aa0b0e

#2 — https://medium.com/@StoryCodeSG/how-many-ways-can-you-hack-a-captain-cardboard-comic-3f6a0e033391

This year, though, we tried to tackle a new challenge: how could we organise fresh creative experiences for our StoryCode SG tribe, by leveraging on mobile networks?

Some questions that emerged: What would a mobile-first approach to community building look like for us? What changes would this require? What new potential might we discover? Would this be satisfying for everyone involved? How should we measure this?

Our first step in this direction was a recent online creative project in collaboration with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Singapore chapter), aka SCBWI SG. We developed a simple comic strip prototyping worksheet, and invited the community to submit their creations.

Check out the Quick Kiddy Comic worksheet and call for entries here. And these are the submissions.

What did we learn from this trial? Three key lessons.

Focus on what genuinely inspires

The original Captain Cardboard workshop format worked nicely for meetup events. People do like to gather and interact. We also had the time and space to brief everyone, share inspiring content, allow for creative experiements, and then review all the stories as a group.

But as we reconfigured our storyhacking activity for a mobile experience, it was necessary to simplify and decentralise the whole process.

In the end, we narrowed our focus to the core of what people always seemed to appreciate: a chance to play with the comic strip format, and apply their own personal story ideas to this.

Thanks to this, we could pitch the project in a really direct way: “Doodle a comic strip, take a pic with your phone, and we’ll post it. Let’s have fun.”

Set them free

To make these ideas work, we had to give up control on a lot of fronts. First to go was the shared story premise: no more Captain Cardboard and Bruce Boh storylines. Instead, participants could work on whatever creative ideas they felt compelled to explore. They could jump right in and get creative on their own terms. No excuses.

One interesting similarity that emerged was that all the submissions showed a strong sense of sequential storytelling. Everyone was familiar with how comic strips worked. And they were comfortable experimenting with new characters and story scenarios in this format.

The biggest challenge? That would be scheduling. The submission period coincided with the local school examinations. Many parents and educators asked to try this activity after the exams, because it did help develop story literacy. Now we know, and we can plan another run accordingly.

Expect diversity

The submissions came in a variety of themes, visual styles and approaches to execution. Not everyone followed the prompts in the worksheet. But the creative choices did show a lot of confidence. Also, for the first time, we heard from Singaporean storytellers based elsewhere: namely the USA and India.

Most crucially, we had educators and parents as creative ambassadors, and they played an important role in introducing the project to their own groups. It also helped that they could exchange messeages with a StoryCode facilitator and test their ideas first.

A previous Captain Cardboard storyhacking session

One interesting outcome of all this mobile creativity is that the participants are now expecting a follow up event, so they can connect with their fellow storytellers in person.

Next step: we hope to keep experimenting with mobile-driven StoryCode experiences, and encourage greater creative participation. This way, perhaps we can connect with more story communities around Southeast Asia, particularly media students and creative professionals, and who knows, maybe help facilitate collaborative storyhacking projects in the various regional languages.

We’d all feel so awesomely connected.

Join the StoryCode SG Meetup Group here. Connect with us on Twitter.

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