Story Circle: Digital Storytelling Around the World (2009), is a collection of essays “devoted to a comprehensive international study of the digital storytelling movement.” For this assignment, I chose to read Chapter 16: “Commercialization and Digital Storytelling in China,” by Wu Qiongli. The paper begins with a background and explanation of digital storytelling (DST), providing a summary of how it is distinct, mainly in its story-oriented, collaborative, direct nature; the use of simple, accessible technological tools and found materials; and a multimedia perspective. The author’s interest lies in the ways DST can and has impacted commercial practices in China.
Wu explains that there is a previously untapped group of consumers which may be the key to both spreading DST more widely internationally and boost revenue for commercial companies. In the age of the internet, there are both consumers and creators, and these groups have increasingly overlapped as technology has advanced. This intersection of internet participants (called “netizens”) and creators who showcase their work online (“prosumers”) becomes a group called “Generation C,” whose creativity and innovation can be used in business outreach.
To begin utilizing this phenomenon to the advantage of both DST and commercial interests, Wu suggests a digital storytelling solution based on the way new original music has been proliferated in online spaces. She details a model for a website whose commitment to DST would result in increased revenue, community building, and creative output. To reach this goal, the website would need to first provide the opportunity for netizens to learn digital storytelling methods. Once these consumers have the tools and education to participate, they can then be encouraged to create their own content to be posted on the site, which would be aggregated and sorted by a popularity algorithm (239). At this point, the most watched or rated stories could be commercialized and played on television as advertisements for a product or experience, such as cultural tourism in China.
Wu’s ideas for building up digital storytelling using a business framework are innovative and relevant to our time. From her explanation, this type of business model seems like it could flourish, especially because Generation C is increasingly interested in multimedia storytelling, as can be seen with the popularity of content creators on YouTube who have reached celebrity status in recent years. However, there is also the concern about possible exploitation of prosumers, and one would hope that if a web model like this were developed, Generation C creators would be compensated for their work, especially if it became commercialized.