Publication date (electronic): 30 June 2005
Complexity, stories and knowing
Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1947, I earned a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland 30 years later. Over the next 15 years, I taught English in colleges, wrote speeches in two large corporations and two government agencies, and ran my own public relations firm. When I left one of those corporations, Verizon, in 1993, I started working on my first book, "Corporate DNA," published in 1998. During that time, I became involved in the community studying how to apply complexity theory to human phenomena. In the last 15 years, I have published in a variety of publications, co-edited "Dance to the Music of Story" with David Boje, and am presently finishing my book with Dmitri Bondarenko, a Moscow anthropologist, for Emergent Publications. I live in Philadelphia with my wife, Martha Aleo, and our feline housemate, Plumpton Meowovich.
In this article, the author argues that storytelling is a biological imperative for human beings, the psychological mechanism by which they can capture the coherent perceptions of an unknowably complex world required for survival. After examining how internal story creation reduces the world’s complexity to a state in which people can effectively choose actions, the article explores how acting on such internal stories helps create a spiral of experience, storying, acting and confirmation or contradiction of storying in experience, leading to knowledge. As experience confirms the predictions of storying, a person’s knowledge becomes stronger and stronger. Over time, stories evolve from antenarrative (what might have happened) to narrative (what did happen), and then to myth (the nature of reality). The article concludes with some thoughts on the implications of this theory of the relationship between storying and cognition.
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