Every now and then we are exposed to and get bombarded by media be it a smartphone, internet, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube) etc. Today, in its myriad avatar “media chaos” (multiple media) is Omnipresent. Our thought process, perceptions and mindset has become extremely vulnerable to this and easily get hacked, changed and shaped at any time by the plethora of media we are exposed to. But in this extraordinary situation of influence and getting influenced, the ordinary man still remains compelled by a story- no matter how true, fake or fabricated it may be.
This is the potency of a “story”.
What happens during and after listening or going through a story is that our brain no longer remains the same. It gets tuned to the brain of the storyteller, we call this “neural coupling”, and we know how important neural coupling is for effective communication. Different individuals start to feel emotions the same way as experienced by the storyteller if they are told the same story, even if the language and phrases used in the story could be different, the high order regions of the brain, frontal cortices align the same way.
Nonetheless, storytelling has been used since ages to impart moral lessons and knowledge. The story has advantages it can easily be remembered over cold and hard facts. In a study done on students by a Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker, only five percent of the student could remember facts told to them than to 62% of students who were told the story.
So, we should always appreciate and encourage positive moral stories to teach us values. In a country like India, we should take lessons from the works of the storytelling subgroup of Healing Through Remembering (HTR) project of Northern Ireland and promote stories of communal harmony. At the same time, we should also discourage stories that could fuel social tensions.
Social harmony means when we forget the divide and respect the differences. The powerful medium of storytelling can embrace with values and morals from different communities. The unfamiliar will become acceptable because of a beautiful story. Similarly, the strange will not invoke hostility through stories at an attractive and appealing emotionally. But it has to be remembered that no matter how powerful the story is, it is the storytelling or the narrative techniques which is going to ultimately on how effective the story to be for the audience. In other words, it is the communication of the story which will ultimately matter and be a decisive factor. However, it has to be remembered that, storytelling has to go through the litmus test of audience profiling, which is a fundamental principle of communication. This would mean that for every age group, social class, level of education and even gender, stories and more importantly the storytelling has to be different and suitable. This would imply different sets of graphics and images to be used for different population pyramid audiences for the same subject, as much as it would entail the modulation in language and variation in the usage of technology. It has to be remembered storytelling works best in when it is customized. In the context of customization, it is the “Ego” who will assume greater importance than the community. This is a gift of emerging technology.
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