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Oct 21 2002

On Blogging and Storytelling

Published by at 3:22 pm under Uncategorized

There is a lot of interest and hype with respect to blogs. For example, Carlson Analytics Profile and Seb’s Open Research and the quote: we suspect that the blog phenomenon is about to peak and that most will soon be stored in the part of cyberspace dedicated to hula hoops, pogo sticks and other fashions that reached their use-by date.”

I think that people are missing the point about this. Blogs are an opportunity for people to tell their own story. People can write what they want without intruding on other people’s attention. This taps a deeply rooted “intrinsic” need, and this is what will cause blogs to “cascade.”

At the Jan 2002 GivingSpace meeting in Washington, we were fortunate to have Usha Jha, Program Director from the Nepalese Women’s Empowerment Program. Sensing the irony of being in a room with mostly northern white males in Washington talking about the world’s problems, I asked her, “What could GivingSpace do for the women in the villages of Nepal?” She responded immediately, “Give them the opportunity to tell their stories of empowerment.” In other words, they wanted to give, and their stories were their gift.

Here is a sample “Elevator” from their web page:


“My name is Indra Maya. I live in Hariwon VDC, Sarlahi District. I was completely illiterate before I joined the Women?s Empowerment Program (WEP). When a neighbor belittled me by boasting about his wife?s high education, I was determined to learn to read and write. However, there was no opportunity for me until WEP was introduced to my group. I am very much in debt to our literacy volunteer, who did not mind spending extra hours to coach me and my friends to learn to read and write. Today, every single woman in our bank is literate. Besides becoming literate, I have learned many other skills from WEP. I now understand the value of savings. I also learned the skills I needed to be elected president of our group and am responsible for the smooth operation of our village bank. We, the bank members have mobilized our savings by investing in income generating activities such as carding wool, growing and selling vegetables, managing our own retail tea stalls, and raising chickens, pigs, and goats. Our group recently sponsored a rally to protest against alcohol and gambling and managed to eradicate the sale of alcohol in our village. The local leaders have been pleased with our effort. We are thankful to the Women?s Empowerment Program for opening our eyes. Indra Maya Rai”

After this, the reader would be given a TAC (Thought/Action/Community) link to do something about this. The story builds the positive emotion, and the TAC broadens it by turning it into an actionable behavior.

Story telling can be an incredibly powerful approach to communications, and blog technology can be a key tool to enable this.

Rather than criticizing blogs for their early childhood meanderings, we should look forward to see how this approach (and its inevitable successors) can change the world for the better… augmenting story-telling via blogs and associated technology is certainly one possibility. Jack Park is one of the leading thinkers in this area, pointing me to StoryCon, the World’s First Summit on the Art, Science, and Application of Story. Dave Snowden of IBM also has some interesting ideas relating stories and knowledge management.

I think that stories and creating a “StorySpace” for uplift is a really powerful idea.

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