Stop telling stories 3


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Storytelling has become a huge buzzword, but shouldn't be confused with 'content' in general. I've tried to clarify things here, and very quick;y summarise the importance of information being restricted and justifiable. These restrictions are at odds with the idea of storytelling. I'm seeing this as a note to flesh out into a longer talk.

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Stop telling stories 3

  1. 1. STOP TELLING STORIES Why storytelling isn’t the answer to good contentMonday, 3 October 20111. It’s not an English lesson2. Collect content, not stories3. Content is needy4. Arguments for arguments
  2. 2. 1. It’s not an English lesson • Tone of voice • Language • Stories Content? • Character • Audience • Points of viewMonday, 3 October 2011Content has come to be understood in terms of ‘The kind of stuff people who did Englishknow about’.
  3. 3. WHY STORYTELLING? • Sounds warm and wholesome • Sounds like something anyone can do, while implying a skill • Sounds social and/or interactive = hip • Sounds like meaning and learning will result • Sounds accessible. We all think we know what it isMonday, 3 October 2011Storytelling has become a huge word in the world of marketing and strategising, massivelyassociated (wrongly) with content, massively associated (wrongly) with writing for the web,and massively associated (wrongly) with superior accessibility of message.
  4. 4. CONTENT ISN’T ‘STORIES’Monday, 3 October 2011Content without context has no reason. ‘Story’ implies something complete, opinionated andmeaningful -- and is a really dangerous way of viewing content. A story is a word for a self-contained report, or message, but content refers to a substance more fluid andinterconnected. Vague memories of English lessons are exploding in a big meaningless mess,and rigour is going out the window.
  5. 5. CONTENT IS JUST WHAT GOES INMonday, 3 October 2011Content is the stuff that isn’t the structure. It is regulated by the structure, but it isn’t thestructure. It’s not the ‘how you say things’ or the ‘what’s best to say’. It’s just stuff you putin.
  6. 6. THE STUFF THAT FILLS THE GRIDMonday, 3 October 2011More than anything, content needs a place to go.
  7. 7. 2. MAGAZINES ARE EVERYTHINGMonday, 3 October 2011The purest and most successful form of content collection and distribution on earth = themagazine. Most things are magazines now. Most social websites are magazines of sorts,collecting themed information after a set of principles. Collaborative websites *are* limitsabout collecting and distributing. THE ACTUAL PIECES OF CONTENT ARE THE LASTCONSIDERATION. A lot of content is interchangeable, within certain parameters, it’s relativelyarbitrary. It can be swapped about, can come and go.No, content isn’t king. The REASON governing content is king.
  8. 8. MAGAZINES ARE GRIDS OF REASON •All issues are united by CONTEXT, not content •Grids are rules.Monday, 3 October 20111. Issues of a magazine are not united by common content but by the identical context theyimpose: the format.2. Grids are rules, they accept some things and exclude others
  9. 9. 3. Content is needy •Unlike stories, content is needy. •Rationale comes from formalism, not English lessons.Monday, 3 October 2011*Unlike stories*, content demands a context – a rationale that justifies every bit of stuffʼs inclusion.Rationale means understanding the disciplines of formalism, not cobbling together half-remembered ideas fromthird year English.
  10. 10. “Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny, content.” - Willem De KooningMonday, 3 October 2011The significance of content depends entirely on how it’s framed. It gets its meaning fromcontext. Stories, on the other hand, take their meaning with them wherever they go.
  11. 11. We don’t need more content strategists We need more content-ambivalent formalists Because you can’t start with content Because stuff needs a reason to be thereMonday, 3 October 2011
  12. 12. FIRST Reason/co ordinates/ rationale/structure/ form/point/ argument/ defense/ case/justification/ grid/rules THEN Decisions about specific contentMonday, 3 October 2011Content has two phases, by the far the most important of which is thefirst.
  13. 13. 4. The argument •Truth-seeking. for arguments •Testable. •Frameworks for inserting optimal ideas. •Precede everything. •Don’t need an ‘expert’; do need intelligence. •Go hand-in-hand with the unrepresentable.Monday, 3 October 2011•They put things in context. They are a truth-seeking point of view for situating data in the universe.•They are programmes to be replicated in the head of the recipient, ending with realisation, rather than feelings.•They are frameworks in which to insert the ‘best case for’... the ‘best case for’ a good tone of voice. The ‘best case for’including this content over that one, etc.•They’re more persuasive, compelling, and comprehensible than ‘strategies’, whatever they may be.•They arise out of the unrepresented. Non-representational work always asks for a case to be made. Representational work(paintings, movies, stories) ask you to believe without interrogation or standards.•For these reasons, the non-representational is open to mockery, and people veer towards the representational.
  14. 14. Content locks together. Stories don’t.Monday, 3 October 2011Pieces of content are battleships that can interlock on a grid. Stories, on the other hand are nuanced and temperamental. Theydon’t usually like to fit together, each one wants to be the star.
  15. 15. Stories don’t like arguments • They’re representational • ...and self-contained • Online, social storytelling means expressing feelings and showing off • No reason here. You either ‘get it’ or you don’tMonday, 3 October 2011Stories are representational. They are artful. No one is excluded, so there are no restrictions, so there are noreasons. They are roundabout ways of delivering messages, and by asking us to provide our own personalmental context, they play host to multiple interpretations. They are an expression of a point, do not answer toreason, and do not ask to be trusted.• A subjective view• Exist outside of any rational context• Self-sufficient, with self-governed meaning• Online social ʻstorytellingʼ is dominated by inward-looking artefacts that put the self at the centre• No reasoning means no reason to make sense. You either ʻgetʼ it, or you donʼt
  16. 16. WHICH IS FINEMonday, 3 October 2011But it does give them a form factor thatʼs incompatible with a lot of other formats.