Watching Storytelling: Visual Information in Oral Narratives

JR Ripley

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Oral narratives, though prolific, are increasingly being shared via some form of electronic mediation, and yet they are often glossed over in regard to the study of narrative. This study was designed to address the unique nature of oral narratives focusing on the information channels utilized by participants in their co-creation of stories.

A comparative case study was undertaken of three groups who employed a variety of synchronous and asynchronous electronic mediation in their storytelling. Viewed through the lenses of Narratology and Social Presence Theory a combination of participant observation and qualitative semi-structured exploratory narrative interviews were undertaken with participants from 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, The Moth, and The Storyteller’s Guild of Second Life. Over three years several hundred stories (via 112 tellers) were observed at 38 storytelling sessions (14 live and in-person; 14 live and virtual; and five each of fixed video and or audio) at numerous venues. During these sessions the telling and listening behaviours of 227 participants were noted, 15 of which were subsequently interviewed.

Multiple sources of visual information were observed and identified, three of which were selected for in-depth consideration, namely kinesics, reciprocity, and space. Conclusions derived from this study include that:
Visual information shared during storytelling is prolific;
Listening is not a passive experience, with reciprocities varying with the mediations utilized;
The spaces in which we share stories influence our experiences of said stories;
Co-create stories are unique for each participant; and
Technological mediation between participants does affect the stories being co-created.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Western Ontario
  • McKechnie, Lynne, Supervisor, External person
  • Campbell, Grant, Advisor, External person
  • Farber, Carole, Advisor, External person
Award date26 Feb 2016
Publication statusPrint publication - 2 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Storytelling
  • Oral narratives
  • Kinesics
  • Reciprocity
  • Space
  • Technological mediation


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