Storytelling – digital storytelling – and Glass/Stanton reflections

What storytelling means to me: it’s a journey with someone. It’s personal. It’s engaging, and it makes you feel different emotions. It can be used for many different reasons, such as sharing and preserving histories and cultures; for simplifying a difficult concept or idea—like a metaphor; and for entertainment. A story usually has a beginning, middle and end: the storyteller generally knows where they’re taking you from, and to. Storytelling is an acquired art, and some storytellers are better than others. Storytellers employ different techniques within a story to keep you engaged, whether that’s through a common thread, a sense of suspension or mystery, or empathy with a character. Telling is a creative process, and listening an active one–one implies the other, so it’s connotes a relationship too.

When I think of digital storytelling, I have both positive and negative associations. Firstly, on the positive side, I imagine a story being permanently preserved; a history, experience, or something else that is now fixed and available for eternity, to all. I guess that’s the ‘scalability’ aspect. And there’s also the ability to introduce audio/visual in a way that a master storyteller probably couldn’t in a traditional storytelling setting. The storyteller is also, potentially, anonymous. Secondly, on the negative side, I think of something less fluid, and organic, and perhaps that we might lose the spontaneous and intimate aspect of traditional storytelling…between the teller and listener(s). Lastly, there are also some similar characteristics btw non-digital and digital-story telling, which is that both have beginnings, middles and ends, and I imagine similar objectives (whether that purpose if for sharing a history, experience, as a metaphor, or as entertainment).

I find it challenging when I think of incorporating Ira Glass’ anecdote (and bait) as well as moment of reflection, into my regular daily (work) communications. I do think of the story structure when I’m storyboarding a report for instance, but I’m usually following a logical reasoning flow (inductive or deductive), as opposed to anecdotal logic (if that makes sense). When I write courseware content and I’m using a storytelling approach to share certain information, then I might follow an anecdotal approach. Regarding the ‘so what’ test, I try to apply this to all communications I prepare.
Regarding Stanton’s comments, I think a lot of his comments were compelling. However, again, I’m not sure how many of those techniques I’d be able to incorporate into my (corporate) workplace communications—people ‘working for their story/dinner’, asking people to ‘surrender to wonder’ and the idea of the story ‘slingshot’ just seem somewhat removed from the type of communications I prepare. Then again, that’s one of the reasons I’m here—to learn how I might be doing things differently!

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One thought on “Storytelling – digital storytelling – and Glass/Stanton reflections

  1. As you work through these idea, maybe the “answer” is that stories and storytelling cannot be wrapped into one package of meaning. But you are doing exactly what I hope to see, wrestling with the idea.

    I hope not to suggest everything gets a storytelling approach, there are absolute valid cases for the inductive/deductive routes. And maybe it’s not turning everything into a complete story itself, but just using some of the strategies as a developmental practice (e.g. the software development process of creating user story scenarios). The “hook” may be something as simple as a strong opening sentence, slide, etc.

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