Web of Stories

I’ve already discussed new media and Web 2.0 a little bit here; it is the contemporary version of the internet that is more participatory and user-generated. As usually, the internet has a way of taking on older traditional means of communication and social interaction and making them digital and dynamic. This is no different when to comes to storytelling which is surely one of the oldest forms of communal entertainment. From tall tales to the “back in my day” stories, people have always been interested in each others’ experiences or imaginations.

Author Bryan Alexander’s book The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media explores what are the current relationships between new media and storytelling. In the fourth chapter of his book, “Web 2.0 Storytelling”, he discusses blogs, Twitter, wikis (which are web applications which allow for users to collaborate and create content), Facebook, and “social images” (images that might be on the image-based website like Flickr, for instance). Each of these sites or applications allow for people to create stories or narratives and for people to not only share them but perhaps comment on or adapt them. While I’m not completely sold on Alexander’s belief that Twitter can be a place of storytelling, I suppose it is possible to grasp a story from the short vain messages that make up the site. I’m more convinced by things like blogs (perhaps I am slightly textually biased) but I’m even more certain that images can tell as much of a story as a “tweet”, if not more. Of course, many images have led many people astray, and we all know the fantasy world of computer edited images.

Of course, digital storytelling can be a useful tool in the museum for exhibitions and museum education. Freeman Tilden said that interpretation is “not instruction but provocation”. Interpretation in the museum setting means sharing a narrative to demonstrate meaning, significance, and feeling. In other words, I can hand you a list of factual of historic dates or can I tell you an account from history. One historical story is told on Flickr through the creation of edited photos that are historic World War II images merged with the same location in contemporary times called Ghosts of War. I enjoy many of the images because the creator goal is to show that “history is all around us”. The creator has adapted images to tell another story of change over time while making audiences see locations in a different way. Check out this one depicting a SS recruitment office from the war era merged with a current image of a diverse Amsterdam:

Ghosts of war

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2 thoughts on “Web of Stories

  1. I’ll put you on the spot in class to talk more about why or why not Twitter can be effective vehicle for storytelling! But here, let’s think more about images and their storytelling capabilities. The cliche goes that a picture can say a thousand words, but I wonder if the picture in itself can tell a story or if it can inspire us to tell a story? Is there an authoritative voice in an image the way there is in written text or oral telling? Where do you think the responsibility for narration falls within an image? Does it have to tell us a story? Or can it inspire us to tell our own stories? Do you think there is a meaningful difference between the two? Do digital images on Web 2.0/social media sites tell stories in different ways than analogue images in a book, magazine, or scrapbook?

    • I should say that the image I choose does actually come with a story, or more correctly context. Hopefully people will click on the link to the original source so that they can see that. I believe that context for images is very important (maybe I should have given some more myself). I think authority, when it comes to images, I think comes from who presents the images. Who are we more likely to believe: someone who posts a historical image on Facebook or someone who post an image from the museum? I would say that most people would unflinchingly accept the authority of an image presented in a scholarly setting. Yet, it seems to me that recently more people are more likely to believe all kinds of images, “historic” images, that anyone presents. This is especially true if the images are black and white. I saw the other day an image on Facebook that was supposed to be a picture of the first camera which some people believed it to be until a few people finally asked “How did someone take a picture of the first camera?”. Others still tried to stand by the photo claiming that maybe it was a painting. Perhaps the digitization of physical mediums has distorted our reality. I think photos can be incredibly problematic but I still believe in their power to tell a story.

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