07 Jan.
2019

Storytelling in the 21st century

As digital technology becomes ever more powerful storytelling is evolving fast, but we also need to keep a check on our mobile phone and social media use as we consume those stories.

That was the somewhat surprising message from Patrick Walker, Facebook’s Director of Media Partnerships for Europe, Middle East and Africa who, addressing our latest Vital Topics debate at Alliance MBS, took the audience through the digital video revolution of the last 50 years and how it had impacted his own career in journalism, TV production and digital start-ups.

He said that having been at the heart of the dramatic changes for several decades, he said the revolution actually felt more like an evolution. “Things have changed very quickly from linear broadcast to multi-channel, to ‘on demand’ to widescreen, and now social and mobile video, and in the future augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).”

Facebook strategy

In terms of Facebook’s own strategy in this fast-moving world, Walker said the company was really focused on putting friends and family first. “It is not just about connecting people but helping people build community and bringing people closer together with the technology, and with video via our Facebook Watch product.

“It’s really important that people also think carefully about their own consumption habits. We are focused on friends and family, we want people to think about using the products but also connecting with each other in real time, and that means sometimes putting down your phone and not using services like ours just to be closer to your friends, family and loved ones.

“This is super critical. Storytelling is evolving, technology is getting more powerful, but we have to put a check on ourselves to ensure we are connecting with those people around us to have a meaningful life and to be able to have direct human connections and then enhance those connections with technology, but not replace them.”

This is a noticeable shift from what Walker said was Facebook’s previous mission of simply connecting people. He added: “What we learnt was that connecting people is, in itself, not necessarily utilised by some people for good. So shifting towards a focus on helping people build community and bring them closer together is much more in tune with the direction we would like to go, and is also critical for society.”

Future vision

In terms of future trends, he said that when it comes to video you can bet on higher quality, faster connections and much more immersive experiences through AR and VR. “I think vertical video is a very interesting trend, storytelling in a whole new way. It doesn’t mean people are not going to watch regular documentaries and films and consume wonderful, creative experiences that are more passive. But the creative storytelling is going to continuously evolve and it will keep changing as we have seen over the last 50 years.

“There is nothing like a good old story and sitting back and watching an awesome film. But if you are a producer or creator of content the tools available to you are remarkably rich and very diverse, they will just get even more creative.”

After his lecture Walker was joined on stage by Vikas Shah, member of Alliance MBS advisory board and Honorary Professor at the University of Manchester, who facilitated a Q&A debate between Walker and students, academics and business leaders.


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