Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

The Technology of Story and Human Survival as a Species(?)

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

The Technology of Story and Human Survival as a Species(?)

Article excerpt

Note: Parts of this essay were presented for the Alfred Korzybski Memorial Conference 2007 at Fordham University Lincoln Center New York City and for the New York State Communications Association annual conference in Kerhonkson New York 2007. A version of this essay was also published online in 2007 Proceedings of the New York State Communication Association 66th Annual Conference.

Story made us human--story made us a success as species. Ironically it will also be the very cause of our demise.

--Dr. Evelyn Singleton

AS A PROFESIONAL ACTOR, dancer, educator, photojournalist, and writer, my life has traded purposefully in stories--in performing, reporting, teaching, and making (up) tales.

Recently, one of the characters in a play I was working on ("Dr. Evelyn Singleton"--a fictitious anthropologist) stated the following:

"Story made us human--story made us a success as species. Ironically it will also be the very cause of our demise."

Surprised by my character's pronouncement that our capacity for story may lead to our demise as a species, I took time out to research her claims. This paper is the result.

In exploring the technology of story and its bearing on both our success and possible extinction, I will be surveying the following: (1) Some basic operational features and uses of story; (2) human evolution and story; (3) and finally, why story technology may be responsible for our demise in the not so distant future.

Some Basic Operational Features and Uses of Story

Humans beings still appear to be the only animal whose brain is hot-wired to think, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and invent through the technology of story--through ordering and managing lived experience by constructing, circulating, and responding to tales.

A story can be an internal set of guidelines one imposes on oneself, or a narrative disseminated by a community or a nation to enforce group cohesion. It can be a scoop we watch on the evening news, or an anecdote a friend tells us. It can take the shape of plays, novels, poetry, essays, law briefs, movies, docudramas, sit-coms, mysteries, romances, commercials, histories, scientific treatises, political speeches, cartoons, painting, dance, and so on--as well all kinds of white lies, regular lies, rumors, and whoppers.

Through its omnipresent manifestations, story provides us with our premier mechanism for social bonding, problem solving, explication, self-expression, and persuasion. At the same time, the stories we create and disseminate produce evermore-complex experiences, feelings, ideas, and formulations for us to ponder.

While we may be hot-wired for story use, it is simultaneously a learned experience. Consequently, many computer scientists and others working in the field of artificial intelligence have turned to the technology of story to create computers and robots that can "think" more like human beings. (1)

So how does this thing called story work? Linguists, writers, computer scientists, psychologists, primatologists, and anthropologists suggest similar variations to describe the basic operational features of story. First and foremost, a story contains or suggests a sequence of causally or associatively linked events, happenings, experiences, and ideas based on any combination of fact and fiction. Many story structures pose and answer the basic questions of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how? But most narratives unfold and gain momentum by posing in addition the all important, developmental questions of what next? and what if?

Stories told as stories usually center on protagonists who are in hot pursuit of specific desires and goals. These characters take various actions or tactics to obtain their desires, initially hoping for or expecting a positive result for their efforts. But instead, they rapidly discover they have provoked the forces of antagonism. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.