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Devin J. Shepherd
My name is Devin Shepherd and this is my blog--a mixture of things that others have made that inspire me, and content I have created that I hope will inspire you.

In a couple of ways, storytelling isn’t about “telling” at all.

1. In the digital age, the proliferation and democratization of media has provided everyone with a virtual microphone: we are immersed in story-conversation. Sharing and social dissemination takes precedent over the entity producing the “spark” for the conversation. More often, too, stories are told using pictures, providing more instantaneous punch-lines, morals, and information. A great example of this—which follows the theory of semiotics—is of course Tumblr. 

2. Storytelling has also been a slightly off-kilter word for what we do incessantly, every day as human beings for another reason: because the act has been and as far as is predictable always will be more about the audience, the story-listener, than the person “telling” the story. A person who tells a story is nothing without the participation of others—i.e. if a story is told and no one ever hears it, is it still a story? Yes, but not really. More often, there is an audience, but the message falls on deaf ears because the teller doesn’t know who he or she is talking to.

For example, I bet somebody out there has an uncle Doug or the equivalent who can tell a mean family story—better than your mom, or brother, or cousins. But the reason he is so good at it is because he knows his audience. He in some way has participated with the audience in making the stories he tells—in a broader context the ideal storyteller gains credibility as a participant in an event, as an observer of an event, or simply by existing within a particular culture or demographic—and is an authentic communicator of the meaning therein. You buy uncle Doug’s ethos; he is credible within the family context. People outside the family probably couldn’t care less about Doug’s family stories, but for them, he would tell a different kind of story—he would have to tell it differently or maybe choose tell a different story all together if he wanted to hold them captivated in the same way. The embodied context of the story is the meaning that it is given by the person and place the story is being told in. Therefore, whether it’s a brand, a celebrity, or a family member, the audience will always be the judge of authenticity and the quality of resonance the story provides at a given time because they are also participating in what the story means at the end of the day. In this way, storytelling is more about a shared experience than an individual event, the telling of an event, the people listening to a re-telling of that event, and it is especially not singularly about the person who performs the story.

Never has this been more true than in the gatekeeper-less digital age.

It could be that we just don’t have a better word for it right now, but until we do, keep in mind that storytelling is more than just a broadcast, a one-way message, or a back-and-forth between an entity and its audience—and except for a brief time in human history known as the 20th century, this was pretty much always true. Nowadays, storytellers are more obsessed with gaining attention than producing valuable content (e.g. advertisers) but the reality is, attention is once again something you have to earn. Smart storytellers know that their craft depends on knowing their audience and medium, but masterful storytellers do it without thinking. And guess what? That’s why people come back again and again to hear how this person or organization will engage them in a story-experience.

A lovely afternoon at the Opera House yesterday with Allie for “Pinocchio.” (at Sydney Opera House)