Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emergence of a New Genre

“[…] What is Web 2.0 storytelling? As the phrase suggests, it is the telling of stories using Web 2.0 tools, technologies, and strategies. Since the name is fairly recent (and not yet widely used), it may not bear out as the best term for this trend. Another name may emerge, one better suited to describing this narrative domain. However, the term seems to have met with quiet acknowledgment to date, so it may serve as a useful one going forward. To further define the term, we should begin by explaining what we mean by its first part: Web 2.0. Tim O’Reilly coined Web 2.0 in 2004,1 but the label remains difficult to acceptably define. For our present discussion, we will identify two essential features that are useful in distinguishing Web 2.0 projects and platforms from the rest of the web: microcontent and social media.

The first feature, microcontent, suggests that authors create small chunks of content, with each chunk conveying a primary idea or concept.3 These pieces are smaller than websites in terms of information architecture and are meant to be reused in multiple ways and places. They are also often much smaller than websites in terms of the amount of storage that each chunk takes up: blog posts, wiki edits, YouTube comments, and Picasa images are usually only a few thousand bytes. Some types of microcontent, ironically, can be quite large from a storage perspective but are self-contained—namely, audio (podcasts), video (for web platforms, such as YouTube), or embeddable Flash applets. Their uploading to the web is a simple matter for the user and does not require anything in the way of web design expertise. Even creating a website through Web 2.0 tools is a radically different matter compared with the days of HTML hand-coding and of moving files with FTP clients. Creating Web 2.0 content requires only making a few selections from menus, choosing from a variety of well-designed templates, or adding a page name to another, already-established wiki page. One outcome of this authoring approach is a drastically lower bar for participation and publishing. Although some faculty members might hesitate to learn a website editor such as Dreamweaver, an arcane method of FTP, and local campus web directory structures, they can now begin telling the world about Mideast politics or biological processes after spending only five minutes learning how to use Blogger or Wikispaces. The technology thus becomes more transparent; attention is focused on the content. As a result, the amount of rich web media and content has grown in quantity and diversity. And any student of history would not be surprised to observe that out of those manifold ways of writing and showing have emerged new practices for telling stories.

A second essential component to Web 2.0 is what we used to refer to as “social software.” Read More.

By Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine

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