The Future of Storytelling: 6 Predictions for 2020 and Beyond10 min read

The first two decades of the millennium are history. Even if we haven’t quite come to terms with that, there’s no stopping time; a new chapter is being written as we speak. The awareness we’ve gained about the impact of our various lifestyles, including travel trends, has drastically changed conversations about our roles as humans in the global ecosystem. And with the coming of age of mass social media networks, storytelling remained the same at its core, yet simultaneously morphed into vastly different digital forms. Clearly, it’s not just our world views that aren’t quite the same. The stories we tell to make sense of the world have changed as well. So, what will the future of storytelling look like?

What’s past is only prologue. The clues that reveal the future are hiding in the conversations that are trending today. Here at Globonaut, we’re always thinking about what’s next and where we should be heading. To anticipate and understand how we will continue to tell our stories in the future, we put our heads together and analysed growing topics and movements. The result? Six storytelling predictions for 2020 and beyond.

The clues that reveal the future of storytelling are hiding in the conversations that are trending today.

A fortune cookie that reveals a slip of paper with the text: 2020 predictions

1. Vertical Video: Is the Future of Storytelling (Literally) in Our Hands?

Roselinde: Over the last few months, as we slowly transitioned into a new decade, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much our media consumption has changed. How much our devices and ‘channels’ have changed. With our devices, the format of the stories we consume has undeniably mutated in the 2010s as well.

Books have spawned e-books, the radio is rivalled by podcasts, and laptops and telephones have morphed into smartphones and tablets. And, interestingly, videos aren’t just ‘videos’ anymore. They’re not the standard horizontal upload on YouTube we’re all used to. Videos can also be snaps, stories, IGTV episodes and viral memes on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. They’re vertical.

In the past decade, YouTube reigned supreme as strongest video platform in much of the world. It was like the internet’s answer to decades of television. Blogs met their visual cousin: the vlog. Later on, the likes of Netflix started making it big on a global scale. These videos, series and movies can still fill up our laptop and TV screens like any film from the 1970s. And they will continue to do so, don’t get me wrong. But I expect the balance between the horizontal and vertical will finally tip in the 2020s. We’re moving from the horizontal to the handheld.

How media is morphing to fit our hands… and attention spans

How did this happen, exactly? Well, YouTube was part of the first shift from video consumption by the masses (television, films) to video consumption AND production by the masses (vlogs, live streams). We don’t have to pick from a limited number of TV channels anymore. We can follow any creator we want.

On top of that, we can all be that creator. Unfortunately, it’ll mostly be within heavily commercialized social media settings with ads and sponsored content galore. Still, it’s clear that user-generated content is only going to increase.

Your little sister or next-door neighbour can create whatever content they can possibly imagine with their devices in hand. And the media is quickly morphing to fit our hands, capitalize on our front-facing cameras and – with a new wave of information overload – adapt to our shorter attention spans.

So, there, I’m making the claim; short-form vertical content will dominate digital storytelling in 2020s. I strongly suspect that will include an explosion of AR (augmented reality) apps and filters tuned to our selfies. Who knows what’s next with creative tools like that?

2. Holistic Journalism: Are We Going to Tell the ‘Behind the Scenes’ Stories?

Qiu Ting: I feel that the next decade will bring even more niches in travel and yet a broader stroke of photography. Instead of highlighting the spectacular places we all see on social media, I think there will be a shift toward documenting the ordinary, everyday realities of the places we travel to in this decade.

Maybe it’s because of who I’m ‘following’ on social media – photography accounts capturing wildlife and humanity, spaces and places in our built environment that also share the narratives behind each photograph.

I’ve noticed emerging photo-journalism niches online that are almost like documentary photography. People capture the process and stages of travelling between destinations, as well as the people they meet on the way.

In the coming decade, I expect more holistic, ‘behind the scenes’ stories. We’ll see genuine travel essays and articles documenting the everyday, overlooked and in-between stories of people and cultures that are all waiting to be told.

Recently, I chanced upon an article on the British Journal of Photography featuring three photographers who worked on a project in Copenhagen for a few days (yes to collaborative projects!). They worked with a broad theme – and they all approached it in a different way. But one theme stood out: their ‘on the go’ photographs and travel notes created a more holistic feeling. It made travelling to that place feel real, more concrete and different from simply checking off attractions on a must-see list.

Documenting the everyday

I remember spending a few days in Copenhagen several years ago where I stayed over at a friend’s. My memories were of the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and how we literally dashed home in fear of being hit by the fireworks released by the neighborhood kids. We went to Amalienborg Castle, watched the changing of the guards and then did a lot of walking. Even so, I still feel like I don’t have a firm grasp of the city.

That’s why I’ve always wanted to do a project like this myself. Although the trend may be gaining traction in the film and photography industries, getting started will still be challenging for an ‘average’ person. Lack of time, connections and experiences could be obstacles for most people.

But in the coming decade, I am looking forward to seeing and sharing more holistic, ‘behind the scenes’ stories. We’ll see genuine travel essays and articles documenting the everyday, overlooked and in-between stories of people and cultures that are all waiting to be told.

A girl looking through a telescope: We discuss the future of storytelling in six predictions for 2020

3. Going Feral: Will We Exchange Mortgages for Nomadism?

Lana Rafaela: Roselinde reminded me that in 2019, we’d seen the rise of alternative lifestyles for people who feel suffocated by concrete and skyscrapers, and I believe the trend will continue in the 20s. We’ll see an uptick in people breaking away and living their lives on their own terms. 

In short, I think 2020 is going to be the year when we go feral.

Since we have realized that the way we have been traveling isn’t good for us or for the planet, it’s not such a stretch to imagine people committing to nomadic lifestyles at a greater scale. Just think about it: we’ve never been less equipped to handle mortgages and invest in retirement plans, and one vacation a year isn’t going to cut it for people who want to live their lives well.

We’ve never been less equipped to handle mortgages and invest in retirement plans, and one vacation a year isn’t going to cut it.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more people investing into RVs and vans, as well as (sail) boats, instead of traditional real estate. We’ll see them committing to pursuing wild and beautiful stories hiding in every corner of this world.

Hopefully, this next decade will lead us to the lives we want to lead, as opposed to the lives we’ve been taught to lead. I’m hoping to see more stories about the things we can see when we escape the pavement.

4. Conscious Lifestyles: Will Society Truly Embrace Sustainability?

Marijke: I noticed that in the last couple of years conscious living has gained significantly more attention. With mass-consumption at its peak and environmental destruction becoming an undeniable problem, more and more people are starting to make a change. Conscious brands are popping up with sustainable and fair products, which influential people on social media are increasingly promoting.

Things are changing, but most importantly, more people are talking about it and showing it. Even we, Globonauts, shared more stories that shone a light on sustainability, alternative lifestyles and the environment last year. With readers and writers becoming more openly critical on ‘how we always used to do things’, a different kind of storytelling is emerging. On social media, creators show what it’s like to live in a tiny house or move to Crete for a simple life after two years on the road in a van.

A person holding an empty frame with a natural beach landscape in the background

Shifting Focus on Positive Change

I’m seeing more articles about different (and more conscious) lifestyles, like plastic-free living, minimalism and veganism. Travel bloggers are approaching travel in a more holistic and sustainable way. We’ve started asking critical questions about why we do the things we do and what kind of consequences we create for people and planet.

My prediction is that this shift in storytelling will continue in 2020 and beyond. We’ll continue to shift online attention to more authentic, holistic and conscious ways of living and travelling. That means more focus on values, experiences and relationships instead of possessions, status and career. We’ll focus on showing alternatives and inspiring each other to make a positive change. And I hope that politicians will finally take environmental protection and civil rights more seriously than they take economic growth.

5. Stories About Nature: Will We See Ourselves as an Intrinsic Part of Nature?

Maryse: I predict that the stories we tell in Western societies about nature (and culture) will change in 2020 and this new decade. To this day, we live with the legacy of the famous philosopher René Descartes. He founded the idea that humans are separate from the natural world in western thought. This dualism between nature and humans (or culture) is not only being questioned in academia, but also in popular thought.

Humans are starting to understand that we’re not separate from other animals, plants, or fungi. We will tell more and more stories about being an intrinsic part of the natural world.

The museum ‘Micropia’ in Amsterdam is a wonderful example of this. The interactive exhibition explains that humans have ten times more microbes in their bodies than human cells in a fun and accessible way. About 1.5 kilograms of your total body weight consists of microbes. Micropia tells the story of our human bodies working together, living in symbiosis, with microbes. With this kind of knowledge, how can we still claim to be separated from the natural world?

I predict that in the coming decade, the story of how we are an intrinsic part of the natural world will only grow in different areas. Knowledge about climate change also reinforces our process of rethinking our position in the world. Climate activists share stories of human responsibility for a change of the natural world. Humans aren’t separate from other animals, plants, and fungi. We are an intrinsic part of the natural world. More and more people will tell a similar story.

A beach with palm trees littered with plastic and other types of trash

6. Bans on Places: Will Travel’s Glamorous Facade Finally Break?

Janine: This year, in 2020, Komodo Island in Indonesia will be closed for the entire year. We’ve exhausted its animals and environment with our travel habits. In the next decade, I think we’ll be telling less one-dimensional stories but more holistic stories that highlight the consequences of our behaviour.

Thousands of tourists annually visited the island in Eastern Indonesia. It’s the only place in the world where Komodo dragons can be seen in their natural habitat. If you want to see them with your own eyes next year, you will have to pay. And it will be a lot more than the previous price of $9. Fees will go up to $500 per person or even higher. Officials haven’t confirmed the exact numbers just yet. 

I predict that bans like this will become a reality for many places around the world over the next decade. The only reason for this is simple and straight-forward: ignorance. External factors like climate, environmental and social costs are still, to this date, being ignored by governments, tour operators and by us.

Travelling less, enjoying it more

Wonder why it’s so cheap to fly? We’re not adding climate costs to the price of an airplane ticket. Wonder why it’s so cheap to visit a developing country? Low wages are artificially kept low to ensure a competitive position amongst other destinations.

Wonder why it’s so cheap to fly? It’s a one-way ticket to personal short-term satisfaction. We’re not adding climate costs to the price of an airplane ticket.

Wonder why it’s possible to sit by the pool anywhere and sip cocktails that won’t hurt your wallet one bit? Water supply for local people is being limited for tourism purposes. Wonder why it’s possible for anyone to visit any destination all year around? Most of us are disregarding the ecologically devastating consequences of over-tourism.1

Slowly but surely, the travel industry and governments are coming to the realization that this model of tourism isn’t financially sustainable. When the Earth is wrecked, there won’t be idyllic places left to admire and there won’t be any profit to be made. There won’t be any dreamy travelogues left to write. This already is and will continue to result in regulations for destinations.

I think that this will make us, as consumers, more and more aware of the fact that our trip has an impact. That it has consequences. That it’s not just a one-way ticket to personal short-term satisfaction. Therefore, the style of travel storytelling which is distinctive for flying to a destination to simply consume it, will vanish. We will want the whole, multi-dimensional story.

Do you have any thoughts on our speculations or would you like to share your own predictions for the new decade? Let us know and join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

  1. Source: “FAIRreisen – Das Handbuch für alle, die umweltbewusst unterwegs sein wollen“, Frank Herrmann.

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