A world of many stories
The technology of media is changing the way we share our stories. We no longer live in a Western Economy that is globalizing, bringing with it a singular televised narrative. We live in a multi-cultural global economy, a world of many stories and many conversations. These stories and conversations between the peoples of the world are making the world more complex and more interesting. The kinds of conflicts we are experiencing are not only the residue of the past monolithic cultural empires and civilizations, but are slowly fading away. As Stephen Pinker has observed, we are less violent today than at any other time in our history.
The global economy is now being transfigured by social media and the connectivity of the internet. In this new world of conversations there are many voices, not a powerful few. The innate skills we have of decoding complex narratives is being put to the test. There is no simple explanation of the world, if you rely on a single source you will see only confusion. To make sense of the world you have to engage in the conversations themselves. Television is for passivity, social media is for activity. Television is something you watch, social media is something you do.
And so many millions are doing it.
When the narrative structure of media changes so does society. It happened after Gutenberg, it happened after Bell and Marconi, it is happening now. We have a new way of learning as well as a new way of seeing. For the next few years we will be in adaption mode, transitioning into a more complex media world within which notions of identity, personal narrative and social organization will be radically changed. Cities are becoming the nodes of a global civilization made up of many different peoples. It is an exciting future and it is confusing. It often does not seem to make sense.
In order to make sense of the world you now have to be an active participant in the stories that define it. Fortunately we have an emerging global creative class to turn to. All over the world we have photographers, writers, filmmakers and musicians. They are creative people who have dedicated themselves to being the world’s storytellers. We already see the effects of their work in the explosion of documentary work, the success of independent music and film, the shifting sands of Middle East politics and the discourse on wealth inequality in The West.
The social sciences are being joined by the social arts. The data that has driven decisions is being augmented by stories that tell of truth. It is the humanization of our understanding. It is, in effect, a great rebalancing. In this rebalancing we are witnessing the ascendence of the art of storytelling, in all its human complexity, its cultural richness, its ancientness and modernity and its capacity for both clarity and mythology. In business and in politics we need to listen to these voices and engage in these stories. We can read our polls and our research but we must also engage the people who are actually creating the world: the storytellers themselves. These are the new researchers who will add truth to facts and help us make sense of the world, our markets, our customers, voters, readers and, ultimately, our civilizations. They are free agents and ready to do their work. For all of us.
The gift of social media is the fact that we, as individuals, become the media itself. Sure, we can share a photograph of our breakfast or a perfectly poured coffee. Its fun and says a little about who we are. But we can also share the stories we feel are important, inspiring or that simply add to our understanding. Do this. Do it now. Each week find something worth sharing and share it.
The economy is global, the planet is physical, its people make our world. We can all join in.