Storytelling in Second Life

Maybe it was the topic of digital storytelling. Perhaps there was an allure of the mystery behind “Who is Gudand Hao?”. Whatever the draw, on February 05, 2007, a crowd of more than 65 avatars showed up for NMC Campus Teachers Buzz Session on storytelling.

Digital storytelling is the voicing of a personal story using any electronic medium, such as video, stills, e-mail, blog, etc. As mentioned on the Center for Digital Storytelling Web site, we all have stories about the events, people, and places in our lives. In a group process, the sharing of these stories connects people in special ways.

The Center for Digital Storytelling, based in Berkeley, California, encourages people to explore and tell their stories on personal films, lasting 2-3 minutes.

The use of storytelling within Second Life was a central theme in the presentation. Media exchanges or sharing already-created stories might be effective. A group could gather to create and perform stories.

“My main interest is if you could hold story circles here,” Hao wondered. “Could you get people to reflect on a considered narrative and find a way to get intimate about the story?”

When storytelling workshops are conducted in first life, individuals learn to peel back layers of meaning. People receive instruction on how to read body language to give a story greater depth. “The body language that normally comes from this kind of thing would be spontaneous, with movement and expression not purposefully initiated. That would be a real challenge in a world where your animations are deliberate,” Nethermind Bliss commented. CDB Barkley added, “There is telling stories IN Second Life vs. telling stories WITH Second Life. In RL we are often unaware of our animations.”

Hao pointed out that “…the human factor in storytelling is about listening. Like right now I can’t see any of your eyes… If I were performing, I would know which of you are falling asleep and which of you are with me and I would adjust the story.”

Residents discussed using voice within SL to tell a story. “I have seen some third-party camera demos in SL where the camera-person takes video of themselves… and has a talking animation… close up. It is very effective and would work well in a story,” commented HVX Silverstar.

“I think the ideas of good storytelling, that is the ability to create empathy and emotional connection, is still a holy grail for interactive storytelling,” Hao said.

It was the consensus that, if storytelling were discussed again, an initial discussion would then be followed by small group chat. Many felt that the group physically needed to sit in a circle to encourage the process.

Hao ended the session by sharing the story of a colleague whose wife has cancer.

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