In an upcoming article in the Journal of Futures Studies I talk about the role transmedia storytelling can play in the field of futures studies. Transmedia storytelling provides new opportunities to shape personal narratives.
As we integrate data and information with context and experience the knowledge and wisdom that we develop becomes more internalized and integrated into us as a “personal narrative”. Narratives can prompt changes in the brain’s synaptic connections (Lakoff, 2009), essentially creating who we are (Gazzaniga, 1987). We comprehend life as an ongoing series of internal narratives (Fisher, 1985), which are our primary way of modeling our perspectives of ourselves and the world around us – our “worldview” (Schlitz, Vieten, & Miller, 2010). Our personal narrative is partially constructed by an “unreliable narrator” (ourselves) to add meaning to the facts presented to us (Shelley, 2012).
Narratives are stories that weave together a series of facts (or assertions) so they make sense. Narratives create what is true for the believer, which is more germane to the believer’s life than facts. Facts are like dots on a graph. The narrative is the curve that connects them, that gives isolated data points meaning, and gives meaning shape. (Shelley, 2012)
There is an interplay between popular culture’s narratives and the personal narratives of the individual. The movie The Day After, broadcast in 1983, is an example of how storytelling played a role in reshaping a global issue by impacting a personal narrative – in this case that of Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States. In his diary, Reagan noted:
Monday, October 10, (1983) Columbus Day. In the morning at Camp D. I ran the tape of the movie ABC is running on the air Nov. 20. It’s called “The Day After.” It has Lawrence, Kansas wiped out in a nuclear war with Russia. It is powerfully done—all $7mil.worth. It’s very effective & left me greatly depressed. So far they haven’t sold any of the 25 spot ads scheduled & I can see why. Whether it will be of help to the “anti nukes” or not, I can’t say. My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent & to see there is never a nuclear war. Back to W.H. (Reagan, 2007, p. 43)
Reagan’s position gave him a level of power most individuals do not have. However, that doesn’t mean the average person is powerless. While today’s public narratives can shape the personal narrative, digital media tools and networks make it easier for individuals to interact with each other to create new collective narratives that contain the building blocks of new futures, informed but not constrained by the past.