“Stories are now open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, exploratory, and unpredictable.” This statement seems most representative of the newest role of storytelling in an interactive environment. Stories have evolved from the pages of a book and the words of the orator’s mouth to the digital world’s landscape of possibility. Stories now exist to unite the collective thoughts of many voices and perspectives on a particular topic or event. These collaborative narratives come to life through an organic and ongoing process of interactivity; its users create and recreate the components and structure of a never-ending story. Stories exist beyond the finality of words on paper to the endless imagination of its revolving creators. The ability to navigate a story through images, archives, artifacts, oral histories, etc also adds an emotional connection to the story which may or may not have been easily evoked through words or text. The 9/11 archive is a compelling example for this type of emotional connection; offering those who were not directly connected to the event the opportunity to experience the depth and profound impact it had on our country. In this way, stories can be viewed, felt, experienced, and remembered, rather than heard, read, and forgotten.
With regard to academic writing and argument, it seems the digital environment elicits a greater exploration beyond text. What is investigated and laid out in scholarly writing requires a deeper examination and a different kind of preparation to turn into images or an interactive experience. One example is the interactive reading wall. While the original content for the wall was derived from academic writing and scholarly preparation, it is the presentation of the material that reaches a higher intellect and deeper emotional level. Participants can immerse themselves in the material at their own pace, focusing on the elements that speak to them the most. Academic writing may only lend itself to a particular audience of other academic writers and scholars. A digital environment opens up the material to a larger audience and engages those who may not have otherwise felt compelled to do so. How many people would rather navigate a reading wall versus sitting in library reading a dusty old text book?