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What does Storytelling mean in the 21st Century?

Kyla Ball

In this short blog we look at how storytelling has developed from its earliest forms to the ultra-short form content that we interact with, multiple times per day, via social media. We also examine ways that anyone can start creating their own interactive and immersive stories which can be instantly shared.

Why is storytelling important?

Humans have been telling stories in various different forms for as long as we have been on earth. It is a powerful medium through which people can share valuable information, transmit cultural values and traditions, elicit emotions, and communicate complex ideas. Telling a good story is a skill, and an art form that captivates the audience and creates a deep sense of connection with the storyteller. Great stories enable people to communicate their experiences and perspectives, ultimately making it easier for people to understand and empathize with one another.

From a social perspective, sharing stories can help build a sense of community and shared understanding. Storytelling plays a vital role in communication, education, culture, and ultimately, the entire human experience.

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The different forms of storytelling

The art of storytelling in some form is common to all cultures and societies throughout the world, and has evolved to suit different mediums over time. Each form of storytelling has its own style, structure, and purpose.

The earliest forms of storytelling can be traced back to the prehistoric era, long before humans developed any sort of written language. Cave paintings found in various parts of the world show hunting and other daily activities, but some also contain mythical creatures and stories – which suggests that this was an early form of visual storytelling

People used other various means to communicate stories, such as dance, music and oral storytelling. Oral stories is a form of storytelling that dates back thousands of years. Before the invention of writing, people passed down stories through generations by word of mouth. These stories often incorporated elements of mythology and folklore and were used to explain natural phenomena, teach moral lessons, and entertain an audience. Great storytellers would use voice, tone, and gestures to captivate their audiences. It’s a storytelling technique that also incorporates what we would describe as miming, acting, or re-enacting – the forerunners of our modern theatre, movies and television drama.

For many people, written storytelling is perhaps the type of story that immediately comes to mind when we use the term “storytelling”. It employs descriptive language, narration, and dialogue to convey a story, and is at the heart of many other types of storytelling such as playwriting and screenwriting.

How technology has changed storytelling

The development of technology, and the “digital storytelling” it lets us create, has completely transformed the way we form and share our stories, allowing us to engage with stories from all over the world in new and exciting ways.

Firstly technology has opened up so many new methods for us to tell our stories. These include podcasts, social media, blogging, fan-fiction and a multitude of other forms. What the majority of these new storytelling media have in common is that they have democratized storytelling.

They allow ordinary people to tell their own stories – whether real-life personal experiences, or stories from their imagination – from their completely unique point of view. This is, in a huge part, due to the fact that we all now carry portable videography equipment in our pocket in the form of a smartphone. This small but powerful piece of technology allows us to instantly capture our own experiences and use our storytelling skills in a multitude of ways.

Alongside this is the way that the internet and social media have made it so much easier for storytellers to share their work with a global audience. Anyone with an internet connection can now publish their stories online and reach millions of people, who can access them at any time.

In the same way, streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have disrupted the traditional distribution models for films and television shows. These platforms allow storytellers to distribute their content outside the constraints of traditional television schedules.

Technology has also opened up the possibilities for collaborative storytelling. It’s far easier now for people to collaborate on all types of stories remotely, using video conferencing, and shared online creation platforms in the cloud. Not just professional writers, directors, and producers, but students, friends and families can work together on creating a story from different parts of the world, in different time zones.

How brands use the power of storytelling

Brands have always used the power of storytelling to create an emotional connection with their audience that that goes beyond the product or service they offer. The world’s most well-loved brands use storytelling to communicate their brand identity, values, and purpose, which differentiates them from the competition as well as creating brand loyalty.

They often use it as a way to share their brand story, history and heritage with their audience. By showcasing their roots and the journey they’ve taken to get to where they are today, they can create a sense of trust and authenticity with their customers. Coca-cola, Apple and Levi’s are brands that spring to mind as masters of this approach. In a similar way, brands use storytelling to launch new products or services. Creating a compelling story around their new offering is a surefire way to generate buzz and excitement among their loyal fans.

The impact of social media on storytelling

Increasingly though, brands are using storytelling on social media to engage with their audience and build a community around their brand. By sharing stories that align with their brand values and purpose, they can create a loyal following of customers at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing campaigns and advertising, or even PPC advertising.

The narrative structure of social media storytelling is completely different to other forms. Because it is so ultra-short in form and has to compete with other stories as the user scrolls past, it is designed to capture the attention of the audience instantly and keep them engaged. Another crucial change that social media has had on storytelling is the way in which it has developed interactivity. Users can engage with stories through likes, comments, and shares, allowing for real-time feedback and interaction with the audience.

Interactive, multimedia storytelling

Interactive stories can contain a huge range of multimedia elements like music, video, and animation to create an immersive and highly engaging experience for the viewer. Today, easy-to-use platforms like Canva and ThingLink make it possible for anyone to create an entire interactive video, for example, in just a couple of hours. Take a look at the sort of storytelling that you could start creating with no prior design, coding or videography experience, at these blogs and case studies below.

Start creating interactive stories with ThingLink

ThingLink is the easiest way to create immersive, interactive content that can be shared anywhere. Start creating today with a free account!

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