disruption as storytelling device

I was just listing to the radio briefly as I passed between rooms and heard a novelist in interview saying how she (and all creative writers) needs to construct a disruption in a situation in order to be able to go on to tell a story, and of course this rings true – we all know narrative technique well enough to know the importance of the initial ‘crisis’… but what interested me was how that obvious truism suddenly struck me as just as true of the sort of creative writing we are engaging in as students in this course, and how the course itself is an emerging narrative enabled by an initial discourse on how ‘disruptive’ the mooc is to everything and anything in higher education: it’s irrelevant whether we take it as ‘true’ or not, we simply need to suspend disbelief in order to engage in the joys of the storytelling… it’s like we need to construct that disruption or ‘crisis’ in our situation so that we can proceed to join in the telling of a big story – which is nothing other than the doing of this course (‘learning’ as it were)…


I don’t even see that as an ‘are we in our out of the matrix?’ scenario, because in my old age I have come to see less and less difference between fiction and non fiction, between story and history (or hers), between creative and ‘academic’ writing… it’s all just language, in varying genres and registers…. I’m in the middle of writing a thesis and have taught both creative and academic writing for two decades, to a wide range of students, for various purposes (including to ‘learn English’ and to ‘learn Australian Studies’ and to learn some ‘Science’ or ‘Health’ or ‘Engineering’ discipline they’ve chosen to study) and I believe less and less in there actually being any real difference at all… and to see more and more the cross-over relevance of analytic techniques and developmental strategies I’ve used in one area for others…

just thought I’d share that one 🙂

all we see and seem, is but a dream within a dream, as Mr Poe once so eloquently penned…

either that or I’ve just been thinking about language philosophy for too long….

this is my story:



4 comments on “disruption as storytelling device

  1. Thanks for the thought Emily. I think being creative is vital to understanding something properly. To think about, or see, a topic from a different angle or in a different medium is a fine way to see whether you have understood it properly. Asking “what if it was like this…”, “what if this happened…”, “what if this wasn’t here at all…” are great ways to create that “dramatic crisis” or gap in the story. And by doing something as banal as a drawing you actually get so much from it because you are having to create something from nothing, rather than just being a sponge for information.

    • thanks for you comment Chris 🙂 I agree… it helps to take a different approach to problems sometimes, and I always find drawing (or remixing cartoons!) to be a useful way to summarise and discuss (and laugh about) complex situations or arguments – I found doing a very ‘out there’ poster for an academic conference last year was the best presentation I’ve done, in terms of getting people to pay attention, think, and laugh out loud – disrupting the usual patterns of what we expect to see and hear at such an event sometimes is just what’s needed to see clearly…
      I was thinking, in the post above, about my next poster, and the contradictory ‘truths’ being circulated in the discourse on digital literacy and mooc-education, and what purpose it serves to pretend ‘cyber culture’ is a radically different experience, rather than just a normal, inevitable development of traditions we absolutely maintain through technically modified literacy practices …
      The printed book was a new tecnology once, as was the codex, as was the papyrus scroll, as was cave painting etc – but through all that change in technology, we’re not turning into aliens, we’re just expanding and improving, or just playing with, our ability to ‘make meaning’ and social context… or at least, that’s how I see it today!

  2. Reblogged this on Material Metaphors and commented:
    I love this post from my new MOOC colleague for many reasons but perhaps most of all because it has us thinking about the MOOC itself as a narrative. My dear grad school mentor, Jim Corder, said, “Life is a narrative we make, or not, that only exists in our own little fictions.” Our EDC MOOC is an open learning space that doesn’t even really exist yet. The student interaction right now is all over the Web (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) and the course doesn’t actually begin until the end of this month. We have all just built our own learning community sparked by our signing up for the MOOC and informally agreeing to interact ahead of time. I don’t even know how that started (my friend in the MOOC was doing early interaction and that sounded fun so here I am . . . wherever “here” is).

    • and thanks for your comment ‘HB’ 🙂 I’m loving the interactions that spontaneously pop up when you least expect it….
      I’ve been thinking for years that everything in human life is nothing but a mega-narrative, and that mental health (or religious or philosophical or otherwise disciplined belief, say in academia) is nothing other than the thinking/writing/speaking of a coherent story (which has to be re-crafted or practised, in dialogue, on a daily basis or everything falls apart), and I’m glad to connect with others who think likewise!
      But I would say that our mooc does exist already – in that we’re making it so (because the teachers have designed it that way – and I thank them for their very intelligent design!)
      [And I’d also say (because as a linguist, I would wouldn’t I?!) that ‘here’ is nothing but language – however, wherever we do it, language is where we always are]

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