… or a story of time?

As an enthusiastic advocate of storytelling and an equally enthusiastic user of digital technology I should probably find MSN’s latest service a marriage made in heaven. After all, it says in bright colourful letters at the top : always have time for a story:

In fact, it just made me sad. To me a story is an embodied face to face human encounter, and never more so than between a parent and child. The idea that a parent might salve the parental conscience when necessarily away from home by an animated Noddy story doesn’t really fool me.

This is not to say that the technology isn’t clever. Below you can see the parent’s view – complete with script and highlighted words which animate the page for a child – much as you would point things out when reading a book with them. When the (distant) parent reads the word ‘sun’ below, the sun will move, wink and make a sound – which will doubtless entrance the child.  This will be an interactive experience, without a doubt – but is it really telling a story?

I don’t want to sound like some kind of technophobic luddite who wants to turn the clock back. Nor do I want to be the kind of Christian who bewails the social changes that mean a parent who would love to be there at story time cannot through economic necessity. So what is my problem?  It is partly a resentment, however foolish,  that technology should intrude on this most intimate of parent-child encounters.  Will it really, as it says on the first page above “bring you closer together”? I am also troubled by the belief that animated bells and whistles make for good storytelling.  They no more make the story than a gaudy powerpoint slide makes the presentation.

Should we hail this as an advance which keeps story afloat in our busy culture, or sound a cautionary note because it changes the way we understand good story, I wonder?

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