Storytelling tools (Part 1)

It’s obvious that our personal storytelling techniques have morphed with the technology available to us.  From the caves at Lascaux to stories in the mail to blogs and tweeted tales, we take advantage of the means of communication that we have to get our stories out to our intended audiences.  Changes in technology morph the makeup of our tales, their complexity and immediacy.

What about the impact of technology on how authors write novels and poems?  There’s clearly an impact based on how the story is meant to be delivered – radio, magazine serial, ebook.  But an article (How Authors Write) by Jason Pontin, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the MIT Technology Review looks, instead, at the technology available to authors for creation.

Pontin does a great job of pulling examples of shifts in how stories are told. From Kerouac‘s scroll to stories full of footnotes to Jennifer Eagan’s incorporation of powerpoint slides as part of A Visit from the Goon Squad.

At a time when new media are proliferating, it is tempting to imagine that authors, thinking about how their writing will appear on devices such as electronic readers, tablet computers, or smartphones, consciously or unconsciously adapt their prose to the exigencies of publishing platforms. But that’s not what actually happens. … Writers are excited to experimentation not by the media in which their works are published but, rather, by the technologies they use to compose the works.

I find the idea of how we tell stories being shifted by the tools in our laps and not necessarily by a vision of how it will be consumed quite interesting. Pontin closes the article by saying this is the case because authors don’t care about the consumption of their work – that they are anti-social beasts too absorbed in their own creation.  Way too over-generalized and rather mean, I think, and I’m disappointed that that’s how he chose to close the piece.

In the next few posts, I’ll take a look at a couple new twists in how stories are created related to new tech.  There’s cool stuff all around us….

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