‘The future of storytelling’ media mindset bias

By Limor Shiponi

Any research project that comes up with a conclusion compacted into a couple of words all beginning with the same initial letter, instantly provokes in me the ‘oh, marketing’ response. If the people at Latitude are actually trying to figure out what audiences want, here is an addition to what they have found – ingenuity. At this point in history, one might even want to spell it – iNgenuity – so it looks really authentic and reliable…

I downloaded the study report for The Future of Storytelling: Phase 1. and read through carefully. Here are my thoughts, Latitude quotes in italics:

Latitude conducted in-depth interviews with pioneers in the media space to discuss specific challenges and innovations, followed by an online survey amongst 158 early adopters focused on generating new possibilities for interacting with stories.

Pioneers in the media space, early adopters – this is about tech and media before anything else. You even get to know what kind of ears and eyes the audiences have (smart phones, tablets). So from the beginning, if you’re looking for insights about storytelling and engage critical reading, you can assume this research suffers a serious media mindset bias – which is about to blind the researchers. Moreover, it does, to a very dangerous point.

The questions presented in the third slide look cool. Let us look again:

How are audiences’ expectations around storytelling evolving as media experiences become more multiplatform, more customizable, and more participatory?

Someone infiltrated the idea there is a connection between storytelling, media, experience, multiplatform, customization, participation and that it is ‘evolving’. As said earlier, there is a tech and media mindset bias here; evolving like in ‘evolution’ which many people perceive as modernization, going forward, getting better than in the past.

For the purpose of extraordinary storytelling, all tech and media are very unessential. Experience, customization, participation, evolution – all exist in storytelling as is.

How can content creators and technologists make stories come alive, by allowing audiences to delve deeper into them or by bringing them out into the real world?

Ah, suddenly we get the real titles, which are – the real titles: content creators and technologists, not storytellers. However, here comes the dangerous part that gave me the shivers:

make stories come alive, by allowing audiences to delve deeper into them or by bringing them out into the real world.

This is a very dangerous request. One of the rules in the unwritten contract between storyteller and audience is keeping wonderland and reality PHYSICALLY apart. Can you imagine what would happen if children believed dragons exist and can appear around the corner? The tantalizing bit in the Dark Knight Massacre incident – after considering the deaths, trauma, and anger – is this bit

When the 6ft tall man wearing a gas mask burst through the emergency exit of a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises this morning, some said they thought it had been part of the movie.

(Bold text l.s. source dailymail.co.uk)

This is what will happen and is already happening – people are losing the ability to protect themselves. The line between reality and fiction is blurring through media experiences the media world is getting the mass accustomed to. That said in addition to questions like ‘Why does pop culture inspire people to kill?’ or concerns raised by teenagers about media and violence or the fact that someone actually thinks this is a relevant question.

Delving deeper into stories beyond a point is as dangerous. Did you miss the BBC Panorama ‘Can video gaming cross from innocent fun to addiction?’ You might want to watch it then. This, by the way, can never happen in storytelling.

What are some best practices and new opportunities for the future of storytelling?

Simple answer – the new opportunities for the future of storytelling are not the same as the new opportunities for the future of tech and media. You are looking in the wrong place if storytelling is the issue.

Slide six brings in a shocking revelation – the real world is a platform, too. I mean – what can say? I might say <getoutofthelab>how awesome!</getoutofthelab>

On slide seven, you’ll meet the question wait, who’s the author? A question that never bothers storytellers unless they are telling a story written by an author they will credit. Since the text of a story is only one part of a threefold that creates a storytelling event the question of authority is answered by the joint responsibility of all present.

Scroll down and you will get to best practices and some hints about what will make a perfect story… (Whatever happened to storytelling?). Everything that appears on that slide exists already in storytelling. The difference is that in storytelling, the storyteller does not control most elements and does not seek to control, but evoke.

Latitude’s findings might fuel another wave of tech-oriented media experiences I am sure quite a few people are expecting to become rich by. Beware about what you are asking for because you are already getting it – far away from storytelling.

Update, October 4th 2012

Internet addiction, or formally, Internet Use Disorder (IUD), may soon be included as an actual mental health disorder, in the freshly revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V). There is more to it here.


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