Storytelling, Self and Society
Rizzieri M. F.
Storytelling is what makes us human. In fact, it is as old as human existence. Countless writers, historians, anthropologists, and renowned voices in politics, technology and business have demonstrated the enormous power of narration. Whether we need to interview for a job, advance in our career, lead an organization, motivate employees, build brands, sustain a reputation, or work effectively with stakeholders – all successful managers, entrepreneurs, and companies share one common, potent skill: they appreciate the importance of stories, they develop and maintain effective strategic narratives, and they know how to tell them.
In this course, students will learn how to critically account for the ways in which stories shape our perceptions of identity, culture, society and the world around us. Reflecting on case studies, they will find out how companies have succeeded and failed to control their narratives. Students will also learn to identify, refine, and share their own personal stories – and acquire the means to shape their own present and future narratives.
In today’s chaotic and quick-paced political, cultural, economic and technological environment, effective storytelling has become a more important skill set than ever before. With that in mind, this course will particularly challenge students to consider the viability of narratives in current times, where expressions such as “alternative facts,” “fake news” and other “post-truth” world phenomena constantly change the way we use stories in our lives.
- teaches students how fundamental stories are in our lives – how they shape and influence every area of human existence, from politics to religion, science, and the business world. How in fact, so much of what we perceive as “objective reality” is actually construed of stories.
- conveys patterns, components and principles that are common to effective stories.
- demonstrates how companies craft and control the narratives told to their stakeholders, how old stories are destroyed and new ones take their place (narrative shifts).
- gives students the opportunity to practice storytelling on their own, in and out of class, through workshopping exercises and group work.
- challenges students with “hot topics” that spotlight current narratives in our society (e.g. Covid, racial activism, climate change).
- makes students increasingly attuned to the narrative structures around them.
What is a story? • What makes a good story? • Why do we need stories? • What are some of the techniques successful storytellers use to convey their ideas? • Every company needs a narrative • How have digital tools changed storytelling? • The media’s power to create, disseminate, and control narratives • Fake news, alternate facts, and echo-chambers • Winning the story wars • How social media affect our knowledge of the world and our perception of truth • The importance of storytelling in times of crisis • How various stakeholders battle for narrative control during a crisis • Narratives of the digital world • The paradox of the information age • The narrative of disruption • The future of storytelling: do we need a new storytelling method?
All readings for this course will be provided online.
Memos (20 points total)
Our “memos” are also a semester-long activity. In a weekly journal, you will take a reflective stance on each class session’s topic. Each entry is worth 2 points (= 20 points total).
Narrative analysis (10 points) and Personal story (70 points)
Detailed information on these assignments and grading criteria will be provided in class.
The success of this course greatly depends on student participation. Therefore, this course requires in-person attendance. Only students who have attended at least 80% of the classroom sessions will be admitted to the final project/exam. Additional missed classes (>20%) are only excused for severe, officially attested reasons (e.g., a medical certificate testifying that a student was unable to come to class).