Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Storytelling through Social Media

Having taken the introductory course in media from St. Michael's College last year, I have since been constantly thinking about McLuhan's theory that our society right now is in the process of re-tribalization. I.e., same as the modern age was the age of individualism, the post modern will be the age self association with different groups and tribes.
I carried this idea with me to another class, this a study of Boccaccio's The Decameron from the 14th century (thus, the pre modern era). Since the book itself is all about story telling, I couldn't help but equate the circle of the 10 characters who spend 10 days telling each other stories as something quite similar to SNS -- our Facebook newsfeed is solely comprised of "stories" of our friends' activities; twitting links to the world is nothing short of telling a story either.
Thus, it seems to me that we are back in a culture which relies on story telling to make sense of the world around us. The web contains countless forums of discussionsm, and in a way, their sole purpose of existence is to create a particular narrative about a given subject which will allow us to experience it collectively. Examples of these are book discussion forums, for instance, or even the current debate about whether or not Chris Brown should have been allowed to perform at the Grammy's last Sunday.
Another example is something I saw on  the news last week about a car crash of 11 cars. One of the witnesses was making a statement about the fact that he was the only one that went out to the people that were on the brink of death to console them in their last minutes, whereas everyone else that was present at the scene were more interested in capturing the scene on their phones and cameras. He was complaining about the indignity that these by-standers incurred to the victims by making their deaths into a "spectacle". This brought me back to thinking once again that we have become a culture which needs to share "stories" with our networks (or tribes) in order to be able to experience it ourselves.
It could be that McLuhan's ideas of all-encompassing tribalization of society might have been too broad, but it seems to me that SNS, and the story-telling culture which they allow and perpetuate, are a very clear example of a post-modern culture which is more tribal in nature than the modern.

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