Responsible Storytelling

swearing in cartoon Suomi: Kiroileva sarjakuva...

swearing in cartoon Suomi: Kiroileva sarjakuvahahmo Nederlands: Schelden en vloeken in strips 粵語: 粗口 中文: 罵髒話 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The thing is, given the opportunity people do like to be assholes. Especially teenagers. Why, when I was a teenager…irrelevant, nevermind, you don’t want to know. On Friday I completed a rather interesting and really fun task for Popcorn Story Camp. I made a list of every swear word I could think of and a non-swear alternative. It ended up being 262 terms (and 262 replacements). We’ve been having a discussion about putting a piece of script into our Story Camp templates that replaces curse words and racist slurs.

But it’s been a debate as to whether or not we should do this. Someone used the word “Censorship”.

On the one hand, we might prevent someone from loading in a profile picture of one of their less-than-popular peers and adding text that says “This girl is a cumguzzler,” followed by an image of a donkey and vacuum attachments – a decidedly mean and unnecessary slap in the poor girl’s face. This is something I wouldn’t have a problem with censoring. The creator would get a Laura-style talkin to. If I saw one of my learners making something like this, I’d dump Tang down his/her shirt and put gum in his/her hair. I would put cheese whiz in his/her shoes. Then I would use my serious voice to remind him/her that being a bully is only really fun and productive when you’re playing Bully.

On the other hand, we might prevent a beautiful and complex story about a victim of a sexual assault or a story about overcoming racism in small town America.

In the western world we’re pretty hypocritical about censorship. We scream “DON’T CENSOR” when governments and countries try to take away our right to post whatever content we want to post, but we get offended when someone else posts a political, moral or ethical viewpoint we disagree with. We don’t respect each others right to have an opinion, whatever opinion that might be. And we take it personally when that opinion bucks the social norm.

I cuss like a sailor, and I don’t mind if others do the same. I don’t mean any offense (most of the time), and I hope the participants in Story Camp are so inspired by the awesome program, demos, webinars and content we have created for them that it won’t occur to them to make the type of content that will hurt someone else.

How do we help our youth understand how to be responsible storytellers? And if we’re creating a mechanism for stories to be held on our servers, how do we protect ourselves from the potential legal and moral shit storm that arises out of hosting content that one might deem “offensive”?

My best guess: Curate, influence, inspire and lead by example.

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  3 comments for “Responsible Storytelling

  1. Ben Moskowitz
    May 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Really it’s only an issue given the robot voice. I am a grown man and I revert to making the computer say stupid shit :)

  2. J Tayloe
    May 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Let’s hear more about those teen years Laura. :)

    • May 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      You can read all about them in my unpublicized book that exists out there :) Nice to see you here!

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