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Storytelling: digital technology allows us to tell tales in innovative new ways.

Storytelling: digital technology allows us to tell tales in innovative new ways

Author  starts out with the importance of story.

Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses. When enlisted by charismatic leaders and turned into manifestos, dogmas and social policy, they’ve been the foundations for religions and political systems. When a storyteller has held an audience captive around a campfire, a cinema screen or on the page of a bestseller, they’ve reinforced local and universal norms about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And when they’ve been shared in the corner shop, at the pub or over dinner they’ve helped us define who we are and how we fit in.

But “… the process of telling a story doesn’t have to be unidirectional” and that’s given rise to “multi-media” or “transmedia” storytelling.

But the tools they use to tell tales are evolving, becoming more modular and tailored, more participatory and more engaging than just the printed word or the moving image. The new form of storytelling that’s coming from a digitally enabled cabal moves beyond reinterpreting a text for radio or screen.


Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue and the Way We Tell Stories,believes this is exactly what people want from their story experience. “The kind of multi-way conversation that the web makes possible is what we’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “The technology finally enables it.”

Rose celebrates the way that the new kinds of storytelling brings audiences together to traverse plots, but recognises that there are challenges for consumers and for creators: “It’s very different when you have a medium that forces you to engage with other people,” he says, reflecting on the arc of a narrative that is necessarily more complex, multifaceted, and demands more flexibility. “You don’t know if you’re going to have to tell a story for one hour, two hours or 10 years.”

The article goes on to describe examples of extended storytelling. It has always been true that technologies enable new ways of telling or sharing stories: from verbal only, to scribes and the elite literate sharing via scrolls and the like; to the advent of the printing press and later widespread literacy; on to radio, TV, film and video right up to the Internet age of multiple venues for stories.

Paul Berman, writing for Wired, would prefer you didn’t call it “Transmedia” though!



3 responses to “Storytelling: digital technology allows us to tell tales in innovative new ways.”

  1. “Storytellers are simply curators of information who finesse the elements of a yarn into a beginning, middle and end.”

    This strikes me as a rather limiting view of storytelling. So many of our modern and iteratively re-invented wheels have developed corners. Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’ is still one of the best and original reads on the subject of story:

  2. A dissenting opinion, if you haven’t read it:

    I’m always sceptical of the “transmedia is changing storytelling” line (if I can call it transmedia).

    1. I’ve definitely seen that article. Thanks for posting the reference. I have long been interested in stories that had multiple arcs or personal customizations – since at least the mid 90’s. I’m also very interested in ways of exploring the “not used” documentary content: that which isn’t in the final cut but is of interest to someone interested in the subject. (That, btw, was the original goal of what became First Cuts. Maybe with the interest in “transmedia” we can sell into that market!)