Storytelling 2.0

ideally, blogs should say something interesting. this isn’t generally a prerequisite, but it’s what i always wanted. i’ve never been too interested in turning my blog into a linkroll, since others do that much more effectively. the problem is that for me to blog the way i want to, it takes time (which i either don’t have, or want to spend elsewhere).

enter new ways to blog: microblogging (e.g., twitter), image blogging (flickr) and other lightweight blogging services (e.g., tumblr, posterous). there are other things that could be seen in this light (e.g., dopplr, YouTube), but i’ll only focus on the first two.

New ways to tell stories

blogs, microblogs, image blogs, presence blogs, video blogs – all of these things are tools for storytelling, but with different forms. a blog like this one is long-form (maybe too long-form), microblogs are (very) short form, and things like flickr are picture books, but with an amazing layer of other stuff attached. for the purposes of this entry, i’ll refer to all the stuff other than regular blogs as “second-generation blogs” (2G blogs or channels).

each of these 2G blog channels supports the core motivations for blogging (communication, many-to-many connection), but with a different kind of effort that’s easier to support more continuously. it’s also easier for others to engage with these channels, or to ignore them without worrying too much about missing something important.

microblogs like twitter are about as lightweight as it gets. anything and everything is fair game to include in these streams of personal information. any single message is, for the most part, meaningless and very easy to create and consume (or ignore). the aggregate of these messages gives one window into what people are doing with their lives. it’s not a rich connection, but it’s a connection, and face it: people only have so much time and energy for real rich connections.

flickr is interesting. people put a LOT of time and effort into flickr, and it’s an incredibly vibrant community. i was mistaken when i originally thought it’s just a photo-sharing site. it is that, but that’s secondary to it being a social network, with all of the associated drama, emotional energy, and fun. also, the nature of the effort to engage on flickr is different than with a narrative blog. the mental overhead is relatively small when it comes to taking a  picture and posting it with a small description or witty title. it’s not that it doesn’t require talent, or creative thinking, it’s just much different than the effort needed for narrative. this is also not to say that some people don’t put a lot of effort into creating narrative that goes with their pictures.

So what do we get out of all this?

like storytelling, the rewards are different depending on what is consumed. long-form blogs take more effort, which hopefully leads to richer rewards. microblogs require little to no effort, with lots of small rewards, all of which add up to a heightened sense of connection and community. and flickr? for me, flickr is more about emotional inspiration and fun, tied to connecting with people through the way they see the world, as opposed to the way they think about it. the rewards here are more complex than microblogging, but different from the long-form.

as much as all of these forms of storytelling are about connection, they are also very much about our ultimate vanity and self-interested virtue. people love to feel like they are important, like people are paying attention to what they think and say and do and see and feel, that others find them engaging, interesting, funny, sexy. in addition to communication and connection, blogging (in all the forms i’ve discussed) is about giving and getting attention, and all of these new channels make it easy to get and give: they’re free, they’re fun, and they’re easy to use.

And what the hell is my point, anyway?

i don’t think i’m saying anything new here. if i had the energy to dig, i’m sure i could find 100 blogger or social media pundits who’ve already made these points better than i can. if i had to distill it, though, i’m saying that i think the internet is enabling people to share and engage with new kinds of stories, each with their own social rewards.

i’m also just thinking out loud about why i engaged with those other channels to the exclusion of this blog. it probably just comes down to me being lazy, and being able to connect (and get more attention) in those other channels. i still relish the ability to come back here and tell longer stories; i just also wish i had the time and energy to do that more.

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