Extreme Stories: 10

Given the status of technology today, it is very easy to capture experiential data, such as photos, for events and even organize them. That means that one can now easily store experiential data and use it to tell stories. This means that now that the stories can have more real data associated with them. In this respect the art of storytelling is getting closer to reporting. It may appear that we may lose some important features of stories in this process. Stories based on captured experiences will definitely be different from those that were based on recreating experiences using only text. For one thing, stories are becoming more data driven. Just see popular websites like Facebook – where many stories are being told by posting photos and Albums. Or look at Pinterest where stories are being told by collecting appropriate pictures from different sources. For small or micr stories, people are commonly using sites like FourSquare and Path where stories are being told by collecting different data – photos, location, text, and audio – about an event. This shows that people realize that it is more important to describe (and share) more details of the event than just a textual description. In place of saying that I am on gate 13 at Orange County airport, I can share the map based location, the name of the place (gate 13), and picture of the place at that moment with almost the same effort (but of course with significantly more bits) as in only text. And that is the difference that technology is making – particularly smart phones have made.

This is OK to share micro stories. But what will happen when you want to tell ‘real’ stories that unfold over time. Say you want to share the experience about what happened in 2011, or how your relationship unfolded with Tom, or how dis you build the team and made your dreams real?

Well stories are made of micro stories. There is ‘glue’ needed to put them together, but there are always ‘moments’ that are pulled and then glued to make the complete story. It is quite possible that you may be living those moments and not capture them using your phone, but ultimately all these stories really represent selecting those moments, making them concrete by using appropriate experiential data, and then providing all necessary glue. Remember a beautiful building is made of raw material that is piled at some stage. By selecting appropriate components from different piles and putting it together, an architect and a builder convert it to a beautiful and useful place. A storyteller must select experiential data of all available moments and put it together to tell a story. Just a collection of data for moments is only as much a story as putting together all photos from the year in random order are story of the year. Even a simple organization, like putting them in time order, starts becoming more interesting – then putting them on a timeline makes them more interesting. If we start putting some meta data about each picture, we start providing more components of the story.

Effectively, technology has given us tools that allow us to collect all this data effortlessly. We also have tools to store and organize this data so we can easily pull out what we need. But the problem of selecting appropriate data from relevant moments is a difficult one. And then rendering it in a compelling order is the art that storytelling is. Current technology is changing the nature of stories – by making them more data driven – but it is not going to make everybody a Mark Twain or a Steven Spielberg – it is only helping by reducing efforts in collecting experiences that were either not possible to collect or were very difficult and this in turn will result in making stories closer to facts than fiction. The fiction component will be the ‘glue’ to make stories more interesting and compelling.

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