In the coming months Christy Dena will release an audio drama titled AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS, guiding you through the story of a gambling philosopher’s quest to earn a living as an autopsy pathologist. While still in development, Christy was kind enough to give us the scoop on her project:
Nathan Maton: Hi Christy. I’ve been hearing about your latest project, AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS. Can you tell me what inspired you to make an audio drama?
Christy Dena: The web audio navigation format of AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS was inspired by a visit to the Louvre in 2007. I actually did something at the Louvre that some would consider criminal. I did the Da Vinci Code audio tour of the Louvre. But it was an amazing experience. It started before I entered the turnstiles. The narrator instructed me to secure my headphones, and then guided me past the security and through an alternate path through the Louvre. I was the only one in an elevator, riding around the venue following the conspiracy drama that was unfolding under my steps. The audio tour took me to all of the key exhibits of the Louvre, but with a great narrator, story and sound effects. I felt I was privy to another world that added an extra dimension to the already outstanding experience of the Louvre.
I walked out of the Louvre, reflecting on the ease with which I was guided through the venue, how I knew so much about the artworks, and was also emotionally engaged with a story layer. I suddenly thought, why can’t I have this for the web? Why can’t I have audio tours of the web? I immediately thought of ARGs, and how the audio characters could guide players to read the source code of webpages. This seemed a fun way to make ARGs more accessible and also an interesting design challenge. And that is how the idea for AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS being a cross between a radio drama and Google search!
NM: What will I do in the audio experience? How will I feel?
CD: You’ll download the app to your desktop or iPad, pop on your headphones and open up a web page. From there you’ll be guided by characters across fictional websites, traveling with them as they encounter a range of characters that don’t mean them the best. You’ll join the characters in their investigations, and travels across the web, and if you feel like, become a part of the world through becoming inhabitants of the world. It is predominately single-player, in that you’ll put your headphones on and journey across the web by yourself, with the characters. It is an active radio drama, so high on narrative and low on game-like tasks. But there are different levels of engagement available, including a world to explore, information to uncover, and characters to reach.
AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS is a playful story about the zany obstacles we face when being ourselves. It is a comedy drama featuring gambling philosophers, artist assassins, time travelers, and quantum theorists who run organized crime. You’ll throw your head back and squint your eyes in laughter, you’ll put your hand over your heart and pout, and you’ll clickity-click around without even noticing.
NM: It sounds like you’ve got the kitchen sink in the story between philosophers, theorists and assassins. Tell us about how you went from your goal for the feel of the experience to the cast of characters you’re using?
CD: The cast of characters emerged from a few places. Their roles pretty much came out of the behavior of the characters, and the character building process. They’re all roles that relate to interests I have – philosophy, art, quantum theory, and assassins. And of course, many of the characters are there to poke fun at the world. As with all brave writing, they’re a mix of my own experiences, what I’ve observed in others, and what the characters want to do themselves. They all play a role in exploring the many facets of the path to being yourself. But importantly too, they all play a role in keeping the AiAC world alive and kicking with conflict. They keep me entertained and I look forward to seeing others jump in there with them.
NM: Wild. For the rest of us who aren’t as familiar with audio dramas, can you tell us what are some similar projects?
CD: Audio projects have risen in great numbers over the past few years – we have audio-guided street games, audio-only mobile games, and audio map projects on the web. You may recall Improv Everywhere’s mp3 experiment, Bluebrain’s location-aware albums, Nate Goldman’s Undead End: A Zombie Apocalypse Radio Drama, Somethin’ Else’s Papa Sangre [and] The NightJar, 42 Entertainment’s I Love Bees, and more recently, Adrian Hon and Naomi Alderman’s ZOMBIES, RUN!. Of course, we’ve seen music as being a reward for activity too, with 42 Entertainment’s Year Zero and Thomas Dolby’s (with Andrea Phillips) A Map of the Floating City.
Other related technologies include Walking the Edit – where your artifacts generated during an actual world walk are presented as a movie on the web. Broadcastr – where anyone can place an audio file set in location, on a location on a map on the web. Steve Schultz’s Movable Feast – in which anyone can make a multimedia tour for their friends to use via their mobile/cell in the street. Urban Remix – where anyone can contribute sounds from their community. WHAIWHAI – tourist story games to experience through your phone in the city. Soundtracking – where anyone can upload from their phone images and music that represent their mood in a particular place.
As for projects that are similar to AUTHENTIC? The closest I’ve seen is Don’t Let Go by Hurt, Joe Stretch & Spotify [and] You Suck At Photoshop. Here you have images, that are given another dimension with voice-over. Now imagine that with fictional websites that you move to across the web, with the audio. But if you know of any others, let me know – I’d love to see how they dealt with it!
So, since 2007 I’ve been watching this gradual emergence of audio augmentation and nodding my head. To me, it makes sense that audio would become such a strong cultural tool now, as it is an effective and emotionally compelling method to glue complex activities together. It facilitates wayfinding through environments. What I’ve found with my research and experience working in trans/cross-media, is that certain media combinations work. Audio combines with other media experiences like nothing else. You can listen to audio while reading, while watching images, while walking and running. It doesn’t compete, it complements your experiences. Indeed, audio also helps curate experiences.
Last year I worked with a web business builder company, Pollenizer, to investigate the viability of introducing this unique approach as a service for everyone to use. We gathered great information, but in the end I decided to launch with a creative project first. I still hope/plan to release the technology as a service for all to use, but first I’m creating a high-end playful story that is close to my heart: AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS.
NM: What’s the timeline for the project?
CD: Currently developing the story, characters, and experience design. We’re about to jump into playtesting, and develop the visual and aural landscapes. The project will be launched within the next few months! Wohoo!
NM: This sounds wonderful. How can we find out more?
CD: The teaser website is up at www.AUTHENTICINALLCAPS.com. There is a video and pages there, as well as links to other interviews. I will be speaking a bit about the writing and design of it at Lance Weiler’s DIYDays in LA on October 28th. When the project nears release there will be a sneaky reward for those that pre-order.