TinkerStories

The blog

The use of touch in storytelling

on March 27, 2012

We might say that someone has given the story “the right touch” by including different details. To touch someone with a story is to move them emotionally, to make the details so salient and visceral that the listener responds by changing their mind or feeling a particular emotion. Touch is the way to reach people, but it is also the way we act on our world. A NYT article about the merger of touchscreens with books describes some of the ways that touch could be used in novel reading experiences for encouraging children to read more. Again, the critique of a story is usually a critique of the aesthetics, rather than the merit of the educational merit or the underlying narrative. (Perhaps due to the lack of narratology understood by the general populace.) A few apps can circumvent bad stories by making the aesthetics nice, such as co-branding with well established stories.
However, there is nothing to prevent a good story from being told badly on these new platforms (as cited by the author on the lack of good Android storybooks out there). Some quotes from the article ring true regarding meaningful interactivity: “I’ll let literacy specialists and parents debate the pedagogical merits of this approach, but my immediate impression was that it probably couldn’t hurt.” and “Cars 2 is more entertainment (and, arguably, media branding) than children’s literature” What do we want children to be touched by? Is there such a thing as meaningful interactivity? What ideas do we think they should respond to? Do we want advertising to cause them emotion? Will they end up being consumers, reactive to every new product or movie on the market? Do we want them to judge only the surface/aesthetic qualities of the book, or do we want them to be deep thinkers who can understand different facets of a story. Could animations be used to help them develop their thinking? I think so. One of my favorite “stories” is “That’s about the size of it,” an old Sesame Street Animation. I recommend you check it out here and reflect on the different levels of meaning and creativity represented in this touching story about the relative size of things.

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