The Importance of Interactivity

I thought it seemed rather obvious that digital storytelling adds something to storytelling, but I struggled in finding the words to describe how those additions came to be.   I think my first issue in figuring out this question was differentiating digital storytelling from regular storytelling.   At first, I thought it was obvious. If I was reading a book or a magazine, I was experiencing regular storytelling, while if I was reading something that incorporated a screen it was digital storytelling.   But then I ran into some problems with that definition.   What happens if I have a hard copy version of a book and a digital copy of the same book.   Is one a form of digital storytelling and the other a version of regular, despite giving the same information?   What of an audiobook version?   I began to realize that I needed to find the difference between these two forms of storytelling in order to answer the question of how digital storytelling enables new aspects of storytelling.

My first way of differentiating the two was a failure.   Just the inclusion of an electronic screen did not make a story a form of digital storytelling.   My next thought was that perhaps it was the ability to include sound or video into a story.   When writing a book an author can’t embed a video into the pages or include a GIF that relates to the story in either a humorous or meaningful way.   This ability to include other forms of media into the work can pull the audience into the story in ways unavailable to just print.   But as I thought of some of the examples from the past few weeks, I realized this definition couldn’t work either.   At times our Twitter digital story didn’t include any other form of media, just text on a screen, and I have been assigned textbooks that come bundled with videos, yet I hesitate to call those a work of digital storytelling.

I finally came to my conclusion when I least expected it.   I was watching a YouTube video of two guys playing a video game together (because I am a huge nerd).   This channel is dedicated to playing video games, and the two guys that play the games have a certain style and type of comedy they use in every video.   This game they were playing didn’t mesh well with their normal comedy, but it was a game that had been requested by the fans.   At the end of the video the YouTuber said something along the lines of, “We aren’t too sure if we’re going to continue playing this game, but if you guys really want us to just leave a comment below.’   This is what made me realize the distinction, and how digital storytelling can create a new type of storytelling.   It is the real time interaction between the creator and the audience, as well as the ease of interaction among the audience, that gives digital storytelling it’s unique attributes.   There is no interaction between the author of a novel and the audience during the act of reading a book.   The audience can not influence what the next step of the storytelling process or interact with the author during the act of creation.   There is a sense of intimacy between the author and the audience that can’t be found in other forms of storytelling.   And with that, I would like to try an experiment: