Storytelling Evolved: 18 Ideas in Digital Storytelling (Part 3)

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13.Track-Back Product Histories

Marketers have long understood the value of authenticity and heritage. Product stories and Brand histories have been told through TV spots, books, packaging, web sites and more. Now, digital adds a new level of depth, allowing users to drill down to the history of an individual garment.

Made-By Track and Trace is a system that allows the garment owner to find out the history of the product, from conception to manufacturing and the people involved at each step.  Take it for a test drive.  In a similar vein, Icebreaker allows their consumers to see which ranch the wool for their sweater came from and learn a little bit about the herders who work there.

Find the sheep your sweater came from with Icebreaker's Baacode.

Find the sheep your sweater came from with Icebreaker's Baacode.

14.Digital Breadcrumbs

As we traverse the online social space, we invariably leave behind evidence of our presence: profiles, blogs, photos, videos, press releases, etc.  Recently, a slew of services have popped up attempting to make heads or tails of all this social detritus. attempts to create personalized timelines of your digital existence through the use of search.  Similarly, friend tracking services like Spokeo attempt to keep you updated on your friend’s social activity by tracking their email login across a slew of social portals.

In a similar vein, a project we did for Howard Stern allowed for the timeline of Howard’s radio show to be laid out.  In a uniquely digital twist, fans are able to comment on the timeline, bringing a sense of “that’s not how I remembered it” to the project.  Which is, of course, the hallmark of any good story.

15.Micro-blog Storytelling

The Twitter feed has been around for a little while now but users continue to find new and innovative uses for it.  From the live blogging of conferences and other events (like our coverage of SXSW) —  to its use as a reporter’s conduit for real time current events – one LAFD officer even used it to keep fire responders informed in real time while they battled the 2007 Griffith Park blaze.

One Twitterer, howmuchumean2me (sadly, now protected) , uses the feed to create a “real time novel.”  The author subscribes to Google News feeds relating to “car bombs.”  When a bombing occurs, the author weaves the event into the narrative creating a strange “echo” of reality.  In the author’s words:

This novel’s triangulation of technologies (bomb/web/cell phone) is intended to echo the rapid adaptation of new technologies central to the nature of the car bomb. So the author cannot delay and furthermore, is uncertain about Mallarme’s decree: “There is no explosion like a book”.

Recently, data visualization projects like the PepsicoZeitgeist or Twistori have tapped micro-blogs as a source to express the gestalt of a community or event, telling a fractured, but surprisingly intelligible, story.

Exploring the moods of the Twiterati

Exploring the moods of the Twiterati

Twitter’s not old news.  It’s just getting started.

16.The PowerPoint

Last but not least, the PowerPoint.  Once the bane of any office exec’s existence, PowerPoint (and by extension, Keynote) has established itself as the premier way businessmen tell stories.

Like any medium, the PowerPoint has been evolved – developing its own social network and even taking on elements of stage theater.  Pecha-Kucha, an event dedicated to the art of rapid fire PowerPoint decks (20 slides in for 20 seconds each), has emerged as the premier event for PowerPoint maestros.  But personally, I’m rooting for Battle Decks, a hilarious mashup of improv and PowerPoint.

Battle Decks participants try to create a coherent presentation from these slides without seeing them in advance.

17.Digital Poetry

Linger in Shadows is a somewhat controversial project for the Playstation 3 by Polish demogroup Plastic.  Is it a demo? A game? Or a work of art?  Users use the motion sensitive SIXAXIS controller to unlock and explore a bizarre landscape.  What is it?  It’s really, really cool.

Innovative game developer, ThatGameCompany, created Flower – described as their “video game version of a poem, exploiting the tension between urban bustle and natural serenity. Player enters various flowers’ dreams to transform the world.”  Heavy stuff.

Still, the concept works.  Flower plunges the user into an environment that can’t quite be pinned down as a game, though it still maintains the trappings of one.  Wired’s review is forced to dig deep into their literary vocabulary, comparing the experience to passages from the bible and T.S. Elliot, while waxing poetic on the designer’s effective use of allegory and metaphor .  I say, bring it on.

18.Hypertext Storytelling

Perhaps one of the earliest forms of digital storytelling, the hypertext adventure lets users choose their own path through the story, like a choose-your-own adventure where you can examine anything that catches your eye.  Eastgate Systems is a publisher that specializes in hypertext publications.

The concept has been around for a long time (Eastgate was founded in 1982) so it was only a matter of time before someone attempted it on the iPhone.   Using the phone’s capacity for seamless zooming and panning, author Aya Karpinska created Shadows Never Sleep, a “hypertext” children’s story for the iPhone.

Peter Pan would be so pissed if he knew this.

Peter Pan would be so pissed if he knew this.

This list is only a start.  As the landscape continues to evolve, artists will continue to push the boundaries of storytelling. We’re excited to find ourselves among them.

Do you have other examples of digital storytelling?  Submit your observations in the comments!