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Story Field Conference Report - What is Next

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 10 months ago


What is next?



What Participants Told Us

·          The conference had a profound impact on most participants, generating a strong sense of communitas and many new deep friendships.  Many lives were changed.

·          What happens next is in the hands of participants.  Numerous initiatives were discussed in small, informal groups.  Projects are already self-organizing by participants who care -- many, but not all of which, are visible to the larger community.  Dozens of participants were still active together online more than a month after the conference.

·          A commitment to a second annual Story Field Conference was made at the conference and a turnover to next year’s hosts took place in a closing ritual. 



Opportunities and possibilities yet to be pursued


Stories of sustainability

While we expected that the conference would work more with stories of sustainability -- developing shared visions and projects -- we now suspect that since sustainability was such a deeply shared and uncontroversial worldview, attendee attention gravitated to issues of human diversity that were more charged, where good work was needed and done, preparing the group for further work in other areas.


Integral story field work

The original story field conference vision imagined that attendees would explore ways to weave their diverse modes and media together for greater synergistic impact on the culture's story field  -- especially in "imagineering" forms that inspire audiences to live out the stories in their real lives.


To illustrate this idea (with perhaps an overly inclusive example), imagine that a few fiction writers get inspired by a major meta-story centered on evolution or sustainability.  They decide to work together online to develop an imaginary world of possibilities for life one or two decades in the future -- and how we got there -- depicting people doing creative (evolutionary or sustainability-promoting) things in the midst of crises like climate change, economic crashes, or mega-terrorism. 


This fiction team recruits more writers (perhaps starting a wiki-based companion initiative that anyone can participate in) as well as soliciting support from other advocates of their chosen meta-story, and gets funding from inspired, story-savvy philanthropists and social investors. 


As these writers post diverse fictional stories to flesh out their co-created, co-evolving imaginary world, they embed and footnote internal links to informative journalistic stories, books, and leading-edge websites about relevant initiatives underway right now and innovative social and material technologies available to readers to make their fictional visions into reality.  If a story mentions "straw bale houses", there is a link to where you can find out how to build a straw bale house.


Imagine also that video game, online game-worlds, and virtual world spaces (like in SecondLife) are created in which readers of the imagineering stories can practice and further develop the various ideas, identities, behaviors, and activities modeled in the stories. 


Imagine networking and meet-up websites and online collaboration spaces where readers connect up with each other to form local support and action groups to actually live into and co-create those visions of evolution or sustainability in their real lives and communities.  Imagine blogs and listservs where these groups share their stories of success and struggle online -- stories which are picked up and worked into new imagineering stories by the fiction writers. 


Of course, all this activity would be reported on by journalists (including bloggers), thereby closing the creative imagineering loop between fact and fiction.  Talk show hosts would interview participants and, as it all expanded, there could easily be one or more talk shows totally dedicated to this rapidly evolving imagineering world.


Furthermore, some of those evolving visions would be made into YouTube videos or even mainstream movies which would, in turn, point people to the online short story project and its related networking and collaboration sites.  Relevant innovative books, products or services could be featured in films and stories, developing the "green market" and thus serving the life-enhancing sustainability story field in the same way that traditional movies and fiction use product plugs, product placements, and celebrity branding to make money and serve the life-deadening consumerist story field. 


Of course, the scope, depth, and reach of such a project would be further extended through the involvement of oral storytellers, artists, activists, humorists, musicians, dancers, poets, PR and marketing people, audience-engagement performers (like Playback Theater), and other story-workers, as well as venue owners and other story-support people. 


And there's still another layer of impact we can imagine:  As working these stories into real life becomes more popular, leading-edge politicians, public officials, and nonprofits would start promoting supportive legislation, campaign platforms, and city, state, and national programs based on these stories and action networks -- perhaps starting off with some imagineering stories about possible political initiatives to test them out. 


As the above example suggests, the possibilities for integral story field work are basically unlimited.  The defining characteristic of any such project, large or small, is that multiple media and story-work modalities and support functions get drawn into a more or less integrated, coordinated imagineering effort intended to actually impact not just public awareness and opinion, but real behaviors, life conditions, and/or social systems. 


Significantly, the idea of "integrated" does not mean "monolithic".  Even within one meta-story, the space for diverse and even conflicting visions and stories is enormous, and the interaction among such stories is a vital component of real motion towards a better world.  It would be normal and encouraged (and probably inevitable!) to have debates and dialogues about the implications and underlying assumptions of various stories.


Aspects of such a project could be initiated or coordinated from a single point, but it would most powerfully emerge spontaneously -- and in many different forms -- from ongoing inspired strategic conversations among diverse story field workers at, before, and after conferences like the first Story Field Conference.  These story field workers would loosely coordinate their own expanding networks of inspired, self-organizing action, in which participants acted on their passion in service to the larger vision of impact that they all shared. 


Little of such integral story field work was actually done during the August 2007 conference, although Tom Atlee opened up the possibility with an open space session http://storyfieldteam.pbwiki.com/Integral+StoryField+Work.  Subsequently some attendees said they would have liked to have had a more thorough visionary briefing on this earlier in the conference.  This write-up serves as a touchstone for that possibility in the next conference.


Leverage for Culture-Shift

If we are aiming to shift the story field of the culture we live in and not just improve the quality of our individual story work, the question of strategy comes alive.  Where is the leverage for that shift?  What approaches -- in terms of opportunity-spaces, messages, forms, and media -- as well as modes of organizing ourselves -- will have the most impact?  There are no single answers to this, but pursuing the inquiry together can raise the potency of all our work, partly from some of us joining together in radical new approaches, and partly from a shift in all of our thinking.


Some of us will advocate telling stories of people changing social systems, rather than solely about issues, problems, visions, individual suffering and behavior, public education, etc.  Similarly, some will say we need to focus on solutions, not problems.  Some of us will talk about which modes of storytelling are more "viral" (rapidly spreading and self-replicating).  Some will say we should focus on reframing current events that already have the attention of the public, and develop ways to do that rapidly and effectively.  Some will say that developing our capacity for integral story field work, in preparation for the future, is most important.  Some will say that we need to focus on inclusion of non-mainstream voices -- in our planning, action, and stories -- partly because it is more just, and partly because the fringe is already where energy for change is strongest.  And so on.


All these arguments have strong merit.  So we need strategic-focused dialogues that help us understand the benefits and limitations of all such perspectives, so they can be integrated into a larger picture that has the highest possible strategic power.  Furthermore, whatever approaches are decided on would ideally be evaluated periodically for how much they are actually impacting the story field and, if not much, what we should try next, from a strategic viewpoint.



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