virtualDavis

ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.
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Empathetic Storytelling

What does good, empathetic storytelling look like in the age of digitally augmented virtual reality? It might look a little like good, empathetic storytelling a century or two ago. Enveloping, enrapturing, and interactive.

Despite my misgivings about an increasingly post analog world, I’m intrigued with the possibilities for immersive, audience-centric storytelling that technology is enabling. And it looks like Empathic Media (@empatheticmedia) in Brooklyn just might be one of the players to watch…

Stories via virtual/augmented reality, 360° video, etc. (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

Virtual/augmented reality, 360° video, etc. (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

We believe that the combination of experiential, first-person storytelling approaches with virtual reality, 360 video, augmented reality and graphic journalism is the key to fostering empathy between storytellers and their subjects. (Source: Empathetic Media)

I’m onboard with “experiential, first-person storytelling”, but I have to admit that reading aloud, “virtual reality, 360 video, augmented reality and graphic journalism”, leaves a slightly tinny taste in my mouth. I take a swig of water, but it doesn’t quite wash away the acrid, faintly metallic aftertaste.

Good, empathetic storytelling liberates the story… allows the narrative to reinvent itself across media and across realities.

I’m not 100% sure why, especially because I’m truly fascinated with the dynamics of multimodal / transmedia storytelling. After all, a story doesn’t live in a book or a film or a song or a play or a graffiti mural. It is whispered — or chanted, shouted, burped — into existence with a book or a film or a song or a play or a graffiti mural… If the story is viable, it gasps and maybe it cries for a few seconds, and then it begins a wildly unpredictable life.

As it matures, it evolves. Maybe it mingles with other narratives. Maybe it’s a loner. But if it endures, it likely assumes many mantles.

Good, empathetic storytelling liberates the story from its book, its film, its song, etc. Good, empathetic storytelling allows the narrative to reinvent itself across media and across realities. And I suppose that digitally augmented virtual reality is just another mode, just another mantle, just another reinvention that vitalizes the story and [possibly] expands its accessibility. And yet, I’m skeptical that it is “the key to fostering empathy between storytellers and their subjects.” The key? I suspect there are many keys!

Story-boarding toward empathetic storytelling... (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

Story-boarding toward empathetic storytelling. (Source: empatheticmedia.com)

Digital You

“Like it or not, a digital you is out there.”
Lawrence Joseph

Lawrence Joseph’s latter day truism is sandwiched between layers of post-9/11 offal like a slather of mustard or a thin slice of onion, a piquant but ancillary ingredient trying to mask the repugnant meat of the poem.

Digital display 2

Digital display 2 (Image via Wikipedia)

It fails. The poem “So Where Are We?” (Granta, Issue 116) and most of the other sketches and reflections in Granta’s Ten Years Later, edited byJohn Freeman, are deeply disturbing. But that’s the point, I suppose, looking back on a decade that scrambled and irreversably transformed much of the free world.

And yet Joseph’s assertion about digital redundancy clung to me. The notion of digital clones has become ubiquitous. It needs no explanation. It is a contextualizing, familiar point of reference that justifies the grotesque world conjured in this collection.

Like it or not, there’s a digital you out there. In fact almost every aspect of your life is probably reflected in some computer somewhere. You could say that information, that data, has a life of its own. If you have anything to do with modern society, you are no longer a purely biological, analog being. (New York Times)

I’m not altogether uncomfortable with this idea as the name of my blog plainly suggests, but I am fascinated with the implications of this analog/digital duality. I’ve said before that we’re living through a storytelling renaissance. Though we don’t always see it that way (teachers lament ever shortening attention spans for reading and literature; publishing executives panic as books become ebooks become Vooks become…), the proliferation of digital selves and the near universal acceptance of digital identities suggests a convergence of real world and narrative world. We are becoming our stories. Or vice versa.

The one big idea from the original “Tron” that maintained relevance was that some binary version of you is running around out there in all those ones and zeros, to a certain extent under your control but also, in a profound way, forever beyond your reach. Now we can all have multiple identities all the time: just make another user name, and you’re someone else, right? That conceit is not always accurate… (New York Times)

Are you keeping track of your digital selves? Are they still in your story, or have they defected? I’ve seen a few new faces wandering around in my own stories lately after all.

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