It’s always a good day when I get to write about Geo-storytelling!

It’s an important part of what we do here at Bellyfeel – but it does seem to get somewhat overshadowed by the two heavy hitters (Transmedia and Social TV)!

Though to be fair, these can sometimes overlap with Geo Storytelling…

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It All Started With A USB…

“Dead Drops” is a concept that I first heard about three years ago – and have watched it evolve and grow ever since.

Essentially a Dead Drop is the art of cementing a USB stick into a wall, lamp post or tree (pretty much anything you would expect to walk past 1000 times a day). People then physically connect their laptops with the USB in order to publicly upload and share files with anyone else who happens to come across it.

Initially created as an experiment by Berlin-based artist Aram Bartholl in 2010 – which only consisted of 5 dead drops hidden around New York City – dead dropping has gone world wide and now boasts over 1,500 USBs and 10,283 GB total storage.

Bartholl describes the project best in his manifesto (found in each of his original NYC dead drops:

“Dead Drops is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space… A Dead Drop is a naked piece of passively powered Universal Serial Bus technology embedded into the city, the only true public space. In an era of growing clouds and fancy new devices without access to local files we need to rethink the freedom and distribution of data.”

It Ain’t Quite Geo-Caching and It’s Not Quite Treasure Hunting, But…

…It is certainly somewhere in between.

So, as always, I looked at this weird and wonderful data experiment and the first thing I did was try to come up with as many ways as possible to use it to tell innovative stories.

In truth – the possibilities are almost endless – and this kind of user-generated content (or in this case ‘user-dropped content’) could be used for so much more then just storytelling!

Here’s my favorite idea so far…

Adding a real life element to a Transmedia/ARG story… damn I knew Transmedia would slide its way into here somehow.

Imagine this – You are involved in a deeply engaging Transmedia tale about a disgraced super-spy on the run. You have already uncovered his emails, and watched various videos online.

Maybe you even bought and read his novel that he released on Amazon which, on the face of it, looks like a personal set of memoirs, but in reality is loaded with hidden codes used to unlock extra content online (you know, typical web-based interactive stuff)… But what if there was more?

What if super-spy used a network of Dead Drops for all his Intel?

What if the locations of all of these Dead Drops was scattered throughout all the fragmented media you were engorging on.

What if each Dead Drop contained one page to a document, and in order to find the truth of our missing spy – you had to physically re-trace his steps and visit his Dead Drops – collecting each page to his secret document?

Alternatively, maybe the Dead Drop contains a call to action – A door way into a story you had no idea even existed… Imagine that you’re walking down the street and POW! – you’re thrown into a word of super spies and conspiracy.

It all starts with a single USB.

The beautiful thing about Dead Drops for me is that bridge between the digital world and the real one.

For as much as I love digital media – sometimes you DO have to step away from the digital clouds – walk outside and look at the ones in the sky!

There is no better storyworld then the one outside – it just needs a little help finding the right story sometimes.

Anything that combines digital with real is a winner in my book – and I can’t help but feel inspired every time I read about a new Dead Drop location.

Please… Upload With Caution

Of course as with any public user generated experience, there will be those who abuse it (the person who uploaded schematics to a bomb in Germany comes to mind).

And there is always the risk of gaining unwanted attention when trying to cement a USB into a public building.

But it is still worth a go – even if you have to borrow a friend’s laptop to test it out…

Sadly there are only 5 Dead Drops currently recorded in Manchester – although that may change very soon – (cracks knuckles and leans back with a grin).

Check out the map and website here: https://deaddrops.com/dead-drops/db-map/ and see if there is anything near you.

What do you think?

Have you seen or even heard of any Dead Drops in your area? If so, how do you think they could be used to tell stories?

Lee Robinson
About the author

23yr old film nerd, comic book and video game geek and all round Transmedia Fanatic…Oh, and I also have a 1st degree in Media, Writing and Production. More here...

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