Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fianl Project Proposal, Revisted, Again....

So I decided that I would do my final project on viral storytelling. Recently there has been a lot of use of viral campaigns on the web. One campaign that certainly compelled me was the one that the Cloverfield movie used. They used a lot of fake sites, created fake newscasts, and overall just had a ton of information out there that complimented the movie and gave a deeper understanding. Anyways I wrote a rough draft so far, someone please check it out and let me know if it is any good I really want to do well on this project since last time I just didn't

Cloverfield: The New Way to Tell a Story

The tradition of story telling can be traced back to the origins of human civilization. Humans have always been caught up in stories, from the cave paintings of our ancient ancestors; to the Native American oral traditions stories have captivated humans for the entirety of existence. Due to this fascination with the story, people have always been trying to design better and more complex means of distributing them through the use of technology. When the set type printing press was designed, it made books easily printable and widely available, The advent of the camera enabled the use of images as new way of telling a story, the radio brought the radio play, the first cameras allowed us to use the means of video and silent film, further down the road integrating that video with audio to create the movie experiences. All these advances enabled storytellers a new method to distribute their content, a new way to engage their audiences through the use of technology. The advent of the internet has brought us yet another way to create stories and a new way to engage audiences in a story with bits and pieces. These stories force the subject to dig and search, poke and prod, in what could be called a modern day mystery story. What is this new way of telling as story? The Viral Way. A perfect example of the viral technique can be seen in the clever marketing techniques used by the movie Cloverfield. But Cloverfield’s use of viral is not just a new means of putting up ads, these hidden messages buried in false web sites and hidden mock new clips are pieces of the larger story, left out of the film. For the audiences to get the full experiences they must search and look, follow links, and hints to complete it. This is the true viral encounter.

Viral storytelling, being as new as it is, does not have an exact definition, but it does have quite a few examples. Viral Storytelling can be summed up as such, telling a story through the use of media whether it be film, music, print, or internet sources. The sections of said story are split up and spread around. Typically these stories spawn on the internet and a large majority only use this platform. Viral stories function like an interactive detective mystery. A video or word will pop up somewhere and the interactee will have to follow that clue to proceed further. The clues begin building off of each other and branch out in a web that connects each part of the story to the previous and the next. Usually there is no predetermined order that must be taken in a viral story, mainly due to the nature of information contained. The clues can be arranged in any way and the story understood irregardless as long as the proper connections are made. Many of these stories involve false companies, fake news reports, and mock first-hand accounts usually posted on websites created specifically for the story.

The Cloverfield viral made use of both film and internet in telling its viral story. The Cloverfield project began way back in July 3 2007 on that day the film Transformers was released, produced by J.J. Abrams, the producer of Cloverfield. Before the film began, a preview was shown. The preview was brief and looked like it was shot on a home video camcorder and depicted a monster of some sort ravaging New York City. After the trailer ended no title was given, only a website and a release date. After the films midnight showing the website given, received one of the highest hit counts for a web site during the late night hours. That is how the story began, followed by the re-launch of the Slusho! companies website, previously used by JJ Abrams for his Alias series, which was supposed to be a Japanese soda company. On the website for Slusho!, which, on the surface, seems like a completely legitimate business, there were references to a drilling company by the name of Tagruato specifically in the distribution section. Doing some research around the web regarding Slusho! a fake science report on the effects of sea nectar, the special ingredient in Slusho!, can be found which claims that seabed nectar can cause super effects including: accelerated growth, increased strength, and better digestion just to name a few.

After searching for Tagruato Corporation one can find a website for the Japanese company, the website resembles the typically company site with information about the company on the main page, a top bar that includes the standard about us and contact us sections, and a side bar on the right featuring recent company news. After reading several of the informative news stories, the reader discovers several references to an incident that occurred at a drilling station Tagruato owns, Chuai station. (Chuai station is later revealed to be off the coast of the U.S. in the mid-Atlantic region) The website claims that there was an incident at the station, gives no further information, and blames the incident on an unnamed eco terror cell.

Upon typing Chuai station into practically any search engine a fake a number of fake news clips in several languages including: German, Russian, English, Italian, Korean and Japanese can be found. All these clips depict the same event, a helicopter video of Chuai station very rapidly crumbling and sinking into the ocean. Subsequent to close viewing of the video footage, a tentacle can be distinguished in bottom left corner, clutching the left front post of the drilling station. Another interesting part of the clip depicts survivors escaping the rig and shows a number of pod-like structures launching into the air, the new reporter claims that the reason for this debris is yet unknown. Another clue is also supplied to the viewer in the form of the eco-terror cell earlier referenced but unnamed, T.I.D.O wave.

The TIDO wave site opens with a mock up of the Tagruato intro video where upon the hands turn into claws and gauge the earth, simultaneously crushing it and bleeding out all of the oil. The main portion of the site contains a mission statement bashing Tagruato claiming that they are “bleeding Mother Earth dry” . This site gives a plethora of opinions on why Tagruato is evil and how they are destroying sea eco-systems as well as providing yet another clue a reference to another extremist group, Les Guerriers de Mère-Terre. After searching around for awhile an AOL group can be found for these French revolutionaries, unfortunately most of the site is in French and only the declaration of principles can be read in English and is of no use furthering the story.

After some further research readers can find 3 Japanese manga tie-ins to the film which depict the Cloverfield monster attacking a Japanese city. The third of these manga’s give a fairly good picture of what the creature looks like. Unfortunately these manga’s read like all Japanese writing does- from right to left -so it is fairly difficult to read the story, although Wikipedia summaries can be obtained.

As far as I found, the trail goes dead around here, with the exception of reading the rest of the articles featured on the Tagruato and TIDO wave pages. These articles give a little more insight into the background on the movie, including a few interesting articles on the Tagruato page that hint at the incredible effects Slusho! can have on fish.

Combining the viewing of the Cloverfield film and doing the background research, those who are engaged in the Cloverfield story are treated to a modern mystery story unraveling before their eyes. The story allows the detective to decipher riddles, sort through articles, and pick out clues that shed light on how the monster was created and why it came to attack New York. This viral experience gives the person who interacts with it something very few things can offer in this information age, something to be discovered.


erika mcclintock said...

I think this is an interesting idea. When I heard about the Cloverfield marketing campaign I was immediately reminded of the Blair Witch Project- which was viral in its own way. Also Snake on a Plane works somewhat in this capacity. I think you can do quite a bit with this and it totally connects up with the idea of technology and narrative. I didn't realize how far they had incorporated in other fictional elements (the soda company) and linking it between the different projects that the producer has worked in is interesting as well (Alias, Cloverfield, Transformers).

Adam Johns said...

I like the topic - similar to the possible paper on Nine Inch Nails' _Year Zero_ that we talked about, although that one also had creative possibilities.

Reading through your draft, though, it's basically all summarization - you take a story which is spread all across the web and do your best to reduce it to a single, linear narrative. Why?

That's not a rhetorical question. What do you want to say about this topic? Does it offer something fundamentally different from what other forms offer? What does it give you that nothing else can? Why should we understand it as a legitimate storytelling medium, rather than just a marketing campaign? How did the Viral form develop (Erika gives a couple examples; I'll also point out that it presumably owes something to hypertext fiction, or hyperfiction, in general)?

Again, it's an interesting topic which clearly relates to the subject matter of the class - the big issue for you is to figure out what you want to say about it.

One final thing - you really _need_ to cite the websites to which you're referring - a reader needs to be able to track down your source materials.