Is Digital Storytelling Really That Different From Traditional?

Posted: October 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

In digital storytelling last week we briefly touched on Marshall McLuhans theory that the medium is the message. In other words, the way we experience a story greatly relies on the way it is delivered, not necessarily the story itself. Afterwards I couldnt help but wonder if the framework of digital storytelling is really all that different from traditional storytelling. Does the fact that its digital really change the main ingredients that make a great story?

In his theory McLuhan points out the fact that typically when we discover or develop new mediums we will try to utilize them with old methods before we realize that new mediums require new techniques of delivery.

In my opinion, the framework of digital storytelling still holds traditional aspects. For example, a compelling statement or emotive imagery will always have an impact on an audience, whether its delivered via print, broadcast, or in person. I believe the main change the digital world has brought to storytelling is convenience and timing. Acquiring material is now easier than ever, and the notion that people can explore any topic imaginable from the comfort of their own homes means that not only will they be seeking more media; the home environment also makes them comfortable enough to allow themselves to fully immerse in a story when they may have been more reserved in any other circumstance. Additionally, the digital realm has changed the game by appealing to and influencing shorter attention spans. With limitations on websites like youtube, we are not only restricted to the amount of material we can post, we are now used to and expect to get all the information we need in two minutes or less. I believe this has forced developers to think more concisely with regard to the content they distribute because they know consumers no longer have the patience to “wait and see” what a story is all about. We want the message up front, and if you dont give it to us up front you better have something amazing to maintain our attention until you get there. So to conclude, I believe that the framework for compelling stories remains the same on all mediums, the digital realm has just facilitated an environment where we crave more information in a shorter timespan.

Note: I apologize for any grammar or spacing mistakes in this post, I am writing it via my droid poolside in Las Vegas.

  1. Drew Keller says:

    Wow! Nice job for writing it on your phone in the sun at the pool. I can only hope it was warm and the drinks were cold. I do believe the structure of the stories we tell will drift back towards longer form narratives as the web migrates more and more to the TV. Once the web in our living rooms via the television reaches a tipping point I think we will begin to see more clearly defined distribution channels, and narrative structures that best support those different paradigms (living room, computer screen, phone, and laptop).

  2. sara1beth says:

    I have always been a “the medium is the message” fan. Thinking about my capacity to sit through the same video in different environments (theater, television, computer …) solidified that point for me. But I absolutely agree that the elements of a compelling story will transcend the medium. Cave drawing … book … radio program … television … YouTube clip … I don’t think we’ve really changed that much in our basic human interests and motivations in thousands of yeas.

  3. I just realized that we were supposed to focus specifically on YouTube… thanks for the comments, sorry I kept my focus more general, Vegas got to the brain :).

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