The correct use of storytelling

These days, it’s possible for a message to take precedence over content. As we’ve often said, we’re already beyond McLuhan and you better take note. Let’s take, for example, storytelling, a term that’s now inflated and erroneously connected to the so-called fiction economy. A professional, social and relational scenario that, when dealing with messages, articles, videos, links and anything else daily, refers tirelessly to the language of a certain type of financial product: films, video games, storytelling in its many forms. The storification (mind you, and not historicisation) of each event taken from reality and reduced to digestible narrative and digested by the various media in circulation, however, may not always work.

The process of creating stories brings with it a series of misunderstandings which are often difficult to detect.

Recently, on Facebook, one of my connections posted an article in which he glorified a site that induced people on to the road of collaborating. The perspective was to socialise the relationships between neighbours and engage them physically in a project of neighbourhood activism. The end result, however, was to have created yet another story to champion drastically commented on by others (among whom, I won’t hide it, was me) with sound: it’s something already seen and experienced; just go online and there are millions of projects like this.

As such, it can be said that a project on the web which has sole intent of making people communicate, is actually received and evaluated solely on its content in that dimension, and does not die on the basis of the originality and effectiveness of its information. Storytelling no longer has any link with physical reality and concrete situations, but is likely to become an expressive means in itself, the sublimation of the facts of life in a purely virtual format that favours the horizontal to the vertical, immediacy to deepening.

In this sense, although I can make amends for my superficiality (I shouldn’t judge an idea based entirely on reading one article), I’d like to point out some of the weaknesses of content production on the web.

A) it uses linguistic catchphrases that, whilst entering easily into common parlance, reveal a certain inconsistency of content. The content is never fleshed out in the sense of its openness to many possible interpretations. The phenomenon remains anchored to its linguistic denotation that, in theory, should underpin a range of meanings which, however, are beyond most people;

B) the trends of inflation (made easier and more effective by the web’s large virality capacity), as in the case or the recent startupism, tends to trivialise complex phenomena and reduce them to formulas, with the sole result of making something dry that, in its next steps, could be interesting instead (suffice it to say to someone in love with the start-up phenomenon that after the start phase comes the development phase). Again here, the actual result is that there are more containers and slogans than actual sustainable phenomena. Many festivals and posters. Little fleshing;

C) the incredible speed of content production and the voracious immediacy of consumption tend by their nature towards uniformity and, thus, prefer techniques oriented towards hyperbole and sensationalism. In that way, the content may be poor, but treated technically (from a communication point of view) more aggressively, originally and widely than others which, instead, rely simply on the authority of their arguments;

the ease of production of content on the web, with the advent of applications and platforms that aggregate, often select, elaborate and publish the content on the net, has turned the web into a huge hypermarket whose memory never dies and which feeds a continuous hyper-citation and repetition of content that’s already produced and circulating (on Facebook you share, on Twitter you retweet, on other sites you share…”. In this way, the fictional model that does not provide a before and after to its narrative prevails. Publishers, for example, can get their hands on a large cauldron of articles, identify the key element of the strategy of an editorial line and affiliate the public only on the basis of its own curatorial skills and originality.

But if this is the scenario, what’s the solution?

Let’s start by saying that a solution does not exist, since we are not facing a problem, but an epochal revolution that has the explosion of information and new ways of producing and sharing content at its core. If we think that, thanks to this revolution, today we have the phenomena of crowdsourcing, citizen journalism, citizen science, open government and peer to peer. If we think that, thanks to this mutation, today we have phenomena like Wikipedia, it soon becomes clear that we are facing a world of possibilities. Only, it would be wise not to fall in love with trends and to ensure the trend remains only in idle talk to make way for the phenomenon itself, with its complexity, its possible interpretations, its critical issues and opportunities. After the word you enter the content. The real content, however.