Loose notes from SXSW 2007 panel: lonelygirl15 case study, with editors and producers of “the show.”

This is one of those sessions I attended to “open up a circuit” – exposing myself to something I’d never otherwise discover. lonelygirl15 is a narrative story told in brief video segments that has a huge (as in, huge) following. For the first several months of its existence, the story was told as if by a 15-year-old girl video blogging her life, with a story centered around her parents involved in a religious organization called The Order, with sundry spin-off threads involving their attempt to get her to take part in an initiation ceremony.

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Fans pushed and pressed and squeezed out clues, and ultimately figured out that the story was in fact scripted – written by a team of three guys and acted by an amateur actress. A small amount of betrayal expressed from a few fans, but almost all of the original viewers kept on viewing even after the truth had been revealed.

Today, the series involves a huge amount of viewer involvement – user-generated videos and ARGs (alternate reality games) tied into the plot, pulling it out in different directions, creating new puzzles for the fan-base. The show has become a phenomenon of TV/internet hybrid possibilities, has pushed UGC in new directions.

The fans are insane. Trying to get behind the truth of the series, a fan once inspected items from the protagonist’s bedroom one by one, looking up item SKUs at Target, WalMart, etc., and determined that the actor must live within 100 miles of all of these stores. By triangulation and using maps on those store’s web sites, the fan determined that the show must be shot in Tempe, AZ. They were wrong, but still…

The whole thing strikes me as “some people have way too much time on their hands,” but I hate that expression, since it’s been used against me and probably sounds judgemental. Maybe I’m just too old / out of it, but it’s hard to imagine following this thing. Still, fascinating that so many people do, and interesting to see new ways in which reality / documentary / life-blogging are being blurred.

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