There is a reawakening in storytelling and Charlie Melcher has been observing it for years. Melcher, founder of the Future of StoryTelling (FoST) summit and content platform, gathers some of the greatest minds in media, technology and communication annually to dig further into these observations. Today, the FoST 2015 Summit speakers—active, engaging communicators who will guide conversation—have been announced and it’s an impressive roster. To understand the importance of this invite-only series of events, one must first look at the organization behind it: a community that supports a daily blog, weekly video series, influencer salons and exhibitions, and more. These are the people chronicling the digital and sensory impact on storytelling.
“Our biggest contribution,” Melcher tells CH about his content platform, “is having created a gathering space for an amazing community that’s in need of a new tribe.” There, members across multiple disciplines unite, many of whom are working across many types of media. Or, as Melcher describes it, “Let’s say it’s an even playing field of digital zeros and ones. There’s such a creative opening now for people to work across all these forms.” Melcher believes his community was born with an understanding that there’s a new cultural creative fluency, and they tackle topics ranging from horror podcasts to big data.
The FoST Summit is an extension of this, conducted in roundtable discussions with a view in mind to better understand changes in the way we share things. “We have people who understand traditional content. We have people from the tech sector. We have marketers. We are thinking about the issues and topics that are top-of-the-mind for these people—and we try to address current issues.” FoST’s latest crop of inspiring people includes former Vice President Al Gore, author Margaret Atwood, Wired‘s Editor in Chief Scott Dadich, illustrator and author Maira Kalman, artist Todd Oldham and architect Bjarke Ingels. These are not speakers lecturing a passive audience, but conductors of high-level conversation.
Melcher explains that Gore is an ideal example for what they are trying to accomplish. Not only will he be leading a workshop, he will be putting a challenge to the community—raising awareness on the plight of our planet. And how does he plan on doing this? While Vice President, Gore landed funding for a satellite known as DSCOVR, which is presently positioning itself between the Earth and the Sun’s gravitational fields. From there, it will capture images of our globe with vibrancy. He intends to leverage those images in the way the 1972 “Blue Marble” image raised planetary consciousness. It is with FoST that he hopes to figure out how best to share the images and the story they tell. “This is a great story about storytelling. It’s a challenge now: what can we do with these 14 Earth images a day that will start arriving in June?” Melcher asks.
We are active, social, engaged animals and technology is returning us to natural human activity.
Another tangible, experiential application of FoST’s work—open to the public—is the curation of “Sensory Stories” at the Museum of the Moving Image, in Queens, NY. This exhibition, running now through 26 July 2015 embodies their convictions and aspirations. “One of the things we think a lot about is how this next wave of storytelling is bringing us back into our bodies, and reawakening our senses, helping us to be active participants in our stories,” Melcher explains. He refers to this as sensory, but also “Sensual Media.” Our connected, sensor-driven environments, with haptic response and natural user interfaces, are encouraging us to engage. “We are active, social, engaged animals and technology is returning us to natural human activity.” The origins of verbal storytelling and oral tradition were active. It was the printing press that turned stories into an object. But tech is returning the experiences to us. And this is visible at “Sensory Stories.”
“The 17 pieces in it range from an olfactory experience, where you can literally smell different scents while turning the pages of a Goldilocks e-book to the east coast debut of Birdly,” Melcher concludes. Birdly (which made its debut at Sundance) is an immersive flight experience, utilizing virtual reality—where the user flies over Manhattan. There are also John Lennon’s Bermuda Tapes and tablet-based experiences. And even a dark room experience that hints at being a little naughty. It’s these future-forward storytelling channels that Melcher and FoST continue to explore and evaluate. And that’s what will come of the 2015 Summit as a whole.
The invitation-only Future of StoryTelling 2015 Summit will take place 7 and 8 October 2015 in NYC. The insights from the experience will be shared over time on the FoST website.
Images courtesy of Future of StoryTelling