One of the most talked about trends in tech is 3D printing, and I think for good reason. While 3D printers like the Makerbot is still early stage, they are getting more advanced by the minute, and they will potentially enable anyone to make almost any physical item just by drawing and printing. It’s a profound change on the scale of the PC and the Internet, and it will also have an impact on the way we tell stories. In fact it already has.
One example is a simple but really cool gadget that Annenberg fellow Nonny De La Peña showed me a few months back. It’s a plastic goggle that can be attached to an iPhone (or in theory to any smartphone) to enable you to view a 3D virtual environment or story. The awesome thing is that anyone can print the goggles using a cheap consumer 3D printer and a couple of glass prisms that you can buy online or in your local Radioshack. The gadget, which has been developed by Perry Hoberman and De La Peña’s team at USC Annenberg school of cinematic arts, is just one early, small example – but imagine the possibilities you will have as a storyteller, when your audience can suddenly print the hardware required to experience your project.
The content for the 3D Goggles can be made with any technology that can run on on iPhone, but in most cases it’s done using the Unity gaming engine. In fact USC is looking for Storytellers that want to contribute with content at the moment, so if you are interested get more info here: http://projects.ict.usc.edu/mxr/diy/fov2go-developer/
One of my favorite activities is sitting around a campfire with a couple of friends. Preferably in the midst of mother nature’s beauty after sunset on a bright Scandinavian summer night.
Everything becomes so quiet and the mixture of pure air and smoke from burning birch tree encapsulates my senses and sets my imagination on fire. I don’t have to sit there long before I begin telling stories.
They are not the kind of stories we are used to from books and movies, though. They are thoughts that pop up in my mind and become threads of words I can weave together, and if I am lucky they turn out to be a minor tale with a point or two.
It all depends on my audience, of course. They are not sitting there in the flickering dark listening quietly like in a movie theater. They interact with me and have a habbit of interrupting my story with a comment or two – and usually a funny one. It breaks up my rhythm, and I have to be aware of what they are saying in order to continue my story. I need to use it to keep my momentum.
Today, as any other day, I was going through my Twitter feed. As usual it was full of stories on anything from politics through tech news to personal outbursts. As I was scrolling through tweets like “How to fix iClouds biggest annoyances”, “Must-reads from around the world”, and “I listen to this song on repeat this week!”, I couldn’t help but stop for a moment, when I got to “15 incredible dog photobombs” from @HuffingtonPost.
Not that I’m a big fan of photobombs in general or loldogs (or lolcats for that matter) in particular. But I did pause while I thought to myself how incredible stupid it sounded. And then of course I clicked the link. I wasn’t impressed although the one titled “Wazzup” did make me smile.
However stupid and bland the gallery might be, I couldn’t help but think of Clay Shirky and his book “Cognitive Surplus” from 2010. In his book Shirky argues that media in the 20th century made us into passive consumers and couch potatoes. We would sit in front of a TV for hours without contributing or doing anything ourselves. But this changed when the Internet was invented and we got new media technologies. We still like to consume, but we also like to interact, create and share, and now we can do just that.
In 1999 I wrote an article about how the media feared the Internet. The angle was that they didn’t have a clue about how to approach the Internet and its possibilities. Not only because of the money factor; meaning that they saw no apparent business model in the Internet, but also because they simply couldn’t figure out what to use the Internet for.
We were young then, but we were also among the pioneers on the digital media scene – even though we were still journalism students. We quite simply saw the future of storytelling in the Internet.
It occured to us back then that printing technology had once made storytelling completely linear, which is not our natural way of telling stories. If you didn’t have to put your story into the template of a book, nobody would tell it in a linear fashion. Instead you would break it up and sidetrack from time to time to make a specific point and then come back to the main story.
On Sunday I went to church. To me going to church is something that only happens at Christmas or when friends get married or babies (preferably my friend’s) get baptized. Well, there I was with a couple of friends enjoying Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “All-Night Vigil” (it’s a cappella choir composition thing, don’t ask…).
We had barely opened the church door before I’d made a check-in on Foursquare (and got the Mayorship! Apparently not a lot of churchgoers uses Foursquare…), my friend checked us in on Facebook, all of us captured the event on Instagram, and I even made a Picle.
Only because it seemed to be frowned upon to have your iPhone out in the open did I not share the experience on Twitter, Google+, Path, Tadaa or any of the other billion social apps out there. I wanted to, though, and I had to fight hard not to pursue my urge to check and see if any of my friends or followers had “liked” or commented on my unusual Sunday afternoon activity.
Think about what you remember. Most of us rarely remember facts and information. The stuff that sticks in our minds are the personal narratives that reaches our hearts and puzzles us. So why are we still building websites stripped of all that when we are selling our product or cause, or branding ourselves or our companies online?
The rise of social media have made it strikingly clear that you get much more traction by telling a good story with real human emotions and thoughts. Yet the classic corporate website or personal portfolio site still remain the main channel for most of us. It’s time to take a leap forward.
When you start planning your next website don’t sketch out the traditional structure with a homepage, about, products and whichever sub-categories you have. Think of the stories you can tell instead, and think of creating a universe with this. How would you introduce yourself or your companies if you were doing it at a dinner party in a personal voice? How you would serve your content if it was a Hollywood movie or a great novel? What is the tale around what you do? You don’t have to trash everything you know about websites, just adjust your approach a bit.
Big River Rising is an interactive documentary about a poor community in the Philippines who are embracing scientific solutions to fight frequent flooding. It was produced by Matthew Gonzalez Noda and Emma Wigley from Christian Aid. We spoke to Matthew…
Q: You have made an interactive documentary about flooding in the Philippines. What made you choose that particular story?
A: We were asked to find an innovative way of communicating Christian Aid’s resilience work which helps vulnerable communities to prepare for and adapt to disasters, and is part funded by the UK government in a number of countries. It’s important work but dry and complex to communicate. We were intrigued by the work our partners in the Philippines were doing, linking scientists with slum dwellers who are vulnerable to natural and climatic disasters, such as flooding. We thought that exploring this partnership would be an interesting way to tell this kind of story.
Q: Why not just do a regular video documentary?
A: The subject of resilience is complex and multi-layered, we worried it might appear dry in a conventional video. By choosing an interactive documentary our viewers are able to engage at different levels according to their interest, from the human story of a slum dweller whose make-shift home has just been completely submerged, to the scientific and educational explanation of flooding in urban environments.
Also, by producing a range of multimedia resources we were able to generate media coverage across a variety of platforms – print, audio and visual. Essentially it allowed us many more options to convey our message to a much larger audience, than would have been possible with an ordinary video.
Q. Your story is a collection of nine women each with a different story to tell. One of them was a bonded labourer, the others cover issues of disability, untouchability, environmental disaster, social stigma, gender discrimination and more. How did you find these stories?
A. The idea came from the Australian Ambassador to Nepal who wanted to fund a documentary about the success of women entrepreneurs in rural Nepal, something she had been involved in supporting. I worked with two very good local journalists, Looni & Pramod, to come up with a different way of documenting the women and we won the pitch. The characters were found by Looni, who called tens if not hundreds of women to try and find the best characters.
Q. Why did you choose Storyplanet as your platform for the story?
A. I have known of Storyplanet for over a year but never quite had the right project for it. When planning for the output for this project I spent a day playing with as many different formats as i could and decided Storyplanet was the best fit.
- What media can learn from startups
- Why a lolcat is better than nothing – but still not good enough
- Big River Rising
- Empowering women
- Pushing your old magazine to the iPad is just not enough
- How NY Times fuels interactive storytelling
- iPad is heaven and hell for storytellers
- The fight between interaction and plot
- New editor sneak peak