Storytelling: Authenticity, Performance (of Self), and Digital Media

Ash Smith

CAT 125 Smith

“Those who tell the stories, rule the world.” -Plato and the Hopi Native American tribe

“Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” -Ira Glass

“Entrepreneurship is the most extreme use of story.” -Robert McKee

This course in public rhetoric and practical communication examines storytelling as a rhetorical strategy and gives students the opportunity to author their own relevant materials. We will examine how storytelling is used by start-up companies, Kickstarter projects, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, songwriters, filmmakers, and the general public on their mobile devices and social networking sites. We will think about the stories told by our performance of multiple selves and identities within social networks, on- and offline. We will look at a range of storytelling from those with corporate agendas to the more experimental, ethnographic, or activist projects and consider the audiences of each.

This course will analyze films, videos, images, image sharing sites, video games, start-up pitches, song lyrics, memes, advertisements, and social networking sites to think about the stories that are told and the stories they may fail to tell. The devices of oral storytelling, filmmaking, montage, and fiction writing will be used to think about how stories are told with various components of image, voice, text, body, and sound. Students will think about myth-making and play with fact, fiction, and speculation.

Students enrolled in this course will be asked to tell stories in various capacities. We will create personal narratives; engage in oral storytelling; design a fictional product, company, or service; and tell stories in the medium of your choice: video, photo series, song, and/or web project.

Questions for consideration:

What stories get told, which do not, and why? What does it mean to tell someone else's story or have someone else tell yours? Is “storytelling” the new corporate buzzword? Why might a CEO or politician hire a screenwriter to work for them? Fragmented between multiple online and offline personas, have “fact” and “fiction” merged to create a new kind of “authentic” self? Does online anonymity complicate the story? How has access to mobile devices created a culture of people who want to tell their own story all of the time? If one does not constantly document their life, how and will they exist in one hundred years? What is the downfall of too many stories told, in so many similar ways? Are there other rhetorical strategies? What is the future of storytelling?