Thursday, September 19, 2013

Video about the effect of effective stories on the brain and behaviour

This video brings up all sorts of questions about storytelling and the effect of good storytelling on brain chemicals and personal behaviour. Can an effective story increase altruistic behaviour?




I had an interesting phone call this morning from a fundraising campaign. They wanted sponsorship for a cause that I considered reasonably appropriate - a support book for soldiers with post traumatic stress syndrone. The telemarketer was using quite emotive words that were clearly meant to make me more altruistic - 'young diggers', 'kids' etc. When I said, 'kids' don't you mean adult soldiers? He had to agree but still kept on presenting Australian soldiers as poor suffering kids. He didn't tell me a story either.

So story techniques can be used for all sorts of purposes but you can't dot point the technique though. You have to tell the story and tell it in a way that engages.

Watch out for the 'dramatic arch' idea however, on it's own it is not enough to make a good story. Listeners need to be able to recognise the setting and empathise with the characters. It helps heaps if characters in the story actually speak and there has to be a resolution. That was one thing that annoyed me about the story in the video. We weren't told the resolution. The story ended with the problem.

Hopefully Aussie Diggers will have some good resolution to their issue of getting better support for those of them suffering from the impacts of serving in the defence forces. Here's the FaceBook link
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-Diggers/127819490624464

Monday, September 09, 2013

Do we need stories to change our mind?

Wow big election weekend over. It was great to take part in the democratic process of choosing the next Australian government in a range of ways.

I lobbied for issues that I considered important in the weeks leading up to the election. I voted including the 80 odd below the line preferences for the Senate. I handed out policy scorecards for GetUp encouraging people to make their choices by taking into account important social and environmental issues rather than personalities and I handed out how to vote cards for my current favourite political party.

All of this happened in an atmosphere of relative peace and consideration for others. Mind you I did witness one voter give supporters of one party a really violent tongue lashing outside a polling booth. It was quite a surprise.

How do people change their minds and do something different to what they normally do.

Here's an interesting article that suggests that people need appropriate stories to encourage that shift from the habitual to the new.

www.stevenpressfield.com/2013/08/stories-are-about-change/

I don't agree with everything that Shawn Coyne says about those changes but it is worth a read.

It is clear to me that stories can help us change habits or help us make a decision.

What would make a story more effective in this way?

I suspect that the story should be one in which the listener can see themselves as one of the characters in the story. That character should be one that cuts through the accumated distress and well worn grooves of life. It might remind the listener of the person they once were before they got trapped in their current persona. It might remind the story listener of the person they dream they would like to be, if only ...

And the narrative should show someone overcoming a challenge and succeeding in change.

The example that Shawn Coyne quotes from 'The Examined Life' by Stephen Grosz is of the woman who survived the Twin Towers destruction because she was prepared to leave all of her personal baggage behind in the office and exit as soon as possible while others went back to try and save personal effects or stick to prearranged commitments. It is a good story to demonstrate the effect.

I wonder what story the new Australian government managed to tell those people who voted for them? I find it a bit hard to crystalise but it seemed to revolve around how bad the central characters of the old government were for the country. It worked even though the previous government had actually had a good economic record, achieved positive change with some major projects and served a full term in a challenging minority government situation.

I wonder what effect the new government will have on the arts and on education? It will be interesting to watch the story unfold.


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Care for Carers Stories on PlaceStories



Lee FullARTOn has completed a great report about that fantastic Care for Carers 2013 project that I was involved in.
In between the games participants shared stories


 She's made good use of the PlaceStories web hub to publish the report. 

Here's the link to the Postcard about my participation:






Care for Carers 2013 is a good example of how storytelling can contribute so positively and creatively in community projects. In this flood recovery project, my storytelling session was used as both warmup for the project and to provide stories that the children could offer as caring gifts to their carers. They also used the stories as the basis for other art work and performances that they created with other artists.

It was a pleasure to work with Lee again. She is amazingly creative, very organised and, like all good arts workers, flexible and responsive.