Social fiction 2.0 is a storytelling experiment expanding over several social media channels in video, audio and text. Usually that is called “transmedia storytelling” as you can see in the American TV series „Lost“ or Christian Ulmens „About:Kate“ (Germany). There is but one difference to social fiction 2.0. The story of Anne Utz shows who has the right to speak on fb and the like and who has not. Without doubt it is no media strategy but politicial theatre.
Anne Utz, journalist and the main character, writes on fb: “The winds were stacked against me. #shitstorm“. The story begins with a typical internet phenomena, the shitstorm: “A course of action that would appear to lead to a good outcome, but when undertaken, leads to a situation that is utterly out of control beyond human comprehension.” (Urban Dictionary) Well, that is no big deal on the internet – a shitstorm, so what? But that situation is the turning point for the character Anne and she would get involved in a human masquerade with an open ending for which online media is the stage.
One could also say, that Anne gets back in touch with reality. The internet was once the medium, hyped as the Arcanum of so many peoples individual freedom – withtout restriction or consequences to gender, nation or age. But with the popularity of certain personnages based on the selection by algorithms and the democratic face of social media there is a need to make a simple statement. Besides being a way of telling a story which engages new media it is also a way of pointing out, that is the social stratification at work in social media.
Anne has a charming and witty voice. There is a certain mixture of politics and empathy about the project. That is obviously the reason why Anne has quite a lot of friends, compared to Peter, another character in the play.
The starting point of the fiction was an article written by Anne dealing with trans people. It says that we actually should take trans people as a role model for the ability of playing with our own identities. So far so good. While Anne admires the power of trans people to reinvent themselves, she is at the same time ignorant of their realities often crammed with sufferings and discrimination.
That is where the shitstorm legally set sail. Anne dwells in ignorance by saying that she always thought she would be too fat and that her wish was actually to be a polar bear. Devastated by the comments and unsure about her ethics being still intact, Anne starts to think and undertakes a psychological development which results in an excuse and a deeper understanding of the realities of online journalism and the issues of trans people. That is where the other two characters come in, one is Peter Kohlberg, who I have already mentioned, a depressed public servant based in Berlin, who obviously has suicidal tendencies. He expresses his state of being in melancholic posts. The third one of the trio is Martha Morgana, an avatar, who Anne depicts as the trans ego of Peter.
The end of the story is rather sad though. Anne and Peter finally become friends in the course of the story but one day all of a sudden Peter becomes absent from facebook leaving Anne wondering where he/she had gone – to hell or to heaven? Who knows? And according to Meike Büttner, director and author of the project social fiction 2.0, nobody cared too much either. Anne always got a lot of attention but Peter was only a shadow. And that is an interesting though not surprising result. Why has nobody noticed that Peter is away – especially in a medium where solidarizing takes place so easily as in the example of Charlie Hebdo?
#jesuiseveryone. Anne Utz could be everyone, too, stating stupid things (online) withtout thinking beforehand. She could be anyone of us. Stereotype thinking is – that is a crappy side – everywhere on the internet. Meike Büttner has decided to open Annes profile for every fb-user to become Anne themselves, making the character and the comments on fb completely transparent. She invites people to take part in her/then their story. I became Anne – but why not Peter? In a medium where you change your public sphere according to your likings, shares and friends, where the boundary between private and public is blurred, it leaves the question of how many public spheres there are? And: How big is your public sphere?
At the Leipziger Buchmesse in 2011 some authors assembled to write a “Transmedial Manifest” which first claim is: “Fiction supersedes reality, becoming as immersive as possible.“ Yet, is there not another reality to it?
Though it is questionable if social media can help people who are suffering or that it is a mirror of common society – as seen in this case of the a teenager commiting suicide because nobody on the net believed him he would do so -, social fiction aims to reveal this not in an informative but in a literary way.