Monday, April 23, 2007

Storytelling: Nostradamus has the seven-year itch

Visual Blogging - Storytelling and interactivity: your future vision.
You have 500 word and unlimited images. On your blog page, write your vision for the future of media. 100 years is too far away. What will we be interacting with in 7 years? Keep your focus on interaction and storytelling.



Shedroff's 100 Years piece published in 1995 is a fascinating look 12 years back at the art and science of prognostication. 1995 was the year I got on the Internet (although I had been an AOL/Prodigy/Compuserve user since 1990).

Nathan speculated that in 100 years:

"Windows® will not exist (Bob® should be gone in less than 5)"


Ah yes, Microsoft Bob, born March 1995, the first major attempt to "humanize" the personal computer computing experience, a social interface that never caught on, the leading edge of Web 0.5.

Bob lasted just one year. RIP Bob. The future of media is people telling their own stories, in a format that will vary greatly based on the type of story. Computing in 1995 when Shertoff wrote his piece involved people interacting with their computers. Microsoft Bob might have been a good application for that, but computer users by and large are interested in interacting with other PEOPLE, not with the computer. Interacting with the computer is a means, not an end. Bob failed. But interpersonal interaction has developed exponentially.


The future of the media in 2014 will involve people telling stories. This will largely be amplifications of two developing trends, wikis and blogs. The wikis and blogs will be used both by journalists and the public, often interchangeably. The democraticization of technology will make the technical details of maintaining, designing, and publishing a blog (or adding comments on a blog with design elements) transparent to the user. There will no longer be a need to learn how to alter CSS for simple design elements as programming will automate this. The old media method of centralized mediation for storytelling will give way to the new media method of distributed mediation.

Posted by Picasa(image from Reichenstein, 10 Newspaper Myths Deconstructed)

Wikis are computer applications that allow visitors to add, remove, edit and change content. The community can tell stories about individuals and events. After the Virginia Tech massacre, the New York Times noted that the wikipedia article on the massacre, which appeared instantaneously, was developed from the contributions of 2,074 editors, "... creating a polished, detailed article on the massacre, with more than 140 separate footnotes, as well as sidebars that profiled the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, and gave a time line of the attacks." This community storytelling has itself become an invaluable resource for the mass media. According to the New York Times: "As unfamiliar as it may seem, the contributors insist there isn’t even a shadowy figure who becomes the mastermind of the process." Wikipedia has catalogued under its history the thousands of edits to the Virginia Tech Massacre, a history of the story-telling process. (For some reason, users Mark Chilton., Jcbarr,, Ineffable3000, Jehb,, and Theguvnorgc decided to tell my story on Wikipedia.)

Since 1934, the News & Observer has carried its political column "Under the Dome" on a daily basis. This week, in an expanded version of the print column, (which will continue to run) Dome is now a blog. The political community has viewed this is as not just a useful attempt to expand the political news and take it to a wider office, but as a democratization of politics, which will enable others to tell their stories. Anglico, one of the main bloggers at BlueNC, welcomed Dome to the blogosphere, with his most telling comments: "I'm excited about this for lots of reasons, the most important being my favorite thing in the whole wide world: transparency. The blogosphere is one big happy fishbowl. We now have a direct line to a handful of people who play an important role in shaping the political agenda in North Carolina. And make no mistake, that's what they do. The stories they cover, the verbs they use, the angles they play, the things they leave out. It all adds up to agenda-setting, and I personally believe that's the name of the game .... With this new blog, the playing field gets leveled ... [i]n an open-source world ..." Anglico clearly envisions newspaper blogs that accept comments as a place for citizens to tell their stories, free of filtering.

Blogs will enable citizens to tell stories without filtering, whether in the comment function of a blog or in the writer's own blog, or as a guest post. Blog moderators can also promote comments to posts. For example, when the National Conference of State Legislatures' staff blog "Thicket at State Legislatures" posted on the effect of redistricting on voter turnout, I continued the story with my own comment inline. The moderator liked it so much he made it a guest post, noting "This originally appeared as a comment on Increasing Voter Turnout II. We thought it was important enough to publish it as a guest post." The comment became its own story, with the moderator promoting it from comments to the front page (until it vanished below the fold in a few weeks).

In seven years, we will be interacting with each other. Interacting with the computer, while important for techies, will continue to recede for most web users as it is a means and not an end. Storytelling will be the key to media in 2014.


(from Dilbert)


Andria said...

Good points.
The "new" interactivity of Web 2.0 has bothered me a bit recently. This computer thing started as a way for people to talk with each other and exchange ideas -- I remember Charlotte's Web in the early '90s, and the emotional charge and coolness was chatting real time with other people on a screen.
Somewhere along the line, the web got hijacked. Let's hope it really does continue to return to its roots.

Cindy said...

Good post, Gerry. I love your cartoon at the end!

Andria said...

Oh yeah, the toon. Wonderful timing. Printed it and left it on Ed Williams' desk.
Read recently at Howard Weaver's blog about a sports columnist who had someone else format the links for his blog.

Boris said...

Your posts made me wonder if there will be stronger methods of fact-checking information in blogs and wikis in the future.

serena fenton said...

Bob?!! Ever wonder what happened to Clippy, the annoying animated Paperclip help assistant. He is alive and well, though living in anonymity (as an undercover dancer named Boo Who) at

Boo Who?

An avid dancer and amateur contortionist, “Boo Who?” or “Boo” as his friends call him, graduated cum laude from Contoso University in 1994 with a degree in the performing arts. Driven by dreams of fame, upon graduation “Boo” did a short stint of dinner theater in Boca Raton, Florida where he participated in a showtunes revue. It was after a harrowing incident involving a fork that Boo followed his classmates, entering the Information Technology industry where he served as Chief Technology Officer for Fitch & Mather. It was during that time that he formed a rock band and moved to Seattle, only to miss the grunge movement by two days. Disheartened, Boo returned once again to the familiar IT industry working for a short while for a Redmond, WA based software company, where he continued to work until being retired in 2001.

Since then, Boo has been hanging out on the LA mime circuit, practicing his dancing, acting, and singing in the hopes of becoming a “triple threat” on a future reality-based talent show. In his spare time, Boo picks up extra money as a part-time model for children's Halloween costumes."