Netprov: Storytelling as Performing Art

I’m no longer surprised when new media trends turn out to be rooted in decades-old practices. Netprov — networked, improvised storytelling in available media — is a “new” media form that actually goes back to the early days of computer-mediated communication (decades before the term “social media” emerged). Improvised storytelling online was one of my early joys when I discovered text-only conversations on BBSs, Usenet, MUDs, Compuserve, The Source and the WELL in the early 1980s. At that time, I called the practice “writing as a performing art.” A comment thread sometimes started out as or turned into a story that emerged from the sentence and paragraph-long contributions of various community members in different parts of the world. All these years later, I can’t recall the plot line of any of the stories, but can vividly recall the thrill of matching wits, collaborating, and playing with a new communication form.

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