Eric Miller's Life Narrative

Eric Edwin Miller was born in midtown Manhattan, New York City, where he was raised by his parents, Edwin Miller (Entertainment Editor of Seventeen Magazine,'46-'88) and Lydia Joel (Editor-in-Chief of Dance Magazine,'56-'70; Chair of the Dance Department of NYC's High School of the Performing Arts, '72-'84).

Mr. Miller attended Trinity School (grades 2-8), and Stuyvesant High School, both in NYC.  He pursued his undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College, Oberlin College, and New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, receiving his B.A. degree in 1984.

From '82 to '06, Mr. Miller and a partner (Diana Dunbar) co-directed Eric & Co. Video, which was based in NYC.  In its early years, this company documented performances and social and corporate functions; later it produced largescreen videoconferences and other multimedia events.  Mr. Miller has also worked for other new media companies, including Amusitronix (55 Broad St., NYC), which provided virtual reality and other interactive entertainment.  Mr. Miller's primary function as a media professional (consultant, designer, director-producer) is to bring the spirit of face-to-face storytelling into new media environments.

Mr. Miller developed his interest in storytelling in the following manner:  Throughout high school and college, Mr. Miller was involved with theatre as a writer, director, and performer.  As an undergraduate, he was introduced to the study of Folklore by Prof. Phyllis Gorfain of the Department of English, Oberlin College.  Back in NYC, in his early twenties, Mr. Miller met Laura Simms -- a storyteller, educator, and leader of the modern revival of storytelling -- and he began studying with and working for her, eventually doing two Independent Studies with her, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student at NYU.  Mr. Miller's work for Ms. Simms has included managing mailing lists; preparing publicity and advertisements; giving feedback regarding manuscripts and performances; videotaping performances; and acting as liaison for the "1995 Month of International Storytelling in New York," which involved assisting storytellers from England, France, Iran, Africa, and the USA.

Throughout much of the '80s and '90s, Mr. Miller was based in New York City's East Village.  Here he worked as a video documenter of performances, and as a video artist.  (For more information about this period of Mr. Miller's life, please see his essays,  "Live Video as Performance on New York City's Lower East Side in the 1980s," and “Some Habitation Attitudes and Practices on New York City’s Lower East Side, 1982 to 2002.”

In 1988, Mr. Miller entered the Gallatin School M.A. program to further his studies of oral narrative and interactive telecommunication.  The Gallatin School enables one to study in various parts of NYU, and Mr. Miller did much of his M.A. coursework in the Interactive Telecommunication Program (Tisch School of the Arts).  He conducted fieldwork in Tamil Nadu, south India, from July '88 to July '89; and then again, from Jan. '91 to Nov. '91.  He collected data regarding: traditional storytelling techniques, attending folk and orthodox storytelling performances and videotaping some of them; and the Silappathikaram (Epic of the Anklet), a central epic of the Tamil people.  He walked 250 miles in the footsteps of Kannagi, the heroine of the epic, and visited a tribe said to have been founded by Kannagi some 1600 years ago.  In 1991, while in Madras (now Chennai), Mr. Miller self-published a booklet entitled, "Tamil Nadu's Silappathikaram (Epic of the Anklet): Ancient Story and Modern Identity."  Mr. Miller's M.A. thesis surveyed visual accompaniments used by storytellers, and argued for the inclusion of electronic imagery on a large screenin that family.  Mr. Miller received his M.A. degree in 1996.

From '96 to '02, Mr. Miller taught a total of eleven courses as an adjunct professor at St. John's University (Staten Island, NYC campus) and Fordham University (Lincoln Center, NYC campus).  These courses included Expository Writing, Writing About Literature, The Modern Short Story, American Drama, The Folktale, and Introduction to Speech Communication.

During this period, he began work on a Ph.D. in Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania.  His dissertation-in-process, "Ethnographic Videoconferencing, as Applied to South Indian Children's Songs/Chants/Dances/Games, and Language Learning," posits that children's verbal play may assist their language learning process, and discusses how play and language learning can occur in videoconferencing.  The primary research for this project involved being based in a mountain village with Kani tribal people in southwestern Tamil Nadu (from March '03 to Dec. '04).  Fruits of this project include a set of traditional-play-based question-and-answer routines that can be used to teach and learn any language, especially in vieoconferences.

Mr. Miller studies storytelling (oral narrative) as it occurs in everyday conversation, as well as in various more formal contexts.  Sociolinguistic and sociokinetic processes -- as they occur both face-to-face and as mediated by interactive telecommunication technology -- constitute the basic subject matter of his scholarship.  He is helping to establish Storytelling Studies as an interdisciplinary field in academia.  In Spring '02, he taught a course entitled, Storytelling, at NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies.  In  December '07, in Chennai, he co-founded the World Storytelling Institute.

Mr. Miller enjoys the combination of teaching, assisting professional storytellers, and working in the new media industry.  Via videoconferencing and face-to-face, he conducts workshops relating to storytelling.  He seeks to facilitate videoconferenced performances and training by storytellers from around the world, from and to cybercafes, and he is developing simultaneous translation systems for such use.  Mr. Miller works as a technical director of civic, political, artistic, business, educational, and other types of videoconferences.  His career is dedicated to democracy and peace, and to alleviating suffering, through the use of the most ancient and modern of communication technologies.

He has re-settled in Chennai, where he and Magdalene Jeyarathnam (a Chennai native, and founder-director of the Center for Counselling), have married, and have had a daughter.

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