The Observer (London, UK), August 7, 2011
As the tools available to publishers grow more sophisticated, it’s up to us to experiment and see what sticks.
Linear stories still dominate the printed page, our TVs, our radios, our games consoles and the theatre. Yet the process of telling a story doesn’t have to be unidirectional.
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.
Human experience is a series of never-ending, overlapping stories bumping into one another in expected and unexpected ways. Our days are made up of personal narratives of good and evil, joy and conflict, magic potions and angry gnomes. They are naturally co-creations based on a push and pull of projection and interpretation. We interpret, analyse and synthesise the characters and events in our lives to help us make sense of the world, and these have been translated by professionals into folk tales, myths, legends, pantomime, bestsellers, soap operas and Hollywood blockbusters. Storytellers are simply curators of information who finesse the elements of a yarn into a beginning, middle and end.
But the tools 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.”
Subjects Covered: digital storytelling