From Slender Man To Widbook: Internet Myth Influences Writers' Social Network?
They say writing is a very lonely business. Some of our greats have gone mad searching for the perfect plot line or bon mot. Edgar Allen Poe is a cautionary tales as to how genius led to an ignominious ending. With the advent of Web 2.0 and crowd-sourcing, an increasing number of services are looking to dispel the myth of the lonely writer by offering up social media options.
Fictional Character reaches out from the Web. . .
Oddly enough, the Internet-creation called 'Slender Man' might have had something to do in influencing this new collaborative models. For those who are unfamiliar with the mythos that surrounds this fictional persona, ask any school-age youngster. I'm sure they'll be both happy and terrified to provide you with their version of what they conceive the Slender Man to be.
Slender Man who many refer to as the first true Internet legend surfaced from a meme first created by Eric Knudsen (a.k.a "Victor Surge") in 2009. Posting to the Something Awful forum, Knudsen began a textual thread accompanied with photographs of a blurred spectral man somewhat hidden in the background.
On June 10 of that year, a poster with the user name "Victor Surge" contributed two black and white images of children, to which he added a tall, thin faceless ominous figure wearing a black suit. The fact it's barely visible adds to its eery mystique. The lore indicates the photos were taken by an unknown photographer in 1983 who is presumed dead. It also references fourteen children who vanished mysteriously, allegedly kidnapped by the Slender Man.
Knudsen's two narrative snippets -- which in the months and years that followed -- became the seeds of a story that others would collaborate and elaborate upon to extend the mythical life of the Slender Man.
"We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…"
"One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which fourteen children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence."
Interesting side note -- Knudsen is also as 'faceless' as his creation -- as there is no photograph of him to be found on The Internet. Perhaps done intentionally to help build the mystique?
In any event, from these rudimentary beginnings, subsequent posters helped flesh out the character by adding their own visual and textual contributions. From there it went viral spawning numerous works of fan-art, online games like Slender, The Eight Pages and this music video, a 2014 edition garnering over 1.3 million views on YouTube, as of this posting.
Slender Man joins a Social Network?
Flashing forward to 2014, it appears the Slender Man paradigm might have had some influence on the number of crowd-sourced software products developed for writers. One of note is Widbook - a Brazilian based self-publishing platform which allows authors to not only connect with their readers and grow a fan base, but also with fellow writers to form partnerships.
Still in beta, Widbook is a social network unlike any of its predecessors. Its ecosystem is a platform where writers can create and edit to their heart's delight. But more importantly it's distinguished by the opportunity it affords users to meet kindred spirits who are open to collaborating in the development of narratives, plot lines and/or treatises. Writers who prefer to work alone can use Widbook as well, but they’ll miss out on this unique feature.
While one early report on Widbook call it a “YouTube for books” because of its heavy emphasis on interactivity, I believe the Slender Man paradigm creeped into the psyche of its developers either intentionally or subconsciously - to shape-shift it into what it's evolving into today.
Like the Slender Man, a work developed on Widbook has the potential of taking on a life of its own. For teams of writers, it's an intriguing means to exchange ideas and mash-up talented resources from people around the globe.
Brave New World
This new writing model however does not come without a learning curve. As we've all experienced with anything new, there's a trial-and-error period involved for anything that breaks the mold of what went before. Crowd-sourcing on this new playing field requires a set of terms, rules and standard operating procedures, no?
Perhaps the development of the Slender Man is a cautionary tale in this regard, as there's a big question mark whether or not Slender Man sits in the public domain. If so, it would stand to reason that its originator, Knudsen would lose out to others who've used his creation for their own profit-making purposes. If on the other hand, Knudsen had taken some precautionary steps to secure intellectual property rights, he would be entitled to recompense. Another source indicates he and an unnamed third party hold the options to any adaptations into other media, including film and television.
As users assist the developers in shaping the product during its beta period, it would be wise to flesh out terms of service - so there is clarity as to who owns what. They need to determine how collaborators working together for the first time can create a composite something, and then protect themselves regarding the ownership of the final product. The least desirable scenario is to forge forward -- with no agreement or meeting of the minds -- to only be disappointed when someone in the 11th hour plagiarizes it for their own purposes -- and there is no legal remedy or recourse.