In the room sat the last storyteller on earth…

By Limor Shiponi

Don’t worry, that is not going to happen. Storytelling will never die. Unless humanity vanishes completely. Many have this concern though, and the question is who and why?

One group that decided to take care of the issue announced it’s action plan on November 18, 2008:

The MIT Media Laboratory today announced the creation of the Center for Future Storytelling, made possible through a seven-year, $25 million commitment from Plymouth Rock Studios, a major motion picture and television studio that is expected to open in 2010 in Plymouth, Mass.

With the establishment of the center, whose research program begins immediately, the Media Lab and Plymouth Rock Studios will collaborate to revolutionize how we tell our stories, from major motion pictures to peer-to-peer multimedia sharing. By applying leading-edge technologies to make stories more interactive, improvisational and social, researchers will seek to transform audiences into active participants in the storytelling process, bridging the real and virtual worlds, and allowing everyone to make their own unique stories with user-generated content on the Web. Center research will also focus on ways to revolutionize imaging and display technologies, including developing next-generation cameras and programmable studios, making movie production more versatile and economic.

You don’t say… I thought to myself when I saw this. “And they and their robot lived happily ever after…”

What is MIT’s concern? where do they see a problem with storytelling? Is it lacking something?

Why do they think we need to revolutionize the way we tell our stories?

Why do they think that leading-edge technologies will make stories more interactive, improvisational and social?

Or transform audiences into active participants in the storytelling process,

Or help them overcome the impossible (maybe they believe so, I don’t know) cognitive task of bridging the real and virtual worlds,

And grant them back their birthright to make their own unique stories with user-generated content on the web?

You can sense, and you are right, that I’m asking these questions with a sarcastic voice. But still, I’m asking these questions. In lack of response (until now) from MIT or anyone close I can try and answer these questions myself.

Answers coming soon. If you would like to suggest any you are welcome. Keep in mind though that I’m looking for the reasons behind the actions, the ideas that set off this initiative in the first place. If anyone from MIT would take part in this thread, I’ll be much obliged.

2 thoughts on “In the room sat the last storyteller on earth…”

  1. Limor, the way I see it, it is just part of the way the world’s going to get everything technologized. This does have the advantage of reaching a wider public. But $25 million, oh my goodness. With all my love for storytelling, there are starving people all over the world, many of whom are fed only by oral storytelling within their own communities. Maybe that money would be better spent feeding these people and gathering their stories…

    But despite all this investment of funds and hi-tech, I believe that nothing will ever replace the simple storyteller.

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