Monday, January 23, 2017

What is digital storytelling?

For as long as I can remember I've had an interest in the medieval time period, so the concept of digital alchemy piqued my interest. It's exciting to see how an ancient art can be revived to play a part in our ever-changing digital society. At first I didn't understand alchemy in the terms we discussed in class, it seemed like an amorphous concept but, after reading around, I think I have more of a grasp on things. If traditional alchemy is a mixture of components to form something greater than itself (Wikipedia talks about transforming base metals into noble metals), than isn't every component of our lives just one small base that can be transformed, with help, into a larger story? If we break down a whole story, we find ourselves looking at a bunch of different components, woven together to form something much greater. That's so cool!

I find it fascinating that the digital age has put so much information and opportunity at our fingertips, in many cases, free of charge. I love to learn, I am passionate about doing research and jamming my all-too-forgetful mind full of information about the past, present, and future. I love using research to draw connections and find parallels between areas of study.

Going in another direction, I think it's also fascinating that technology has allowed humanity to find another way to tell stories. I believe that stories are one of the cornerstones of humanity. Since the dawn of time, we've told stories. Stop and think about the epic poem Beowulf, one of the oldest recorded works in all of English literature. Beowulf was just a story, with many different iterations, passed on from generation to generation before a written language was developed or widely understood. Everyone knew the same general story but added their own contributions along the line. The reason we have it today is because someone, somewhere along the line, decided that it was important enough to be recorded. The version we have today is the one that the recorder knew, the only version that was rescued from the sands of time.

Before we have history, we have stories.

Let's bring it back to today and think about the digital age. Dialing it all back a bit from Beowulf, one of the most popular websites is the blogging site Tumblr. On Tumblr, users generate their own content and post it. Once posted, other users have the ability to reblog and add comments. One post, one story, is released into a world where anyone take the work in whichever direction they choose, and the version you see is dependent on the person who reblogged it, who they reblogged it from, who commented, and what they said. I might see the same original post reblogged with different comments than the person sitting next to me. The skeleton is the same, but the feature change, and it's all due to the way in which is was recorded. Do you see the similarities with the famous epic?

Getting away from history a bit, digital storytelling is different in the way that nothing is ever lost, nothing goes away forever. Even if you can't find a post, it exists and someone will be able to locate it. This can be both helpful and dangerous, as society is learning as we live through the digital age. Scandals appear based on digital papertrails that someone thought would never be found. Feelings can be bruised upon finding traces of a loved one's past life, and no one can ever truly disappear forever.

The biggest example of digital storytelling that I can think of is vlogging, largely popularized by the video hosting website, YouTube. There are individuals on YouTube who have decided to document every day of their lives in video form. These people are "video bloggers" or "vloggers," and the man who holds a Guinness Record for the longest consecutive span of days vlogged is Charles Trippy of ctfXc who, as of 1/23/17, has vlogged for 2,824 days straight. His first vlog, posted on 5/1/09, can be found here (also posted below). The vlogs have followed Trippy through his daily life, including his travels around the world, a marriage proposal, a wedding, life in a band, a brain tumor, a divorce, and a second marriage proposal. Many major events of his life have been documented and discussed by millions of people around the world-- one might say his life is an open book.

Trippy is not alone, accounts such as SHAYTARDS, BFvsGF, Joey Graceffa, and Danisnotonfire are all examples of people who have built their lives on vlogging, on telling the stories that make up their lives. This platform has allowed anyone with a camera and a story to be heard and recorded for all of time. The same world that has always loved stories now has an unlimited supply to be watched and re-watched to our heart's content. No matter the time, human beings love a good story.

Although I have chosen to let my mind wander to different areas, and ultimately focus on vlogging, I must end this piece by saying that digital storytelling is, quite un-simply, everything. Every Facebook post, every Tweet, ever Tumblr post, every Vine, every YouTube video- it's all part of each individual's story in the Digital Age, and it all contributes to the wider narrative of life in the 21st century. Get reading!

1 comment:

  1. I love this line: "Before we have history, we have stories."
    Thinking of storytelling as the anchor of our world makes us realize how important it is that we network, and tell these stories -- together -- and then make new ones. Thanks for your insightful post