Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Narrative considered dangerous

An Australian report on responsible reporting of suicides summarises two key findings as
• Reports of suicide deaths can influence copycat acts in some cases;
• The risk of copycat behaviour is increased where the story is prominent, is about a celebrity, details method and/or location or glorifies the death in some way.
Leaving aside for the moment the human implications of all this (and if you and your family have never been touched by suicide or attempted suicide, please accept my congratulations) - from a storytelling perspective, the first point confirms the power of narrative and the second point endorses the methods of narrative.

I'm currently reading Storytelling for User Experience for the London UX Bookclub, which I think is an excellent and useful book (indeed I was one of the early suggesters)

But I've also ordered Storytelling: bewitching the Modern Mind which appears to offer a counterbalance against the misuses of storytelling as a substitute for, or distraction from, concern with truth.

All of our great advances have had fatal consequences. Fire, medicine, electricity and vehicles have all left deaths in their trail as they moved us forward, and have required social and legal regulation as a result. Now, it seems, stories too can kill.

As Spiderman discovers, "With great power comes great responsibility".

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