Three Pillars: Culture, Play and Medium in Social Fiction

Three Pillars: Culture, Play and Medium in Social Fiction

We discussed what social fiction is, but what is it made from? What are the pillars of social fiction?

We start where we always must: the beginning. In any variation, social fiction starts with a group of people who wish to collaborate on creating a story. How they gather and what stories they tell are irrelevant. We want to frame the endeavor, the act of fulfilling this desire and the conceptual spaces and interactions that comprise it. The best way I know to frame space is to ask questions:

Who is playing? What do they want? What do they not want? How do they plan to interact? The answers to these questions describes culture, the norms and customs that define the conceptual, emotional, and political (yes politics! There’s always politics in groups) space where this activity takes place.

What is the process by which we create stories? How do players transition from imagine (“what-if”) to pretending/acting (“as-if”) to delivering feedback (“what happened?”)? These questions frame play. Play gets linked to many things but is best thought of as a process of actualized, manifested pretending in any context. Play is iterative and growth-oriented, linking all other elements described.

What happens? Where does that information live? What is the artifact of the group’s play? These questions define medium, the record of the story we create. Stories exist to be consumed, no matter how the stories are created or told. Whether we consume our group stories into our memories or into word documents or Twitch streams, these stories are always going somewhere. Medium informs the shape, pace, and manner of play. Medium also influences culture.

Culture, play and medium interact in a specific way.

culture-play-mediumCulture and medium are connected through play. Those who play will decide what type of story they want to be telling, then iterate through imagining/pretended/feedback cycles. The  feedback we get from interactions (“what happened?”) are recorded to the medium we use.

Culture is where players live, medium is where fiction lives, and play is how players and fiction communicate.

Though they do not interact directly, culture influences medium with cultural imperatives. What our players want will affect what medium we use and how we use the medium. Medium influences culture with its own needs, creating customs and practices around the medium’s usage.

In the next few weeks I’ll discuss culture, play and medium separately and in-depth.

(Originally published in the newsletter Social Fictions)


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