“Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses. When enlisted by charismatic leaders and turned into manifestos, dogmas and social policy, they’ve been the foundations for religions and political systems. When a storyteller has held an audience captive around a campfire, a cinema screen or on the page of a bestseller, they’ve reinforced local and universal norms about where we’ve been and where we’re going. And when they’ve been shared in the corner shop, at the pub or over dinner they’ve helped us define who we are and how we fit in.” (Krotoski, A. 2011).
Storytelling has always evolved and been enriched by changing media and technology. The history of stories and storytelling is long and rich. Stories have evolved from oral stories told around a fire, to cave paintings such as those in Lascaux;
From the first scrolls of written word to the invention of the printing press and widescale distribution of books.
Developing technologies have allowed stories to be shared with an ever-increasing audience. As technology has evolved, so too have the media through which stories can be shared.
Stories and storytelling will always remain a central part of the human experience, due to the reasons outlined by Aleks Krotoski in the opening quote. However, as Clay Shirky points out in his Ted Talk on Social Media, the Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time. Whereas the phone gave us the one-to-one pattern, and television, radio, magazines, books, gave us the one-to-many pattern, the Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern.
For the first time in history, the technology effects not only the medium through which the story is delivered, but the opportunity to co-create on a global scale. What do these changes mean for storytelling? Can the purpose of the story remain the same when its method of construction is so different?
To explore these questions, let’s consider one of the best known stories in our society and one that is particularly relevant at this time of year – the story of the Nativity.
This 2000 year old story has been passed through the generations in countless forms…as Scripture, as a picture book, as lyrics in a Christmas Carol, as a script for a play, as an oral story, as a poem.
The traditional retelling of the story is captured beautifully in the following video:
Now let’s consider the same story, co-created using social media:
The story features many types of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and Ebay. The idea that upon the birth of Jesus the announcement is made publicly via Facebook, and that the ‘Like’ button is pressed literally thousands of times shows that with these new methods of communicating, there is not only immediacy, but widespread sharing.
Does the purpose or the meaning of the story change through the use of social media and 21st century technology?
Let’s listen to an expert’s opinion:
In short, no. While the mode will continue to change, and more people may participate in creating and sharing, the art of storytelling will remain unchanged – the purpose for telling the story will remain true, even when interpreted through different contexts, different modes and by audiences of varying sizes and experiences. The need to teach students about narrative and skilling students to be able to deconstruct texts and reconstruct them therefore remains vitally important. Indeed, Anstey and Bull argue that in an age of multimodal literacies, students must become skilled across an even broader range of texts, and be able to interpret meaning derived from the interplay of different media. This now forms part of the Australian Curriculum, which states that students are literate when they develop
the skills to learn and communicate confidently at school and to become effective individuals, community members, workers and citizens. These skills include listening, reading, viewing, writing, speaking and creating print, visual and digital materials accurately and purposefully within and across all learning areas.
Therefore exposing students to stories delivered via a variety of modes and media, including social media and web technology such as depicted in these Nativity stories is an essential part of any literacy curriculum – and we can take comfort in the fact that the evolving relationship between story and technology will only enrich the ways we share and enjoy this essential part of human communication.
Anstey, M., & Bull, G. (2010, June 4). Helping teachers to explore multimodal texts. Curriculum Leadership Journal |. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/helping_teachers_to_explore_multimodal_texts,31522.html?issueID=12141
Krotoski, A. (2011, August 7). Storytelling: digitalÂ technology allows us to tell talesÂ in innovative new ways | Technology | The Observer . The Guardian . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/aug/07/digital-media-storytelling-internet
Literacy. (2011, January 1). The Australian Curriculum v2.0 . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/GeneralCapabilities/Literacy
Schwingel, M. (2010, October 28). The Digital Story Of Nativity (Christmas 2.0) on Vimeo. Vimeo, Video Sharing For You. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://vimeo.com/18123177
Shirky, C. (2009, June 1). Clay Shirky: How social media can make history | Video on TED.com. TED: Ideas worth spreading. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history.html
Pauls Arts and Media. (2010, December 13). The Christmas Story (HD version) – YouTube . YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zduwusyip8M
TEDtalksDirector. (2011, November 23). Joe Sabia: The technology of storytelling – YouTube . YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkZtRzc9rFQ