Effect of Context on Story

The question of the day is, ” How does the context of where you see a story affect its impact on your engagement in the narrative?”  Personally, the content itself matters to me more than the context: I can get just as absorbed in a 4 minute video blog as in a 3 hour movie, if the blog is well executed with a quality story.  For instance, the Lizzie Bennett Diaries is a quality reproduction of Pride & Prejudice in video blog episodes around 4 minutes each.  For me personally, these are way more interesting than the Red Tails movie I saw a few months ago.  However, I’m a real sucker for a good story and exceptionally good at tuning out reality.  Wait, that may not have dome out right….

But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend Lizzie’s diaries weren’t so well produced or well written.   Then you have to start thinking very hard about the medium.  Lizzie’s diaries are on YouTube, so the viewer (myself) sees the story in the context of their life.  This could be good if the video elicits positive connotations with the viewers surroundings or circumstances (in my case, it obviously does).  Identification is probably the key emotion and the viewer doesn’t have to go very far to compare the stories.  However, that real life is within arms reach the entire time and could intrude without warning.  Phones could go off, doorbells, sirens, family members, deadlines, what have you.  The viewer may have to work to focus on the story and stay engaged. In this environment, the story must combat all this clutter and it can’t afford to add any clutter of its own to the mix.

The other end of the spectrum is the movie theater, with stage theatre coming in a close second.   Theaters largely eliminate these external distractions, making engagement much easier for the viewer, and giving the storyteller a bit more grace on the cutting floor.  However, this is one instance where grace may not actually be beneficial, since it allows content creators to sneak in all kinds of unnecessary content that can detract from the story itself. Since the creators aren’t forced to use only the absolutely essential and stellar bits, they often settle for okay bits.

While being concise is always preferable, it seems like the golden rule might go something like this: “The potential for distraction in the viewing context directly impacts the degree of focus necessary in the storytelling to maintain viewer engagement.”

So take all that aggression from the FPS and take it out on the vlog footage!


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