Micro Stories and Mega Stories

  • Ramesh Jain
  • Malcolm Slaney

IEEE Multimedia Magazine |

Technology, especially multimedia technology, is changing the way we tell stories. We are all familiar with letters, articles, and books, but new Internet technology has led to two novel forms of storytelling that we call micro stories and mega stories.

Micro stories are the short bits of text and images that we use to tell our friends about our daily life, what we had for lunch, and the funny bits of our day. They are uploaded in the form of text, images, and soon even short videos. All these micro stories represent data that we can then assemble into mega stories about our lives. In addition to the direct data presented, the metadata related to the time, location, user, and the social graph of the creator are all important bits of information that play a key role in these stories. Where are the most popular bars? What are the trending words in our discourse? Where can I find a taxi?

Our use of technology has changed over time. A few decades ago technologists predicted that we would all create our own webpages. When we discovered that HTML was too cumbersome for the average user, the answer became blogs—just start writing. Yet, even short blog postings require significant storytelling ability. Then there were question-answering sites such as Yahoo Answers. Anybody can write a question, and the Web will provide the answer. Now we have services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that require even less creative effort.

Here we discuss both micro- and mega-story types to see how people are using multimedia to drive these two extreme forms of storytelling.