Tag: original research (Page 2 of 3)

Narrative Identity and Anime: Questions, Definitions, and Directions

This is part of a series that draws on ethnographic fieldwork with anime fans. The series creates a framework for exploring the relationship between narrative, performance, and identity. I explore a theory of narrative identity in which individuals incorporate elements from stories into their lives. I document how anime fans use anime-specific narrative resources such as archetypes, icons, and language to shape their personal identity narratives and perform those identities to both anime fans and non-anime fans.

Check out the rest of the series.


Stories are part of humanity, and have been ever since, and probably before, humankind took to speech. John Niles (Niles 2010) even went as far as to call humankind Homo Narrans, “storytelling man.” But let’s take that though a little further. To what extend do people use narrative to build their personal identities?

I first posit that the “narrative” as a “sense-making” structure that gives the “bones” allowed for people to “create and give meaning to our social reality (Hydén 1997:50).” Further, I suggest that narratives can be effectively and intentionally used to teach, to shape, and to guide behavior.

In a general sense, this is building off of work by Joseph Campbell (2008) and Carl Jung (1981), who had complimentary notions of archetypes as described in Christopher Vogler”™s book The Writer”™s Journey (2007) where mythic narrative elements (archetypes and journeys) act as guides for personal and social behavior. BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski also discussed the idea of a social charter (1971) where myths act as guides or a sort of playbook for behavior.

In more recent years, Charlotte Linde, an anthropologist, theorizes about the use of narrative as a sense making structure and story as a resource for identity management during her ethnography of an American Insurance Company (2003; 2000). The definition of “narrative” will be discussed in detail later, but for now we will define story as a presentation of events, whether real or fictitious, involving three primary elements: plotting, character, and setting (Morrell 2006:51). Linde details how incoming employees use stories from training materials and social settings to mold their own identity and guide their behavior in the workplace.

James Wertsch, an anthropologist from Washington University in St. Louis, carries this further by postulating that narratives are the primary sense-making structure, and are carried collectively by groups as part of a narrative schema inside a social circle”™s collective memory (2008; 2000). Indeed, the study of illness narrative inside medical anthropology suggests that narratives can be used to, among other things: 1) to reconstruct one”™s life in line with a greater narrative, 2) as a form of strategic interaction in order to assert or project one’s identity, and 3) to transform illness from an individual into a collective phenomenon.

So, it can be asserted that narratives are instrumental in creating, shaping, and projecting (or performing) identity.

Narrative is the central sense-making structure that allows human beings to arrange, categorize and present symbolic ideas. Hydén (1997:50) said, it has only been recently that “social scientists began to consider narratives as one of the ways in which we create and give meaning to our social reality. To earlier generations of social scientists, the narrative was merely one of many forms of representation.” Therefore, narrative provides the schema or roadmap for symbolic ideas to be connected and interpreted. Narrative is built in the same way story is: with character, plot and setting.

Identity, according to Joel Charon is “the name we all call ourselves” and also “the name we announce to others that tells them who we are.” (2009:84) Identities are positional or relational. They are “perceived social locations of the individual where one has situated [themselves] in relation to others,”¦[and] the name one tries to communicate with others” (Stone 2011:93).

So our working definition of identity is the socially constructed, socially maintained, and socially transformed meanings a person attributes to himself or herself (Berger 2011; Burke 1980).

To further clarify definitions, I will call the internal “identity” the personal identity narrative, here meaning the story we tell ourselves, about ourselves. The external “identity” in the paragraph above, I shall refer to as the performative identity, meaning the “me” we attempt to show others.

These definitions come together in the theory of narrative identity which we described earlier as the interplay between narratives and social identity construction in which individuals incorporate elements from narratives (fictionalized, social, and others) into their personal identity narrative and attempt to project this identity narrative by way of a performative identity.

The triad of narrative identity is an analytical framework that is used to analyze narrative identity by describing the connectedness between the shaping and projecting of narrative identity using narrative resources.

Narrative resources are narrative elements that provide symbolic points of reference, context, and content for fashioning identity and for performing identity.

These three aspects work in concert together: personal identity narratives, performative identities, and narrative resources. This works in a procedural way:

  1. Narrative resources exist “out there” and are shared by both audience and performer. They do not have the exact same set, and both interpret these symbols differently.
  2. The actor uses these shared resources to cobble together a personal identity narrative. That is “Who do I say I am?”
  3. That personal identity feeds into the performative identity: Who do I want others to know I am?
  4. The performance is the observable interaction projected by the actor.
  5. The audience relies on the shared narrative resources for audience interpretation.
  6. This creates the perceived self, or perception of the actor. This is who the audience thinks the actor is.
  7. The audience provides feedback, both intentionally and unintentionally.
  8. That feedback influences the performance, which influences the performative identity, which can ultimately influence the personal identity narrative.

Consider this simple example: Jerry is a football fan. His personal identity narrative is, therefore, informed by narrative resources that may include sports narratives, sports jargon and personal experiences. Jerry also performs this identity in order to situate himself as an athlete among his circle of friends. In order to communicate this, he again draws on narrative resources. In this case, those resources may be a brand of clothing that carries symbolic weight and that the group understands to point towards athletes. He may also adopt (enact) certain gestures and language that have been made popular by celebrity athletes. The audience (individuals in his circle of friends) sees these performance features and associates Jerry with athletics, therefore perceiving him as an athlete.

Going forward, I will attempt to walk a three-sided line. First and foremost, I will strive to enable anime fans to share their own voices through their own interviews, interpretations, and performances.

The second line is an attempt to create an analytical framework for investigating the theory of narrative identity. This framework will help us draw conclusions about the form and substance of narrative identity in social contexts. This is a test, and it may be that the framework is insufficient or plain faulty.

The third line is to fit this work in with the larger question of stories for education, identity management, and transformation. I will discuss some applied approaches and further directions for research of this type.

The next post in this series is a brief introduction to anime.

Stay tuned!

Series: The Triad Narrative Identity and Anime Fandom

This blog and my research, is devoted to transformational storytelling. At the core transformational storytelling research is the simple question, “why people respond so strongly to stories?” If we can find these answers, we can create stories that teach, heal, call to social action, and transform lives.

One great way to explore the connection between humans and stories is to explore groups who have observable, passionate, and strong connections to a specific cannon of stories. Many such groups come to mind: novelists, folklorists, storytellers, and fans. Fans pose an especially interesting case because they so often adopt elements from stories and integrate them into daily life, in effect living out the stories they love. Is that not exactly what we are looking to investigate?

As I have discussed in another mini-series about storyworlds, there are many different ways we integrate elements of story into our personal identity narrative. This series is an in depth exploration of one small group of anime fans and a general look at the larger world of anime fandom.

Read More

Educational Storytelling: Presentation, Craft, and Learning Profile

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

I’m going to attack two guiding principles of educational storytelling in this post, since they are so related.

Craft

It is not enough, simply to tell a story with a good message. Even if all the steps are perfectly executed in a captivating tale where the lesson is wonderfully presented, students do not learn by listening. Students learn by doing. It is important, after the story has concluded, to include segments of practical discussion. Not theoretical analysis of the literature, but truly pragmatic discussion of the lesson. Students must be encouraged to
act on the lessons learned and explore the topic with greater depth.

Learning Profile

A Note on Learning Styles

All people do not learn in the same fashion. This is something that has been known to mankind since the beginning of time. However, in recent years, some more scientific study has been completed that has helped educators understand how different students process information. Theories of multiple intelligences abound. Robert Sternberg broke intelligence into three separate categories: academic, creative, and practical (Berger, 2006).

Read More

Narrative Identity: An Ethnographic Example

This mini-series looks at how we integrate elements of stories into our personal identities, literally letting stories transform who we are. We look at the storyworlds that grow up around stories, narrative identity, and create a basic framework to analyze further.

The research is pulled from my Master’s Thesis in Cultural Anthropology where I did an ethnographic study with a group of anime fans, but don’t get bogged down in the anime of it. A football game is a story. A band has a story. Televisions shows. All these things develop storyworlds through which we shape our personal identities and interact with others.

Check out the Rest of the Series


In the first post of this mini-series, we defined “storytworlds” as the culture that grows up around stories, filled with all the trappings of culture like language, artifacts, and social convention. We talked about how individual identities can be seen as narratives, and hypothesized that storytworlds and stories influence the composition of those personal identity narratives. In the second post, I proposed a framework called the Triad of Narrative Identity that broke this narrative identity process into 3 parts: cultural resources, personal identity narrative, and performative identity.

This is the last post of this mini-series, and the simplest. Let’s see an example from real life ethnography:

Taylor, one of the informants from my ethnographic fieldwork, is a self-identified anime fan. She is in her mid-twenties, a college graduate, and a small business owner who says she watches anime, usually with her husband, at least fifteen hours a week. She frequents conventions, online social networks, and has begun learning Japanese. By way of her personal identity narrative, Taylor identifies with both anime fan culture and certain common character types that are commonplace in anime storylines.

“I always liked the creative, free girls that are in a lot of anime and manga. They always have great ideas and make beautiful things. They are fun to be around, but also can be really deep ““ have great ideas and solve problems and stuff like that. I guess if I was an anime character, I would want to be that one. A creative free spirit kind.”

The character type described by Taylor is typical in anime, an archetype. This archetype is common in anime and Japanese literature; I have dubbed her the “Creative Free Spirit Girl.” In both casual conversation and her non-directed interviews, Taylor talked about herself in these same terms. She expressed herself as creative, fun, free-spirited, but also deep and able to solve problems. When describing her life story, she drew parallels with this archetype and her own identity narrative, using this narrative resource to inform this aspect of her identity.

Read More

Narrative Identity: The Triad

This mini-series looks at how we integrate elements of stories into our personal identities, literally letting stories transform who we are. We look at the storyworlds that grow up around stories, narrative identity, and create a basic framework to analyze further.

The research is pulled from my Master’s Thesis in Cultural Anthropology where I did an ethnographic study with a group of anime fans, but don’t get bogged down in the anime of it. A football game is a story. A band has a story. Televisions shows. All these things develop storyworlds through which we shape our personal identities and interact with others.

Check out the Rest of the Series


Previously, I talked about a storyworld as the social setting through which individuals interact with stories. These can be fan clubs, movie theaters, or anyplace where we talk about stories we love. (Yep, even the sports bar). I also defined narrative as the central sense-making structure that allows human beings to arrange, categorize and present symbolic ideas.

Now, we dive into an analytic framework that lets us look at how people integrate pieces of stories and storyworlds into their personal identities. This is an important step if we want to understand why this works and how we can create transformational stories that do it on purpose. The framework isn’t complicated and its still evolving. Think of it as a set of three connected boxes that allow you to separate certain elements and see how they interact with each other.

In a Nutshell

Let’s move past the scholar-speak and make it really simple for a moment. A person (the actor) loves a story (any story). They take bits of that story (narrative resources) like a character’s trait, a turn of phrase, or a fashion choice and integrates the bits into their own performance (they use the phrase in everyday life). Someone else (the audience) see the actor performing this, connects it to the story and understands what the actor is trying to convey.

Simple.

Read More

Series: Narrative Identity Introduction

This mini-series looks at how we integrate elements of stories into our personal identities, literally letting stories transform who we are. We look at the storyworlds that grow up around stories, narrative identity, and create a basic framework to analyze further.

If the goal of this blog is to explore research into transformational storytelling, then we must look a more than just the stories themselves. Human beings are social, and we interact with stories in social ways. We also incorporate elements of stories into our own identities. This mini-series introduces these ideas and lays out a bare-bones method for analyzing the social context by which we engage with stories and integrate bits of them into our identity.

I propose an analytic framework that lets us look at how people integrate pieces of stories and storyworlds into their personal identities. This is an important step if we want to understand why this works and how we can create transformational stories.

Let’s move past the scholar-speak and make it really simple for a moment.

A person (the actor) loves a story (any story). They take bits of that story (narrative resources) like a character’s trait, a turn of phrase, or a fashion choice and integrates the bits into their own performance (they use the phrase in everyday life). Someone else (the audience) see the actor performing this, connects it to the story and understands what the actor is trying to convey.

The research is pulled from my Master’s Thesis in Cultural Anthropology where I did an ethnographic study with a group of anime fans, but don’t get bogged down in the anime of it. A football game is a story. A band has a story. Televisions shows. All these things develop storyworlds through which we shape our personal identities and interact with others.

Series Contents

  1. Storyworlds
  2. Triad of Narrative Identity
  3. An Ethnographic Example

Narrative Identity: Storyworlds

This mini-series looks at how we integrate elements of stories into our personal identities, literally letting stories transform who we are. We look at the storyworlds that grow up around stories, narrative identity, and create a basic framework to analyze further.

The research is pulled from my Master’s Thesis in Cultural Anthropology where I did an ethnographic study with a group of anime fans, but don’t get bogged down in the anime of it. A football game is a story. A band has a story. Televisions shows. All these things develop storyworlds through which we shape our personal identities and interact with others.

Check out the Rest of the Series


This blog is dedicated to transformational storytelling, which means a lot of things: stories for education, stories for therapy, stories that call to social action, and stories for identity management. We have and will discuss each of these in particular, but there is a set of common principles, concepts, and methods shared between them.

Today, I will begin a brief introduction into one of those foundational concepts: Narrative Identity or the “story we tell about ourselves to ourselves and others.” And we will start with storyworlds: social settings built up around stories (and its more than just fan conventions).

 Narrative, unbound.

“We are forever composing impression of ourselves, projecting a definition of who we are, and making claims about ourselves and the world that we test and negotiate in social interaction.”

Riessman, 1990

“Most people are fans of something,” says Jonathan Gray in the introduction to Fandom: identities and communities in a mediated world. From Potterheads, to Trekkies to Country Music Fans and Football Fanatics. “Fandom is beautiful”¦and [has become] an ever more common mode of cultural consumption.” (2007:1,7) Where fans were once seen as “odd” or “absurd” in their dedication to a single show or pastime, this fervor has become increasingly accepted and even promoted by enterprise. No longer is a fan someone who has “lost touch with reality,” but simply someone who “really loves that show,” said one of my ethnographic interviewees.

Moreover, fandom has become a means of identification, especially for those who may feel marginalized by mainstream society. Francis Hsu (1963) posited that, in societies where clans and castes have become de-emphasized, people seek social identification through a system of clubs. The clubs are groups that become “imagined communities with false borders” (Anderson 2006), and play an integral role in constructing and disseminating cultural norms. Clubs do this chiefly by offering social resources that create “communities of practice” in which individuals use common social-symbolic tools to construct and perform their identities.

Read More

Emotion, Learning, and Educational Storytelling

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

As we walk through our Five Guiding Principles of Educational Storytelling we stroll past Hero Audience BondingWe have already discussed how creating characters that are Identifiable, Empathetic, Believable, and Complex will help the audience learn vicariously. Up ahead, we can see the final principles concerning learning style, craft, and interactivity. Today we tackle the second principle and discover the role emotion plays in educational stories.

Dr. Eric Jensen is a leader in the field of Brain Based Learning which seeks to use research to create environments and techniques that are conducive to teaching and learning. It makes sense, right? The brain is an incredibly complex organism that processes information consciously and subconsciously at incredible speeds. The system is so complex that any number of factors alter how well we learn. For instance, we all know that repetition is important in learning, but the reason it is so important is because, as you repeat, the brain literally, physically reinforces the pathways that store that knowledge, keeping the information more readily available longer.

One of the central ideas in brain-based learning research is that external factors alter the brains ability to process and store information. Things like temperature, stress, social positioning, and glucose levels have huge impacts on the learning process. One of the most important variables is emotion.

That shouldn’t come as any surprise. Why do you think you can remember the joke your grandfather told you twenty years ago but not what you had for breakfast yesterday? The emotion attached to the joke information created a stronger impression and a more lasting bond than the fleeting, unemotional breakfast.

Read More

(Five) Guiding Principles of Educational Storytelling

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

Educational storytelling means a lot of things to a lot of different people. It can be expressed through classroom instruction, student writing, moral teaching, and singing songs around a campfire. These may seem like far-flung and unrelated activities. It becomes even more muddled when we talk about educational storytelling for different purposes: Identity/Social Oriented teaching (like morality tales), and Process Oriented Teaching (like math and science). How can any of these things be reconciled? It feels like there are too many things going on to find common ground.

Well, all of the above can be boiled down into to some commonalities. This is not an end-all list, but a place to start.

In my research, educational storytelling in all its forms can be built upon five basic principles: Hero Audience Bonding, Emotion and Learning, Presentation and Craft, Presentation and Learning Profile, and Interactivity. We will touch on each one here, and dedicate a post to each in the future.

1. Hero Audience Bonding

We create a hero the audience can learn through, vicariously. Once a character is made identifiable, the audience is able to “see through their eyes” and experience the world as they would through empathy and emotion. As the hero progresses through the story, learning and problem solving, the audience will learn the same lessons — given they have bonded with the main character.

2. Emotion and Learning

There is a reason you remember the joke your grandfather told you at six years old, but you cant remember what you had for breakfast. Emotion makes things memorable. This isn’t just an axiom, its biological science. There are specific, easy things you can do in any type of story to entice the brain to store the information away.

Read More

Educational Storytelling: Constructing the Tale, A Hero’s Growth

This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

We are using the Hero’s Journey as a skeleton for our story. If you want a full breakdown of the Hero’s Journey, check out my this series. I have boiled this down to five pieces of the Journey, each with an important task. Last time we covered the first three. Today, the last two.

  1. The Hero and the Cast of Characters
  2. The Hero and the Ordinary World, Broken
  3. The Hero and the Journey
  4. The Hero and the Moment
  5. The Hero and the Repercussions

Don’t forget our first guiding principle: Hero Audience Bonding.

We create a hero the audience can learn through, vicariously. As the hero progresses through the story, learning and problem solving, the audience will learn the same lessons “” given they have bonded with the main character.

Learning Goals

As this is an educational story, there are objectives. We want the students to learn something. It is important to define what these objectives are. They can be identity oriented learning (morals) or process oriented learning (math) goals. And, there may be several goals. Perhaps along the road to learning the dangers of lying, the hero also learns the distributive property and bits of the scientific method? Whatever the case may be, establish theme to yourself early so you can keep on focus.

The Hero and the Moment

Heroes must make a multitude of decisions along the journey in order to be a willful character. She does not necessarily have to make these decisions alone. In fact allies are some of the most important aspects of a compelling story. These allies function as mentors, moral compasses, and even shape shifting enemies at times. However, there comes a time when the hero must make the final set of decisions alone. She must stand at the last threshold, face the final antagonistic force, and accept the consequences of those decisions.

Read More

Page 2 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: