The Valuable Links Between Stories and Our Collective Actions
Story as a catalyst for meaning & purpose.
Amid all the talk about content, content marketing, and a host of hybridized new media and journalistic disciplines, it's funny that pundits rarely, if ever, talk about stories themselves or storytelling as a layered discipline in and of itself.
It's funny, or perhaps sadly ironic, because stories and their respective experiences are the fiber of who we are, and why we think we exist (or don't exist), as well as why we are compelled to do things (like making purchases). In a commerce capacity, buckets and containers (read: media inventory or ad units) don't really incite us to click, share and take action in the real world, nor, arguably, do the messages contained within them.
Well, at least not in the same way that stories do in physical environments, and within our living spaces and work spaces.
In short, stories and the experiential designs around them elicit a far more profound need for meaning and purpose than we might think.
Story and experience that advance "higher culture".
Brian Clark really got me to revisit the notions of story and experience over the last few years; in a nutshell, Brian has been designing meaningful experiences for clients throughout his career, and more recently, has been talking about how they can direct ideas or actions around the study of consciousness.
Another pal of mine, Lance Weiler, has long advocated the notion of purposeful storytelling -- the craft of building meaning and intelligence to solve cultural problems, or to inspire mutually created values through experiential learning. In fact, we've run iterative labs, workshops and experiments in different parts of the world that have proven the craft's applied uses in business, commerce, as well as educational and organizational development, just to name a few domains.
Why is this important?
Because in an ecosystem of ideas, it takes the production of those ideas and raises them to a point of context and deeper understanding... Something that, in my opinion, normative media practices, "converged" or not, don't do in terms of advancing culture or building sustainable intellectual and artistic growth. And when you really think about it, this growth is economically critical to sustaining audiences or the participants of "higher culture".
Put another way: Raise the bar on cultural advancement, and media become phenomenal (as well as more lucrative).
Consciousness and phenomenology.
My first real exposure to this approach came in 1991, when I read Daniel Dennett's "Consciousness Explained". Dennett met some detractors in Chalmers and Nagel on the notions of subjectivity, but he nonetheless proposed some very interesting ideas around how stories produce qualitative states, or qualia, that take on interpretive powers through what he calls 'content', and what I would designate more contextually as 'story'.
Edmund Husserl founded the phenomenology movement in the early 20th century to articulate the concept that the objects of content -- what Brian refers to in his talks as "the designing of phenomenological objects" -- are the foundations through which we actually develop a deeper understanding of the world.
Husserl speaks of six primary states in particular, but in studying various approaches to collective intelligence, I've captured nine in what I call "Story (Bio)Dynamics".
In sum, phenomenal states (qualia) have various contextual operations that give the readers of stories or participants in stories special meaning and purpose. You'll notice that the temporal and ethereal states are designated as "intangibles"; I've done this mainly to show that time and attention are fleeting in a media environment that is constantly outpaced by technological and cultural acceleration.
Hence the reason why stories are so important: They literally transcend the channels and the forms through which they are distributed.
Stories are "all-consciousness" explained.
Ultimately, I believe that stories and experience design actually go beyond consciousness and into the realm of "all-consciousness"; the idea that stories and their respective experiences give us a contextually rich palette with which to explore our roles in society, but also to inform, reflexively, the values associated with those roles as we evolve as individuals and socially connected networks.
Just imagine the impact that this can and will have on domains like big data, or product development, or governmental policy formation, or even venture investment. Think about this impact on open innovation.
I also believe that this is a linchpin for the collective intelligence movement; namely, that actions sparked by stories and emergent storytelling practices are the real drivers for social change, at a time in our history where operating context and critical thinking are greatly challenged, and are often deemed too complex to make important decisions in a timely manner.