As we wrap up IST646: Storytelling – which seems to have flown by and made 6 weeks seems like such a short period of time – I am left thinking about not only my future with storytelling, but the future of storytelling in general and how digital storytelling will play its part.
This week Professor Arnone mentioned that she has attempted to maintain a balance between digital and oral storytelling throughout the course and asked us why and/or if we found this important. Throughout this course I have probably been viewing digital and oral storytelling as two separate entities, however I do think there is a very important connection between the two.
The responses from other classmates on this week’s topics have been interesting. One classmate asserted that oral storytelling remains our most important form of storytelling and digital storytelling serves to enhance that. While I certainly agree that using digital components can enhance oral components greatly, I also think new technologies have proven there are new and interesting ways to tell stories without relying mainly on an oral narrative. Twitter, for example, seems to be a digital tool that has spurred opposing opinions on whether or not it serves as a good storytelling tool. While many have valid complaints against the medium – it’s disjointed, there are too many voices, etc. – I believe it not only has the potential to serve as a great storytelling medium, but that many people have already figured out how to do this effectively. Take for instance author Elliot Holt’s mystery story that she told using the twitter feed of three fictional characters. Her use of Twitter and her ability to create three characters with distinct personalities and voices – without any oral components – in such a short period of time and concise use of words was really impressive to me. I thought the short tweets and disjointed narrative switching back and forth from characters actually brought more intrigue and confusion to the story – which is exactly what you want in a murder mystery.
Holt’s story is an example of how Twitter can be used to create and tell original stories in new ways, but there re also people who are using the medium to revisit existing stories. Another classmate, in response to the above article about Twitter, took issue with this idea – tweeting out a scene from Hamlet, for example, by retweeting other Twitter users. Personally, I love the imagination and creativity that goes into thinking of something like this. Rather than just tweeting out the lines himself, the author found pre-existing tweets on the site and retweeted them, essentially bringing in other participants to his story. Rather than just repeating the scene of a classic story, I think the author’s retweeting experiment sort of shows one way in which the story of Hamlet lives on in modern culture. He also understands the medium – retweeting a line that was attached to a picture of Chik-fil-A as part of his retelling also served as a way to poke fun at one of the most stereotypical complaints people have about the medium – “why do I care what someone is eating for lunch today?” My classmate asserted that each medium should be used for its strengths – rather than tweeting out a classic novel or play in 140-character chunks – but I think that is precisely what each of these authors was doing. By understanding the medium and the role it plays in our culture, one was able to create an interesting, original story and kept it relevant by using the medium as people do today (tweeting excessively and about trivial things, using hashtags, etc.), and one was able to use the medium and put a modern spin on a classic. Frankly, this reminds me of the book vs. ebook debate. So often I hear people complaining about e-books and expressing their love for the feel and smell of paper books and how they could never switch to an e-reader. I love books too, and I hopefully will never stop reading and buying paper versions, but I will also not dismiss this new medium and refuse to acknowledge the strengths it may have and the way it can enhance stories and reading. In the same way, over the past few weeks I have come to really love oral storytelling – the traditions, the history, the way oral storytelling can add to a tale, the passion you can see in the storyteller – but I have also come to love digital storytelling and all the possible mediums that can be used to tell stories. I believe they can both exist on their own, but I also believe they have the ability to enhance one another greatly.
In one section of this week’s lesson storyteller Margaret Read McDonald was referenced, saying that storytelling is traditionally oral and once it enters another medium – a written medium – it becomes trapped in that one form. She goes on to say that the job of the storyteller is to retell the story in a new, unique way and in a way that relates personally to the storyteller somehow. I believe that while oral storytelling is an important tradition – and one I don’t think will disappear anytime soon – digital storytelling is now not only giving us endless ways to create new, modern stories but it also offers the tools to enhance the tradition of storytelling and to expand on classic tales, insert our own personal takes and commentary, infuse modern elements into classic narratives, and so on. Essentially, digital storytelling is giving us more tools and possibilities to insert our talents and personalities into stories.