I spend a lot of time in internet marketing and social media circles. There are a number of buzzwords that get a lot of play in that world and the current most-used and least-understood buzzword is storytelling.
In social media and internet marketing circles, storytelling takes on a shape something like this.
Ugh. How do people get paid to come up with such meaningless nonsense? Seriously, what does any of that mean?
My understanding of storytelling comes from something other than a dull-as-dishwater seminar or committee meeting. For me the be-all and end-all example of great storytelling is this, Grimm's Fairy tales.
In 1812, brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their first edition of 86 German folk tales under the title Kinder- und Hausmärchen. That's translates literally into Children's and Household Tales. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm kept releasing new volumes of stories through 1857 when the story count consisted of 211 tales.
Then, as now, the Brothers Grimm and their stories were savaged by critics for being so inappropriate for children. I disagree of course and am happy to report that I grew up with them.
For me, the stories contained in my unabridged Grimm's Fairy Tale collection epitomize storytelling. Each tale is, like all good stories, a personalized morality tale. And I mean morality in the true, non-religious, sense of the term. Morality is the code of acceptable behavior in a culture. Good stories personalize an account of an individual's either going along with those rules or defying them. But more important than the morality tale aspect to a good story is the personalization.
It's easy to get caught up in the buzzwords and catch phrases of the day and to lose sight of what it is we're talking about when it comes to a term like storytelling. Storytelling has nothing to do with terms like "project-based learning" or "technology integration" (again, what on earth does any of that mean?). Storytelling is the uniquely human ability to personalize a situation to teach a lesson, to make a point, sell a product or just entertain somebody else.
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