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The Story of Story: Obsessions with Narrative

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I have some thoughts about why storytelling has become so relevant and fascinating again...

The 90's were the age of knowledge. They were about the accessibility of information. In the 21st century what matters is curation.

Today data is pervasive. It is so readily available and so in abundance that it has no value. Data is no longer significant or interesting in itself – what makes it so is how it is delivered and experienced.

Curation is just another word for story.

If you look at the definition of story as a verb, it's about an ornamentation of a series of events. I love that definition. The events can be fictitious or historically accurate. That's not the point. It's how it unfolds and gets decorated that matters.

One new website that is bound to be decorating the virtual world is jawbone.tv. This is a website dedicated to the "storytelling methods, mediums and innovations from around the planet." Here's a short conversation with Todd Denis, its Managing Editor.



TK: So tell me about your passion...what drove you to create jawbone?

TD: It's been close to twenty years that I've had my hands on storytelling in one form or another. I just took a hard look and decided I wanted to build something that showcased that world.

Jawbone? What's in the name?

Jawbone came about from brainstorming with a very talented illustrator named Tyler Jenkins who's really into visual narratives. Jawbone just felt right. It's indicative of speech and storytelling. It's hearty. And a little strange.

I love it. I also love the tagline "The Evolution of Story."

I was reluctant to use it because I didn't want people to think we were a service company, offering to evolve their stories...

I read it more like 'The Story of Story.' Do you see the story of story changing?

The evolution is taking place right in front of us. Storytelling in the traditional mediums is badly beaten, and I've just been overwhelmed by the inventiveness going on around me. As you said, the story of story is starting to get pretty insane. And I was just hungry for a channel to facilitate this new stuff.

So is the nature of storytelling changing or is it just moving across new platforms?

Both, I think. And each leads the other. Hitchcock said that the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder. Our attention spans have shrank drastically below our bladder capacity in the digital era, and the nature of story has had to shift with it.

Now TV is delivered on the web and people can watch webisodes on a phone. Twitter, of course, is the ultimate short story platform.

Traditional media is still king, however, and I think that's because business props it up. We're conditioned from a very early age to press play, sit back and watch.

Passively.

Exactly. It's easy. And to be honest, sometimes it's awesome.

But co-authorship is compelling.

What do you mean exactly?

In my opinion, interactivity changes the game. Storytelling transforms from a passive experience authored by one creator to a dynamic co-authorship where the original designer and the user both weave new stories together. And, often, they can be narratives that the author never imagined.

Right. And that's why traditional formats are preferred by businesses, including major studios and labels. They don't want the game to change. They want a start and an end. And they want to control the story. It's understandable given the investment, but it can really hinder the evolution we've been talking about.

Jawbone is a kind of anthology portal. But what's the business model? What's the story there?

I've had a few other project ideas that I talked myself out of over the years because the business climate at the time didn't support them. In hindsight, I should have followed my nose. I decided not to wait with Jawbone.

Basically, current models say not to do this but I have complete faith in the human appetite for story. The site is in its infancy, but we're in this to make money over the long haul by becoming something more than just an archive of cool stories on the Internet.

I want to see if there are as many people like me out there as I think there are....starving for this kind of stuff. If Jawbone can do that, the new profit models will have found us.

Visit jawbone at http://jawbone.tv/.
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