In story writing, the diverse perspectives of the crowd could support an author's search for the perfect character, setting, or plot. However, structuring crowd collaboration is challenging. Too little structure leads to unfocused, sprawling narratives, and too much structure stifles creativity. Motivated by the idea that individual creative leaders and the crowd have complementary creative strengths, we present an approach where a leader directs the high-level vision for a story and articulates creative constraints for the crowd. This approach is embodied in Ensemble, a novel collaborative story-writing platform. In a month-long short story competition, over one hundred volunteer users on the web started over fifty short stories using Ensemble. Leaders used the platform to direct collaborator work by establishing creative goals, and collaborators contributed meaningful, high-level ideas to stories through specific suggestions. This work suggests that asymmetric creative contributions may support a broad new class of creative collaborations.
Presented at CSCW 2014.