The #DigitalWomenAwards last evening also hosted an empowering panel on storytelling, its future, and the role digital space plays amid all of it. The panel, moderated by Kiran Manral, comprised of varied content creators – Talkietive founder Priyanka Sinha Jha, travel blogger Shivya Nath, author and screenwriter Kanika Dhillon, and actor Sayani Gupta. The speakers engaged in a meaningful conversation bringing to the surface the power of stories and the space of storytelling.

Kiran, while reflecting on how storytelling has been a significant part of our very being, began the discussion by talking about how the digital world today has been a game changer and a revolution of sorts when it comes to narratives.

With all the liberation of social media posts and comments, it’s an easier and productive space to share opinions. – Priyanka Sinha Jha

Priyanka drew a comparison between the traditional media and the digital media. “While the print or traditional media considers narrative a non-inclusive singular thing, the digital space is more fluid. What draws me to digital is the sheer basis of cultural sharing and the insightful responses,” she said.

Emphasising that the digital space is revelatory and its informality is insightful, she added how people are now more involved with the medium. “It’s so important to understand whether one’s story is resonating with people or not and the digital platform is the best way to find out.”

Storytelling has become an even interesting phenomenon as the mediums are changing and the audience is expanding. – Kanika Dhillon

About the challenges of writing novels and writing for films Kanika said, “You are a primary creator in a novel and the film is all about teamwork. Unlike novels, screenplays are organic. Brevity is the key required in the screenplay. As an author, I use my words and the imagination of my readers to evoke an outcome.”

She observed that novels are more indulgent for writers compared to screenplays. With novels, she said, her vision is in her head and it connects with her readers directly. “In a film, there is an army that you need to deal with.” On a lighter note, she added, it’s the social skills that really need to be way better as a screenwriter than as an author.

Coming to the digital aspect of storytelling, Kanika said, “Everyone’s telling a story with the digital access these days. However, it’s important to note that while content is just a click away, its reach is a double-edged sword.”

Digital has been empowering personally. We’ve always been told home is the most important and only one space for us. With technology’s power of narrative, I can proudly work from anywhere in the world without having a permanent address. – Shivya Nath

Shivya who lives a life of a digital nomad and has now chronicled her travel experiences in a book, spoke about how digital has a huge reach but it’s also important to cut through the clutter at the same time. The traveller talked about how a rural community in Munsiyari, Uttarakhand, has left a huge inspirational impact on her. The community, called the voices of Munsiyari, engages in creative acts and posts them on Instagram.

Shelf life of content in the digital space is much larger and longer. – Sayani Gupta

Sayani, as an artist and performer, shared her opinion on the impact of the digital medium on storytelling. “As an actor and performer, you’re just doing your job and it is regardless of the medium. But as makers and writers, the digital space is all about grabbing people’s attention.”

The actor also brought forward a necessary factor of content consumption. “There’s so much supply of content with a plethora of it constantly pitching against each other, that it becomes important to make the content worth a click,” she added.

Evolution of storytelling and how people consume print and digital media

Priyanka spoke about maintaining a balance between all mediums. “We need to find a balance. While digital empowers because you can put in whatever you want to, it’s vital to understand that content finds its own consumer. The scalability is for later. Yes, there’s a downside as the degree of informality is under question. However, as a content creator, it’s hugely empowering for stories to feature and have access on social media,” she opinionated. She also spoke about how we can crucially make news more worthy and authentic in the present world and not focus on singular aspects.

Kanika voiced her concern over the whole fake news phenomenon that is doing the rounds currently. “The downside here is that there are cross platforms of storytelling, where people are sharing fake news and agendas over channels like WhatsApp, which is disturbing. There has to be a regulation.”

Sayani added to the conversation mentioning that with democracy comes a huge responsibility. “It’s important to know where to draw the line and be accountable for the content and stories we are putting out there.”

How do we see communities evolving and coming up?

The panel put forth an interesting opinion on how storytelling must become more inclusive.  Shivya shared her personal experience describing how the essence of storytelling is still the same. “I resisted joining Instagram for a long time considering it’s a visual platform and I’m not a photographer. My stories are text-based. But as a content creator, in order to survive and have brand partnerships I needed to have Instagram, and so I joined. For me, this platform is also where I continue to long-form captions. Yes, there’s always going to be clutter and mediums will still evolve but the essence will remain. I like to believe that this space serves as an elevator pitch to grab someone’s attention as a storyteller.”

Kanika ended the discussion by stressing on how there’s a wave of individual consumers these days and no more a community building process.

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