Joe Sabia

The technology of storytelling

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Ladies and gentlemen, gather around. I would love to share with you a story.


Once upon a time in 19th century Germany, there was the book. Now during this time, the book was the king of storytelling. It was venerable. It was ubiquitous. But it was a little bit boring. Because in its 400 years of existence, storytellers never evolved the book as a storytelling device. But then one author arrived, and he changed the game forever. (Music) His name was Lothar, Lothar Meggendorfer. Lothar Meggendorfer put his foot down, and he said, "Genug ist genug!" He grabbed his pen, he snatched his scissors. This man refused to fold to the conventions of normalcy and just decided to fold. History would know Lothar Meggendorfer as — who else? — the world's first true inventor of the children's pop-up book. (Music) For this delight and for this wonder, people rejoiced. (Cheering) They were happy because the story survived, and that the world would keep on spinning.


Lothar Meggendorfer wasn't the first to evolve the way a story was told, and he certainly wasn't the last. Whether storytellers realized it or not, they were channeling Meggendorfer's spirit when they moved opera to vaudville, radio news to radio theater, film to film in motion to film in sound, color, 3D, on VHS and on DVD. There seemed to be no cure for this Meggendorferitis.


And things got a lot more fun when the Internet came around. (Laughter) Because, not only could people broadcast their stories throughout the world, but they could do so using what seemed to be an infinite amount of devices. For example, one company would tell a story of love through its very own search engine. One Taiwanese production studio would interpret American politics in 3D. (Laughter) And one man would tell the stories of his father by using a platform called Twitter to communicate the excrement his father would gesticulate.


And after all this, everyone paused; they took a step back. They realized that, in 6,000 years of storytelling, they've gone from depicting hunting on cave walls to depicting Shakespeare on Facebook walls. And this was a cause for celebration. The art of storytelling has remained unchanged. And for the most part, the stories are recycled. But the way that humans tell the stories has always evolved with pure, consistent novelty.


And they remembered a man, one amazing German, every time a new storytelling device popped up next. And for that, the audience — the lovely, beautiful audience — would live happily ever after. (Applause)

iPad storyteller Joe Sabia introduces us to Lothar Meggendorfer, who created a bold technology for storytelling: the pop-up book. Sabia shows how new technology has always helped us tell our own stories, from the walls of caves to his own onstage iPad.

About the speaker
Joe Sabia · Storyteller

Joe Sabia investigates new ways to tell stories — meshing viral video and new display technologies with old-fashioned narrative.

Joe Sabia investigates new ways to tell stories — meshing viral video and new display technologies with old-fashioned narrative.