Monday, 4 October 2010

Chapter Six - The Future of Storytelling

Chapter Six

The Future of Storytelling

“The history book on the shelf, is always repeating itself”

Waterloo, ABBA

Who would have imagined, five years ago, that we would all become Storytellers? For I believe that is what we now all are.

The worldwide success of Facebook has turned us all into Storytellers – relating the tales of our lives is cyberspace for all who care to read.

And the phenomenal growth of Twitter means we can relate a tale to our followers instantly in 140 characters or less.

One thing is for sure, throughout the centuries, stories on cave walls have taught us to fish and hunt, in the Bible they have given us the promise of eternal life and from our parents they have taught us how to grow up to be productive members of society. Brands have got in on the act, with everyone from Maxwell House in the 80’s to British Telecom and the on-going soap opera that is Adam and Jane.

IDEO recently suggested that, as we progress further into the digital age, the publication of books will be very different. They will appear increasingly on line, giving the user the ability to add comments and build the story.

Channel Four’s show ‘Seven Days’ has broken new ground in Reality TV. It charts the lives of twelve of Notting Hill’s most interesting characters over their last week and the choices they make – the story they tell – is influenced by the viewer via Twitter and the specially develop ChatNav programme. Comments are relayed on-line in real time and the show’s characters get to interact and respond with the viewer. And change their individual storyline in response to viewer feedback.

The age of collaboration is upon us.

I believe that the role of the Storyteller will change. Their role will be one of a Catalyst and Provocateur – to start the debate rather than deliver a complete narrative. Through the use of technology, the receiver will no longer be passive, but will become actively involved in shaping the story, in making it relevant in their personal setting and ensuring that the story continues to be told in many different formats to many different people many miles removed from the original source.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are right MOK - stories are an age old communication tool which are being recast and reinvented in a multimedia world. There is so much more that can be done with the technological tools now available, and where there are new tools, old forms evolve into fresh new ones.

    It is true; We remember and engage with stories better than strategies,
    stories live on when rules, regulations, and even results are forgotten,
    every surviving religion is based on stories, and stories will continue to be told as long as there are listeners.

    With these new tools it seems the future of storytelling is itself evolving. Where once the storyteller was the master, weaving a tale to suit his/her own imaginative art or communicative purpose, now the craft is merging into co-craft - or a 'collaborative craft'.

    In fact, perhaps it is not the role of the storyteller that is changing. He or she is still the originator, and the original director of the story.

    But perhaps the idea of storyteller as 'owner' of story is one that is opening up. And perhaps also the role of the editor and the listener or audience is in fact changing. The audience has more power to shape both the narrative and the interpretation, and the editor has less power to dictate what is taken out. (In every sense!)

    We are moving into a realm where stories are more and more becoming 'dynamic content' co-authored by anyone who wants to contribute. And with the barriers to contribution coming down and the tools for taking part becoming universally available (reviews, blogs, even mainstream press) we find there are lots of people out there who want to contribute.

    It seems that where once stories were carefully crafted and 'directed' by the author and 'shaped' by the editor, now stories are 'dynamic content' both directed and shaped by the audience.

    The originator is just the one who starts the whole thing off. Where it ends up depends on who takes it from there, what they add to it and how the audience responds.

    We have seen this starting to happen on the fringes of popular culture for many years as storytellers use new tools to experiment with the form: In film we have seen directors and editors retell a story they would like seen in a different way, retaining ownership of the content but re-casting it in a different light. Just look at the number of 'Blade Runner' cuts out there.

    Role playing games like 'dungeons and dragons' have a cult like following where the 'player' is an active participant and co-author of the experience.

    And of course in computer games, the 'player' has the ultimate ability to tailor his/her experience through a pre-determined world. Even TV series are showing alternative story lines to engage the audience in different characters, even ones that have a more peripheral role. It seems that with new media, there is little need to 'edit' in the conventional way - many people will edit their own experience and some are willing to put effort into doing so.

    To me this is all so very encouraging, that it is happening, in itself tells a story. One about the evolution of our own creative powers. It tells the story of an increasingly imaginative, active and skilled audience who are willing to get their hands dirty and participate in a world that has finally provided the tools to enable everyone who wants one to have a voice.

    The story it tells is of the democratisation of mass communication.

    And, like any evolving art, in the end we are subject to ruthless Darwinian laws: only the most engaging stories will survive, and only the rules of the best co-authors will be the ones that define this art.

    What I am curious about is what kind of stories 'we' as an audience seek out. Will we share and encourage stories that are positive, uplifting, nurturing and encourage growth? Or are 'we' more interested in the darker side of human nature, stories that expose the uglier side of 'us'.