Technology has changed way we tell stories, but has it changed the quality of storytelling? At this year's Aspen Ideas Festival, a group of writers, artists, and producers weighed in. "We're revisiting the same explorations of the soul that have been going on for hundreds of generations," says House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon. Other panelists include Michael Eisner, Catherine Burns, Jay Allison, Paula Kerger, Jon Lovett, Yoni Bloch, Pete McBride, and Hari Kondabolu.
Tony Zhou explores the effects of technology on cinematic storytelling:
Is there a better way of showing a text message in a film? How about the internet? Even though we’re well into the digital age, film is still ineffective at depicting the world we live in. Maybe the solution lies not in content, but in form.
What are the qualities that make a work “relatable,” and why have these qualities come to be so highly valued? To seek to see oneself in a work of art is nothing new, nor is it new to enjoy the sensation. Since Freud theorized the process of identification—as a means whereby an individual develops his or her personality through idealizing and imitating a parent or other figure—the concept has fruitfully been applied to the appreciation of the arts. Identification with a character is one of the pleasures of reading, or of watching movies, or of seeing plays, though if it is where one’s engagement with the work begins, it should not be where critical thought ends. The concept of identification implies that the reader or viewer is, to some degree at least, actively engaged with the work in question: she is thinking herself into the experience of the characters on the page or screen or stage.
But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.
Discover the extraordinary in just about everything ordinary. Join best-selling author Steven Johnson for a 6-part series that explores the power and the legacy of great ideas. Hear the stories behind the remarkable ideas that made modern life possible, the unsung heroes who brought them about and the unexpected and bizarre consequences each of these innovations triggered.
I am a big fan of Steven Johnson's writing. Pick one of his books and you'll be hooked. He has a fascinating way of translating technological stories to something everyone can understand and relate to. I'm looking forward to it. The series premieres in October on PBS and BBC and will have an accompanying book to go with it. Here is a taste of the first episode: