How ICT are changing storytelling

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A. Waters ends this text writing “I’m interested in the history of our imagination about education’s future and the role technology – and influential ed-tech storytelling – is assigned in shaping that.”, “The Horizon Report: A History of Ed-Tech Predictions”, in Hackeducation). After that, it’s unavoidable to think: Will it change the way we tell stories? If yes, How? We started to dig into the web how ICT are changing storytelling and found this video:

It’s just a slice of bread on a table, nothing special, and has more than 72k (72.000) views. I ask myself, what’s storytelling nowadays? Where are the stories of heroes and epic battles? Of surprising lives and social transformation? A slice of bread fading away and coming back endlessly in a 6sec video. No plot, no characters, nothing. That’s the story.

I watched the bread-loop once again and started to think about the first Lumiére brothers movies (Arrival of a Train, Workers Leave the Factory) less than two minutes films without a particular story which settled a milestone: the beginning of cinema. Step by step, image gained a main role instead of written stories, and soon, the most popular stories were told with moving images.

Briefly, industry of cinema continued growing and growing until becoming a huge economic, social and cultural giant. And also ideological, of course. During the golden age of cinema (better said, of Hollywood), the years of big studios and big stars, stories were mainly about incredible characters and lives played by outstanding movie stars with amazing skills (beauty, rhythm, voice…). Moving forward, 20th century continued this way, delivering to the people stories out of their daily reality. Even more, some characters started to be substituted by special effects and nobody thinks about filing a coliseum with real people.

Nowadays you can’t enumerate the software used on a movie for their special effects, digital craftwork of keyframes, textures, layers, 3D,… Those genius of cinema illusionism, those using mirror, porexpan, dynamite, miniatures, to make the impossible becoming real, left their abilities aside for the sake of the Perfect Render.

It all continued this way until the early years of the 21st century. Once technologies arrived so far and ubiquitous that entertainment industry found their stories are no longer appealing, these stories started to become obsolete. I don’t know what was first: the narratives or the the economic system in which the industry was based, but when consuming started to walk together with producing, storytelling changed again.

That’s a keypoint: audience are also authors, they film and share narratives that are pushing those made by the industries. And when the audience becomes the storyteller we found that stories are no longer about heroes, battles or amazing scenarios. We love to talk about our daily life, our common places, about common people, about normality. Obviously, Youtube change it all; when we were able to be famous because of simple questions such as being in a car after the dentist,  telling you last night failed affaire, or making a playback in front of your webcam.

Or filming a slice of bread fading out and in again. Rutinary moments, the less special ones are some of the most shareable moments, are the ones we all have in common if we leave aside the software connecting us. Also, Vine changed a lot our stories, in this social network we follow a character, how he gets bored in a supermarket, thow he relates with his children, or how her pet looks like. Being possible also with Youtube, Vine difference is the personal profile which made it easy to follow their personal stories day by day, in a 6 sec video and with no other intention that the story itself.

To me, some of the more surprising contents, in terms of communication, are  Let’s play, Walkthrough and Gameplay. Basically, these are videos uploaded to Youtube where the storyline is a videogame. Simply this. We can watch someone playing a videogame, testing it and giving their opinion at the same time.

This kind of videos are not made just by videogamers with thousand of followers, but also the simplicity of this kind of videos convinced many people to film while playing, talking and experimenting. The most interesting of these filmed videogames experiences is that they show more and more realistic images together with a real time voice over, making the final product something surprisingly similar to the first silent movies, where what images couldn’t explain was said by music and written text.

It seems as if technologies brought us the ability to travel back in time. Storytelling is closing a circle where the most innovatives tricks and narratives are the same that a century ago. We already talked about Lumière and their two minutes films; well, 115 years later, one of the most successful educational media projects in Catalonia was el Minut Lumiére.

Participants had to tell a story in one minute, without editing or cuts. Also, Vine reminds us those devices previous to cinematographers which plays a loop story as the  kinetoscopes.

Special effects are very relevant within this scenario. Méliès heritage it’s on the birth of this visual tricks, based on human eye imperfections, and the power of imagination. So that, we can find stop motion tricks or magic cuts which, even made thoroughly, anyone could do equally at their home.

We cannot avoid either Harlem Shake hype, based on the effect named as its creator, Méliès, that thanks to its simplicity and possibilities became in a few days on a snowball on Youtube with versions from schools, companies, groups of friends or basketball teams.

All of them with same music, same structure, same plot, same ending. It just changed the characters & atrezzo but the story was the same repeated thousands of times. So we can highlight one of the characteristics of contemporary storytelling: collective authorship.

Stories are no longer one person property but of a group, stories do not belong to anyone but to everyone, stories are told by various people who remix it. And this is not very innovative. Listening to a story, reproducing it, using its narrative characteristics to bring a new meaning is not something we could associate exclusively to recent technologies, but yes it is, indeed, easier to have in your hand the technologies to  search, play an remix. Remix is a creative activity that is playing a very important role in contemporary storytelling, understood as as an interactive social game where narrative is built through the interaction itself.

For example, Revine of the Jedi is using an 80’s cultural reference within a domestic contexts, “choose your own adventure” and Vine: or other games like this where the spectator role is essential to arrive to the end of the story. Game also drive us from Vine to Twitter: transmedia contents or how to extend your narratives through different communication stories.

 

This playful environment is very interesting because it means we are using media and resources to experiment. We feel at ease with the devices and think “what else could we do with this”.

Regarding storytelling, it looks like there are no more or less relevant topics as authorless and scriptless videos are filling the scenario with fragment videos that get lost in the web, no room for literature, education, or culture, just consuming superficial pieces of stories. But then you find projects like the Slavery Frootprint, where the trigger is the question “How many slaves work for you?” and we start our journey by answering a survey about our habits. As we continue answering questions, texts talking about social justice, poverty or equality come up into de screen. At the end, the web estimates how many people are working for us in unfair conditions to keep our way of living.

Congratulations! You have seen a documentary about poverty and social inequality based on data mining and journalism through your own experience, playing and conformed by fragmented contents. A universal story, relevant, and directly connected with your own experiences, isn’t that also literature?

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