Amy's Whimsical Musings

To Be or Not to Bedazzled: What Comes First- the Story or the Tool?

While on my nightly scroll through Tumblr I chanced upon this:


I must say it got my  princess hormones all a flutter.

But then I started wondering…would it perform the same way? What if it was impossible to clean? Would people visit my kitchen just to see it? Would it, by some magic,  make better cookies?

We ask ourselves similar questions when exploring “Digital Storytelling” ( a handy phrase for the same old storytelling we’ve used for years prettified by various digital tools and platforms)…

…or are they?

I’m  a self-admitted digital tool junkie…my absolute favorite thing to do on the web is to seek out, find, share, and play with new means of creating. We say it’s “not about the tools”, but in my experience, it can be quite refreshing to start with the method, and then throw in the madness. I suppose it’s all the McLuhan I read.

So when we get around to doing a digital story project (or having our students create them), we have two choices:


1. Keeping it Classic means starting with a great story. Storytelling is a powerful thing, and has been with us since our earliest days. Familiarize yourself with archetypes and plot lines. Check out Pixar’s now famous “22 Rules of Storytelling“. Listen to Ira Glass give words of wisdom. Read Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human

2. Being Tech-tastic necessitates being a little meta –thinking about the means of communication of the story (and audience) prior to developing the storyline. Some platforms can actually drive the story, and that’s a fascinating experience. For example, I just tried a simple, cyclical love story based solely on hashtagged keywords and social media (using Storify and drawn from Flickr, Instagram, and Twitter). Web 2.0 storytelling is indeed a different animal: it can be collaborative, open-ended, re-mixable, hypertextual, recontextual, you-name-it. And, just like  choosing different Instagram effects creates seemingly distinct versions of the same image, totally unique stories can emerge from the same base, using different tools (see Alan Levine’s 50+ Ways to Tell a Story).

One of the most intriguing notions that has influenced me in the past few years is

Participatory Culture and Transmedia

It touches upon my interest in Remix Culture, Copyright Reform, and the Gutenberg Parenthesis theory , which suggests we are “moving forward to the past” as our technology ushers in a “Second Orality”.

In both my teaching and personal creative endeavors I tend to alternate between starting with the story and with the tool. If you haven’t tried the latter, take a chance. Data Visualization artists do this all the time. They find stories in the data, then communicate the data using a mashup of aesthetics and psychology so that we can “read” the story, too.


Whatever method you decide to use, what’s the point of storytelling without sharing? That is the overwhelming beauty of digital artifacts – they are completely, easily, and quickly disseminated into our “global village”, as McLuhan would say.


Please enjoy these resources:

My Diigo list (evergrowing) on Storytelling

My Diigo List on the Gutenberg Parenthesis

My Website on Storytelling

Special Storytelling Links from my website

4 comments on “To Be or Not to Bedazzled: What Comes First- the Story or the Tool?

  1. epurser
    February 6, 2013

    fantastic collections Amy – thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. celine keller (@krustelkram)
    February 6, 2013

    Thanks Amy you share some of my most beloved storytelling ressources and some more and great new tools I never heard of. Your post is a goldmine! I make movies/animations and yes the tool can very much inspire what you create. I think if you are creative and honest you know that everyhing is a remix and I am all excited about the possibilities of open collaboration. I will definitely subscribe to your diigo lists. 🙂

  3. Al SmithAl Smith
    February 6, 2013

    I think the new tools give a richness and sensory immediacy to our storytelling but the story ALWAYS comes first- or should. Your ‘princess’ gets in a flutter but I suspect if your soul was engaging 150 years ago you would have just as moved by new images such as daguerreotype sweeties – I think our passions are provoked by media and everything is in context of our world experiences, whether portraits, spoken word or text. With all the media at my finger tips I still love to just listen to a fine oral exchange on the radio. Then there is examples of our new transmedia in popular culture that can still surprise us with the power of the old storytelling: 1. listening to D.Lewis speak as Lincoln in the movie. I could just close my eyes and float listening to his Abe tell a story. 2. The Les Miserables song that penetrates our plight regardless of our times. 3. The colors and action of Life of Pi with all that sparkling spirituality . I’m always bedazzled by the ways we silly humans can raise the creative bar just when I’m about to toss us to the darkness for our foolishness and violence, and bring virtue and delight to our time. The power of technology has given us a huge array of tools from tiny gifmakers, or lipdub audio remixing to grand 3D IMAX films but all these tools need life- they need the foundation of a story.

  4. Pingback: Dare to Know and Compose Our Own Metaphors | MOOC Feeds from around the WorldMOOC Feeds from around the World

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