I think interactive environments have a huge impact on how storytelling works. First, it’s become well-accepted that stories can be nonlinear. In a digital environment is very easy to present stories in multiple ways – chronologically, thematically, in order of when each section was created, etc. Another major change is that these interactive environments have equalized the storytelling process. Because it’s so easy to create content, anyone can now participate and be heard. All it takes now is five minutes with a computer and internet access to publish stories and other content in a public forum.
However, I think the main feature of storytelling in an interactive environment that distinguishes it from all others is its collaborative nature. Many people are involved in the creation process, combining microcontent from many different users, turning it into social media. While one person or small group of people may create the original story or idea, through comments, online discussion, response videos, and blog entries, the stories take on new life and new meaning. I really like how Alexander and Levine said that instead of telling stories, we now present evidence of stories and let the players tell it to themselves.
I don’t think digital environments should change the content or quality of academic writing and argument. Content should still be of very high caliber, scholarly, and well thought out. Academic arguments should still be made and proven in a coherent, logical way, regardless of the environment in which the material is presented. But I think two major things change about academic writing in a digital environment: the way it’s created and presented. Academic content can also be created and published easily, without having to attract the attention of a publisher. Academic content can also be created collaboratively, something which could turn out to be either very successful or counterproductive. The way academic writing and argument are presented also changes, mainly in the style and technology available to present it. Blogs, videos, podcasts, online discussions, and comments on content created by others are all perfectly valid ways of sharing academic content.
Finally, while I think that these interactive environments are very useful, there are several things we must be careful about. I think it will prove to be very easy for the content to get out of the control of the creator. An author’s original work could be taken and twisted far beyond recognition because of the extreme collaboration involved in some of these situations. Also, how rapidly content can be altered in digital environments can be problematic for serious, scholarly presentation. Last, just because it’s very easy to participate and publish work now doesn’t mean that we should lower our standards and accept work of poor scholarship because it’s now presented in a public forum rather than being simply rejected by a publisher or editor as it would have twenty years ago.