Tag: storyworlds (Page 1 of 2)

Virtual Reality Storytelling and the Future

One of my favorite books is the steampunk adventure Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld set during an alternate-history First World War. The world is lush and well thought out and the characters are incredibly real. Not to mention he is a word-smith extraordinaire.

So, imagine my excitement when I found a virtual reality lab building his world.

This is part of the Creators Project and is being carried out by a group of USC students and professors. They are experimenting with creating landscapes for stories to emerge from. The idea being, if you create a story space and let people interact inside it, unique stories will emerge. This is a similar concept to fan studies, but on a new level.

Keep you eye on this project. I will continue to bring you updates.

The Future of Content: Immersive and Expansive

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

Let’s recap real fast. We are talking about what content may look like in the future. How is the line between books, television, internet, apps, and other content forms blurring? With shortening attention spans, how will content evolve?

So far, we’ve touched on five:

  1. Mulit-access – we want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – we want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.
  4. Collaborative – Working together with readers and other creators to build something more than we could ourselves.
  5. Social – In real live and in cyberspace, social between authors, characters, and readers.

Now, at the end, we reach immersive and expansive. My personal favorite.

Stories have universes, and we want to explore more than just the small part we see in a video or read in a book. Immersive means that we will be able to surround ourselves and explore content on our own terms. Expansive means that content will link together with other content.

To be honest, the inspiration for these traits come from Comicpalooza and other awesome scifi/comic conventions. For those who don’t know how they work, you basically shove thousands of (comic book, sci-fi, anime, and associated awesomeness) fans into a convention center for a weekend. Let the madness begin. The fans bring their favorite stories to life in really interesting ways: dressing as their favorite characters, creating new characters, writing their own stories based in the world, and creating a myriad of art, games, and other materials. This “fanverse” is not canon (not part of the official story), but often becomes just as important to the fans.

It may sound a little weird, but its a lot of fun. And this growing phenomenon can teach us about the future of content.

Expansive Content

This centers around the concept of a “storyverse,” another feature of my research into narrative identity. A storyverse is usually seen in two different ways, as the universe the story happens in and as the universe of story-related stuff in the real world. For clarification sake, I’m going to break these into two different terms.

The Storyverse

This is the world, the galaxy, the universe of the content itself. This is best seen in fiction, where you have characters playing out in a setting. The reader/audience only sees a small part of that universe — whatever the storyteller wants them to see. But, we can imagine that a character has extended family we never meet, lives in a city with unknown streets, and has lived a life beyond the 400 pages of our book. We don’t get to see everything. Most often, the feeling of a story being just part of a universe is what makes a story shine. You’ve heard of three-dimensional characters and internally-consistent worlds? This is the storyverse.

Increasingly, we are seeing storytellers let the reader into more of the storyverse through bonus features, short stories, and connected series.  In this way, we get to choose our own path as we discover the storyverse. There are extra storybits “out there” for us to play around with. For the moment, let’s stick with “cannon” or official bits of the storyverse.

These extra bits don’t have to be bits at all. Look at Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere or the new Marvel movies. In both cases, there are many stories weaving in and out of each other, connecting with  one another, and building a more complete storyverse than a single, linear story can provide. There are many points of entry and many paths through the narrative.

We can see an expansive trait easily in fiction, but it can be just as powerful in non-fiction content. Think of news articles that relate together, articles connected, and bonus features around social media. We are already seeing this everywhere and it is only going to get stronger.

The Metaverse

If the storyverse is all the official stuff of the story or content, then the metaverse is all the other stuff, the stuff outside cannon. For fiction, these are fan stories, cosplay, licensed artwork, and (most) video games just to name a few. It can (and should) be much more though. What about discussions happening around the story? I mean actually embedded in the page. What about comments and markup? These things ring even more true for non-fiction.

The metaverse is where your readers engage with the storyverse.

This is going to happen, regardless of what you do. What will make content successful in the future is an intentional plan to facilitate this metaverse. How can we encourage this interaction, this creation, this collaboration? Those are the content pieces that will win.

 

Immersive Content

Immersive content surrounds the audience, engaging more than one or two senses. It makes the content part of their world, part of their life. We can see this clearly already with virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual Reality, we will define as engrossing reality. Something that completely surrounds and captivates your audience. The VR headsets are the best example of this so far. Augmented Reality is the accepted term for something that adds to but doesn’t replace the audience’s perception. Things like Google Glasses, which overlay a screen onto the real world would fit here. I would add Engaging Reality in which content engages as many senses as possible, not just sight and sound. Think of interactive theatre or those wonderful scratch-and-sniff stickers.

This may all seem out there, but we are already seeing a lot of this happen. As the future becomes the present, these traits will creep into our content. The most successful — the most memorable, powerful, and effective — content will be intentional about how it is immersive and expansive.

The Path Ahead

This leaves us at the end of our Six Traits of the Future of Content. We have seen how the content of the future (and increasingly of the present) will be multi-access, multimodal, interactive, social, collaborative, and immersive and expansive. The winners of the war for attention will use these traits and create some truly mind-blowing content.

This isn’t the end of the discussion, though. These are my predictions, but no one has the crystal ball, and the future will unravel as it does. I will continue my research and my writing and we will see what happens. How the world will surprise us.

This isn’t even the end of this series! We’ve introduced some basic concepts, but how do we make them work? How do these elements fit together? What is the workflow to create these bits of awesome? Stay tuned, Bat Friends.

This is just the start and the future will be awesome!

The Future of Content: Social

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

This may seem obvious to most people, after all Facebook and Twitter and all the rest have basically taken over the world. Of course our content will be promoted on social media. Of course authors will use twitter. Of course readers will review books online.

Obviously content will be social.

But is that all? What could social really mean?

Beyond content that is shared, tweeted, digged, forked, thrown, liked, hated and reviewed, content will be integrated into life. The content we love will be a hub of our social lives, almost like the centers of tiny universes. You see, social is about a lot more than sharing, posting, and sending. It’s about trust, exploration, and human nature.

Narrative Identity

On the research part of my site, I talk a lot about the concept of “Narrative Identity“. In a quick review, here’s how the idea plays out. We each tell stories about ourselves, to ourselves. I may tell the story of a dashing man with an awesome wife who is an avid reader, innovator, storyteller, and researcher. He likes Star Trek, vintage video games, and cats. I have an entire history, and entire story built up of me. My wife’s story is different: football, thrillers, technology, running, and creative art. These elements, these attributes, form our personal identity narrative.

Without realize it, we try to tell this story to others through our speech, actions, clothing, and all manner of “performances.” My performative identity looks like Star Trek quotes, video game t-shirts, and jokes about cats. My wife wears running gear, colorful things she makes, and talks like a geek. We let people know who we are by the things we do, say, and wear. Others can figure out what we are trying to say because of shared cultural resources. T-shirts with Atari symbols are hints to others who know the symbol that “hey, that guy must be into classic games.”

I have written a lot on the topic, but a good place to start is by exploring Anime Fans.

In any case, it is the “shared cultural resources” that we are interested in. These resources are often content that people interact with. They build friendships around, and define themselves through, this content.

Virtual and Real Life

So, content is already social, even if we didn’t think of it that way. But, technology is allowing us to make content really social in cool ways. Virtual sociality allows people to tweet about their stories, ask questions about that new article, find others who are into Advanced Basket Weaving, or whatever floats our boat. We can connect with people around content, using this cultural resource to share ideas, laughs, and tears.

Non-Virtual Sociality brings these things into the real world. Every time you talk with a co-worker about the new Star Wars movie (I originally wrote this as Star Wars VII premiered), you are being social around content.

Social doesn’t just mean social media, it means “integrated into life and others.”

How Will Content Be Social?

Onto the fun stuff! What could social content look like?

Shared

Successful content in the future won’t just hope people tweet, but will be actively sharable. A campaign strategy, quotes and quips, images, and evocative topics will drive people to share with their virtual world. Even more important is a two-way discussion. People like to engage with each other and the content creators.

Curated

Reviews, bumps, boosts, dislikes, and favorites — all will be vital as the internet continues to change the way we consume content. Readers want to know what their friends, trusted experts, and even total stranger have to say about content.

Reader to Reader

Readers (or audiences) want to connect with other readers around content. Many times, an interest in a particular piece of content means shared interests in other areas. Any content that provides people with a way to be social beyond just the content itself will have a serious leg up.

Author and Reader

More than just “behind the scenes,” this means that the content creator(s) are part of the community targeted by the content. They live where the readers live (even if not geographically). When readers can be social with the author, magic happens.

Reader and Characters

This is my favorite. The idea that readers can interact with fictional characters is exciting. And, this doesn’t have to stay in the realm of fiction. Interacting with historical figures, experts in whatever field, and “guides” through a certain topic can bring content to an entirely new level.

And More Than We Can Imagine

This is just the start. The future is going to be awesome.

That wraps up five out of the six traits of “The Future of Content.”

  1. Mulit-access – We want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – We want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.
  4. Collaborative – Working together with readers and other creators to build something more than we could ourselves.
  5. Social – In real live and in cyberspace, social between authors, characters, and readers.

Next is the last up on the list, Immersive and Expansive.

Narrative Identity and Anime: Fan Studies

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.


Why Study Fans?

“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” in the words of David, an anime fan in his mid-fifties.

Moreover, fandom has become a means of identification, especially for those who may feel marginalized by mainstream society. As the world shrinks through globalization, individuals find themselves with a growing array of identities to choose from. No longer are we simply defined by kinship group, religion, or occupation. We can now identify with social movements (women, gay men, lesbians, ethnic groups, disabled persons, etc.), social circles (networks through online socialization like Facebook), or common interest groups such as motorcyclists, extreme sports, scrap bookers or anime fans (Linger 2005:23).

So, again, why study fans? Why specifically study anime fans?

One answer is simple from an anthropological perspective: anime fandom exists and is important to people. These fans create a culture around anime; a culture with its own rules, taboos, taxonomies, initiations, and language. A second answer is that anime is a fascinating media exchange. The very word anime has crossed from Latin to Anglo-Saxon to Modern English to Japanese and then back to Standard American English (Drout 2010). Anime as an art form is a Japanese interpretation of an originally Western art form: animation. Anime is imported to the States, where it is picked up by individuals, for the most part, with no Asian identity. Few better examples of globalization and transcultural media exchange exist.

Building on the assertions from Linde, Wertsch, and Hyden and leaning on Irving Goffman’s theories of symbolic interactionism (Goffman 2002), we can craft a theory of narrative identity in which individuals incorporate elements from narratives (fictionalized, social, and others) into their personal identity narrative. The individuals then project this identity narrative by way of a performative identity. By using anime fans as an illustration, we can investigate this phenomenon in a specific, real-world context.

All these definitions will be detailed in Chapter Two, but they suffice now to form a central question: How do anime fans use anime to perform their personal identity narratives? Even anthropologists and scholars not interested in anime could find the finding here applicable to other settings. Researchers of narrative studies, media studies, fan studies, identity studies, and cultural exchange may be interested in various elements of the ethnographic findings.

Fan Studies

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.

So, in our case, anime fandom is a community of practice that provides narrative resources, allows fans a place to test-drive these identities, and provides contexts into the redefinition and projection of personal identity narratives

As we are using anime fans as our example, it is important to discuss the history and important literature of both fan studies and anime studies. Fan studies is not a new field, as fans have always existed. In the early 1980s, scholars became interested in fandom through Michel de Certeau’s discussion of the powerful, the powerless, and media consumption (1988).

Fandom is a common feature of popular culture in industrial societies. It selects from the repertoire of mass-produced and mass-distributed entertainment certain performers, narratives or genres and then takes them into the culture of a self-selected fraction of the people. They are then reworked into an intensely pleasurable, intensely signifying popular culture that is both similar to, yet significantly different from, the culture of more “normal” popular audiences. (Fiske 1992:36)

This first wave of scholarship saw fans as cast aside from the mainstream and looked down upon because of their devotion. It focused on the artifacts of extreme fandom such as conventions and gaming circles. Fandom was to be seen as a beautiful form of otherness and the study fans was dedicated to championing those disadvantaged within society. (Gray, Sandvoss, and Harrington 2007; Tulloch and Jenkins 1995).

This sort of binary did not do justice to those who loved a show and watched it religiously, but did not engage in any other forms of fan expression like fanfiction (fan-created texts based on more popular texts) and cosplay (costume-play). Meanwhile, the cultural status of fan changed, becoming more accepted and even promoted by corporate America, which wanted a dedicated consumer. This led to a focus on fan texts and a more literary investigation of fandom. The third wave of fandom strives to look at fandom as a more holistic and integrated aspect of life:

Here fandom is no longer only an object of study in and for itself. Instead, through the investigation of fandom as part of the fabric of our everyday lives, [this wave] aims to capture fundamental insights into modern life (Gray, Sandvoss, and Harrington 2007).

Contemporary fan studies has moved in many directions, mostly following fandom as it expanded to computer mediated, virtual spaces. As the field of interest matured, it became intertwined with a number of disciplines. Literary scholars still study fan produced texts, questions of canon, and textual evolution (Black 2006; Bronwen 2011; Kap 2006; Black 2007; Oviedo 2007). Many sociologists and psychologists investigate fandom in terms of intertextual conglomerations from multiple sources (Henry Jenkins 2007; Gray, Sandvoss, and Harrington 2007; Alters 2007). Fandom has even been looked at as therapeutic (Ashby 2010; Harris and Alexander 1998). Of course, business and marketing has a keen interest in fandom as consumption (Fiske 1992; Elliott and Wattanasuwan 1998).

While anthropologists have been slow to do ethnographic fieldwork in fandom, a number of researchers are looking at fandom on anthropological ways, specifically in fan interaction. Longhurst (2007:137) “seek[s] to connect contemporary cultural theory to the mundane practices of everyday life, and concludes that there is evidence for the analytic power of the simple, mass, diffused characterizations, among the audience continuum.” Roberta Pearson looks at self-identification in fandom, classifications, taxonomies, and stigma attached to certain types of fans (2007)

Studies in anime texts are proliferous. Not only are there textual studies on the anime itself (Newitz 1995; Drazen 2003) and media studies on theme and craft (Kono 2011; Gustines 2007), but many scholars have looked at anime fandom in particular. Madeline Ashby’s (2010) cyborg theory to explore a fan’s online identity in contrast to the fan’s offline identity. Others look at how different regions produce different fandom experiences and attitudes about fans (Frasier 2007; Manion 2005).

It is also important at this point to clarify the notion of subculture versus popular culture versus counterculture and so on. These terms have been traditionally fuzzy. Many anthropologists prefer the term “popular culture” when describing groups such as the anime fans I interacted with because that does not draw the same sort of “hard line” around a group. This is important to recognize: anime fandom is not isolated or separated from other social circles. One is not a fan here, but not a fan there. In this way, popular culture may be more appropriate. However, since the prevailing term in fan studies as well as among anime fans is “subculture,” subculture will be used here. In any sense, the discussion on “communities of practice” is most helpful when speaking of a social context for the analysis of narrative identity.

Now that we have grounding in our subject group, let’s turn to the analytical tools we will use to explore how fans construct and perform personal identity narratives.

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

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.

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