Posted by on Oct 14, 2012 in Blog

The Story:  Today, everything is rosy. You awake at the Phoenix Center after part one of the treatment, which has you confined to your bed. You are one day away from having your sight, sound, and speech restored!  As a stop-gap, your brain has been connected to the Internet.  All the things you see, hear, or say must go through either Twitter or some other Internet site.  Dr. Vossergon is nowhere to be found but Nurse Zink is hereabouts.  Somewhere. Or you think she is. 

Thus began “Last Five Days of Sight and Sound,” a netprov project that came into being — quickly — in the wake of Mark Marino’s kind solicitation from me of a theme for his cool USC class’s social-media fiction project for the semester.

My own students and I had been up to our eyeballs in discussions of text-messaging etiquette, questions such as: when does the person on the phone outrank the person you’re with in real life?

One fine morning I woke up with the vision of a person plugged into her cell phone exclusively . . . a reaction, at some level, to the subliminal social exclusion one feels when people would rather make  eye contact with the palm of their left hand than with you. I passed the ideas along to Mark; he composed the instructions for his students.

The hopeful beginning above soon goes awry of course. (That’s nearly always step two to a developing Rob-story. Step One: Situation. Step Two: Situation goes awry.) Reminds me of Davin Heckman’s observation on the gothic themes in Rob-stories. So true, Davin, so true. This is another one.

Because yes, dear player/reader, your hopeful prognosis “Last Five Days of Sight and Sound” turns around. The game/story becomes a “bucket list” exercise. In your last days of being able to see/hear (and only through the interne, at that) . . . before total darkness and silence descends  . . . where do you choose to browse?

The project was probably too ambitious for a single class in a single week, but it contains some seeds of real-world challenges that I would love to incorporate in future netprovs. Dancing under a blanket or a jacket was fun (student videos were great). Trying to create teams from among the people on your fictional floor of a fictional hospital through social media is an intriguing scenario.  And I still would love to see if a group of folks — under jackets and ear-plugged — in a real classroom could figure out how to pass a real glass of water across the room using only handheld social media communicate.

I was interested to read of a similar project only today, called “Steeds”. . . a nordic Live Action Roleplaying Game in which riders communicated with horses, played by a player who could see nothing of the world, only the feed from a camera.

Here is the entire recipe for the “Last Five Days of Sight and Sound” by Rob Wittig and Mark Marino, as first performed in April of 2012.


Day 1:  All is Rosy

The Story:  Today, everything is rosy. You awake at the Phoenix Center after part one of the treatment, which has you confined to your bed. You are one day away from having your sight, sound, and speech restored!  As a stop-gap, your brain has been connected to the Internet.  All the things you see, hear, or say must go through either Twitter or some other Internet site.  Dr. Vossergon is nowhere to be found but Nurse Zink is hereabouts.  Somewhere. Or you think she is.

Literary Prompt:
Tweet your backstory.  How did you lose the ability to hear, see, and speak?  Use your imagination.  These can be purely psychosomatic conditions, largely metaphoric.  The main illness Dr. Vossergone treats, Multisensory Dysphasia, seems to primarily plague millenials.  What triggered your case of it? Your use of media?  Traumatic incident? Or did you lose these senses some other way?

Challenge: (at least one tweet)
Sensory Deprivation: Tweet what it’s like to experience the world just through the Internet.  Put a blanket over your head and wear headphones for a period of time and interact audiovisually only through the Internet via phone, tablet, or laptop. Keep that blanket handy.  You will need it for future challenges.

Inspired?  If you would like to write a longer bit, just post it as a reply to this message and link to your comment in your Tweet.

Min. Requirement:
6 tweets a day.  At least 1 on the Daily Challenge.  At least 2 have to address other people in the netprov (through the @ symbol + their username).  You cannot tweet all at once.  There must be at least an hour between your sets of Tweets.

Day 2: Where has Dr. Vossergon gone?

The Story: Day 2 begins as before, with a hopeful spirit. Small connections (the weakest of weak ties) are being formed between patients.  Nurse Zink (and her team, we are told) are tending to the patients.  Some begin to venture out of their beds, using their senses of touch and smell to get around, their senses of sight and sound still being flooded with information via the Internet.  As the day goes on, it becomes apparent that Dr. Vossergon has not returned and his whereabouts are actually unknown.

Literary Prompt:
As you come to realize that Dr. Vossergon is not arriving as planned, meaning your current condition may go on indefinitely, you must face what it means that you might be trapped in this Internet-only condition forever.  Tweet out that realization as well as your reaction.

Challenge:  (at least one Tweet)
As you make your first tentative steps outside of your bed, we ask that you try to test your abilities.  Without jeopardizing your own RL safety (possibly with a spotter), try to do some everyday activity with your sense immersed in the Internet: towel over your head, holding your screen (phone/laptop), listening to headphones. Extra constraint: Your activity should involve water somehow. Suggestions: brushing your teeth, eating lunch (and drinking water), trying to pick up a bottle of water. (No showers.)  Bonus: Have a roommate or friend take a picture of you doing this activity and then you share this in a tweet. (Again, no showers!)

Day 3: Bucket Lists for Low Battery Life

Story: Dr. Vossergon is officially MIA, and the surgeries are postponed indefinitely.  You could live with that except… Nurse Zink announces that the batteries in your Sensorex system only have three more days of life, including today.  That means Monday will be your last day to experience sight and sound even through the Internet.  Then it’s lights out, noises off.

Literary Prompt:  Now that you face the total loss of your sight and sound, even as mediated through the Internet, what do you plan to spend your time watching or listening to? What dream can you still try to accomplish in real life with online sights and sounds. What sights and sounds from your past will you try to see and hear one more time?

Challenge: The Group Dance Off:  You’ve experienced sensory deprivation alone and have tried to perform a task with your sight and hearing preoccupied.  Now it’s time to try to connect with other patients and share an experience. And given all the bad news, it’s time to blow off some steam and share some music while you still can.

This challenge pits the 3 floors against one another.  (Guests count for all 3 floors.) Your goal is to get as many people on your floor as possible to  dance simultaneously to the same song.  You are on your own to coordinate with your floor and to decide when the dance session will occur, where the music will come from, be it, youtube, pandora or some other source. Deadline: 11:59pm Sat. (You can only coordinate via Twitter, BTW.)

First, you must prove people are attending the dance off.  You don’t physically have to be in the same place, just online, listening and dancing wherever you are. Then, you must document somehow that you are listening to the song and dancing.  We recommend photos or short videos (3 seconds should suffice) taken by the nurses (or your friends).  Any photographic evidence should indicate that you are dancing with the proper sensory deprivation: eyes closed, towel over head, headphones in, phone held up to your eyes.

The floor with the highest number of participants, wins this challenge.  (Hint: Accomplishing this challenge will help you on future challenges.)

Day 4: Squinting for a Way Out

Story:  Two more days to go.  You’ve heard the worst of the news.  You’ve danced away some of your sorrow.  Vossergon has not turned up.  Nurse Zink is not much help.  What can you do? As it turns out, there is a small glimmer of hope.  But to reach it, you must scour the Internet.

Literary Prompt: With two days left of sight and sound, describe a memory from your character’s childhood that would be meaningless without sight or sound.

Challenge: Using your floors as teams, find the online clues to a way out of your current situation. The answer is out there.  Decide whether you will share your finding with other floors.

Day 5: Daisy Chain or Bust

Story:  After having found Hillary Vossergon, sister of the missing malpractice medic, you learn of a potential way out, the Daisy Chain.  In her words,

The theory behind the Daisy Chain is that a sequential link among SensoRex units could create the necessary phase pulsations to rejigger the patients’ brains back into full real world visual and aural capacity. In theory. At least I thought it would work at the time.

However, the Daisy Chain requires a sufficient build up of SensoRex system activity, which means getting enough people chained together.

Literary Prompt:
Describe a moment when your engagement with audio or visual through a networked device (smartphone/laptop/iPad) interfered with (hurt, created problems with) your interactions with a friend or relative who was with you physically.

Challenge:  Remember trying to form that dance party?  That challenge was preparation for this: The Daisy Chain.  At some moment before 11:59 pm, get everyone on your floor (no fewer than 14 people) to create a Daisy Chain.  Here’s how:

1st person makes a Tweet (of at least 10 words).
Everyone else retweets but…
Each person is retweeted (or MT-ed) only once by only one other person on the floor
Each subsequent person will also Modify the Tweet by 1 word only when they post
The whole Daisy Chain cannot take longer than 15 minutes to Tweet (Tweets are automatically time stamped).

Each floor may have 2 outside participants. The Floor with the most participants wins mega points.

Note: Nurse Zink will try to interrupt you esp. if she knows what you are planning.

Day 6: Reflections

Many of you lost your sight and sound forever, but at least one small band and several others managed to execute the Daisy Chain.  You’ll have to fill in what happens next.

In the meantime:
Literary Prompt: In comments posted to this blog, reflect on the L5DOSAS experience. Here are some aspects for your comment.  Run with the ones that strike you.  (Please make sure to sign your comments with your first name, first initial of your last name, and floor — optional: user name.)

What did this exercise illuminate about Twitter?
What did the netprov illuminate about our Internet-centered lives and its relationship to our physical or RL embodied realities.
What did this netprov reveal around social media collective effort? Was Gladwell right?
What was it like to be in the story?
What would you change about the prompts or challenges?
Any other comments or challenges.