The incredible power of communal storytelling platforms.
Protesters in Tahrir Square, January 2011
On January 25th, 2011, thousands of Egyptian protesters gathered in Tahrir Square to protest the government of Hosni Mubarak. The citizens of Egypt had long been victims of horrifying police brutality, electoral fraud, political censorship, corruption and an unacceptable quality of life. In a matter of hours, 80,000 people mobilized to begin what became known as the January 25th revolution, and it was done almost entirely through Twitter. This method proved to be extremely effective; nearly all citizens had access to the platform and the message spread like wildfire. Through this communal platform, protestors now had the means to broadcast all of their individual pieces of the story in order to build a united and powerful voice. With Twitter and Facebook acting as the accelerants, the Egyptians conducted one of the fastest and most efficient revolutions in human history, with the opposition taking down the Mubarak regime in only 18 days.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Internet is here to liberate us. Communal platforms like Twitter are enabling truly democratic channels of communication. They create a space where a diverse set of voices can unite in the creation of a single narrative. Those that were once silenced can now rise from obscurity and transcend into collective action in the physical world. It is a thing of beauty. At their core, platforms like Twitter enable users to build socially constructed communities with people from anywhere around the globe. They provide us with solace, a place of belonging and an incredible reach.
This concept of Internet-based imagined communities has spread to so many aspects of life as well, making incredible collaborations happen. One of the most exciting developments is the rise of user-generated creative storytelling. In a world where our stories have generally come from a selective group of people, we now witness the evolution of a shared economy where anyone has an opportunity to contribute to the narrative. This has unlocked the amazing potential for telling diverse stories, free from hegemonic influence, with limitless perspectives that truly reflect the human condition.
A variety of platforms have come to fruition that create a universe for people to create these eclectic stories; Wattpad is one that holds a special place in my heart. The Toronto-based startup has grown from a scrappy idea to a mighty ecosystem with over 65 million members worldwide. They have revolutionized the storytelling landscape by creating a social space for readers and a canvas for writers. Thousands of web-based books have been created by Wattpaders. The platform has given birth to entirely new genres, such as “creepypasta”. With the success of this platform, they have even begun to explore how else they can change the way we tell stories. This has resulted in the creation of ingenious apps like Tap, the platform that taps into the affordances of mobile texting for storytelling. Such a unique idea makes the practice of storytelling completely accessible to those who lack the formalized literacy skills to gain approval from a publisher.
Close-up of wall at Wattpad HQ in Toronto
At the end of the day, our stories fuel the very infrastructure of our society. Creative minds have the power to sway the soul of humanity and when we widen the scope of those who can tell these stories, we begin to pave the way for a more inclusive world. Big ideas like Wattpad are among the valiant efforts to make literacy an open source concept; one that is accessible and diverse. I believe this ideology should make its way to any and all forms of media too. At LUCID, we have even integrated this concept within music creation, providing users the ability to co-create the content through the changes in their mind and body. It all falls in-line with what I believe to be the responsibilities of any media creator: to sway the pendulum in the right direction by keeping in mind that perspective is everything, and sometimes we just can’t see it all on our own.
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