Tagged: story

Hiut: Jeans that write history

The last thing the world needs is another jeans brand. Isn’t it? With so many companies competing in so many different ways – price, name, heritage, exclusivity  - you better have something pretty special to bring to the market…

When David Hieatt opened the proceedings at the Firestarters event at Google the other evening, he told us that a new jeans brand was exactly what he was building.

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Storytelling with sound, Paul Bennun and Nick Ryan – Notes from The Story Part 4

Another perspective on storytelling came from game designer Paul Bennun and sound designer and composer Nick Ryan, who collaborated most recently on the intriguing iPhone game, Papa Sangre. They set out to discuss the “special relationship between sound and storytelling”.

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Papa Sangre, if you haven’t seen is set in a pitch black underworld and you have to rely on navigating by sound – apparently about one in ten people just can’t get their head around it, but those who love it.

Entering the Palace of Bones from Papa Sangre on Vimeo.

For the technical-minded, Nick’s passion is for binaural recording, creating soundtracks which when listened to in headphones mimic how sound works in the real world (which is different to stereo – see Wikipedia for an explanation).

There were some really interesting discussions during the session, including ideas about creative an “navigational language of sound” for storytelling, which I’d like to hear more about.

One point which really struck me was when Nick reminded us just how hi-tech recorded sound was, how new it was – just a hundred years ago, as he put it, if you heard a sound you could be sure it was something happening nearby. Recorded sound allows us to separate time and location from the listening experience and

Nick also described a project for Macmillan publishers where he created an “audio enhanced” edition of a Ken Follett novel called Fall of Giants, which looks (sounds) really interesting – in the demo you hear sounds of the battlefield as the text is being read – I’d like to try that out.

Nerf gun as story engine: Mary Hamilton – Notes from The Story – Part 3

201102220628.jpg Continuing with notes on the The Story 2011 talks, I’m going to try and restrain myself to Cory Doctorow-cited five sentences. More or less, and these two don’t count… Popular champion of the talks was Mary Hamilton‘s talk about her Zombie LARP (Live Action Role Playing Game) and how the constraints and simplicity (compared with more complex, traditional LARPs) made the whole game a kind of story factory. Particularly pleasing was her use of Nerf guns on the audience (“As soon as you pick up a (Nerf) gun you become a protagonist”) throughout the talk and her charming stick-man slides (see below for the whole slide deck).The nub of her approach to story was this: “we create edge conditions so people can make their own stories.” She also described how they had formalised or made space for story telling after games (“frothing” as LARP participants call it).

201102220633.jpg I’m a great big scaredy cat when it comes to horror films, but I’d love to have a go – take a look at zombielarp.co.uk for yourself… Full notes on Mary’s talk are on her blog.Zombie LARP – a story machine

Adam Curtis on the struggle to tell the story on (and of) the web – Notes from The Story – Pt 2

* * Update: the audio for this talk is live at the Storythings blog * *

We’re not progressing through the day in chronological order, but now we have discussed the talk that was practically of use to me as a writer, let’s move on to the one which was both exciting but also so intellectually challenging I felt exhausted afterwards.

Adam Curtis is someone I previously knew mostly from The Power of Nightmares, a documentary that probed how fear and specifically terrorist threats are useful to those in power. After hearing him talk at The Story, I just want to hear more.

The caveat for these notes is that I may have at times missed the point, or got the wrong end of the stick, but here’s what I heard:

Can you use the web to tell stories?

  • Adam began by saying that many at the BBC were beginning to doubt that the web was something you could use to tell stories effectively.
  • He seemed to feel that we hadn’t reached a point where we understood the web well enough to talk about it, to tell stories about it and with it.
  • The web manifests the emotional realism that defines our culture. Emotional realism is about thinking that what you feel about things is the most real, most important thing.
  • The web is associative – you go where you like, where your fancy takes you. Narrative needs constraints, for you to be able to hold the attention of the person hearing the story.
  • So far story-telling on the web has not lived up to initial hopes for its potential, it has been whimsical at best…
  • It comes down to a fact that we have not come to terms with the power structures of our time and how they are manifest in the web (see below) – stories about these things give rise to great art, e.g. Tolstoy writing about the relationship between individuals and historical forces.

The web is useful for sharing long-form content, by-passing media formats we no longer trust

  • Adam showed a video clip from a news piece of an Afghani BBC journalist interviewing a member of the Taliban, a soundbite about the arrival of British troops.
  • He then gave us context – there were five Taliban who were all local farmers previously. The journalist was a metropolitan poet, who was new to the job, and both scared of the Taliban and feeling socially and intellectually superior to them. They’d not been interviewed before, he’d not interviewed many people in this situation before – the Taliban marched past the camera in a circle, changing the positions of their weapons each time, presumably to give the impression that there were many more of them.
  • the longer, raw version of the video was played and it felt altogether more bathetic, scary, odd, almost funny at times. It reminded me of Four Lions, especially the marching Taliban and the awkward responses from the interviewee that wouldn’t have made the final news report.
  • Emotional realism meant we valued this longer clip with all the disjointed human detail more than the news report. We, the journalists, everyone knew that the narrative from the politicians and the news organisations didn’t make sense. Why were we fighting there? It didn’t really add up. We all accept that its false and begin to look elsewhere for meaning.
  • “The fact that it doesn’t make sense any more makes it feel more real.”

What history feels like as it happens

  • Adam talked about a project he worked on with a theatre group called Punch Drunk. He made a film of spliced together TV, film and news clips trying to capture a sense of what it was like to live through some momentous events in the 1960s in the United States.
  • When we are living through events, they don’t make sense, they are confusing and disconnected – he said the films were emotional realism, representing the emotional experience of the 60s. I can’t find the exact piece of film he showed, but this is part of the same piece of work.

Follow the power

  • Adam railed against cyber-utopians – who doesn’t? – presenting the web as a free space, separate from the hierarchies and constraints of the “real world”.
  • The web is in fact “plugged in – literally – to the power hierarchy of the real world”.
  • If you understand how modern power flows through the web and shapes your experience of it, your emotions, then you are seeing it as it really is…
  • There’s no innocence or freedom online, the web is a cultural expression of our age of emotional realism.
  • Adam talked about Soviet Realist art, which looked nice to people at the time, but now we understand and see as representing the brutality of that power hierarchy in Soviet Russia. Some day, perhaps people will look at our online world and see it in a similar way, as “a cultural expression of the dominant power structures of our time” (perhaps about the tyranny of individualism, self-obsession, greed prevalent in our culture).

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Image: Little did they know they would be seen as artistic expressions of the regime’s brutality…

Adam was making lots of different points, related to one another, but it was hard to follow a central argument through his talk (not that it was any less thrilling for that). But he seemed to draw some of the strands of thought together in his conclusion, which went roughly like this:

  • The strength of the idea that we can’t make sense of the world is one that suits those in power.
  • There is a power framework around the web which shapes it.
  • If we can develop a framework, articulate it and talk about it – a big theory – then we can move on from the light, whimsical storytelling that we’ve seen so far on the web.
  • Stories are complicated – we shouldn’t shy away from trying to tell this one…

: : If you are interested in ideas about how power works, I think that Dan McQuillan is a good person to follow, read more of – he discusses the idea of power literacy and how important that is in affecting change in society. Dan – shout if I’m wrong on that…
: : To read more about Adam Curtis’s thinking and work, his BBC blog Adam Curtis_The Medium and the Message is the best place to start…

Three beautiful storytelling approaches from the web

This is a post about three lovely things that are all about using technology to help tell stories in new ways.

Storify

In private alpha development at the moment, Storify looks like a wonderful way of tying together different bits of your and other people’s content on the web (photos, Tweets, videos) to tell a story, and package it up. Its classic curating behaviour, but in a really simple package – I really hope i get to try it out soon.

The example they use in the video is telling the story of a conference, which it would seem to be a perfect solution for, but I imagine using it also to tell the story of big projects. For instance, at last year’s The Story conference, Aleks Krotoski told the story of the making of The Virtual Revolution BBC TV series, by stitching together Tweets, photos and videos that she had made during the process.

I always fancied doing that for the story of writing Me and My Web Shadow, but I’ve not got round to it. I guess Storify is the sort of tool that would make a similar process even easier.

Keeping stories about projects and experiences would be a lot better for organisations than dull, dry reports. They would get read and remembered more than traditional documents, I reckon.

Storify demo from Burt Herman on Vimeo.

via Adam Tinworth (who also has a video interview with the Storify guys on his blog).

Facebook hardback book by Bouygues Télécom/DDB Paris

A French Telecom’s agency, DDB Paris, created hardback Facebook books for a small number of people, taking content (I think with their permission) from specific instances and connections and curating them.

It’s a lovely idea, and one which maybe Facebook or a partner should automate. Imagine creating a book about your online conversations during a wedding, or just a yearbook about you and your closest friends. Echoes of the lifestreaming sell that new social network Path is trying to push, perhaps…

These kinds of ideas and applications all indicate a growing sophistication in the way people are thinking about their personal social networks and the data they are creating about them online. It is about more than communication in the now, it is about creating a record of parts of our lives and thinking about how to make the best of that…

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When Facebook becomes a book from Siavosh Zabeti on Vimeo.

Via Creative Review.

Cinemek storyboard composer for the iPhone

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Last of the three is Cinemek, which is an iPhone app for creating storyboards. You add your pictures, and can then start turning them into a storyboard, to plan a film, animation or any interactive media experience.

There are some demoes on Cinemek’s Vimeo page, but this one brings it to life for me, as someone storyboards a movie sequence for a suspense thriller on the fly, using a model and inserting cutouts to represent other characters – really cool…
Pricier than many apps at £11.99 on the apps store it still seems incredible value for this kind of tool…

Hitchcock in action! from cinemek / Hitchcock on Vimeo.

Via Ewan McIntosh

Telling stories

In the middle of explaining some social media stuff recently, I was pulled up short and given a useful dressing down.

“You’re using too many words,” they said, or something to that effect. “What you mean is that just like people had to learn how to use Powerpoint ten years ago, if they wanted to be able to get their point across, they have to learn about these tools.”

Um. Yeah. Exactly.

Nice simple way of explaining the imperative for people to learn, to become literate in this medium.

Social web literacy, just like any other literacy before it, is partly just about the technical skills. They are very, very important these technical skills, if you are to realise the amazing potential of the web to help you get things done.

But underpinning them all, more so than during the channel media age, during the industrial communications era, is the ability to tell stories well.

Social media, as I will never tire of saying, is a useful phrase because of, er, the social bit. The rules are social, human and innate. Often as not, we’ve unlearned our skills in story-telling have been undone by corporate organisational life in the previously modern world. In that world, the story was driven to ground, meaning flushed out by jargon, shibboleths and weird communications.

Lloyd Davies gave me a nudge about this this morning when I read the text of a talk he gave at the ICA (a story wrapped ina  story, now I think of it):

And it comes down to telling stories with purpose, telling stories to make sense and learn about yourself and the world. No doubt that’s also how I stumbled into being invited to speak to you tonight. Because I believe that telling stories (and engaging in conversation about them) at this human scale, where you can see the whites of my eyes is something that’s going to be very useful to us in the 21st Century as we grapple with unprecedented rates of social, economic and technological change. Talking at this scale is a skill that I think we all need to learn again and practice regularly.

Read his stories. They are lovely.

Reminds me also of the invigorating Brain Rules, especially Rule 4: We Don’t Pay Attention to Boring Things. Story telling with the social web helps us format information as human, relevant stories.

Telling stories

In the middle of explaining some social media stuff recently, I was pulled up short and given a useful dressing down.

“You’re using too many words,” they said, or something to that effect. “What you mean is that just like people had to learn how to use Powerpoint ten years ago, if they wanted to be able to get their point across, they have to learn about these tools.”

Um. Yeah. Exactly.

Nice simple way of explaining the imperative for people to learn, to become literate in this medium.

Social web literacy, just like any other literacy before it, is partly just about the technical skills. They are very, very important these technical skills, if you are to realise the amazing potential of the web to help you get things done.

But underpinning them all, more so than during the channel media age, during the industrial communications era, is the ability to tell stories well.

Social media, as I will never tire of saying, is a useful phrase because of, er, the social bit. The rules are social, human and innate. Often as not, we’ve unlearned our skills in story-telling have been undone by corporate organisational life in the previously modern world. In that world, the story was driven to ground, meaning flushed out by jargon, shibboleths and weird communications.

Lloyd Davies gave me a nudge about this this morning when I read the text of a talk he gave at the ICA (a story wrapped ina  story, now I think of it):

And it comes down to telling stories with purpose, telling stories to make sense and learn about yourself and the world. No doubt that’s also how I stumbled into being invited to speak to you tonight. Because I believe that telling stories (and engaging in conversation about them) at this human scale, where you can see the whites of my eyes is something that’s going to be very useful to us in the 21st Century as we grapple with unprecedented rates of social, economic and technological change. Talking at this scale is a skill that I think we all need to learn again and practice regularly.

Read his stories. They are lovely.

Reminds me also of the invigorating Brain Rules, especially Rule 4: We Don’t Pay Attention to Boring Things. Story telling with the social web helps us format information as human, relevant stories.

Telling stories

In the middle of explaining some social media stuff recently, I was pulled up short and given a useful dressing down.

“You’re using too many words,” they said, or something to that effect. “What you mean is that just like people had to learn how to use Powerpoint ten years ago, if they wanted to be able to get their point across, they have to learn about these tools.”

Um. Yeah. Exactly.

Nice simple way of explaining the imperative for people to learn, to become literate in this medium.

Social web literacy, just like any other literacy before it, is partly just about the technical skills. They are very, very important these technical skills, if you are to realise the amazing potential of the web to help you get things done.

But underpinning them all, more so than during the channel media age, during the industrial communications era, is the ability to tell stories well.

Social media, as I will never tire of saying, is a useful phrase because of, er, the social bit. The rules are social, human and innate. Often as not, we’ve unlearned our skills in story-telling have been undone by corporate organisational life in the previously modern world. In that world, the story was driven to ground, meaning flushed out by jargon, shibboleths and weird communications.

Lloyd Davies gave me a nudge about this this morning when I read the text of a talk he gave at the ICA (a story wrapped ina  story, now I think of it):

And it comes down to telling stories with purpose, telling stories to make sense and learn about yourself and the world. No doubt that’s also how I stumbled into being invited to speak to you tonight. Because I believe that telling stories (and engaging in conversation about them) at this human scale, where you can see the whites of my eyes is something that’s going to be very useful to us in the 21st Century as we grapple with unprecedented rates of social, economic and technological change. Talking at this scale is a skill that I think we all need to learn again and practice regularly.

Read his stories. They are lovely.

Reminds me also of the invigorating Brain Rules, especially Rule 4: We Don’t Pay Attention to Boring Things. Story telling with the social web helps us format information as human, relevant stories.