Monday, September 22, 2014

From the archives

I have some top secret projects going on right now, but I have nothing ready to show you just yet (mwahahaha). However, the other day I was poking around in some old files (can't remember why), and I thought, gee, I wonder if some of my blog readers might like to see this old musty stuff. So if you have been following this blog for a while, maybe you'd like to see what some of these ideas looked like when they were getting started. I don't pretend to have been doing this work long enough to retrospect seriously, but as I approach 15 years in story work I can't help looking back and thinking about how things have changed (and how they haven't).

Story-colored glasses: These are slides from a talk I gave in mid-1999 about several issues related to stories: representation and visualization; indexing and deconstruction; virtual communities; and a "story circle" idea (which later became rakontu). The talk was called "Story Colored Glasses," and I liked the joke so much I used it again for this blog. (I actually posted this talk on the rakontu web site months ago, at the request of a correspondent, but I doubt anybody noticed it there.)

Observations: These are slides from a talk I gave at the end of 2000 on the things I had learned while researching stories in organizations for two years. This was the original "eight observations" talk, which turned into the first posts on this blog. If you've read (or glanced at) my book you will find that almost all of these slides look familiar.

StoryML: These are slides from a 2000 project in which I collected 400 questions people ask (have asked) about stories. That project led to the story dimensions of form, function, and phenomenon. (I am embarrassed to admit that in this talk I was still referring to the third dimension as story "trace." I didn't think of the alliterative term "phenomenon" until years later.)

Mass Narrative Representation: This is a report from a 2004 research project I did (for a US defense subcontractor) whose goal was to explore representations and visualizations that could help people consider lots of stories at the same time. The "MNR" project (as I called it) was only a four-month project, and half-time at that, but it had a big impact on my work in the years that followed.

I learned a few things by looking back at these old files. First, my embarrassment rule is in fine working order. There are a lot of things in these old files that I find just plain silly a decade or more later.

It's also true that I'm still working on a lot of the same ideas as I see in these pages. I could be embarrassed about that, but I don't think I am. People sometimes criticize novelists for writing the same story over and over. But what is life for, if not to find ourselves coming round again to the same places? And aren't we lucky when we can do that? And isn't society better off when we can? I'm glad to look into the faded mirror of the past, and to think about reading this blog post again (with some embarrassment, I hope) another 15 years into the future.


Marco Koning said...

Thank you very much for your blog Cynthia. For me it feels the same, feeling embarrassed for some work I did in the past. We used to do Qualitative OR Quantitative research. I am so glad that I now am able to combine both. And thank you for bringing me to the next level in this work!

Cynthia Kurtz said...

Thank you Marco! Comments make the world go round, and you just gave it a push.

I didn't know I was doing "mixed-methods" work until a few years ago when my sister, who was working on her PhD, listened to me explain what I do with stories and answers to questions and told me what it was called. I went and looked up the term, and it fit, so I've been using it ever since. Every story of learning is a story of connection :)

I like "my" embarrassment rule almost as much as "my" number one rule in drawing and writing: "There's always more paper." Until there isn't, of course, but let's enjoy it while we have it.