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Thoughts turn to angels all around us

I don’t actually know what Story will become as digital technology shapes our literary future. I don’t have a clue. I’m not a geek. I still remember the day a friend told me and a few other girlfriends, all of us freelance journalists in the Wild West of Peru in the early 90s (drug wars and terrorism, a tragic time but we felt so very much alive) that something called the World Wide Web was going to change the way the world accessed information.

We laughed and poured her some more wine.

At that point some of us were already filing our stories via modem. Dial-up, of course. But I strung for the august Times of London and the only way to file for them in 1990 was by dictating the story. I’d get up at, like, four a.m., dial London, get put on hold (wonderful Baroque stuff, no muzak for the dean of  British publishing.) Finally, some sweet-voiced girl would come on, so Brit you could practically hear the peaches and cream, and I would dictate my story while she typed.

That’s how I cut my teeth in writing, as a journalist reading my stories aloud over a crackly Third World phone line. So most of what I think about the future of Story is probably bullshit. Therefore, I reserve the right to change my mind and contradict myself as often as I want. I’m making it up as I go along.

According to a guy I saw at an educational conference, today’s “screenagers” speak “DSL” (Digital Second Language.) These kids like quick changes, visual learning, and interaction. (Which sometimes makes us teachers very, very crazy. But like moths during the Industrial Revolution, we must change our colors in order to survive.)

Another guy at the same conference said compared print literacy with digital literacy. Books, he said, provide a linear view of the world and allow “users” to access reality in a temporal fashion. Digital literacy, on the other hand, provides a networked view of the world and allows users to access reality in a spatial fashion.

Sure, this is eduspeak, but it got me thinking. If digital literacy develops a more spatial, networked way of learning and thinking, digital natives may actually be better positioned to understand complex, non-linear narratives than print natives are.

Proust, anyone?


  1. Sharon Stevenson says:

    Ah, Corinne, those were the good ol’ days and I think it was I who, giddy with recent net explorations, said that some day you would not read your newspapers on the black and white stuff, but on the computer. I remember WaPo journalist Bill Long snorting at that idea when he, author Adriana von Hagen and I had a rare sushi lunch with him. Uh, those were good ol’ pre iPhone/iPad days.

    Why tech writer sorts insist on the term “disruptive” for simple “innovative” new tech creations, I don’t understand. But the latest “disruptor” one really way beyond eNewspapers has been the MOOC phenomena in education, which still has a ways to play out. I envision it yet as an infant, not yet using all the tools available to engage, stimulate and improve on the now emerging mentor, guide, enlightener role of the traditional “teacher.” How many times can a teacher address any one student with, Hey, are you tired right now? Ok, take a 10 minutes nap. Are you feeling antsy? Ok, get up and touch your toes 10 times. And lots of other questions as yet unasked in either traditional OR online course environments.

    But as a reader, I’m convinced that nothing will ever waylay Story, its delight, alternative world-involving essence, and clarity in development. I mention the latter because (and y’all know this much better than I!) there are forays into involving the reader in sculpting the story, I think not.

    That said, however, two avenues that may be ‘innovative’ or even just ‘useful,’ if not disruptive:

    One. I can see the expansion of the writer/creator role adding a different experience, particularly as a complimentary enhancement to the novel for those who may have already read it for its pristine story experience. Now here, we’re talking about hardcore eReaders.

    Why should the builder of the story, the author, not dip in every once in a while to more overtly shape a dilemma in the creative process of the story. I would enjoy seeing a TV-llke “stand-up,” a QuickTime video, with Corinne looking me in the (camera’s) eye and explaining that at this point, for example, she had a real struggle with defining the main character’s next plausible step; or saying here she wanted to introduce a new character that would unite this or that element, or perhaps provide a platform for an unusual turn of plot, but did or didn’t, etc. etc.

    It seems that also this might be a fine way for a reader to become closer to the author, get to know her and what goes into a not so simple rendering of a “story.”

    She could actually craft these while writing the story, while they are freshly experienced. It would involve the reader IN the story at a completely different level. In fact, i can see that this reflection could actually highlight aspects of the Story that most readers would never ever imagine or think about. And remember, this would be after a “real” read-through of the story. It’s at least worth considering, I think.

    Two. As a reader, i think I would greatly enjoy and get involved with a story that had a limited number of “backgrounds” or “prior lives” episodes available to elucidate the narrative.

    Perhaps these would be past episodes in a character’s life that shaped action that just occurred…or that foresee that which is to come. Are there not episodes that get cast away by a publisher’s editor? Or a friendly critic’s impatience to get on with the story that might find their creative worth here as frosting on the cake of the straight narrative, i.e., not nutritive to the story’s substance, but tasty nonetheless?

    Would these not be valuable to a reader (and author!)—obviously if done well—for understanding of motivation, sheer color, or possibility. If done with very small icons, they could easily be ignored by those who just wanted to “read the story.”

    Ok. Just a couple of ideas… nada más. Corinne, keep up the octopused rol model you’re thriving in! ¡Fuerza!

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