The words 'textus' and 'contextus' in Latin were associated with weaving, plaiting, interlacing, wrought together, interwoven ...
Weaving was a complex process that was often the work of women as part of their domestic duties. The most famous weaver in Western classical culture was Odysseus's wife Penelope. To fend off unwanted suitors during her husband's absence, she tells them that she will marry only when she has finished weaving a funeral shroud for her husband's father Laertes.
But each night she undoes part of her completed work in order to delay being forced to accept one of the suitors. Her 'cunning' (metis) is a form of knowledge, a kind of artifice, and therefore demonstrates the relationship between the craft of the storyteller and the weaving of the narrative cloth. She is similar to and different from the character role of Helen, who also weaves; but in this case the heroic deeds depicted are a representation of her story.
The complex weaving process began to be automated during the nineteenth century and it was from that technology that the first punch card 'program' was developed. Punch cards were used in early computing, and I still recall using them at my high school in Leeds UK in 1982.
So gender, weaving, and computing are actually intertwined. Moreover, the multiple timelines in our digital editing software also allow us to weave together multiple strands.
Today, digital storytelling is being explored as the most meaningful and memorable way of organizing knowledge (curating), as well as a means to motivate and inspire others in business and in education. Storytelling builds on trust and may involve a 'storylistening trance' if it is successful in gaining the reader or listener's full attention. Effective storytelling requires sustained immersion. Listeners sometimes report being in a timeless state when they are wrapt by the story.
Digital storytelling weaves together sequences of digital images, layers of music or sounds, and /or voiced commentaries. It is these multiple elements working together that making digital storytelling such a powerful means of communicating a multi-media message. Easy-to-use software means that complex and intricate or detailed narratives can be composed deploying material gather from a variety of people or sources.
At its most powerful effective storytelling depends on familiarity and novelty, on enchantment and surprise. Elements of good storytelling can be learned as a set of craft skills, but great storytelling is quite rare, and is quite difficult to define or explain.
Both in terms of the variety of source materials and the multiple authorship roles that can be accommodated, digital storytelling presents opportunities for collective and collaborative community activity. There is also the risk, with intricate materials and infinite subtlety passing through too many hands that the core message(s) is lost.
If your aim is advertising or advocacy, or promotional fund-raising then you will want to have one clear message that has a lasting impact. Remember that Penelope devised a simple story that was quite effective in its own right. Her husband also, as we later learn, was the brilliant narrator of own his own fantastic and marvellous adventures. Both genders participate in the weaving of narrative.
But Penelope's weaving is part of a larger weaving on an epic scale. So enjoy complexity, take your time and weave a delightful, multi-stranded, marvellous canvas. Tapestries (see Bayeux) recorded history and served as a collective memory in much the same way as the oral epic poem which served as the memory and memorial of a culture's history, its customs and traditions.
We now know that the great foundational classics of the Western tradition - Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey were in fact the amalgamation of a range of storytelling. In ancient times, 'Literature' was more collective and collaborative than the romantic notion of the solitary genius.
With modern technologies digital storytelling opens up opportunities for collaboration, parody, transmedia transformations, mashing and mixing. Mind weaving is the warp and weft of digital storytelling.
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Dr Ian McCormick is the author of
The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences (Quibble Academic, 2013)
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of Secret Sexualities: A Sourcebook (London and New York: Routledge) and Sexual Outcasts 1750-1850 (Four Volumes. Subcultures and Subversions. Routledge). He has recently contributed a chapter on gothic sexuality published in Sex and Death in the Eighteenth Century, edited by Jolene Zigarovich (Routledge, 2013). A new book on Shakespearean Tragedy will be published in 2013.
© Dr Ian McCormick. But please do contact me if you want to use this article as a guest post on your blog.With attribution offered I seldom refuse!
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