Storify.com is shutting up shop and this has been troubling me since the news was announced several months ago. The main problem, as I see it, is that Storify is a one-of-a-kind service. For educational users, it signalled the potential of social media for learning as an act of curation and construction. I have a couple of case studies in my forthcoming book that reference Storify as a useful space for users-generated digital narrative content, but by and large, I have felt that Storify was under-used in higher education and that curation as an act of learning is not widely appreciated.
If you are not familiar with Storify, it is/was a web-based platform for curating social media by hashtag, using search, aggregation, and drag and drop functionality. Notoriously, tweets from tweetchats could be easily scraped into a Storify archive of the event creating a rich ordered collection and record of discussion incorporating any media and links as tweeted.
This ease-of-use was attractive, but at the same time this led to the development of uncritical habits that could be deemed digital illiteracy. That may be a bit harsh, but evidence of creative narrative making in Storify has been thin on the ground. The scarping of social media is deceptive (and I do it all the time with Evernote): it feels worthy and productive, and there is always the potential to share your scraps, but ultimately your scraps end up in the big web cupboard which you persist in continuously filling from the front until your juicy morsels are out of site and out of mind. You know the scraps are there should you ever need them, but when you do you use Google to find more current information anyway. This poor idea of ‘curation’ is what I think of as social media ‘cupboarding’ or hoarding behaviour: grab it, save it, forget it. This has been a perennial challenge associated with the idea of social media curation since the earliest Web 2.0 platforms such as del.icio.us appeared in 2003 with powerful tagging tools. By the way, Del.icio.us died after a long, slow death in June 2017 – I invested much of my time in that particular cupboard 😦
The use of Storify as an archiving tool has obscured its real potential as a creative educational space for working with digital narratives. It may be hard work (learning was never meant to be easy), but editing in narrative text, re-sequencing tweets, and incorporating digital media from other sources including related and unrelated hashtags are curatorial actions that begin to suggest how Storify might have been used to live up to its name – to make stories and documentaries with purpose.
I’ve begun to look for alternatives to Storify and a quick Google (of course) turns up very little of any use (surprisingly and ironically Google can’t always save us!). George Williams in the ProfHacker blog column in The Chronicle of Higher Education explores the Alternatives to Storify and points to a Google Doc his students have created together to evaluate possibilities. The best bet is Pearltrees, but it would really make very hard work of a task that would have been second nature to Storify.
It feels like we missed our chance – let me know if you know otherwise. Please!