How will the craft of storytelling change in the future?

The question was posted on Quora, inviting a wealth of answers. Here’s mine (invited to vote up if you think it’s worth being more visible):

The simple answer is – it won’t, since it has no reason to. If people are suggesting there needs to be a change, first check why they are making such a suggestion and if the root of their suggestion is actually connected to a need within the art, or the people practicing it. Reading most of the answers here, these suggestions are related to various techniques used to deliver, share and craft a story, but they don’t derive from the core of storytelling.

The word ‘craft’ sends the question down a misleading road. So does the division between ‘story’ and ‘telling’ when related to ‘storytelling’. Storytelling is a single word, not a combination of two. Therefore, if you really understand what storytelling is, you’ll realize the storyteller holds only a third of a dynamic partnership, sharing it with an uttered story-text and a listener. In this partnership and during a storytelling event, everything changes constantly, in real time. What the question and the answers relate to as ‘craft’ is in the hands of all partners which practice mutual influence constantly. One story-text is not like another for every event, even if you’re telling the same text; the storyteller is constantly influences by both text and listener – in real time – which effects the way he storytells on the spot; the listener is not passive in any way and we don’t use a craft to influence only him – the story and the storyteller are constantly influenced by the listeners, the storyteller being one of them himself.

I know that in a world busy with “owning” every bit of information and skill the above ideas are difficult to accept, but not if you realize that storytelling emerged in the oral culture where it reached the level of high practice. We’re just enjoying the fact people who lived way before we do have brought it there. Sustaining for so many thousands of years, still highly effective as it will be in the future, storytelling for what it really is has no need for change in ‘craft’. It’s at top performance. The only change required is having more outstanding storytellers than there are right now.

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6 thoughts on “How will the craft of storytelling change in the future?

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  2. Interesting that you zero in on the word ‘craft’, and separate this from (what we both consider to be) the true practice of storytelling.
    I agree with you about storytelling, but I think there is a valid question about the other – call them ‘craft’ if you must – aspect of things.
    It’s self-evidently true that oral narrative has been around for a very long time. Pretty much ever since we developed the capacity for language, I suspect. Digital technologies are such new-comers that I think it’s far too soon to tell what deeper impacts they may have on our understanding, participation and dissemination of narratives.
    I doubt that they will make much, if any difference to the true practice of storytelling itself. They will make big changes on the context within which we all, tellers and audience alike, construct our understandings of the world.
    There is already a body of evidence building to suggest that digital technologies solicit different responses in the areas of reading and learning, and it seems reasonable to expect similar in the other areas on which they impinge.
    As I said, I think it’s just too soon to start forming anything other than very tentative, sketchy conclusions.

    • Hi Allan,
      The word ‘craft’ was part of the original question and me zeroing on it was because of the separation made by the person who asked, by not keeping ‘craft’ in the full context of storytelling. This phenomena – tearing a piece off while naming it as the full discipline, is part of what causes the storytelling tagged hullabaloo we see during the past years. It’s happening in other fields too.
      The question is absolutely valid and there is plenty to explore about it within the art. Can it apply to other story-technologies? of course, but as you wrote it’s far too soon. Still, there are lots of people running around with absolute answers already…
      I too doubt that they will make much, if any difference to the true practice of storytelling itself. But those big changes on the context you’ve mentioned, are what I see as alarming. I don’t want to be tagged under the same name which is being hijacked to cover up, in quite a few contexts, intentions that contradict the true nature of communality. The digital world is pushing towards the loss of any kind of neutrality. Claiming (not by you) that scientists, developers, media people etc. are just doing their exciting part without them looking at the context within which their work is financed and positioned, is to my opinion an ill practice of looking the other way.

      • Despite the highly publicised market offers of facebook and others, it’s remarkable that the notion that all this wonderful new stuff is basically free persists so strongly.
        Not to denigrate what the open-source movement has achieved, which is very positive and hopeful, I still find it incredible that wildly profitable corporations like Apple can impose such draconian eulas and terrible deals for content providers. This is all about making money off the back of other people’s efforts, and anyone buying into the system is colluding in exploitation of the most blatant kind.
        Despite a lot of hopeful talk about the digital domain creating new market paradigms and delivery models, there’s (so far) precious little substantial evidence of it outside of music.
        That’s not to say that more equitable and innovative models won’t evolve over time, just that anyone who believes the current hype is fooling themselves. If you want to succeed in e-publishing you have to be on Amazon, if you want to make an impact with an app you have to be in the iStore etc etc.
        The digital realm is far from a level playing field – the efforts of many good-hearted folks not withstanding, and we should all be wary.
        As artists/performers a part of whose ‘stock in trade’ has proven to be very vulnerable to what could be called superficial/mis-understood digital colonisation, we need to be especially vigilant.

        • I totally agree, especially observing the amount of resources companies pour into these “free” domains in order to tilt the equilibrium, still calling it “social”. Young people are educated to “start-up” and although some professors offer them various motivations besides the chance to make a lot of money – which 95% of them don’t – the strongest common denominator concerning success is – money. Professors are one thing, investors – another.

          Concerning the arts – I believe there is a way. Thinking….

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