Sprinklers are narrative platforms and experiences. They can be found online in the form of digital story banks; as beautifully curated websites that invite contributors to express themselves; or as fully immersive VR experiences that evoke nearly tangible connections between the visitor and a particular time and place. Sprinklers typically incorporate a participatory component, offering the viewer or subject the opportunity to co-create the story, even if they’re not professional mediamakers.

Although digital technology has powered modern Sprinklers (consider how everyone with a smartphone has the ability to widely share every detail of their lives), they aren’t new. Campfires were (and still are) places that evoked collective narratives, as were the retelling of informal histories, the notes in a family bible passed through generations, call-in radio shows, and urban murals.Today, as in the past, Sprinklers mirror the organic, informal collective storytelling that happens in everyday life—or in extraordinary times.

Strengths: In the context of Horticulture, Sprinklers facilitate expression from less heard and often disenfranchised voices, creating space for richer, more nuanced narratives. Participatory and collaborative, they use a broad, multi-character approach to paint a layered picture of how different people feel about a common experience. Because Sprinklers tend to be less linear than other kinds of garden tools, they can nurture an unpredictable crop of real-time, first-person stories that defy traditional story formats.

Sprinklers generally don’t:
• Tell a linear story in neat acts or sequences, or through omniscient perspectives

Sprinklers are great for:
• Conveying the first-person, human consequences of social systems and decision-making
• Proving to people who are often left out of the mainstream that others share their experiences and opinions and that they matter
• Celebrating vibrant, positive actions
• Recognizing patterns of injustice
• Training nonprofessional storytellers how to express their own truths and build media skills

Ideal first responses to Sprinklers from viewers/participants:
• “Seeing and hearing about that situation from someone who is living it everyday is completely different from getting it from the ‘news.'”
• “I wish I could hear more from that storyteller…ideally in person.”
• “This sounds so much like my own experience. I have something to add to this…where do I start?”

COMING SOON: How Do We Know If Rakes Are Making a Difference?

Media Examples: