The University of Washington’s first stimulating Comm Lead class, from the Community and Networks series, offered a significant sampling of the modern communication infrastructure. To further employ the analogy, new roads and highways came in the form of Hanson Hosein’s presentations on current trends and changes; transportation analysis and design through Lisa Coutu’s presentation on communication theory; driver education through McGarrity’s dynamic presentation on public speaking; and the possibilities of new infrastructure to realize destinations through Sandra Jackson-Dumont’s proposition for a new communication system to re-define the Seattle Art Museum.
One of the most exciting implications of our current Storyteller Uprising, as Hanson describes is the tight overlay of new communication strategies with alterations in actual business models–organizational infrastructures cannot support the influence of customer networks without significantly changing the way business services are delivered. Throughout the day, Dave Gray’s Connected Company was brought to life in examples with Starbucks, Lifewise Health Insurance, and Ford. Speaking to the rise of storytelling and related community-networks, Hanson highlighted a quote from Adobe’s Quaterly Trends, March 2013, denoting, “[T]he top three priorities for 2013 tell the story of how companies are aiming to build emotional ties that contribute to the bottom line.”
As a communications aficionado, this statement intrigues me; as a human being concerned with truth, transparency, and authenticity, I hesitate at this statement of corporate intention. What is the human capacity for a more targeted emotional tug and pull? What new level of media literacy will consumers need to develop to see through this new delivery of emotion-driven content? Given the potential for greater distrust to develop over time in an emotionally competitive mediascape, how will these narratives affect interpersonal communication?
Where pitfalls persists, so does opportunity. I have overwhelming faith in the public to hold corporations to entirely new standards of truth, transparency, and authenticity, driven by communities created through digital engagement. Storytelling, after all, connects most effectively not when it’s a blind appeal to emotion, but emotion founded upon a value system truly supported by its representative culture. The success of Cain’s Arcade, and the resulting ascendency of its related Imagination Foundation, overwhelmingly speaks to the alignment of value with emotion-driven storytelling.
It’s a fascinating time for the intersection of media and it’s ability to drive business and organizational programming. If you have any additional thoughts on the intersection, I’d love to hear from you.
Tyler Cowen recommends we remain discerning in a world filled with stories; their requisite simplifications and need for order prompts us to think of our lives in terms of a neat narrative. Cowen urges, “You can never get out of the pattern of thinking in terms of stories, but you can improve the extent to which you think in terms of stories and make better decisions.”
Be Messy. Be Human. Also tell the story that’s uninspiring.
In just one day, I’ll begin my first class in The University of Washington’s Communication Leadership Program. This time around, as well-seasoned Master’s candidate, I won’t be scouring campus bars as an ingredient in the freshmen “freshmeat” tour. Instead, this time I’ll be fostering conversation on the intersection of strategic communication, storytelling, multimedia journalism, and community engagement. Times have changed indeed, hopefully for the better. Even though I’m childless and have no current vacation plans, I see parallels to a recent comment a friend made, “I yearn for the days when my Facebook feed contained everyone’s embarrassing party pictures…now it’s a bunch of babies and vacations.” Well, I like babies, as long as they’re on skateboards with Go Pros strapped to them.