I was going to call this post ‘The improvisational And’ but I thought above was much more #DS106 mysterious…

We have been dealing with the serious matter of #sockgate on DS106 over the last few days. Check the hashtag on Twitter and also listen to @Scottlo ‘s second podcast if you have a need for background. 

This reflection post is my attempt to pull together some ideas about what makes ‘storytelling in the wild’ work (or not) under the #DS106 hashtag. 

Scott’s podcast explores what it has been like for him to come back into DS106 after not being around for a while. The podcast is not self-referential. Scott uses his experience to wonder what it may be like for somebody coming in new to DS106 and who may just be doing Daily Creates, for example. He suggests that may be those of us who have been around for a while may have a lesson to learn when we ‘bring back to life’ stories from the past – the essence of his inquiry is: are we making some people feel excluded? Alan’s is clear in his response to Scott in the comments:

If it looks like other people are having fun in ds106, and you want to have fun, well jump in the game, or ask someone. I don’t have much sympathy for people who sit on the sidelines and cry about being left out. I’m having too much fun in the mix.

So there are two views on one experience highlighting different elements. One that suggests certain ‘in jokes’ may be excluding and one that says ‘if you want to join in and don’t understand, just ask us.’ We cannot know how everyone who joins DS106 will feel. I can say that when I joined, it never felt excluding. If I did not know, I asked or googled and then joined in. Easy. But it is a personal thing, some people may need more context. Yes, I would say the clue is in the title: Digital Storytelling. 

I often talk about DS106 and its ‘oral tradition of storytelling’ and the socks are a great example of that. Since DS106 started there have been many stories told by many different people. The stories evolve over time, they appear and reappear. If you are new to this game, it can seem excluding and a game that only who were ‘there’ can play – playfully expressed by @dogtrax


Kathy Onarheim finds other stories in the DS106 oral tradition,

“There is something with hedgehogs – not sure what the story is – but they show up now and again and cause some conversation…kinda like socks….you don’t need to know the original story – just jump on and weave the next chapter…. I see @mdvfunes drawing hedge hogs and @annycow tweeting about them and even @mburtis in this snuggle with one…has to be stories here somewhere!”

“You do not need to know the original story, just jump in and start weaving.” And we can certainly weave: Dolls, paper bags for president, time travelling motorcycles, transporter tree houses, fake families, sock fraud, student revolutions and on and on…

In DS106 we do different type of stories. Some are neatly packaged in a video or in a radio show, others are improvisational in nature and evolve over time. The clue is in the title – this is about storytelling. When you do a formal run of the course or run through the open course, there is whole module on ‘weaving stories on the web’. It is just digital improvisation, we make up characters and places and events and run with them. Just like #sockgate. Sure, it makes more sense to those who were ‘there’ but we can all jump in and weave, as Kathy says. 

It seems to me that what may help new people who are uncertain about improvisational storytelling online is the same thing that helps us learn how to improvise elsewhere: My grandmother’s hat. Now go back and read the story at the start of this post. It is and excerpt from Piers Ibbotson’s book. In improvisational theatre this is called the ‘Yes, and’ game. It is the only way the telling of a spontaneous story between people can work. At least I trust the father of improvisational theatre Keith Johnstone on that. has the full original text if you want to learn more. He describes the process as ‘blocking or accepting’  – if we block, the story dies; if we accept, it gets told. He does say that the same is true in life, but I will not digress now. 

In this context, we block when we stop ourselves from joining in because we do not know what went on before today. We accept when we say: Sock Fraud? I can do that. I want the socks you promised us, Jim. Or, there were never any socks! Or, you are all a bunch of  ‘sockists’! Or….

Yes, this is true and what is also true is…See how it works? Facts are not relevant, we build on what is being spoken (or tweeted) as we go. 

So for the record I want to remind everyone that:


…but maybe, just maybe, Jim ‘the Impresario from the Web Hosting racket’ (listen to Scottlo on this – linked above) is plotting his next sock move with Gardner at the Italian Gelateria Pingu in Via Sant’Anna…