Storytelling and Society

Storytelling is the practice of sharing stories in order to educate, entertain and, most importantly, relate and connect to one another. Nick Morgan (2015), communication theorist and speaker on storytelling, explains that we humans are social beings. When we engage in storytelling and listening, we can understand one another on a neurological level (Morgan, 2015). Morgan (2015) describes this connection as human communion.

I agree with Morgan. Storytelling has undergone countless changes over the past century; however, I believe that one quality has remained unchanged: storytelling, at its core, serves as a means for humans to share their human experience with one another.

Storytelling began with community storytellers sharing legends and stories, passing them on for younger generations. George Gerbner posed that storytelling drastically changed with the industrial revolution and, later, with the electronic revolution. I pose that storytelling changed again with the digital revolution.

I believe that throughout time, storytelling has come full circle in a way. At its primitive beginnings, storytelling was concentrated on the individual storyteller who spoke to their immediate audience which had the ability to provide feedback and pose questions. These early storytellers made attempts to explain and understand the world. As storytelling progressed, the storyteller eventually became media conglomerates telling stories to an almost unresponsive audience. The listeners sat in front of radios and television sets. To express feedback, they had few options, one of which was to send a letter. Today, storytelling is again about the individual. The individual has the power to tell their own story however, wherever and whenever they please to their immediate audience via social media, blogs, etc. Henry Jenkins refers to this audience as the “new audience”: one that demands meaningful involvement. Jenkins also describes today’s culture as a participatory culture, which decides the landscape of media. The idea of a participatory culture is not new. In the time of primitive storytelling, stories were shaped by culture’s participants, just as the media landscape is shaped by citizens and participants today: another example of how storytelling has come full circle.

Today, storytelling is characterized by rapid connection and accessibility in addition to abbreviated and concise language. With the development and adoption of social media, storytelling is possible from anywhere at any time, as long as it fits into the parameters of each platform (i.e. Twitter’s limit of 140 characters). Storytellers are able to publish their stories and listeners are able to reach them instantaneously. Additionally, storytellers have the ability to create their own messages and disseminate them as they please to a potentially large audience. This audience can respond, comment, or share the story along with their own opinion to their own audience, a practice Jenkins refers to as spread. Modern storytellers have incredible potential and opportunity to tell their stories.

Technology will continue to evolve and further infiltrate our lives. Now, more than ever, I believe that my role as a modern storyteller is about keeping the world human, putting human thought out into an environment which is becoming increasingly automated, electronic or robotic.

Nick Morgan’s article may be found here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2015/09/01/we-humans-are-social-beings-and-why-that-matters-for-speakers-and-leaders/#673f02406abd

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One thought on “Storytelling and Society

  1. I really liked your thought processes as you broke down how storytelling has come full circle, in that it began, and has now been dropped back into the hands of the individual. I think it makes complete sense and offers a lot of possibilities for what is next to come as technology improves, especially at such a rapid pace.

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