In late 2016, a competition offered by the Open Data community created the perfect storm to complete a narrative project started a few years before. The project, a four page comicbook created by Ashley and myself was based in a future Durban and was a creative output aimed at raising awareness around the South Durban Basin and the effects of an impending rising sea level.
This idea was created to expand beyond this first chapter and the competition facilitated this growth, with fresh methodologies and a greater creative confidence allowed this to become a great template for experimental collaborative storytelling
In this narrative experiment, we were asking the question, “Can you write the future into existence?” The focal issue was still the rising sea level and Durbans’ approach/es to mitigating and defending against the anticipated rise. We hoped to place proposed developments and infrastructural projects against the map of where the new waterline was expected to be, asking our city planners to share their information and maps. We really battled to find any reliable sources, and thus the narrative component of the competition entry became the focal point
To complete the comicbook/ graphic novel, we first constructed a StoryWorld, one of the potential future timelines that the city of Durban faces. Within this storyworld, we created an environment devastated by storms, an urban wasteland re-shaped, its inhabitants retreated to above the waterline, the streets now filled with boataxis and a new social order.
This storyworld was then shared with the community that had gathered around the idea through a blog, which contained the basic storyline and premise of the world. This blog proved to be a very useful tool as it created genuine dialog among the creatives interested in contributing and kept many people connected to the project as it developed
One of the subtexts of this approach to submitting for a story competition was to challenge the pathways and technologies we use to create story. We challenged the ‘Tell us Your Story’ byline, by creating a methodology to tell ‘Our Story’ instead. This abstraction led to the comicbook being collaboratively planned, designed and eventually told. This very multi-user multi-disciplinary approach to future visioning hints at the kinds of open interchange that is needed to solve some of our more systemic and infrastructural challenges
For the gathering of content, the StoryWorld blog helped us get some contributions from artists around the world, including Brazil, Belgium and Taiwan. Local artists either submitted works ahead of time, or joined in our key feature event, a PopUpFuturEvent.