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More on Storytelling...

In considering interactive storytelling, I am trying to look at all of the ways this can be done, and why, or why not, each would be effective. Mazalek gives a thorough background in the evolution of storytelling, from early oral traditions right up through highly technological ways of communicating a story. Reading on the three ways of constructing a story, character driven, narrative driven, or working with tangibles, the one I am grasping to understand is the tangible driven model. Mazalek states that “Tangible interfaces provide interactive narratives with a means of escaping from the computer box into our physical environment. They enable us to go beyond visual/auditory senses and make better use of our sense of touch.” (p. 12). I can envision using this type of storytelling in a classroom, where students might have an object they have created, and that becomes something that others can touch and experience as the story is told. An example would be telling the “story” of an architectural design, the intent, the inspiration, the process, while passing around a series of developmental models. I can also envision this type of storytelling as part of a gallery experience. What I struggle with is how to use tangibles in a purely digital environment, such as an online classroom like the one we are learning in, or some of the classes I teach online. One idea that I am thinking about, but haven’t yet explored fully, is the idea of instructing participants in a digital environment to build or fabricate tangibles through 3D files, or written instructions, to use with a storytelling experience. This of course would presume that the participants have, or are given, some basic tools, materials, and skills.

It is curious that one of the origins of digital storytelling was with the Futurists in the early 20th century. The Futurists experimented with movement in painting and photography, by incorporating the element of time. Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase illustrates this concept, although Duchamp was more closely associated with the Dada movement. Paul cites Duchamp as an influence on digital technology. (p.13) What I found interesting and disturbing was the Futurists manifestos that tended towards misogyny, rigidity, and even fascism. I contrast this with how I perceive storytelling: an activity that is timeless, fluid, and very human. By it's nature storytelling allows us to share experience, and learn compassion and empathy.

The use of hypertext as part of digital storytelling seems to have become a bit of history, although it may have been used well in gaming platforms, where participants can make choices for a variety of outcomes. I have mixed feelings about narrative storytelling offering alternate narratives. Perhaps this stems from the ego, from wanting to be in control of one’s own creative output, rather than allowing random collaboration. Having never experienced this tool for storytelling, I can only compare it to laying out a basic idea for a painting, and then offering it up to others to continue working on.

A form of storytelling that seems to have exciting potential is immersive storytelling using AR and VR. The viewer can become the character in the story, exploring environments by moving through them with a headset, or even by walking around objects with a phone or tablet. Emory and Georgieva even discuss how VR can be used to experience immersive theater, either live or remotely. What a great opportunity this opens up for those who live far from an event, or have other restrictions on attending a live event.

I've found it informative to look back at where digital storytelling started, researching what is current and innovative now, and imagining where this will all be five or ten years from now.


Mazalek, M. Tangible Interfaces for Interactive Point-of-View Narratives, 2001

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Dixon, S. Digital Performance, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2007

Paul, C. Digital Art, London, Thames & Hudson, 2015

Ryan, M. Beyond Myth and Metaphor -The Case of Narrative in Digital Media, 2001

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C. Emory and Georgieva, M. VR and AR: The Art of Immersive Storytelling and Journalism, 2018

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