The Story of Me Us

Via Chris Brogan, who said that it is important to keep telling the story of you to new readers. And probably to old ones, too.

Below is the comment I left in response to the original post on Chris Brogan’s site. I know? Bold, eh? Hey, he asked.

I’m a relative newcomer to “New Media,” although I have lived my life in computer land . After making sure I avoided it at university, it turned out to be a) something that I was pretty good at, and b) something that paid. It’s still sort of like first aid: when I see a need for a technical solution at a non-technical job I’m working on, I hold back to see whether somebody better at it is going to come along first. But… since I’ve been on the internet since ’93, and have worked in both online education and e-commerce, I tend to wind up with the job. Again.

It’s OK, though, because the internet has evolved. I used to try to get out of the computer work because it involved long hours hunched over a keyboard with very little human interaction. I was doing a lot of programming, debugging, and invoicing, when I really wanted to be helping people find meaning. I have come to think of myself (and all of us, really) as storytellers, doing the best we can to create a life that matters. For me, this has meant leaving the lab, getting out of science, and stepping into a world of complexity where none of the answers are certain. It has been a leap of faith, of sorts, to relinquish the clarity provided by experimental physics and to trade it in for storytelling, philosophy and meditation. But as it happens, there is an entire online community doing the same thing: telling their stories, sharing them, making sense collectively. So I’m a lot more willing to get to the keyboard these days.

I told my oldest son once that we tell stories to find out what might be true. We might think that we are simply communicating our best understanding, but by putting it out into the world, we are laying it bare for examination. We may (underneath it all) hope that people will come along and say, “Yes! This! This is just what I’ve been looking for!” But this just shows me that some part of us still doubts. We want/need that feedback, even while we fear the criticism that may shake the core of the story. But we have to keep telling them, because humans only exist in relationship, and stories only exist in conversation.

Oh. If you’ve been with me for a while: Online Education. That’s what I used to teach to other professionals. Broadly speaking. Although it was at the course/curriculum design scale, rather than at the nuts and bolts of the website scale.

Also, I had so much fun with this, I would encourage you to do the same. Let me know if you do and I’ll link up, or put it in the comments. I want to hear your story also!


3 thoughts on “The Story of Me Us

  1. I told my oldest son once that we tell stories to find out what might be true. We might think that we are simply communicating our best understanding, but by putting it out into the world, we are laying it bare for examination.

    Thank you! Back in the day when I started The Variegated Life, it was supposed to be about books and reading. I really wanted to know why we tell stories. I wrote my first, provisional answer here; I think your answer is probably closer to the truth.

    • Excellent! I actually turned my computer back on to add an edit to this post, encouraging people to link up to their own “The Story of Me.” If you want to do that, I’d be mighty pleased. I think it is a fine meme. 🙂

      Oddly enough, the seed for this idea (that we tell stories to find out whether they might be true) from a biology textbooks (Writing To Learn Biology), in which the author distinguished between “writing to explore” and “writing to explain.” It’s a Really Useful Book that I stole from my father (who used to be a botany professor. Sorry dad. I’ve got your book, still.) The more I considered it, though, and the more I looked at the nature of academic writing, even in science journals, the more I realized that each act of writing is a negotiation between the author and the reader. There’s a sense in my mind that “we” write collectively… even if the ego of the individual is writing to convince, the act of writing is part of the meaning-making of the culture, that is, always and necessarily provisional.

      (which is, btw, also the seed of my conception of the great tragedy of consciousness.)

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