Storyboard: An Exercise in Collaborative Storytelling

My name is Jonah Fishel, and I am a rising senior studying Storytelling (self-designed) and Religious Studies. I hope to study for a PhD in Religious Studies after graduation, but my special interest is storytelling, especially collaborative storytelling.


The presentation of narrative is one of the oldest forms of communication and can in many ways be considered the fundamental unit of analysis of human experience. Storytelling in a strict sense, the presentation of ordered events (whether real or imaginary) is a way for people to share experiences, gained knowledge, culture, and even more specific forms of knowledge like recipes or instructions. Sharing stories helps people understand and relate to each other, and there is a long history of narrative therapy being used to great effect in clinical therapy, peacekeeping, and in the classroom. But “storytelling”, as it is academically understood, takes place between a teller and an audience. While the interaction between the teller and the audience is essential to effective communication in narrative format, it is still considered a performative form of communication–that is, the teller is the one communicating, and the audience. This summer, I will attempt to encourage small groups of people to engage in telling stories together collaboratively, each participant actively involved in the process of both telling and listening. This exercise will fuse the roles of teller and audience for everyone involved and foster a collaborative creative process that will further draw together the participants and allow them to further understand each other. The collaborative storytelling activity will take the form of a board game I have designed and will be producing this summer. In the fall, I will gather and publish results on how effective the game was at producing the kind of collaborative storytelling I intend to produce with the current ruleset, and adjust until the desired play experience is reached. The final product of this project will be a written account of the process of design and revision with transcripts of play to indicate the changes that needed to be made and why those changes promoted a certain kind of experience.


I am excited to get started on this idea I’ve been kicking around for months now! I will be doing official playtesting in the fall pending IRB approval, so if you or anyone you know wants to get involved, let me know!