From SXSW: Death Star Attack Kicked Off on Twitter

Those using the microblogging site Twitter on Sunday afternoon might have noticed a little bit of this:
#sxstarwars - Twitter Search

What was going on? Well, around 1 PM CST, a group of established Twitter users, working off a prepared script, began posting dialogue from from the end of “Star Wars” — specifically, the climactic attack on the Death Star.

The experiment was the brainchild of Jay Bushman, an interactive storytelling consultant from Los Angeles who was inspired by a random Twitter from celebrity geek and actor Wil Wheaton. “When Wil posted ‘red five is standing by,’ I noticed that a bunch of people replied with other ‘Star Wars’ quotes, and I realized that we’d never have any problems mounting an attack on the Death Star if we needed to. So I went for it.”

Casting some well-known Twitterers in key roles, including @Veronica, @seanbonner, and @Rudy (as seen above, I had one line as General Jan Dodonna), the term “#sxstarwars” (on Twitter, # marks are used to tag and group together posts) quickly began to trend, ultimately rising to become the second-highest search term on Twitter that afternoon, just below #sxsw (the official search term for the South by Southwest conference). Which is apt, given that Bushman did the bulk of the organizing among conference attendees, and the core group did their Twittering while gathered in the Hilton lobby across the street from the Austin Convention Center.

While first the only participants were those who had been assigned roles, very quickly other Twitter users began chiming in with their own favorite “Star Wars” quotes, speaking up for unassigned characters, such as R2-D2, and adding their own commentary. It was this chatter, not the initial updates, which lead to the experiment’s overall success. (The highlighted updates in the screenshot above are from non-participants.)

After the initial script concluded, with all participants sending out a link to a YouTube link to John Williams’ score from the end of the film, those participants continued the adventure, beginning a reenactment of the next film in the series, “The Empire Strikes Back.” Copyright-infringing? Hell yes. But as a model for potential promotions utilizing the Twitter service? Gold.

-Liz Shannon Miller

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