The importance of storytelling in the digital age
Tereza Jarnikova discusses four solid examples of storytelling projects made possible by technology.WE TELL OURSELVES stories in order to live. This sentence has been echoing in my head for the past several weeks, all on its own and contextless. Sometimes I hear it in line at the grocery store, sometimes it floats around before I go to bed; on Saturday it showed up unannounced during the final kilometers of a bike race. I was warring with my own mounting exhaustion and my mind was in the state of unthinking focus that characterizes those final kilometers when suddenly, between pedalstrokes, there it was: We tell ourselves stories in order to live. It is not my sentence. It is the first sentence of Joan Didion’s essay The White Album, so it’s an old sentence — Didion published The White Album in 1979, meaning it’s been around a while. This of course does not make it any less true or less striking for me, reading it as I was in my cold Montreal apartment in the rapidly waning fall of 2012. We can, if we so choose, think of the world in terms of the stories we’ve told or the stories we’ve heard or the stories that others have told that we haven’t heard or the stories that there are to tell. For me, it makes some sort of innate sense to try to do so, although I’ve not yet been able to pinpoint, to articulate, to lay out for myself on graph paper, exactly what this sense might be. No matter, though, because even without an overarching end-goal, stories justify themselves. To hear someone’s story is to hear another perspective, to form a connection to another person, and to remind yourself that you are neither all-important nor alone. Other people’s narratives have the power to entertain us, to give us comfort, and to make us more conscious and empathetic people. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why stories have always been told and will always be told across all cultures. Wherever people go, stories go with them. As it turns out, we live in a good time for storytelling. Unsurprisingly, raconteurs have taken to digital media and HTML, and the everevolving nature of the internet means ever-evolving opportunity to tell their stories. Personally, I am scared of the internet — it’s a vast and daunting place, and I am wary of getting drawn into cat videos and inane conversations and dubiously legal purchasing opportunities. However, it’s a comfort to know that among the endless links and tweets and peripheral connections lie some narrative projects that have the power to fascinate, to move, and to be remembered. It is precisely these projects that make Joan Didion’s assertion more relevant than ever in the digital age. Here are four of them.