Blog Post #5: Am I the Author?

During the reading for our course this week, we were presented with the opportunity to discuss digital storytelling and the methods, frameworks, and potential it possesses. Some of the key elements (as listed out by Bryan Alexander) involve serial structure, personal presence in character design, a social framework, multiple locations of distribution, and the affordances of the digital platform itself.

I think the elements most similar to the offline storytelling methodology are the structuring and character design of a digital story. I want to look at the serial structure Alexander describes and apply a little more pressure to the concept using the social framework element. I think this element, compared to the others, serves as an undercurrent to all of the other elements to make them unique to the digital landscape. 

The Most Popular Girls in School, aka one of the first digital series I encountered as a born digital person (If memory serves correctly, there is some unsavory language and problematic elements of this series that I absolutely do not claim, hence why I screenshot the video rather than provide a link to it)

According to Alexander, the structure of a digital story versus a more “traditional” story differs in how the narrative is presented. Due to the development of “posts” and “updates” to a site, a digital story is structured in a serial manner, where the narrative is carried out through multiple productions/parts of a story. While I think it can be argued that there are serial structures in analog methods of storytelling (thinking about newspaper advice columns, as an example), what distinguishes the digital landscape from the material is the interweaving of the story with the social. Alexander discusses how digital stories are created with a social framework in mind, and I think this element, on its own, makes a lot of the other digital storytelling elements unique to its platform.

When writing this blog, I wrote Dear Abby as a random newspaper advice columnist, but apparently there is a Dear Abby advice column for the New York Post. Just to put it out there, I do not claim that this Abby believes this imaginary reader will be getting a divorce nor do I claim she would give this style of advice.

Take the example of a newspaper advice column. Once the first part of the narrative (“Dear Abby, I think my husband is going to divorce me. What should I do?”) is written, the next part of the series is created in response (“Dear Reader, I think you’re right. Find a good attorney!”). However, that is where the narrative stops, until a new narrative series is picked up and the cycle repeats. On a digital platform, the series becomes complicated by a plethora of authors/readers. The platform itself is open and available for new narratives and sub-narratives to be created. This serial structure is markedly different from the serial structure in analog because of how the interaction between authors/readers is interwoven into the platform. All of the collaborative features that blogs and websites of Web 2.0 are designed with (email newsletter signup forms, comment sections, etc.) practically beg for the author/reader dichotomy to blur, and for new serializations of a narrative to be created. The serial story offline doesn’t have the same capacity to provide such collaboration and is bound to operate on a binary mode of communication/storytelling (They Say, I Say, or I Say, I Say Part 2).

Overall, while I spent the majority of this blog talking about the serial structure, what I mean to really highlight is the social framework of a digital narrative. I was super into discovering how the interactive, social platform of Web 2.0 creates a framework for new methods of storytelling to evolve. Not to sound corny, but it is honestly super inspiring seeing how traditional methods of storytelling can get new life and a re-framing using the Internet as a platform.

Screenshot of a Post from the AITA Reddit thread. Probably one of the more popular (albeit not entirely scholarly) digital story telling platforms I can think of are Reddit advice/venting threads. Someone presents a narrative, to which the audience can come to their own conclusions about and then create sub-narratives based on what the original poster has presented. Sometimes the original poster responds to these sub-narratives and adds context, creating a serial narrative web spanning multiple posts. To be clear, I am not saying this is an ideal method of collaborative storytelling. I am just presenting an example of a series of narratives being spawned from social interaction.

Check out the works I referenced in my blog!

Alexander, Bryan. The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central,

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One thought on “Blog Post #5: Am I the Author?

  1. I agree, one of the most inspiring things is to see traditional methods of story telling, like oral narratives, get a new life and can be shared more broadly than ever before. I also saw The Most popular girls back in the day, and your blog totally triggered that memory for me! Since I am also a “born digital” person, I have always grown up with both the option of traditional analog narrative and digital narratives, so I never thought about the shifts that occured in storytelling when digital options popped up. I think what you touched on, the collaborative abilities and the “breaking down of the dichotomy between author and reader is really the touchstone difference between traditional and digital storytelling.

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