Can one tell a story without using text? The answer seems to be yes because storytelling is clearly older than the text. Before text was invented, oral traditions of story telling were common in almost every culture that ever existed. In the last century, visual story telling in the form of albums and then video-based story telling in the form of audio and visual information gained popularity. Now we are at a point in the development of technology when one could use appropriate medium to convey appropriate experiences in a compelling form. Due to the long legacy of text and its domination in knowledge and experience sharing mechanisms, most emerging form of stories even using the latest technical device â€“ the smart phone â€“ are very text-oriented.
Text is just a visual form of speech used by humans in communication. Text was invented to provide more permanent mechanism for sharing experiences that were expressed in oral form using speech. As a mechanism in storytelling, text is a subset of oral stories. Text does lose emotional emphasis that could be very compelling in oral stories. Text does have a major advantage â€“ due to its visual nature it is semi-dependent on time and allows powerful navigation and indexing techniques. In the modern technology also, currently text has major advantage over speech for navigation, linking, and indexing. Moreover, text is independent of a speaker.
Interestingly, with progress in speech recognition, we are soon likely to retain advantages offered by text and retain the advantages of speech or oral stories. Moreover, we may also have another advantage of capturing audio-visual experiences in very compelling form and use them in our stories. This all starts sounding very exciting; I can already see many exciting possibilities.
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Text is a very efficient medium of communicating information. It can be easily copied, reprinted, SMSed, tweeted, stored, indexed, etc.
I cannot help wonder, however, if our heavy reliance on (and abuse of) text has indeed precluded us from exploiting other mediums of communication, to the point that we might have become handicapped. I often find myself without words to explain my experience with certain pieces of art–granted that I am not a native English speaker, who is gradually loosing fluency in his own native language. Moreover, sometimes the best way to express such experiences is the audio-visual art itself (be it a photo of a sunset, a video, or a painting or a piece of ballet).
Maybe the time has finally come to reclaim our audio-visual communication skills. Mapping concepts to audio-visual representations rather than (or only) to text might give us a much more powerful language. And a more available one, since there is no need to learn technical language to express concepts we already know (we just don’t know how to write them textually). Consider also the potential of audio-visual languages for international conversations. In these lines, the new iPhone operating system (iOS), for instance, already includes a new international keyboard based on emojicons/emoticons. Indeed very interesting times 🙂 ….
Like your points, Dani. A good discussion on some of these issues in in the book by Walter Ong’s book on Orality and Literacy.