A Very Brief History Of Story And Technology

And this really will be brief as I concentrate mainly on the BIG moments created by the impact of new technologies on storytelling.

Storytelling has evolved along with the new technologies mankind invents but the main thing to remember is that storytelling is an intrinsic part of the human condition – we need to tell and listen to stories.

BIG Moments

Since language there has been oral storytelling; it predates writing and is still going strong in the form of family stories, life stories, personal anecdotes, social stories, etc.

15,000 BC – Pigments were used in the cave paintings at Lascaux in France and depicted a basic hunting narrative.

105 AD – The invention of paper in China. Every story ever written down started with a blank sheet of paper.

1440 AD – The invention of the Gutenberg Press revolutionized book production and the spread of knowledge and learning through texts. By 1499 an estimated 15 million books had been printed by presses across European cities. This printing standard remained pretty much the same until the 20th century. From that first printing press came the technology to turn written words into profit and the publishing business model was born. An unimaginable number of books, novels, plays, song sheets, pamphlets, newspapers, comics and other story ephemera all came from this one technology. Its impact on the spread of knowledge and learning is also unquantifiable – it changed human history.

1891 – Thomas Edison patented the first motion picture film camera in the USA; the Kinetographic Camera. This single invention led to the birth of movie-making as a new 20th century art form which in turn led to the cinema, the picture house, the studio system, Hollywood and profits.

1926 – John Logie Baird demonstrated televised moving images. The invention of television led to soap stories, various long and short forms of drama series, the teleplay, advertising revenue business models, brand sponsorship of drama series, and network giants like the BBC, NBC, ITV etc., who controlled and regulated story output.

1950-60s – The development of electronic computers.

1982 – The Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) was standardised.

1991 – Tim Berners-Lee announces the WorldWideWeb Project.

2000 0nwards – The continued growth of the video-games industry into mainstream markets, development of mobile technology in the shape of 2G, 3G and 4G mobile networks, fast broadband services, smart phones and tablets, replay and on demand TV services, online gaming, social networks etc, etc.

AD – After Digital

We are now living in the Digital Age which has a profound impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives and, of course, on storytelling. We have hypertext theory and narrative, video-games with more and more narrative to contextualise the gameplay, broadband distribution of story content which in turn has led to the end of the top down broadcast control model, mobile communications, the tablet, ebooks, interactive books, social networks and social TV. We now watch what we want, when we want, and growing numbers of us no longer watch traditional TV adverts.

Story content and storytelling will continue to change as it reflects new viewing habits shaped by the new technology; more fragmented stories will lead to more narrative innovation and the deployment of interaction to engage viewers in compelling new ways.

Viewer Power

The tablet, laptop and smart phone technology leads to more and more solitary viewing and the shift to viewer specific content rather than mass audience appeal is another new and growing area that is already having an impact on storytelling. The traditional audience of the cinema and living room era has fragmented into individual viewers who watch what they want wherever they are. These individual viewers are not totally alone as they form communities of story fans and supporters who are incredibly loyal.

It is up to the storytellers to create great stories to keep them on board.


Richard Davis
About the author

Richard - The owner of all stories, copy and text at Bellyfeel. Always been a writer, always will be.

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