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Ag8: finally someone is cottoning onto the future of storytelling.

June 7, 2009

For quite some time now, I’ve been pondering how storytelling will change with the rapid advances in digital media. I’ll always have a soft spot for films as a great medium to deliver a story. However, I have come to realise that filmmaking as we know it is changing forever.

While, they’ll always be some great auteurs or traditionalists out there making great standalone films, more and more we are going to see the development of stories with no clear beginning, middle or end. Let’s face it, this traditional narrative structure was really only invented due to the limitations of the mediums being used. Clearly, no one is ever going to sit in front of a movie screen watching a film for five hours (unless you’re a masochist), that’s why the standard 90 minute film became the norm. It fitted in with people’s attention spans.

Now, however people’s attention spans are becoming shorter than ever. With the inundation of social media feeds, and the various sites we all subscribe to, we are barely able to keep up with the information being thrown at us.

This is creating an interesting phenomenon. It means that we want small, bite sized pieces of information that we can consume quickly. However, the web has also played nicely into humanity’s innate curiosity. There is still something fun and magical about discovering a new interesting piece of content or story on the web that you can send onto your friends etc.

Where is this leading?

The future is clear. Storytelling will no longer be one person trying to shape a story to an audience. There will be no separation between the ‘creator’ of the story and the audience. The audience will be creating the story as much as the original creator.

This calls for a very different mindset than the capitalist way of thinking that has been so dominant over the past few decades. The individual is no longer paramount, the collective is. Stories will no longer be shaped in isolation, and be protected through archaic practices like copyright. Stories will be created through various ‘entry points’ on the web, be that a blog, a video, a facebook page etc. The audience themselves will then shape the story and even be contributors to its creation.

For the first time since ancient cultures, where stories were passed down from generation to generation through verbal communication (around fires etc), the world has now found a new, communal space to share and grow its stories that represent humanity. What’s more, if we plan this right, we can have a trail of websites that archive and document the development of these stories.

In other words, stories are no longer simply stories, they are world views that will evolve with discussion, creation, and review.

So I welcome you to the new world of digital storytelling, where everyone of us are creators, audience, and critics all at once.

The only question left to answer is what does this human story mean to all of us? What does the future hold?

I think Tom Himpe and David Bausola, with a little help from  Ridley and Tony Scott, have struck the nail on the head and are set to be leaders in the digital media space. I encourage you to go and explore their site. The future is here.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2009 10:08 pm

    I sort of a agree, but sometimes I don’t want to participate. I just want to watch, or read. I think you’re overestimating the amount of control audience want to have.

    • June 7, 2009 10:30 pm

      For me ‘audience’ is no longer a passive term. I am an ‘audience’ to the Ag8 project, but at the same time I want to get involved. I think there will no longer be a separation between audiences and creators. Sure, many times you may simply want to watch or read and not participate. However, I strongly believe that if there’s something that interests you enough or that you’re passionate about, you will want to get involved in creating the collective ‘story’ that is developing around this interest. I guess for me, it’s the difference between the old story methodology based on a static delivery (e.g. film, book) and the new story methodology based on dynamic delivery or ‘worlds’. In such world’s, participation doesn’t mean you have to create the storyline, but you may well want to comment on it, like you have on my blog 🙂 Whatever happens, it’s certainly very interesting times!

  2. June 7, 2009 10:41 pm

    Great post, thanks. I guess you might be writing strongly about the fact that storytelling will no longer be what it is to make a point in your post, but I would tend to agree with Bryan as well.

    Storytelling is definitely evolving with digital media, but roots and tradition are strong. The large majority of people will consume rather than create new story threads. I think the storyteller will always keep an important place, I’m thinking about a long time ago, one person would tell the stories around a fire and the audience would listen. There’s something magical about that person in terms of performance and knowledge that is going to stick somehow.

    Essentially, storytelling is absolutely evolving but it’s not one new way destroying an old way, I think they’ll coexist and probably come to something we can’t really see yet.

    • June 7, 2009 11:01 pm

      I’m mainly trying to get people to think about the emerging paradigms of storytelling. While tradition and roots will hold strong, I do believe that storytellers will have to become more receptive to their audience and engage them in ongoing conversation. What I find the most exciting aspect of digital media, is that for the first time in history it gives storytellers (like myself) the tools to grow and develop their own worldwide audience for little cost.

      My digital storytelling argument is simply why create a one-off piece of art, be it a film, a book, or whatever, when you can now create interlinked storylines using various media that builds a ‘storytelling world’ or an entire philosophy/worldview?

      Although, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the pleasure of sitting down and watching a well crafted film. However, there’s nothing to stop that film also creating interesting online content around it, is there?

  3. June 8, 2009 8:02 am

    Thanks Johnny – It’s a pleasure to read this. Glad you’ve join us on the journey.

    Will, you’re right, especially when the source of storytelling can be built upon shared myths and our real-time (networked) lives. It induces a disturbing aesthetic, one based upon memory and what you can sense in the present, essentially, time shifting perceptions. Apply this to the classic method of science fiction (using a vision of the future to help better describe the present), and you’ll see some of the potential for new narrative functions – ones that we hope will be useful for prototyping the future.

    Bryan, if Purefold increases sales of home made microwave popcorn, I think we’ll accept that as a fair result of compelling material. If anything, interactive storytelling has a lot to learn from movies that deliver powerful human truths.

  4. M William Anderson permalink
    June 10, 2009 2:55 am

    Although the post is primarily about storytelling from a film-making point-of-view, I wonder if the same can be said of the written medium?

    As a writer of young adult fiction I would be horrified if I uploaded my work to a website and my reading base then contributed to the tale, warping it from the themes that I would want to talk about, and playing with the structure so that the story was no longer mine.

    The essential thing to remember here is that although this wonderful digital age we are living in opens up a huge amount of creativity and scope for input from others I do fear we may be forgetting that stories exist for a reason, both in film-making and as print on paper or screen – and that is, they are there to entertain but also to learn from.

    After all, if we take “1984” as an example – and it celebrates its 60th birthday on Monday – what would have happened to Winston’s fight against an oppressive regime if we had all had a hand in changing his fate? what would separate us from the forces Winston was fighting against – that of Big Brother’s imposed belief system over free will.

    Just a thought…


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