Storytelling Evolved: 18 Ideas in Digital Storytelling (Part 2)

Yesterday, we discussed…

…six innovative techniques for telling stories in digital.  Today, we examine six more.

If you didn’t see the first post, go back and check it out!

7. Micro Confessionals

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much does a secret go for? We’re approaching the 3rd year of the still-going-strong PostSecret blog. The blog reprints postcards mailed in from around the world confessing people’s darkest secrets.  Each is accompanied by evocative (sometimes disturbing) imagery.  Reading through, you can’t help but try to project the story (and people) behind each of the secrets.

In a similar vein, the iamneurotic blog gives people a place to post their unique idiosyncrasies and share (anonymously) what makes them tick.

Isn't it nice that the IRS has humanizing secrets too?

Isn't it refreshing that the IRS has humanizing secrets too?

We’re also a fan of Fmylife, a collection of micro-stories that remind you that even on the worst day of your life, it could be so, so much worse.

8. Interactive 360-degree storytelling

The 2004 Oscar Best Picture, Crash famously used 360⁰ storytelling to weave its dramatic tale of perspective.  Digital filmmakers are taking the same concept and taking it to the next level.  Late Fragment is an experiment in interactive, 360⁰ storytelling that allows the viewer to control what story he or she sees.  Viewers can click their remote at any point during the movie and the story will divert to show the perspective or back-story of whatever character is onscreen.  The result is a non-linear experience that must be seen again and again to grasp the full picture.

In the advertising world, the technique was recently used for Volvo’s Ocean Race campaign.  Dove Canada also created a multi-threaded interactive story for their Waking Up Hannah campaign.

9. World Creation

Stories can create imaginary worlds, but never before has that been as literal as it is in digital.  From Ultima Online, Everquest, and The Sims to the current king of online gaming, World of Warcraft, MMPOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) have defined their own storytelling niche, developing fully functioning economies, cultures, ecosystems and more.

One of the more fascinating developments in this field is the partnership between Trion World Network and the Sci-Fi channel. The two companies are jointly developing an intellectual property that combines a traditional TV program with an MMPOG.  The two media will share the same universe, though it is unclear from the release precisely what that means.  Hopefully, it means that events in the game will affect events in the TV show (and vice versa) creating an interactive story where players can affect and are affected by the plot twists of the program.  The result would be a very immersive TV/Gaming experience.

Two years ago, our Own Your C project created a fictional world: a playground of choice that allowed Colorado teens to “exercise their C” and learn about one of the most dangerous choices they face: smoking.

10. Exploration Stories

This genre began back in 1991 with the gaming classic Myst.  The technique is characterized by a story that gamers piece together through game play from numerous tiny, disparate clues.

More modern approaches combine the technique with action based games.  For example, BioShock is a first-person shooter where the narrative is pieced together from recorded memoirs scattered throughout an Ayn Rand-influenced, post-apocalyptic society.

The terrifying Big Daddies. They have a story to tell, too.

The terrifying Big Daddies. They have a story to tell, too.

A different approach is used by Dear Esther, an experiment in narrative that runs within the Half Life 2 gaming platform.  In Dear Esther, there is no game – players explore a landscape and are treated to snippets of narration based on what they are examining.  Though it is based on the player’s location, the narration is selected at random from a bank of options resulting in a different story every time.

Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn used gaming engines to a different effect.  Their project, The Graveyard, is described as a “walkthrough painting.”  Users control an old woman as she meanders through a graveyard reminiscing on the people she has loved and lost.  By design, there isn’t much for the user to do and they can’t affect the story, but instead are forced to take every slow, painful looking step with the woman.  Those who shell out $5 for the full version get the opportunity to watch grandma die.  Morbid indeed.

Take a walk with this lonely woman at the end of her journey.

Take a walk with this lonely woman at the end of her journey.

11. Digital Projections as a Medium

Hat tip to team PSFK whose recent post highlighted a slew of artists using digital projection to tell stories in real space.  Because of their wide availability, flexibility, portability and ease of use, digital projectors have inspired artists to tell digital stories almost anywhere.

12. Reality told through Time and Space

Visual art took a giant leap forward when artists discovered perspective, allowing the creation of 3 dimensional images.  Microsoft’s Photosynth technology allows photographers to achieve the same leap using multiple photographs of the same subject.  By looking for common elements, the software can stitch together photographs in 3 dimensional space, creating fully navigable 3 dimensional models. Furthermore, since the pictures are not captured simultaneously, each 3-D landscape represents multiple moments in time, allowing artists to explore the previously unrealized dimension of time.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look at Obama’s Inauguration, Photosynth style.

Not exactly being like there, but still very cool!

Not exactly being like there, but still very cool!

Adobe Systems is also exploring the idea of storytelling through time with their Zoetrope software.  The platform allows users to view a web page or data set as it changes over time.  It sounds confusing but makes a lot of sense when you see it in action.  MIT’s Technology Review put together a video.

But fancy software isn’t necessary for 4th dimension storytelling.  The time honored tradition of the portrait has undergone a digital evolution via Flickr.  Enter “the long portrait,” the result of Flickr’s recent foray into web video.  Instead of capturing a subject for a brief moment in time, users are using the 90-second limit videos to capture a subject over a period of time, attempting to capture the true personality of the person or thing.  Check out this excellent example or browse the list of tagged long portraits.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish up our series with the final six techniques.  Did I leave something out?  Add more in the comments!

Update: Move on to Part 3