Social Media Theater?

No matter how much I enjoy fiction I’ve found it difficult to sit through a good book lately. Though I know I am still reading a lot. I read news articles, blog posts, and watch videos on the web. I participate in social network sites. I receive real-time updates on my phone. So for the most part, I seem to be getting my fix from “reality.”

One morning over a year ago, I was flipping between reading a Malcolm Gladwell article on The New Yorker and checking my Twitter feed on my phone. In the article was an excerpt from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in which T.E. Lawrence writes: “We could not lightly draw water after dark, for there were snakes swimming in the pools or clustering in knots around their brinks.” And then I thought…

What if Lawrence of Arabia walked among the living today? What if I had been following him on Twitter (perhaps somehow involved in his campaign) and the excerpt above was a post he had just made as he led the revolt across the desert? Fast forward to today: Twitter announces it is now serving 1 billion queries per day. The general audience is fast figuring out how social media can be useful, be it for personal or professional use, and we are fast embracing it as a utility. But what about explicitly for entertainment as well?

Certainly we’ve already seen some interesting characters come up such as Charles Darwin on Twitter and the Fake Steve Jobs blog. But there isn’t yet a place to focus and organize this formally.

Through the Twitter platform, the written performance can be live. Using any smart phone Twitter apps available, or direct SMS text-message, the audience can choose how closely they follow a play. They can choose to bring the play to the foreground of their attention and see each update in real-time, exactly as it happens. And as with live theater, the performer can choose to garner audience participation and experience audience reactions. As with theater, the context or setting of the performance can be anywhere and anything, which means that the author can intertwine it with real current events that the audience is experiencing. That’s the mechanics of the stage.

For writers/performers of all types, this could open up the field for creativity in a new way, go anywhere. For example, you can approach this as a hybrid of mediums. You are a playwright and you have a play coming out. In the months leading up, you introduce the main character via a Reorbit. As the character develops, it generates interest in the play. The audience can discover the character before or after seeing the play.

Reorbit is where writers personify a historical or literary character of their choosing and perform short written posts in real-time as they go about their day. Built on top of Twitter’s platform, the audience can follow any number of authors or characters via Twitter. The Reorbit website hosts the play and offers additional features which allow the author extend a post beyond 140-characters. The author may also choose to enable audience comments.

Reorbit is calling for writers to submit. Whether you’re a social media veteran or just interested in extending your offline work into the web, this is a great opportunity to explore.

–Ericson deJesus is an entrepreneur, designer, and new media inventor. He is the creator of Reorbit as well as a founder at Particle, a San Francisco tech shop focused on shortening the distance between the internet and awesome.

Painting by Francesco Masci.

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