Forum 2 Wrapup - The Art of Storytelling

by Todd

John Wellwood with his Life Story Visualization

John Wellwood of Echo Memoirs took the speaker’s chair last night at our second Forum, and took us on a trip through the world of storytelling.

Starting with a gallop through the forms that storytelling has taken through history, John looked at how the pre-copyright practices of oral tradition, where story elements were borrowed, modified, mixed and matched have come back to us with the digital tools so widely available. Today’s remixer is yesteryear’s creative orator.

John also touched on the way that stories are a deeply human trait, as natural and automatic in our daily lives as language itself. They encode knowledge and pass it along, maybe from one week to the next, maybe across generations and millennia.

Sharing moments from his own life, John showed a fascinating visualization technique he had been experimenting with years ago. Printed out on sheets of paper attached into a seven-foot long timeline, he’s developed a visual language for key events and people, and their relationship to the overall life story. This visualization makes Facebook’s Timeline look simplistic, and it would be interesting to see if it could form the basis for an interactive storytelling tool.

His talk got minds buzzing, and attendee (and former Forum speaker) Monique Sherrett somehow turned out a great blog post about storytelling for organizations over night. That, or she gets up way earlier than we do. It’s worth a read, and captures some of the interesting hooks from John’s talk.

As the discussion moved closer to our current time, John talked more about the potential for storytelling in the Internet, which ‘has the potential to act as all media at the same time’. Rounding out the session, he made a call for interest in forming an ad-hoc Digital Storytelling Lab to meet every few months, which Echo Memoirs has offered to sponsor. There’s no agenda to start, and the first step is to gather people who see potential in sharing ideas and experience and seeing what can come of it.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so Tylor and I are on board to bring what we can to John’s initiative. If you’re interested in joining, get in touch with John at and let him know.

To those who attended last night, thank you for coming. We’re always ready to hear feedback by email below or on Twitter to @denimandsteel. We haven’t set a speaker or date for the next Forum, but we’re on the case.

About Forum

Forum is our speaker series that features guest speakers and small group interaction with focus on topics from outside our normal tech-filled lives. Learn more about the events or contact us to inquire about becoming a sponsor.