Renga

An early form of written participatory storytelling, renga originated in Japan written or spoken stanza by stanza by different authors. With each stanza and author, the meaning shifts, solidifies, or opens.

The web told me that
renga follows the metre
of haiku poems.
But, the second stanza is
a seven-syllable coup

-let. I am not a
poet. I apologize for
this sad example.

The collaborative medium was a popular pastime in medieval Japan, beginning as an oral tradition. The pluralistic approach to poetry is often seen as an outgrowth of Buddhism, an expression of “radical interdependency” and the “notion of the nonself.” Renga is often seen as a rejection of the monologic of single-author, single-perspective narratives, though sometimes the form was used by single poets. Nijō Yoshimoto, for example, wrote alone using the renga form as an imperial poet in 14th century Japan. Below, a section translated by Phillip Morel.

When spring’s upon us,
Haze will float down the center
Of Imose river.
It seems that the winter’s ice
Has begun to melt away.

In the early dawn,
Clouds dwelling in the treetops,
Descend upon us,
The first plum blossoms this year
Glimmer with subtle crimson.

Canadian poet Sachiko Murakami has used renga as a model for participatory digital storytelling; online, anyone can contribute stanzas to running poems that readers can then choose from as they read — fusing the form with the branching structure often used in Twine stories.

Demoscene

Demoscene is an exploding subculture in new media art in which artists build demos — short coded experiences that fuse visuals, music, and/or gaming — using code. In the 1970s, the scene was sparked by the illegal distribution of video games, often accompanied by introductions that were independently produced by gamers. In the realm of software, similar introductions tagged with the name of the artist/demoscener (or software cracker) were produced in the 1970s and 80s, gaining complexity in sync with the computer systems and languages with which they were built.

Demoscene is to new media what indie ‘zines are to old media: a ragtag, fringe, independently organized and vibrant subculture that has ripples of influence in the mainstream. As a forum for experimentation and innovation, demoscene has influenced the gaming industry in particular.

Now, demosceners code art experiences — narrative and otherwise — relying on a variety of languages that support the integration of music, graphic, and interactive elements, such as JavaScript. Demos are built independently or in groups and  independently published online. Alternatively, they can be built and/or at demoparties where demosceners compete in demo compos (contests where demoscenes are built, screened, and ranked, with fastcompos compressing the time frame and adding constraints for the artists). Isaac Cohen, the artist behind ENOUGH, is a prominent demoscener based in California. He was kind enough to talk about his work with Murmurous (interview coming soon).