The ‘N’ Word

October 8, 2013

I flew into Frankfurt with David Gurteen today who sinned greatly by messing up the on line checkin to confine me to a middle seat.  After a good meal and conversation I have partially forgiven him only because I know I can retaliate for the return flight.  The hotel we are staying at is one of those design hotels which confuses lack of light for chic and has the worst internet connectivity I have seen.  They advertise 'fee' but its then 56kb and you have to pay a fortune to get a semi-slow alternative.  I really object to such con tricks.   It's a good hotel and I find it really silly that that give away free wine when you arrive but can't handle the basics of internet provision. Either way, tirade aside back to the subject of this blog.

Checking twitter (with plenty of time to review slowing emerging tweets) I found a plea from Shawn Callaghan of Anecdote to John Hegel not to abandon story telling.  The suggestion was that John's recent blog had committed that sin (not sure if it is venal or mortal as far as Shawn is concerned, I think venal).  You can read both posts for yourself but I don't think John has abandoned the idea that people tell stories.   I think we need to realise that while story telling is engaged with the wider idea of narrative it should not be regarded as as having some necessary or sufficient linkage. 

This is a wide subject but let me make a couple of contributions to the discussion:

  • Narrative can be created by action or contradicted by it.  One of the best ways of stopping a negative story is to take actions that make the negative story difficult to sustain.  It is nearly always a better tactic than trying to tell a contradictory story.
  • Micro-narratives, the fragmented stories of the water cooler, the school date are part of a flow of narrative over time which (as John says) does not have a beginning a middle or an end.  It is a flow of meaning that is within and which transcends time.  SenseMaker® is designed to represent that.
  • Pictures and other artefacts are an important part of a narrative stream.  A lot of people who focus on story telling need to look at the literature on material objects and its impact on sense-making and human consciousness. The art of story telling is a part of that but it does not encompass it.
  • Myths, metaphors and the like are part of the scaffolding of a narrative form
  • In the main taking actions that stimulate the production of micro-narratives is more effective than telling a story which has a double meaning in English for good reason.

There is a lot more to say on this and I will take up the theme in a future post.  For the moment I would avoid an either/or debate.  John's post is one of his best of recent years and Shawn raises some good points.  Best to move forward from that.


PS A picture also tells a story

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