There was a pit in our stomachs and an acrid tang of revulsion in the back of our throats as details emerged about the barbaric gang-rape in New Delhi on 16 December 2012.
Revulsion quickly turned into anger. Thousands took to the streets to put a voice to their anger. Social media swelled with introspection and pontification. Movie stars satirised. Artists painted street walls and canvasses. Actors staged plays in local parks and international festivals. Anonymous mourners created real life and online commemorations. It was an unprecedented show of collective grief and outrage in modern India’s history.
As a multimedia journalist who has lived in India for nine years, I turned to familiar tools – the written word, video recordings, vox pops, data graphics and photographs. But I decided to use them to tell both the factual and a fictional story. Not only did I want to to capture the swell of anger in my adopted country, but also give a voice to the victim – a woefully disregarded and unheard voice in patriarchal India.
I knew I could only achieve this multi-layerd and multimedia approach with digital fiction. And with no existing formats that embraced transmedia and hypertext storytelling well enough, I had to create my own.
Weareangry.net is home to the fictional short story of about 6000 words written in the voice of an ambitious young woman who is raped in New Delhi. Who she is and what happened to her unfolds as the narrative progresses.
Her story is interspersed with different perspectives of a society grappling over the treatment of its women: the police who apathetically takes the victim to hospital, the students-turned-protesters who are fed up with poor policing and governance, the surgeons who can’t help but wonder why a woman is out so late at night, the parents who blame themselves for giving too much freedom to their girl-child, the wrongly accused who is brutalised and the politicians who say little and do even less.
Each of these points of view appear, like short chapters, on a different page with a range of multimedia elements from audio to video, from artwork to interactive graphics, even thought bubbles.
On one page there are flashing news headlines, which can be clicked on and the “news story” read. Another page begins with a video in which two police officers are seen prodding an unconscious, supine victim on the roadside with their lathis, speaking to her as if she’s a prostitute. According to the narrative, it has been filmed by two students who post it on Facebook and it goes viral, leading to days of protests. At this point audio and photographs from real protests are seen and heard.
Since Weareangry.net is a fictional narrative that takes its cue from real life events it bolsters the storytelling experience with real facts and figures. When the victim obliquely refers to the 16 December 2012 rape, for those unfamiliar with the story they can click on the hypertext and a small pop-up appears with a tightly written summary and URLs for those who wish to read more.
When there is a reference to killing the rapists, a hyperlink goes to another pop-up with a curated list of editorials on the death penalty debate which raged in India. When a protester shouts at a reporter about the low conviction rate of rapists, a hyperlink gives the reader the real statistics with a URL to the source material. Even the Hindi swearwords and cultural references are all translated and explained via a hyperlink.
Weareangry.net gives a voice to the victims of rape and keeps the debate about the treatment of women in India, and the world over, alive. It is just as important as working in the groundbreaking medium of digital fiction. If ever there is a subject that deserved such a 360 degree treatment, this is it.
This intense merging of fact with fiction has never been done before. We now have the technology to create such work, and we should embrace it.
About the author
Lyndee Prickitt is Texan author, producer and broadcast journalist with almost 20 years experience in the UK, Singapore and India for the BBC, Associated Press and Reuters. The founder of Weareangry.net is a storyteller at heart and has begun exploring the fusion of text, graphics, audio, video and the merging of art forms not just in reportage but in the world of literature. Lyndee lives in New Delhi with her Indian husband and their two-year-old daughter.