What is Actually Original?

Check out the link below:


It is a web page that is promoting an app on phones that it claims will give you original stories. It is up to you to decide if the stories can really be called original, and please let me know what your opinion is in your comment. There is a human being – a storyteller -behind it, but they are clearly defined stories.

Ethics wise, is this a place where it would be ok to modify a story, or not?

-Miriam Beit-Aharon

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5 Responses to What is Actually Original?

  1. Walker says:

    This is really interesting. More than even something like The Moth, this is billed as a “traditional storyteller” telling “traditional stories” straight to your earbuds. I’m not sure what you mean by “modify stories,” but I think it’s always OK for a storyteller to do so, unless the story they are is telling is someone else’s, and they are telling it in a way which is harmful to that person. As far as digitally altering stories… that’s trickier. Every time it happens, I feel like the connection between storyteller and listener is reduced, but I don’t know if that argument would hold up if I were pressed. For example, what happens if a soundtrack is added later over a story, especially by or under the supervision of the storyteller? This could certainly heighten the experience of hearing a story while not being present in a room. However, perhaps it also distracts from the interpersonal connection which itself is already a drastic level removed by the fact of what a recording is; a disembodied, displaced voice from the past. Does it cause a story to lose value? What is the value in the story? How important is performance verses content?

  2. Jake says:

    I think that I feel similarly to Walker about this in a few ways. My first thought is of the removal that comes from a recorded work. This limits the interactions of the experience to the side of the listener and it goes beyond being a scripted piece to being something so far removed as to only be heard over a phone. I, personally have a huge problem with phones, videochats, and such as a means of reproducing a real experience and interaction with another person. There is something unnameable that is missing (besides being able to give them a good smack or a hug). So the divide created by a pre-recorded story, over a computer held to your ear leads me to believe that there is little growth that can come from this storytelling experience. I also say this because I also agree with Walker that the knowledge that who knows how many people have listened to the same story reduces the meaning and importance of the storytelling experience to me. In essence, I think this becomes something more like watching a tv show or a movie where the material presented has been selected and perfected and solidified. The watcher can view it as many times as they like, they may find something new to think about it, a new way to react to something, or gain a new understanding from it but essentially I think the originality of the experience is compromised by one end of the transmission being frozen in time, unchanging no matter how many times one listens or watches.

  3. I definitely agree with both parts of Walker and Jake’s thoughts. A crucial part of storytelling is adjusting your story based on your audience’s reaction, and a story that is told digitally does not allow for the story to change based on the audience. In live storytelling, a storyteller can tell what interests their listeners–if they should be more interactive, more animated, etc., but digital storytelling can only reach a certain audience because the storyteller cannot attempt to interest all of his/her listeners by adjusting the story. In addition, we mentioned in class that storytellers will not tell and should not tell a story in the same way twice because of the audience, the atmosphere, word changes, etc. However, in digital storytelling, like Jake said, it will be the same story told over and over, and that does not allow for the teller to grow. This storytelling application removes the most important aspects of storytelling, and that is the audience and the teller feeding from each other. A storyteller can learn and grow with each story they tell, but that will not be the case with a pre-recorded story. Another fact is that we, as listeners, can’t trust that this is an actual storytelling performance. The storyteller could just be reading, for all we know, and that is not the same as telling a story from the heart.
    Although these aspects may make the voice behind the application seem like less of a storyteller, I don’t think it changes if its original or not. I believe that every person that tells a story in their own way is original. If he isn’t copying the way in which someone else tells a particular story, then it is still original, no matter if it can be classified as a story or not.
    I also agree with Walker that it is fine to “modify” a story to fit their own personal style as long as they change enough and tell it in their own way. The website also included the name of the “storyteller” and a bit about him, so a storyteller could use that information in his/her intro. I don’t think that’s an issue at all, regardless if this can be considered a story or not.

  4. Nate says:

    To build off of what the previous posts stated, I think that their is a fine distinction between storytelling and audiobooks/recorded storytelling. Their is a connection that’s missed between the storyteller and the listeners. Aside from the absence of personal interaction between the two, recorded storytelling/audiobooks stay the same way. Unlike live storytelling, they become stagnant after a while as they never change. As for the original aspect, I have to agree with some of the posts above. As an actor I know that no two performances( what ever kind they be), are a alike. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the form of a play or even an improv show. Each audience has it’s own unique energy. What the performer/storyteller does is feed off that energy and give it back in a new and interesting way. It’s a symbiotic relationship of sorts. No matter who tells the story, even if it’s the same story as another person, it’s different in it’s own way because it’s a different persona telling it. In that small way it’s original. The plot may be similar, but the way it’s told differentiates it from other versions and gives it it’s own unique independence. As for this recorded storytelling app, I believe it’s fine to listen to, but I dont believe it’s true original storytelling. It’s a type of storytelling, but it lacks the luster of the original art.

  5. Quin Rich says:

    In a broad sense, there is no such thing as a truly “original” story; as fundamentally social beings, we are already informed by our culture, history, and personal experiences. There is no “divine insight”, only what we can create from our interpretations of our surroundings. This is not to say that every story is simply a copy of some other story, but rather that each story has a source of inspiration, and contains elements which only make sense and only would have arisen within a certain context. The stories featured here largely seem to either be retellings of other stories from a new perspective, or new stories developed from a pre-existing framework (e.g. other morality tales, fables, etc.). One might argue that this still constitutes an “original story”,but the form, content, context, and inspiration for these stories was already somewhere in the teller’s psyche. This is not a reason to despair, but rather reason to critically evaluate our sources of inspiration.

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