To Be or Not to Bedazzled: What Comes First- the Story or the Tool?

While on my nightly scroll through Tumblr I chanced upon this:


I must say it got my  princess hormones all a flutter.

But then I started wondering…would it perform the same way? What if it was impossible to clean? Would people visit my kitchen just to see it? Would it, by some magic,  make better cookies?

We ask ourselves similar questions when exploring “Digital Storytelling” ( a handy phrase for the same old storytelling we’ve used for years prettified by various digital tools and platforms)…

…or are they?

I’m  a self-admitted digital tool junkie…my absolute favorite thing to do on the web is to seek out, find, share, and play with new means of creating. We say it’s “not about the tools”, but in my experience, it can be quite refreshing to start with the method, and then throw in the madness. I suppose it’s all the McLuhan I read.

So when we get around to doing a digital story project (or having our students create them), we have two choices:


1. Keeping it Classic means starting with a great story. Storytelling is a powerful thing, and has been with us since our earliest days. Familiarize yourself with archetypes and plot lines. Check out Pixar’s now famous “22 Rules of Storytelling“. Listen to Ira Glass give words of wisdom. Read Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

2. Being Tech-tastic necessitates being a little meta –thinking about the means of communication of the story (and audience) prior to developing the storyline. Some platforms can actually drive the story, and that’s a fascinating experience. For example, I just tried a simple, cyclical love story based solely on hashtagged keywords and social media (using Storify and drawn from Flickr, Instagram, and Twitter). Web 2.0 storytelling is indeed a different animal: it can be collaborative, open-ended, re-mixable, hypertextual, recontextual, you-name-it. And, just like  choosing different Instagram effects creates seemingly distinct versions of the same image, totally unique stories can emerge from the same base, using different tools (see Alan Levine’s 50+ Ways to Tell a Story).

One of the most intriguing notions that has influenced me in the past few years is

Participatory Culture and Transmedia

It touches upon my interest in Remix Culture, Copyright Reform, and the Gutenberg Parenthesis theory , which suggests we are “moving forward to the past” as our technology ushers in a “Second Orality”.

In both my teaching and personal creative endeavors I tend to alternate between starting with the story and with the tool. If you haven’t tried the latter, take a chance. Data Visualization artists do this all the time. They find stories in the data, then communicate the data using a mashup of aesthetics and psychology so that we can “read” the story, too.


Whatever method you decide to use, what’s the point of storytelling without sharing? That is the overwhelming beauty of digital artifacts – they are completely, easily, and quickly disseminated into our “global village”, as McLuhan would say.


Please enjoy these resources:

My Diigo list (evergrowing) on Storytelling

My Diigo List on the Gutenberg Parenthesis

My Website on Storytelling

Special Storytelling Links from my website

Filed under: etmooc Tagged: alan levine, copyright, digital storytelling, etmooc, Gottschall, gutenberg parenthesis, marshall mcluhan, remix culture, transmedia