Webbyness is my term for what makes a drama appropriate for the web rather than tele. A lot of web drama is not webby, it emulates the dominant medium – American TV – and is in effect an inferior imitation. I'm interested in web drama for its webbyness. This comes in many forms:
1.Interactivity. Meaning the user can choose pathways through the narrative. This is rarer than it should be as web drama has become fundamentally linear. Examples are Wannabes, or Online Caroline.
2.Wiki or other feedback loops. Can there be such a thing as a collectively created web drama where the audience significantly contributes to the finished product? Where are the Joneses? was a worthy attempt as was the ARG The Human Pet where audience members had to save the life of a prisoner by responding to challenges from the psychopathic Codemaster.
3.Use of social media. Using Twitter, Blogs, Facebook or Flickr seems an obvious cross-platform next step for web drama. Girl Number 9 used Twitter half-heartedly. Any other suggestions?
4.Liveness. You Suck at Photoshop auctioned a wedding ring and engaged in live chats via Ebay between characters and followers of the series. Kate Modern staged several live events. TV drama could and should do this, but has entirely lost its nerve. Liveness, I think, will become more and more important for webby web drama as it moves closer to a theatrical experience.
5.Diegetic camera obsession. Who is holding the camera? This has never mattered in cinema or TV drama. The camera observes action that it would be impossible to witness. It sees through walls and music can play even when no one is playing an instrument. In web drama there is a much greater need to understand why we are able to see and hear the action. Lonely Girl 15 was a vlog and all action was filmed by cast members. Kate Modern continues this heavy handed need to explain how come we can see the action – to the detriment of better editing and drama. Connect with I is all about CCTV cameras everywhere. Quarterlife starts as a blog and steps gently out into televisual non-diegesis.
6.Community. Quarterlife was made by a couple of writers who had worked in TV for years. When they couldn't get funding for their TV drama about 25 year olds they decided to do it as a web drama to leverage a future TV sale. They hadn't really thought about how different the discipline of making for the web might be. By the end of series one they realised they had created a community. The community endures even after the series has been cancelled.
7.Alternate realities. The web offers the possibility of creating identities for the characters beyond their place in a script through fake blogs, fake websites, fictional companies and so on. Mainly exploited by ARGs.
The rest is just TV on the web – linear narrative distributed online for a number of reasons. Many of these series are formally uninteresting, but still of interest in terms of business model. It is still early days for web drama and the economic infrastructure is not yet in place. More on this at another time...