Stories are one of the most universal forms of human expression – Since time immemorial, we have been emoting and communicating through stories.
Whether factual or fictional, storytelling comes intrinsically to us and over thousands of years we have seen multitude of forms emerge – from epics and verses to folklore, memoirs, movies, plays, novels et al … – each fulfilling the human purpose of expression and meaningful engagement.
In today’s world, the way we tell our stories has changed dramatically. We are seeing a spurt in virtual self-expression, where people across race, region and age are eager to express and engage with each other. Blogs, Videos and virtual stories have become the new language of storytelling and have given wings to billions of storytellers amidst us.
A question then emerges, how did storytelling evolve and more interestingly has it changed dramatically with our evolution or are there some basic tenets of the art that remain unchanged?
The evolving panorama of storytelling
The evolution of storytelling reflects how humans learn and communicate with others. The earliest evidence of stories comes from the cave drawings in Lascaux and Chavaux, France. The drawings depict an interesting saga of that time told in the form of visual stories through imagery and drawings of animals, humans, and other objects. If that’s taken as the start, it would be fair to say storytelling originated with visual stories. However, progression in history show storytelling then shifted to oral storytelling, in which stories were told in the form of epic poems, chants, rhymes, and songs. There was a shift to words or written storytelling formed into narratives, including written, printed and typed stories providing a rich plethora of documented history, religious scriptures and trillions of profound literary works.
Most lately, the rise of media and technology in the 21st century gave birth to digital storytelling which converged the different forms of storytelling.
The evolution of storytelling reflects how humans learn and communicate with others. The rise of media and technology in the 21st century gave birth to digital storytelling which converged the different forms of storytelling.
What changed & what stayed constant in storytelling?
Just like every good story is built on the same fundamental elements, so too is storytelling. There's a setting, plot and narrative - and this is communicated through different storytelling props such as text, images, audio and video. From visual to oral storytelling or written storytelling, the plot and the narrative always have a place and purpose. Though the mediums have changed, the core concept of using a sequence of events in an exciting narrative has remained the same. Similarly, the props of storytelling have stayed the same throughout history, but they've been adapted to different formats over time, making it easier to tell a story.
To your surprise, not a lot has changed in storytelling. While the formats may have had a facelift, the components of storytelling that is the narrative and props continue to be constant.
With digital and social media, storytelling is coming to a full circle, where different storytelling props are used together text and visuals, audio and visual, so on and so forth. Recall the last travelogue your friend posted on Instagram or the last explainer video you saw on YouTube!!
Impact of Technology on Storytelling
Advancing technologies such as the camera and the internet and its social media platforms have changed the way stories are told and consumed to a more all-encompassing experience. Modern-day infotainment through social media has seen the emergence of digital storytelling, a beautiful crossover of different props of storytelling- Text, Images, Music, and Videos.
While part of this emergence can be attributed to the arsenal of multimedia available to storytellers. The other part also supports the declining human attention which demands powerful stories told succinctly.
Modern-day infotainment through social media has seen the emergence of digital storytelling, a beautiful crossover of different props of storytelling- Text, Images, Music, and Videos.
In essence, digital storytelling has democratised storytelling, giving each one of us the power to communicate effectively. The best part about this is that you don't need a designer, a supporting singer, a phenomenal writer, and a director to help you navigate the deep waters of storytelling. You're simply an equipped storyteller who happens to have all these things. All you need is a good narrative, your narrative!!