Media Magazine

An Old Viking Ship Carries Precious Storytelling Cargo

Posted on the 24 March 2012 by Themarioblog @garciainteract
A special edition of TheMarioBlog
For the original weekend edition of TheMarioBlog;


TAKEAWAY: Just when I am 7 minutes away from starting my presentation about Storytelling in the Age of the iPad for a group of Norwegian journalists, I open a door that looks into a marvelous story: the rebuilding of an old Viking ship. Talk about a live laboratory.


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An incredible scene of men and women hard at work rebuilding an old Viking ship

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Terje Heggem, one of the ship building volunteers, tells me the story behind the old ship (see video below)

An interview with Terje Heggem, a boat designer and one of the volunteers working on rebuilding of the ship, in Torsburg, Norway


Stories are everywhere

Sometimes life offers irony in the most unexpected places,  reminding us of the simple pleasures, and how, even though so much changes, nothing truly changes. Sometimes it is an old Viking ship getting ready for a second chapter.

Saturday I was getting ready to start my presentation about Storytelling in the Age of the iPad to a group of Norwegian investigative journalists, during the annual SKUP-conference“ title=“SKUP Nordic Days”>SKUP Nordic Days conference in oldest town title=“Tonsberg”>Tonsberg, Norway’s oldest city.

With about 10 minutes before the start of the seminar, and with attendees filing in slowly, I stepped out into the gorgeous sunny day only to discover a spectacle that filled my view as when one enters a movie theater with the widest of screens. Suddenly you are one little speck in the order of things, while the view in front of you is a scene from Avatar.

Tree trunks and big dreams

A group of men and some women hammered away, or cut chunks of wood from the huge tree trunks lying horizontally on the ground.  On one corner an older man with white hair and beard, his face almost kissing the piece of wood in front of him, was carving decorative motifs on an already curved wood form.

As my eyes adapted to this scene, suddenly in the back, as if a stage set manager had positioned there, the shape of an old Viking ship, the perfect backdrop of what will be for a group of volunteers who are making it happen.

Get that story, quickly

Here I am in my suit, my wireless microphone affixed to my ears and mouth, circulating among pieces of wood, like a child in front of a new toy, not knowing whom to talk to first, what to see, what to touch.

The storyteller in me got into gear, and with 7 minutes to go, I pulled out my iPhone, took a series of photos, then moved to the one man who seemed to be in charge, videotaped an interview with him, and proceeded to start my presentation.

However, I already had changed the start.

Indeed, I always begin by saying that “it is all about the story”.

Today, however, the story was waiting outside, just a wall and centuries away. 

My task was to discuss storytelling in a digital world, where technology, changes in behavior, a fast moving world and the tablet have revolutionized how we receive information.

Change the start of the presentation

I scrapped the first few images, because the imagery in my mind, the story I had just covered by accident—-aren’t those the best stories?—-encapsulated the message of my presentation:

It is not about the platform, it is about the story.
It is not about technology, but about how we manage to tell that story
It is about every journalist turning the story into how it can be told best for each platform.
The best stories are just waiting to be told
It is appealing to the senses in a variety of way: read, listen, watch, engage

For about ten minutes before the presentation, I had been the journalist, the photographer, the videographer and the editor.

I now can imagine how the Viking ship story could be told across the platforms; tease to it on the mobile, put the story and a photo gallery on the website, run an in depth interview of the project in the printed edition, and, alas, give it its longest legs on the tablet: link to images of the original ship (which are available), do pop ups of the mock up and how the different pieces now being built will look when assembled into the ship (prototype is available, as are the blueprints, which I saw), do the video interview, and videotape , with audio, close ups of the oldest craftsmen doing the art work.

We discussed all of this by the time my session was concluded.

Opportunity knows at my door

I never had the story happening outside the door of my presentation.

Nothing I could have ever planned ahead had provided this mini glorious moment.
This story was there, ready for the taking, like those yellow mangos I used to pick off my grandmother’s tree in the backyard.  They were begging to be grabbed.

As I saw the men using their bare hands (no gloves), and just axes, hammers and knives to do their job, I had a moment of admiration for them, their dedication and the lack of high tech.  At the same time, I was thankful that I, as a storyteller, had an iPhone in my hands to capture their story in its various forms.

Low tech, high tech, the old, the new, traditions and new beginnings. They can all coexist.

That Viking ship brought it all home this sunny Saturday afternoon in Tonsburg.

Serendipity, my old friend, this time you were truly serendipitous.


TheMarioBlog post #978


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