An experimental piece of research using Twitter to investigate digital story-telling in performance is being launched by Edge Hill University.

It is the first time that online technologies and memetics – an information pattern held in an individual’s memory, which is capable of being copied to another individual’s memory – have been applied in the world of performing arts to create interactive, digital narratives around the world that can be re-presented in performance.

Spearheaded by PhD student James Burrows, his research project, Time Ghost: A Memetic Application for the Creation of Virtual and Live Performance, aims to test whether the idea that cultural ‘evolution’ occurs in the same way as genetics could be used to create a new ‘poetics’ for performance practices.

Launching on the 21st December to coincide with the winter solstice and the end of the Mayan Calendar, the story will start on Twitter with the opening line, ‘On the darkest hour of the darkest night’. It is then totally dependent on online public interaction to continue the story.

“Twitter has never been used for this type of experiment before,” said James. “But I think it is the best form of social media to use because of its speed and frequency, and it will allow so many people worldwide to join in. I will then be able to analyse the data to see what emerges.

“Regardless of culture, gender or location we share a collective experience of the world,” said James. “I believe that whoever continues the story on Twitter, it will have a basic pattern and structure, which means we can track the progression of the narrative as it develops and mutates. This type of memetic theory has never been used before in performing arts and it is an exciting development in the relationship between performance, technology and science.”

“The reason this research is so important is because it aims to change the idea that science is cold and uncreative and that the project may open people’s eyes to science as a source of wonder that inspires the human imagination. In performing arts, practice can be very subjective, but I believe that science can help us to understand creative processes better.”

“Ultimately, I want the project to prompt a discussion around the nature and dynamics of the relationship between cultural evolution and narrative in the digital, virtual world and inform live performance practices.

Once the narrative has been created on Twitter, performance groups worldwide will be invited to “take the story home” to create geographically bound cultural responses.

James will also be presenting a paper based on his research at the 4th Annual International Conference in Fine and Performing Arts in June 2013.

Follow the story as it unfolds at @ProjectTime on Twitter