Hartley, J ~ The Uses of Digital Literacy / Story Circle

Hartley, John
(The chapter I’m quoting was first published in Story Circle, then revised and published in The Uses of Digital Literacy.)
The Uses of Digital Literacy
Story Circle (page numbers in brackets)

72 (16)
In that book [Reading Television, 1978], the term ‘bardic function’ was coined to describe the active relationship between TV and viewers, where the book argued, TV programming and mode of address use the shared resources of narrative and language to deal with social change and conflict, bringing together the worlds of decision-makers (news), central meaning systems (entertainment) and audiences (‘vertically through the social scale’) to make sense of the experience of modernity.”

73-76 (17-19)
“Blaming the popular media for immoral, tasteless, sycophantic, sexist, senseless and disreputable behaviour is nothing new.” Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain, criticised newcomers / new art perhaps as far back as the sixth century.

78 (N/A)
The antecedents of popular entertainment with political import go as far back at least as the medieval bards, heralds, minstrels and troubadours whose job it was to ‘broadcast’ the exploits, ferocity, largesse and (mis)adventures of the high and mighty.”

82 (23)
“It should be noted that the order of bards and popular television alike are specialised institutional agencies for delivering the ‘bardic’ function in a given culture. They take it on and professionalise it within evolving historical, regulatory and economic contexts, and of course in so doing they tend to narrow its potential, to exclude outsiders (the general public) from productive or creative participation, not least to maintain the price of their skills, and to restrict the infinite potential of semiosis to definite forms with which their own institutionalised ‘mechanism of translation’ can comfortably cope. These institutional agencies can optimise storytelling’s scale (a story can be reproduced many times) and its diffusion (a story can be heard by many people); but they also increase both formal and bureaucratic rigidity (‘transaction costs’) in narrative production and thus reduce adaptability to change.” Beginning is applicable to EA, but the rest is about broadcasting. He then says that the ‘bardic function’ needs to be reinterpreted.

84 (24)
“The challenge [of today’s “dance”] is to understand how such a diffused system might work to propagate coherent sense across social boundaries, among different demographics and throughout social hierarchies. In other words, how does a fully distributed narrative system retain overall systemic unity? If everyone is speaking for themselves, then who speaks for everybody?” Two things:
1. This is a challenge for EA -> is the solution that there is none? -> that the old audience simply has to die out and a new generation of audience will renegotiate storytelling/narrative with EA?
2. EA answers this partly: an entarch is a professional service provider -> everybody can create with everybody, all good, but somebody will probably be successful as a mass entertainer/artist, as a star -> entarchs stand the chance of becoming the stars!

84f (25)
“As with democracy, so with musical or dramatic storytelling – the challenge is to find a way to think about, to explain and to promote mass participation without encouraging splits, divisions, migrations and anarchy on the one hand, or an incomprehensible cacophonous plurality of competing voices on the other, or an authoritarian/elitist alternative to both. The challenge is also a negative one – how not to associate ‘more’ with ‘worse’; mass participation with loss of quality.”

86 (26)
“Kings and knights were not known until praised.”

86 (N/A)
“Fame followed flattery – not the other way around.” You have to be praised by others to be famous, only then wants the world to sleep with you.

87 (26)
“For humans, storytelling itself is a form of schooling in the capabilities of language. It teaches us how to think (plot), what to think about (narrative), the moral universe of choice (character) and the calculation of risk (action), motivated by desire for immortality (fear of death).”

“Thence the most interesting question is what digital media might be used for. We should wait and see, not fall for the temptation of hurling abuse at the latest upstart medium that poses some sort of competition to the entrenched professionals of the day, just as the mythical Taliesin did in his own diatribe against strolling minstrels.”

3 options for professional storytellers now:

  1. The Taliesin function (“I’m a bard and you’re not”).
  2. The Gandalf function (“I’m a bard and this is how it’s done”).
  3. The eisteddfod function (“We’re all bards: let’s rock!”).

“Based on the lesson of previous step changes in the growth of knowledge, it is clear that evolution is blind, and the opportunities afforded by adaptations cannot be known in advance, whether it is the opposable thumb or the digital network.”
“Certainly, when writing and printing were invented, no one could have predicted their eventual uses from the purposes of the inventors. The printing press in Gutenberg’s day was based on agricultural machinery and used largely for religious clients. Its eventual success was not at all certain. Like many innovative startups, Gutenberg’s own firm went bust. How could anyone in the 1450s have foreseen the importance of printing and publishing for the growth of the great realist textual systems of modernity – science, journalism, and the novel – since none of them existed until printing made possible the development of a modern reading public? Similarly, who today can predict the cultural function of internet affordances; the outcome of the democratization of publishing; and the population-wide extension of semiotic productivity?”

About the author

Woitek Konzal

Producer, Consultant, Lecturer & Researcher. I love working where technology meets media in novel ways. Once, I even won an Emmy for digital innovation doing that. Be it for a small but exciting campaign about underground electronic music collectives or for a monster project combining two movies, various 360° videos, 72 ARG-like mini puzzles, and a Unity game, all wrapped up in one cross-platform app – I have proven my ability to adapt to what is required. This passion for novel technologies has regularly allowed me to cross paths with tech startups – an industry and philosophy I am all set to engage with more. I intensely enjoy balancing out my practical work with academic research, teaching, and consulting. Also, I have a PhD in Creative Industries, a M.Sc. in Business Administration, and love to kitesurf.

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