The more things change, the more they stay the same. When it comes to human beings and their actions and choices, I believe that.
But sometimes change really is change. And once in a great while, change is revolution.
Right now — today — is one of those times, because the internet is clearly a revolution. (At least until a global power shortage forces us all back to cold chisels and granite slabs for communication.)
I’ve been a professional writer and storyteller for more than twenty years, and for over a decade I’ve been making a living as a direct result of the advent of the internet. But that’s only looking at the internet as a communication pipeline that allows me to work for clients across the country and around the globe without leaving my chair. Amazing as it is (and it still amazes me), that part of the revolution is pretty much over.
But there’s another way of looking at the internet, and that’s as a medium — as this web site, web page, and these words attest. As a publishing medium in particular the internet is still evolving and growing, while powerful established industries such as newspapers, television and the book business are already reeling as a result of the force of this change.
A few years ago I did some blogging on the subject of interactive storytelling, but it occurred to me recently that I don’t actually know a lot about the internet as a publishing medium, and that I need to learn as much as I possibly can. Why? Because every day there are fewer and fewer obstacles between the words I write and readers who might want to read those words. Yes, the economics of this opportunity may be spare, and omnipresent obstacles such as attracting readers may prove daunting, but for storytellers the internet as a publishing and distribution medium is still something fundamentally new.
Ditchwalk.com is my attempt to learn what I can about what’s happening at the intersection of storytelling and the digital age. What’s possible right now, and how can a storyteller make use of it? What’s coming down the road? Where are the relevant and vital online communities? What new art forms are springing up? What are the craft issues of writing on and for the internet? What are the business issues? The marketing issues? The legal issues?
It’s all a bit dizzying when I wander into the middle of it, but here on Ditchwalk I hope to be able to stand back a bit and take it all in. As a storyteller I have some ideas about web-based projects I’d like to do in the future, but between then and now I know there is much to discover and even more to learn.
If you share such interests I hope you will read along, and let me know if there’s a site out there I should know about. I hope to be part of the conversation as storytelling and the internet continue to merge, but first and foremost I know that means being a good listener.
Let me know what you think.
— Mark Barrett
This must feel like entering the wild west. Should be an interesting decade….
Richard Bell says
I am looking forward to following this path of exploration. Have just been reading “The Black Swan,” by Nassin Nicholas Taleb, in which he points out the power of what he calls “the narrative fallacy.” He argues that all of us have a very strong need to impose a narrative on our experiences, rather than suspending judgement and waiting for more information. In a corporate driven global economy, billions of dollars are spent to create narratives that support the continuation of the power of those corporate interests. Designing narratives that lead people to be skeptical, in the midst of so many misleading narratives, is a great challenge which I hope you will be addressing as you go.
I recommend reading Taleb’s book; he can be a bit glib at times, but he has thought deeply about why it is so difficult for humans to anticipate or plan for the unexpected. (If every swan you have ever seen is white, and you’ve seen thousands, how do you avoid thinking that all swans are white?)
Thanks for the pointer to Taleb’s book. I don’t know the work or the author, but I’m in agreement with the points you make. From my own experience as a storyteller I believe there is a basic human openness to narratives, and that this innate willingness to suspend disbelief is an easily-accessible portal through which narratives pass from author to audience. We like our stories, we want them, and we’re not overly concerned with the degree to which our stories reflect reality.
The implications of this predisposition are far reaching, including the potential for exploiting storytelling techniques in the furtherance of objectives beyond entertainment. In effect, storytelling becomes not simply one means by which people or groups attempt to influence individuals, but the dominant means across all aspects of society, from religion to politics to business.
(Look for more on this in an upcoming post.)
— Mark Barrett