Moving From Data to Wisdom with Transmedia Storytelling

Transmedia storytelling should be a key tool for anyone wanting to bring about change. I’ve worked in business and academic settings for more than three decades and have seen far more examples of resistance to change than I can recount. Too often the response of proponents for change is to trot out more data, hoping that further evidence will persuade those who are resistant. Unfortunately, data alone is not enough to create the understanding needed to bring about the desired change.

The “understanding spectrum” developed by Nathan Shedroff helps explain why and provides insights into where and how transmedia storytelling can be used as part of a change effort.

The "understanding spectrum" is a continuum from data to information to  knowledge to wisdom

The “understanding spectrum” is a continuum from data to information to knowledge to wisdom

To make data useful – to turn it into information – requires the addition of context for using that data and packaging that makes it usable. Transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom requires the integration of both context and experience.

For example, a piece of data that states climate change will cause more severe weather events is important but essentially meaningless for the vast majority of  people. There is nothing in that piece of data that gives a recipient of the data the context or experience that helps them apply it in a meaningful way. Adding more data points is not likely to improve their understanding if context and experience aren’t part of the package of information.

Rising sea levels, more severe hurricanes, species extinction, global water shortages, the impacts of technological change – these and many other important issues that need to be addressed are well documented by foresight professionals but are not being addressed in any substantive way by most individuals, institutions, and societies. Foresight professionals need to move up the understanding spectrum, beyond presenting data and information to facilitating the development of knowledge and wisdom. Stories, by embedding context and experience, are a powerful tool for developing knowledge and wisdom.

Transmedia storytelling is a powerful way to help create knowledge and wisdom. It is not just the stories themselves. The use of fictional and non-fictional stories can be combined with web pages, e-books, YouTube videos, and other platforms that have additional data and information. The ability to integrate fiction and non-fiction into hybrid transmedia experiences has promising potential. Add to that the ability to share experiences via various forms of social media and you have tremendous potential for moving people beyond data to knowledge and wisdom.

I talk more about the use of transmedia storytelling and futures studies in an article published in the Journal of Futures Studies.

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