Storytelling X Technology For a Better Future

How storytelling and technology have the power, potential and promise to shape a better future for us all.

Stop for a moment and imagine the new technologies being developed that have the potential to change our world, but are waiting for their stories to be told. And, imagine how many more stories promise to be told, if only for those new technologies and their world-changing capabilities. As a digital film-making agency committed to creating a better narrative for the world; the power, potential and promise of technology and storytelling is something we think a lot about. Heading into the last few months of this decade (yes, decade!), let’s take a moment to consider some of the ways that storytelling and technology are already coming together to shape a better future for us all, and how we can take it to the next level. 

  • Democratise storytelling – make tech more affordable and accessible

Stories have always shaped our world. However, what were once stories to a dozen people around a campfire are now distributed around the world to thousands, if not millions, using little more than a smartphone and an internet connection. As recently as the Global Climate Strike, we can see how digital technologies, like smartphones, are helping us tell stories in ways our ancestors could hardly fathom. The key to unlocking the potential of storytelling is for that technology to be affordable and accessible. We call this the ‘democratisation of storytelling’. 

In the digital age, technology and access to mass media platforms limited whose stories were able to be told to a wider audience. Technology has shifted not just the way we tell stories, but also who tells those stories. Greater access to technology has made us all storytellers. While widespread democratisation of storytelling has not yet been realised, increasingly accessible and affordable technologies, as well as mainstream distribution platforms like Facebook and YouTube, have enabled a plurality of voices and stories being told. 

We’ve seen storytellers emerge from rangers in the Central Desert to high school students in Western Sydney, all using new technologies to share their stories and reach audiences otherwise unthought of. A great example is a series of recent workshops hosted by Uniting Ability Links, where we had the opportunity to guide participants with lived experiences of disability and their ‘linkers’ to create their stories. Meet Christie, who produced this powerful piece, communicating her and her family’s experience of autism.

The more affordable and accessible new technologies are, the more voices we will hear and the more we can unlock the inner storyteller in all of us to power social change movements forward.

  • Use new technologies to harness more diverse narratives 

Emergent technologies have disrupted the linear, time-bound storytelling conventions of Hollywood and mainstream media and made it more possible for us to experience and tell stories in more immersive and experiential ways. Rather than acting as voyeurs of a distant ‘other’, or giving the director or editor power over the way a story is told and framed, new technologies are enabling audiences to contribute to and co-create narratives. 

We are starting to see the distribution of power in story creation tipped on its head. An impressive example is the work of Mikaela Jade and Indigital, an organisation that works with traditional custodians to tell stories and teachings of place, culture and art through the creative use of augmented reality, mixed media, and new technologies like 4D mapping and drones. The way that Indigital uses technology is bringing ancient modes of storytelling into the future and changing the landscape of storytelling. 

As Jeff Gomez highlights in his piece the Hero’s Journey, what these new technologies are doing is shifting the way stories are told, from venerating an individual hero or giving power to the person behind the camera, towards a more collective and inclusive narrative. By challenging traditional modes of storytelling, and opening up more inclusive, nonlinear, networked, omni-perspective ways of sharing information – new technologies are unlocking the power and potential of storytelling. 

  • Use storytelling to promote tech for good

We all know that stories create empathy and connect us with other humans – that’s what makes them so powerful. While, in many ways, technology itself is neutral – our ability to engage and connect people to the possibilities and stories behind these new technologies can help determine if they are used for the betterment of people and planet, or something more sinister. 

The more we use stories to engage people in new technologies, the more we help users imagine how they can be used to create a more equitable, just and peaceful world for all. Essentially, stories help us create ‘tech with heart’.   

Hear more about building ‘Tech with Heart’ from the Edmund Hillary Fellows, in this video created by us!

  • Narratives help us navigate uncertainties of new technologies

The hypothetical future point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilisation is known as singularity. It’s a big word that gives way to even bigger possibilities. 

For some – the speed at which new technologies are being developed and adopted has created welcome shifts in lifestyles, economies, and the way we communicate with each other. For others – new technologies have introduced uncertainties, risks, vulnerabilities and even a crisis of identity for those who find themselves or their industries struggling to adapt quickly enough to the changes ushered in by new technologies. 

Storytelling, therefore, becomes a crucial part of helping us navigate an uncertain future because it supports us to envisage what the future could look like and how to get there, as a collective. In the process of formulating a narrative, story helps guide us to identify and articulate our values, ideas and vision. Story helps invite others on the journey with us and, together, enables us to better navigate uncertainty. Stories, and specifically the positive ones we want to tell at Digital Storytellers, have the potential to diminish our fears and give us greater confidence, clarity and conviction in fighting for the world we want to live in.

It is in these ways that the stories we tell, and the technologies we use, can create a positive narrative for the world. May we continue to bring them together to shape a better future for us all into the next decade and beyond.

Do you have a world-changing idea or new technology that you want to bring to life through story? Come along to our workshop at the SingularityU Summit in Sydney on October 22, 2019 and learn how to better articulate your vision for the future →