Read More: The Conversation
It was a remarkable year for innovation in audio story telling. Listeners in 2017 had the chance to experience new ways of listening to stories told through artificial intelligence, gaming, augmented reality and personalised soundtrails. The shift of radio plays to smartphones has transformed the medium and is bringing a wave of innovation. Yet audio fiction has always had a radical relationship with technology, from the early development of the Electrophone in the 19th century, which enabled London listeners to catch up on stage performances from as far as Paris – or experimental thinking in the 1930s from Bertolt Brecht about switching the direction of radio so listeners led the stories. As audio storytelling goes digital, new and old ideas about the potential of the medium are being realised. Here are some of the trend to look out for: 1. Stories ‘born digital’ Digitisation has transformed the distribution of audio fiction, but “new” drama often looks a lot like its radio equivalents – linear stories told in weekly instalments. But why stick to this format when smartphones give the listener the opportunity to select, rewind and listen again? BBC Radio 4’s The Reservoir Tapes takes the opportunity to do something different, releasing the story of a young woman’s disappearance in a series of short stories that can be listened to in any order, allowing the listener to do the detective work. Other independent production storymakers are experimenting with denser plotting, “minisodes”, unlocked episodes and in-world interviews with characters playing with how the audience experiences the world.