Transmedia Storytelling Using Social Media – Cowbird & Audioboo

The opportunities for storytelling presented by today’s generation of social media provides a tremendous amount of flexibility for the transmedia storyteller. Not all social media is the same, however. Each platform has its own characteristics and set of user expectations. Understanding those characteristics and expectations are essential to effective transmedia storytelling across multiple social media platforms.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve worked with a number of social media platforms to get a sense of how they might be used for storytelling.

Cowbird is a social media channel designed for storytelling that uses still images and text. The screen capture of my Cowbird collection of stories shows images of the original artwork that accompanies the text for several stories that I wrote.

With Cowbird, each story stands by itself. Unlike a photo essay, where you can move smoothly from one image to another, in Cowbird one image and the accompanying text must stand by themselves. Either a number of individual stories or serialized sections of a larger story can be done effectively in Cowbird.

In some ways, this is similar to the approach to storytelling that could be used in Pinterest (see my previous post for more information on Pinterest).

Another social media storytelling project was a short audio story on Audioboo.With Audioboo and similar sites, the focus is on audio – no text, no still images, no video, just audio. You either upload a recording you already have or use the site’s recording feature to capture your story. The storytelling techniques used for these types of sites are typical of radio, particularly the great radio reporting done by National Public Radio (NPR).

The greatest strength of audio storytelling is its intimacy. The voice you hear can feel like it is talking directly to you, like a friend on a phone call. Including natural sounds – doors slamming, dogs barking, aircraft flying over, and so on – can add to the experience by helping put the listener into the scene. In my short Audioboo story, for example, using the audio clips of President John F. Kennedy’s adds too the illusion of listening to his radio speech at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Like other forms of social media, Audioboo and similar sites can be used to create either individual stories or serializations of longer works.

I won’t go into detail about creating audio in transmedia storytelling. It’s a form of storytelling that I have yet to fully master (but something I hope to work on in the coming months). You can learn from some of the real masters of the craft of audio storytelling by going to the web. (See the section at the bottom of this post for some resources you might want to check out.)

You might want to look at these resources:

Ira Glass of “This American Life” has a nice four-part series on the building blocks of storytelling for radio and video. (See the clips at the bottom of this post.)

Ira Glass on Storytelling

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