Narrative addiction

July 6, 2006

“Interactivity…reduces our dependency on fixed narratives while giving us the tools and courage to develop narratives together.”    (excerpted from Douglas Rushkoff, Open Source Democracy: How Online Communication is Changing Offline Politics, in Axl Bruns’ Gatewatching).

I wonder what it means to be dependent on a narrative structure — socially, politically, existentially, spiritually.   I think it’s a reality but it’s almost unimaginable how western culture could be transported to a place where unfinished narratives are as satisfying as finished narratives.  Some people might argue that this happened centuries ago, but this doesn’t change the fact that the culture industry (including les medias) make their millions off of closed narrative structures with closure — the modern cohesive subject seeing one thing, reporting.  

“When the one becomes two, what will you do?”   I read this saying in the Gospel of Thomas — people have been asking that for a long time, since the very foundations of a monolithic synthesizing teleological narrative in western culture, but it’s been shunted to the side.   

Many days, I read the paper and I think “what a great lede,” and in the next moment, I think, “why does this story need to be cast so dualistically?”  There is something so compelling, yet so forgetful in the kind of mindless addiction in the kind of rush one gets reading a great lede that just pulls you to resolve the question and finish the A section before work.  I think of Sherlock Holmes: this great detective compelled by clues to find the end resolution was also the opium addict;  the flip underbelly of his scientific precision and chain linking of events, those shadows of crime, the history and back story that won’t be named that in some stories keep him bound to his couch in a haze.  I tend to think of Holmes the individualist racing about and solving things, and in so many ways that kind of detective is the also the reporter archetype — yet in those books, Watson’s voice illuminating the cost to Holmes’ being as as much of the story as Holmes’ detective work.  

Usually I think this when the lede has that pattern of “y thought that z would be the case, but y never knew a.”   Then I ask myself, “How would I write that under deadline in the same news context in a different way?” and I have absolutely no idea.  I don’t know if the daily news context affords that kind of possibility of creating different kinds of stories? 

  

  

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