Change of Storytelling Video Notes

Storytelling Part 1: Change of Storytelling

1) Dean Jansen - Participatory Culture Foundation -
-people can engage w/ most important stories of their culture in ways they couldn't before.
-used to be that storytelling one way
-only few could afford to craft and distribute.
-now, anyone can do both.
-SO, fundamentals of storytelling beginning to change.
-tip of iceberg
2) Clay Shirkey - NYU - Interactive Telecomm Program -
-still have old method of storytelling - one person telling story - in linear time.
-still see lots of this on YouTube vids.
-now are accompanied by stories told:
-using multimedia. -
-told by multiple people.
-told over longer periods of time.
- told w/ multiple & overlapping threads.
-most important - interested viewers/listeners/readers can participate.
3) Henry Jenkins - USC, Los Angeles -
-storytelling takes diff forms depending on tools, resources and platforms available.
-Homer - oral epic to people present - dynamic and changing according to interests of people present.
-as opposed to Homer doing TV broadcast w/ audience he can't see, w/ fixed script and no dynamism.
-and even amateur stuff produced and on web.
-ea media platform creates own relationship between teller and listener.
-exciting about present is one of resources for storytelling is web itself.
-living in multi-media environment where media content flows fluidly between platforms.
-new possibilities - "expanded canvas."
-this is transmedia storytelling.
4) Ian Condry - Comparative Media - MIT -
-analysis of media and film revolves around story.
-Japanese entertainment - logic not built around stories but built around characters.
-how characters fit w/ dramatic premises
-how characters move in certain kinds of worlds.
-not seen as part of story but as part of world.
-if analyze media, not in terms of story, but in terms of characters…
-how can that allow us to ask diff kinds of questions?
5) Joshua Green - Film,Television, New Media - UCSB -
-we're seeing adaptation of storytelling and narrative modes to contemporary environ.
-used to be that "online" was diff from "broadcast."
-online and offline had concrete distinction.
-now online is the space where storytelling happens.
-broadcast is still discrete technology.
-but, commercial industries have pulled over many of same structures onto online.
-now online is the technological replacement for distribution.
6) Joe Lambert - Center for Digital Storytelling - Berkeley -
-appropriation of word 'storytelling' is appropriation of orality.
-not of literacy.
-knew orality would make big breakthroughs w/ new media.
-way people write emails is way they talk.
-talking was gonna get priveleged again.
-hearing the voice
-thinking about way form a story.
-critical part of digital storytelling.
-trying to bring back orality in communal circle as core human activity.
-doing it in bizarre way - using new media and machines - machines that seem to be antithesis of natural, organic way of communicating.
7) Nick Montfort - Comparative Media Studies - MIT -
-don't have new medium of storytelling.
-it's that we have new medium of transmitting text, images, data, movies, etc.
-this allows storytelling to take place.
-distinction between narrative and story.
-narrative - sequence of events.
-connected by time/causality.
-list events did today.
-storytelling - above is report and not story.
-story has a point - story told for reason.
-means something to our situation or present convesation.
-makes it more than narrative - makes it a story.
The Internet has its roots in a networking project started by the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense. ARPA’s goal was to build a network that (1) allowed scientists at different physical locations to share info and work together on military and scientific projects and (2) could function even if part of the network were disabled or destroyed by a disaster such as a nuclear attack. That network, called ARPANET, became functional in September 1969, linking scientific and academic researchers across the United States.

My thoughts/comments:

This is a quick, 7-minute, 40-second, video regarding the way storytelling is changing today due to social media. The seven men interviewed are considered to be experts in the area of social/digital media. The video consists of a ‘blurb’ by each one as he describes his view on the changes in storytelling brought about by the use of social media on the Internet.

These changes in storytelling would appear to support Chandler’s theory of technological determinism, which is presented in Jill Walker Rettberg’s text, Blogging. Rettberg presents Chandler’s theory as she defines technological determinism as the idea that technology determines social and cultural trends and patterns. These changes in storytelling, after all, are now possible due to the evolving technologies being used on the Internet. In his video statement, Nick Montfort of the Comparative Media Studies at MIT states that we do not have a new medium of storytelling. We have a new medium of transmitting/sharing text, images, movies and other data. These technologies make storytelling possible. It would appear that these social interactions are made possible by technology, so it could be argued that this is an example of technological determinism at work. This idea, I believe, is true. It isn’t, however, the complete truth.

Any introductory computer course will discuss the history of the Internet. It was, as described in Gary B. Shelly’s text, Discovering Computers 2011, as originally being a project started by the Pentagon. It allowed scientists to quickly and efficiently exchange data and information as they worked on both scientific and military research. It was built with the idea that it must endure and be functional, even in the event of a nuclear attack that might destroy part of it. With that in mind, the Internet wasn’t created with one central hub to which all branches would be connected. It is, instead, built with interconnected nodes. Each connection can reach another connection through a number of different alternate routes. If one node or route is destroyed, the software controlling the transport of messages will choose another route.

I believe the unique construction of what we now know as the Internet, with its built-in redundancies, was due to something other than technological advances. It was a military endeavor that took place during The Cold War. The History Learning Site ( describes The Cold War as “the name given to the relationship that developed primarily between the USA and the USSR after World War Two.” It dominated the international affairs of both countries for decades. Some sources say the Cold War ended as early as 1980, while others say it continued on until 1991. The tensions of The Cold War is believed to be responsible for many major crises including the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Hungary, and the Berlin Wall. The greatest concern regarding The Cold War for many was the growth and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction. It was at this time that the U.S. military designed and built the ARPANET which later became our Internet. It was the social stressors of that time that, I believe, motivated this project. It was not simply that technology that was creating or determining a social/cultural situation. The interplay was more complex.

The Cold War began some time before the advent of our Internet. This relationship was the context in which the arms race began. The resulting development of weapons of mass destruction was a technological development that caused more concern and a deeper distrust between two superpowers. The Internet was built to withstand a nuclear attack. The military and scientific research carried on at the time motivated the creation of this network. Today, this network makes it possible for the social and communicative changes we now see to happen. Tensions lead to technological breakthroughs. These technological advances both heighten tensions and bring about the development of our Internet. The new technologies made possible by the Internet lead to changes in social relationships, literacy, and communication as we know it.

In the video, Storytelling Part 1: Change of Storytelling, ( the speakers give an overview of how social media is causing changes in how we communicate. Stories were, at one time, told by one person in a linear fashion. Technological developments then made it possible for stories to be published in books and to be made into movies and radio broadcasts. The audience grew, but the one-way mode of communication was even greater. Now, anyone can create and distribute a story, and these stories can be told using multiple forms of media. Stories may now be told by multiple people/sources over longer periods of time. Stories now allow for those users/readers who are especially interested to take part in the creating/telling of the story. Rettberg describes stories told in blogs to not be structured or created with the idea that they will end with all or most issues being resolved. Instead, they are written so that the reader hopes they never end.

Storytelling is evolving to become a more communal event as opposed to a personal/isolated event. Storytelling, as I know it, revolved around my reading a book or watching a movie. It was a personal encounter between myself and what the author/creator crafted. These changes, according to Joe Lambert of Berkeley’s Center for Digital Storytelling, reveal a return to orality as opposed to literacy. We write emails as we would speak. The spoken word is now gaining ground versus the written word, and the form of the story itself is changing due to this. Ironically, it is the use of machines, electronics, and digital media that are bringing about this reversion back to orality and to the story taking place in a “communal circle as core human activity.”

Clearly, the technologies of the Internet and of the various media platforms make these changes possible. In addition, it is the technology of the Internet that allows us to exchange information and ideas in order to even make note of these fundamental changes in storytelling and social interactions. However, to review Montfort’s idea, these technologies offer a new medium of transmitting/sharing text, images, movies and other data. They were not created to offer a new medium of storytelling. What social/cultural influences brought us to use them as such? The fact that there are continuing advances in both social media as well as online ‘broadcasting,’ (storytelling), technology/software would suggest that it is social/cultural changes and demands that are calling for further technological developments.

Old storytelling methods are not gone. They are now accompanied by new methods made possible by advances in technology. Technology now has us redefining the relationship between a story and a listener/viewer/reader. Each different platform of storytelling offers a different relationship. Technology caused changes in literacy, and it now has us moving, once again, towards an orality. Our social interactions have changed, and they begin to be defined by new technologies seen in social media. Technology has caused fundamental changes in society, no doubt, but has it determined what our society and cultures are?

To some degree, technology has determined this. I believe, however, the need(s) have remained the same. We humans strive for a balance. On one hand is our individuality, and we will fiercely demand to be seen and valued as such. On the other hand is our need to belong to something greater than ourselves, to a community. We used the technology that was once a military endeavor, used to exchange data/information regarding military research and built to withstand nuclear attack, and we used it to a different end. We use it in our efforts to find this balance between individuality and community. We use it to tell stories, and in doing so we redefine what a story is. We use it to interact socially, and in doing so we redefine what social relationships are. Advances in technology do bring changes in our culture(s), but it is not simply that it determines our culture. Technology offers new/different options in our efforts to find that age-old balance between individuality and community. This would suggest an interplay, a co-construction, as technology and social/cultural forces interact. Technology may have us redefining the relationship between the story and the listener, and to some degree, what a story is. A story, however, will always remain a story. Because it is more than a narrative, it means something to our situation or present conversation. A story has a point, and it is told for a reason. We are that reason.