At every moment, in every place, stories surround us. They reach us in many ways: they are on the screens, from the largest to the smallest. They are transmitted by waves, invisibly. They are shown to us in printed characters or, in their original form, they are told by another person. The need is always the same: to explain something, real or invented, that is as fascinating to the one who counts it as to the one who listens to it. This has always been the case and nothing indicates that it will change.
However, the way we know all these stories does transform. Since someone had the idea of painting a hunting scene in a cave, any new means of expression has been adopted to tell what needs to be told. The paper, the printing press, the cinematographic camera … The expression has always been linked to technology. Until reaching an era, the current one, in which advances multiply. And, with them, the way of narrating.
Narratives begin to flourish much more partial, fragmentary and even ephemeral
"That they seduce us with stories is something ancestral that has to negotiate in each era with the ways in which it manifests itself," explains the cultural critic Jordi Costa, a regular firm of EL PAÍS. "We are in a moment of constant technological effervescence, in which things are being sketched out that we do not know if they are going to become the dominant mode of consuming fictions," he adds. You only have to look at how people in our environment receive them: classic forms, such as the novel, the movie or the television series, are still there, but now there are many others, often linked to a generational element.
"I think the closed discourse of the great work has entered into crisis," continues Costa. "Narratives that are much more partial, fragmentary and even ephemeral begin to flourish. Applications that delete videos after a while, for example. We are talking about ways of communication that are not there to stay, but to satisfy an instant ". A paradigm shift that, like so many others, has a clear origin: Internet.
- Jump from one medium to another
In 2003, in an article for the MIT Technological Review magazine, the academic Henry Jenkins named something that already existed, which is equivalent to making it visible. The era of transmedia narrative had begun. "We are talking about a phenomenon that has two characteristics: that history is told in many media and platforms and that the public participates by expanding it," explains Carlos Scolari, professor and researcher at Pompeu Fabra University. Think of the Marvel superheroes or the Harry Potter saga and we will have a clear example: his characters jump from comics to movies or animation, while their fans make them their own through fan fictions, stories that are based on the original narrative to twist and stretch it. What Star Wars or Star Trek fans did decades ago, explains Scolari, was already transmedia, but the technological explosion made it possible, from the 90s on, for possibilities to flourish.
If we take the side of the consumer, the viewer, our media diet is already fragmented, "says Scolari. "Since we got up until we go to sleep that diet is a bit on Facebook, a little bit on Twitter, on Netflix, on YouTube, on paper, on Kindle … Before the Internet we spent a lot of time in a few media, now we have little time in many media. " One of the first sectors to realize this was the film industry. "Before it was simpler for a product to be supported economically but, at the moment when audiences are atomized, that model no longer works," says Scolari. "The only way to do it is to tell these stories in many media. Many of these platforms may not yield profits, but they generate a community. "
This multiplicity of platforms and formats has infiltrated to become commonplace. "There is a generational change," says Scolari. "For those who grew up with Matrix or Pokémon this is already natural. Now there are no niches, they have been perforated. If you like The walking dead You have the video game, the movie, the comic or the amusement park. " The public is not only accustomed to receiving a story from different fronts, but also understands a great part of the fictions. The era of "the book was better" is already far behind.
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- New stories, new formats
The role of the public, that last link in the narrative chain, is perhaps the one that has experienced a more drastic change thanks to technology. As Jordi Costa explains, "the border between the spectator citizen and the creator has been broken". To a greater or lesser extent, we can all be generators of stories. "The fact of thinking a meme and sending it to your friends already reveals that those borders have been broken," he adds. In other cases, the narrators take advantage of the new means at their disposal to shape new and surprising ways of telling. "One of the most striking phenomena I've seen is when Manuel Bartual, two summers ago, invented a fiction on Twitter in which he took advantage of immediacy, playing with the borders of reality and fiction," Costa recalls. For a few days, his experiment eclipsed any other story, real or fictional, that was happening in our country.
Twitter has something that does not have other means, the direct and that readers can participate
"When I wrote that story on Twitter that became wildly viral, I thought it was a social network that, in addition to information and opinion, could also be used to tell stories," the author recalls. Like Orson Welles in The War of the Worlds, Bartual kept his audience in suspense with a story of doubles and mystery that introduced fiction into our everyday life. "I thought it had a format in which there was text, photo, video and something that has no other means, direct, the fact of being able to tell a story as it is supposed to be happening, and that readers can participate" .
Bartual, who this summer has returned to play with the threads of Twitter with Modesto García, began in the world of comics until he realized that what really seduced him was telling stories, regardless of the format. After going through the short film and the length, he became interested in the possibilities of Twitter. "It gives the feeling that, if you play your cards well, the stories become more physical," he says. "The users are at the same level as the story, and that generates a closeness, a coupling, a sense of reality."
Now he is convinced that the narrative forms of the future will go through the possibilities offered by the tools at our disposal. "Media such as Instagram Stories are allowing people who had not considered telling a story to do so, even almost unconsciously, without a clear narrative idea behind it. This is a source of inspiration, "he says. It is not the only one: in May of this year the Fair of Hilo was celebrated, the first contest of tweeting, of which Bartual himself was sworn.
- Narrate in times of histories
Like Manuel Bartual, Alberto González Vázquez, better known as Querido Antonio, comes from media such as comics or audiovisuals. But in his case, his work in El Intermedia, a program for which he created those video montages on political news, brought him to a point of immediacy in his stories. "I have always tried to amortize the tools at my disposal, even before the networks or the Internet existed as we know it. It seems natural to take advantage of the means at my disposal, "he says. His approach to the networks translates into stories that go beyond humor to reach the subconscious and that adapt, by format and duration, to the Facebook or Instagram environment.
"If I want to tell something I do not care about the format, I do not despise any," he explains, even though he is aware that many of his stories have an ephemeral character. "I did not know where to take Instagram Stories, it bothered me that they would disappear after 24 hours, but I did make a decision to adapt to the medium. It seemed like a way to take advantage of it. " It refers to imaginary conversations that take place in that social network, and also to others that take the form of Facebook Messenger chats. An approach to reality that works as a way of engaging with the viewer. "That ambiguity is interesting," he admits. "For a long time I have worked with that credulity of the spectator. You know that what they are telling you is a lie, but there is a desire to believe it, as when you see the Iker Jiménez program. " The medium itself, therefore, is already part of the story, gives it form in a meta-narrative game that opens up new possibilities.
- Boredom, depression and Premiere
Last summer, the stories of Anabel Lorente (@ catana3el) began to spread on social networks. Through animations, he recounted everyday situations in his life. The first was a real conversation with her doctor, who questioned her life habits because she was a woman and young. That was followed by others, until it became a small viral phenomenon that made visible cases of constant machismo in the lives of many women. "The idea came out of boredom, or depression, this summer. I made a couple of drawings, I animated them with Premiere [un software de edición de vídeo] and voila. The rest was unexpected. "
At 24, his case is that of someone who has grown up with networks and who has found in them the most natural way to share their experiences. "At age 13 I had a YouTube channel with my best friend," he explains through an audio on WhatsApp. "We used to give birth in the purest cani style and they were very successful in my neighborhood." Now he combines his work as an education technique with some stories that, despite including an imagined final turn, are a reflection of reality.
"There is a growing interest in common stories, by normal people like me who, through networks, can communicate those stories," he explains. In this increasingly fragmented offer proposals like yours gain ground to the established media. "It's hard for me to see a world in which media like television are not dominant, but with things like what has happened to me, I think people also get tired of realities, fiction and that kind of entertainment, "continues Lorente. "This is more real, more alive, more instantaneous. It is giving a new twist to the digital story, and to the story in general. "
None of the interviewees can anticipate the future, nor affirm categorically how we will consume (and create) stories in a decade, but all agree that the narrative forms are changing. "It's not a passing fad, it's going to infiltrate little by little into more planes of the public," says Jordi Costa. We will have to wait to know if the next Ulysses will be told in fragments of 280 characters, or if we will see the equivalent of Citizen Kane in micro-videos of 15 seconds, but the stories will still be there, mutating with each era.