Storytelling, Jamming and All that Jazz: Knoweldge Creation in the World of New Media

Abstract

For some time there has been a hypothesis that better access to a broader repertoire of media resources will significantly enhance our ability to communicate more effectively. Unfortunately, it has been hard to find evidence to support this hypothesis; and this report will attempt to examine why this is the case. It begins by laying down a foundation of some basic principles concerning the nature of knowledge creation, framed with respect to two particularly vivid approaches to communication, storytelling and jamming (in the sense of jazz improvisation). These approaches are then examined critically, followed by a more detailed consideration of what we may learn from jazz if we wish to invoke it as a metaphor for knowledge creation. The report then concludes by discussing the implications of these observations for a new world of work experiences in which knowledge creation is a critical element. 1. The Challenge: Communicating Effectively in the World of New Media In November of 1997, the Institute for the Future organized an Outlook Exchange entitled "Beyond Knowledge Management: A Strategic Conversation on Evolving Organizational Knowledge" [8]. Several themes recurred over the course of the two days of this event, two of which were particularly interesting from the point of view of group communication. The first was that the two evening events were entitled "Jamming" and were both concerned with viewing the practice of making music as a metaphor for knowledge creation. The second was that each of the three daytime sessions began with a "digital story," presented by Bob Johansen, Director of the 0-7695-0001-3/99 Institute for the Future, with the assistance of Lin Knapp, Chief Knowledge Officer for Coopers & Lybrand. The integration of these two themes with the presentations and discussions that constituted the heart of the Outlook Exchange made the whole experience a very media-rich event. Thus, the event itself became an excellent opportunity to test what may be the most important hypothesis underlying multimedia research: that better access to a broader repertoire of media resources will significantly enhance our ability to communicate more effectively. Unfortunately, when viewed critically and with half a year’s distance from the enthusiasm of the event itself, the Outlook Exchange does not appear to have provided much evidence to support this hypothesis; and this report will attempt to examine why this is the case. It begins by laying down a foundation of some basic principles concerning the nature of knowledge creation, framed in a manner that justifies the potential relevance of storytelling and jamming. This foundation provides the basis for a critical examination of what took place at the Outlook Exchange that actually pertained to digital storytelling and jamming. This is followed by a more detailed examination of what we may learn from jazz if we wish to invoke it as a metaphor for knowledge creation. The report then concludes by discussing the implications of these observations for a new world of work experiences in which knowledge creation is a critical element. 2. The Nature of Knowledge Creation Many approaches to knowledge management tend to begin by taking on the thorny philosophical problem of defining or characterizing knowledge, as if it were an object that admitted of analytical investigation as readily as a suspension bridge. Our own investigations have tried to concentrate on the nature of work practices; and, as a $10.00 (c) 1999 IEEE 1 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 result, we have shifted our attention from noun to verb. From this point of view, we assert that knowing involves making "informed" decisions with incomplete information or incomplete decision models. The key attribute here is incompleteness. If our information and model resources were complete, we should not need anything more than a powerful theorem-prover to make those decisions; but it is unrealistic to assume that we shall ever be able to model the real world that extensively. Thus, our capacity for knowing is basically our capacity for coping with incompleteness. Taking this as a working hypothesis, we may now propose that creating knowledge involves increasing this capacity. This proposition can then be elaborated along two axes: the nature of the increase and the nature of the capacity itself. Along the first axis we can identify three ways in which the capacity for knowing may be increased: 1. It may be more productive, to the extent that the decisions made are more "successful" (according to some accepted criterion for success). 2. It may be more efficient, enabling those decisions to be made more rapidly. 3. It may increase the scope of the decision-making process, taking into account factors that may have previously been ignored. Note that these improvements do not always align with each other, so they do not necessarily all contribute together to knowledge creation at the same time. Along the second axis the capacity for knowing itself may be translated into the abilities to perform three interrelated tasks illustrated in Figure 1. The decisions we actually make arise from our facility for doing, this facility, in turn, is based on our ability to search the resources of the information and decision models we can access, and our ability to search productively and efficiently is a consequence of our faculty for abstracting our experiences of the world and previous decisions we have made into models that add to the resources we have at our disposal. Given this particular framework for talking about knowledge creation, we would now like to provide a brief introduction to why topics such as storytelling and jazz, the origin of the practice of jamming, should have been GRLQJ DEVWUDFWLQJ VHDUFKLQJ Figure 1. The activities of knowing 0-7695-0001-3/99 considered as a key factor in a meeting concerned with "evolving organizational knowledge." Consider first the value of storytelling. There has been a long tradition in literary theory that views stories as a representation of knowledge [5], but how is this point of view relevant to our capacity for making informed decisions? The answer to the question is that many, if not all, stories inform us about the three tasks illustrated in Figure 1. They give us examples of how these tasks are performed, they impose values on the selection and consequences of those tasks, and they embed the execution of the tasks in a cultural context. Stories thus not only report what decisions are made but also account for how those decisions were made with respect to the activities of abstracting, searching, and doing. "Reading" a story thus provides an opportunity to exercise those tasks, since the reader can internalize experiences of engaging in the tasks without actually doing them (in circumstances in which doing them might be difficult and/or dangerous). These tasks are also exercised by the activity of telling a story. Indeed, there are actually two activities involved in telling a story: making up the story (composing the story to be told), and recounting the story (deciding how to present that story to an audience). Both of these activities involve exercising the tasks of abstracting, searching, and doing; and each one does it in a different way. This decomposition of storytelling into two activities is also part of the tradition of literary theory [5]. A variety of terms have been engaged to disguish the results of the two activities. The most commonly used terms in English label the result of making up a story as the "story" and the result of recounting the story as the "discourse." An important consequence of this two-fold view of storytelling is that it explicitly acknowledges that the relationship between a storyteller and an audience is a key element of the activity of telling the story. Jazz is also about such relationships, but it translates the somewhat polarized orientation of storyteller and audience into a more general set of interpersonal dynamics that is more like the relationships one is likely to find in a brainstorming group. In a group that is making jazz, everyone has incomplete information and decision models; and everyone needs to be actively involved with the tasks 1 Can this claim really be generalized to most stories? The book Reading for the Plot, by Peter Brooks [5], provides an abundant collection of examples. These examples are drawn from not only a variety of periods in literary history but also the non-fiction reports of Sigmund Freud. 2 The scare quotes have been inserted to indicate a generalization of reading that includes not only examining a manuscript on paper but also listening to a story being told, watching a film, or even extracting the narrative element of a painting. 3 Walter J. Ong [15] has argued that these two activities only began to distinguish themselves from each other when storytelling made the shift from an oral practice to a written one; this may be important when we observe in Section 3 that digital storytelling involves a combination of both oral and written practice. $10.00 (c) 1999 IEEE 2 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 of abstracting, searching, and doing. Furthermore, everyone is informed by what everyone else is doing in exactly the same ways that we are informed by stories, through exposure to examples, through evaluative feedback, and through a mutual process of defining a cultural context. We may thus conclude that making jazz is an instance of knowledge creation; and, while we are inclined to think of the instance as metaphorical when we are worrying about making informed decisions in the world of work, the instance is actually a literal one. Indeed, because making jazz is a literal instance of knowledge creation, we feel it is valuable to explore the conjecture that we can translate what we know about how one learns to make jazz into lessons for creating knowledge. In other words, if we know how to look at it the right way, then studying jazz pedagogy should inform us about knowledge creation. We shall provide a framework for just what that "right way" should be in Section 6; but first we shall compare our foundational view of knowledge creation with the approaches to digital storytelling and jamming taken at the Outlook Exchange. 3. Digital Storytelling Just what is digital storytelling? On the basis of the Outlook Exchange, the question may be answered by drawing upon the commonalities of the three digital stories presented by Johansen and Knapp. Those commonalities involved these two speakers sitting in armchairs on either side of a screen on which were projected images provided by presentations that had been made using Macromedia Director [12]. These presentations did not involve very much interactivity on the part of the speakers, but they did incorporate some rather elaborate video production. Indeed, it would probably be fair to say that at least some of these videos could be viewed as stories unto themselves and that what Johansen and Knapp were doing was engaging in a sort of "fireside chat," in the course of which they could share several external resources with the audience, rather than simply speaking from the tops of their heads, as it were. 3.1. The Significance of Storytelling at the Outlook Exchange This technique provided an appealing approach to the presentation of content; and, if nothing else, it certainly contributed to making the Outlook Exchange a memorable occasion. Nevertheless, there remained the question of why Johansen and Knapp were attaching so much importance to storytelling in the first place; and it was only with the final story, on the topic of diversity and creativity, that they began to give some indication of why 0-7695-0001-3/99 storytelling was an important issue. They set the stage by laying out a challenging problem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he remainder of the presentation tried to address the question of how we could work with diversity. Storytelling was proposed as a solution, being justified as follows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hile this is an interesting and potentially valuable perspective, it overlooks a significant problematic issue: The danger of placing too much emphasis on the social process of storytelling is that one can lose touch with whether or not any story is actually being told. The problem with the three digital stories that were offered by Johansen and Knapp is that one could come away with the impression that presentation was simply a matter of delivering media objects to the audience, that "The Medium Is the Message" [11]. However, this approach neglects the role of stories in imposing values (Section 2); and it is only through having a story that an audience can assign any value to the media objects it receives [19]: ,I WKH DXGLHQFH GRHV QRW WUHDW WKRVH REMHFWV DV YDOXDEOH LQIRUPDWLRQ WKH GHOLYHU\ LV YLUWXDOO\ LUUHOHYDQW 2QH RI WKH NH\ IDFWRUV WKDW FRQWULEXWHV WR WKH YDOXH RI LQIRUPDWLRQ LV LWV DFFHVVLELOLW\ DQG ZLWKLQ WKH UHFHQW SDVW SHRSOH IRU ZKRP $10.00 (c) 1999 IEEE 3 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 SUHVHQWDWLRQ LV D VLJQLILFDQW SDUW RI WKH ZRUN SURFHVV KDYH EHJXQ WR GLVFRYHU ZKDW OLWHUDU\ WKHRULVWV KDYH NQRZQ IRU VRPH WLPH > @ WKDW VWRU\WHOOLQJ LV D SRZHUIXO GHYLFH IRU PDNLQJ WKH NQRZOHGJH WKDW DULVHV IURP WKH LQWHUSUHWDWLRQ RI LQIRUPDWLRQ DFFHVVLEOH > @ 7KXV LW LV YHU\ LPSRUWDQW WKDW WKHUH UHDOO\ EH D VWRU\ EHLQJ WROG DV SDUW RI WKH VWRU\WHOOLQJ H[SHULHQFH VLQFH WKDW VWRU\ SURYLGHV D NH\ WR WKH DFFHVVLELOLW\ RI WKH HQWLUH H[SHULHQFH ,I WKH H[SHULHQFH LV QRW DFFHVVLEOH LW LV QRW OLNHO\ WR EH UHPHPEHUHG DQG LI LW LV QRW UHPHPEHUHG ZDV LW ZRUWK WHOOLQJ LQ WKH ILUVW SODFH" This returns us to the two processes of storytelling addressed in Section 2. When we view storytelling as a social process, we address the process of recounting a story as a means by which knowledge can be shared; and, as Johansen and Knapp observe, sharing knowledge is particularly problematic in a context that is rich with diversity. However, if that context is to serve as "a wellspring of creativity," then creating knowledge is as important a problem as sharing it; and this is a matter of making up a story. By dealing with both processes, storytelling serves to integrate issues of both creating and sharing knowledge. What goes into making up a story? Viewed as a problem of knowledge creation, this was actually the primary topic of discussion at the Outlook Exchange. That discussion centered on a hypothesis that knowledge creation could be viewed in terms of a continuum that had, at one end, "knowledge by design," where everything was formally planned, and, at the other end, "knowledge by emergence," where, rather than being planned, knowledge emerged from the social dynamics of the workplace [8]. Making up a story is frequently a matter of knowledge by emergence. The storyteller has an experience, an observation of the world, an overheard remark, or an exchange with someone in the audience; and that experience provides the inspiration from which a story unfolds. However, narratological theory has also informed us that making up a story can have a strong element of knowledge by design [6]: 7KH 5XVVLDQ )RUPDOLVW 9ODGLPLU 3URSS > @ KDG DOUHDG\ PDGH D SURPLVLQJ VWDUW ZLWK KLV 0RUSKRORJ\ RI WKH )RON 7DOH ZKLFK EROGO\ UHGXFHG DOO IRON WDOHV WR VHYHQ VSKHUHV RI DFWLRQ DQG WKLUW\ RQH IL[HG HOHPHQWV RU 4 The author had to deal with the problem of memorability when preparing a trip report for the Outlook Exchange [20]. In accounting for the three digital stories, only the one about diversity and creativity was memorable for its content. The first was memorable for Johansen’s informal discourse regarding the matter of bringing technology to bear on telling digital stories, while all that was memorable from the second was one of the embedded videos (the most memorable part actually being the audio narration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hy is Digital Important? So why is it important that storytelling be digital? This question can only be answered effectively if we recognize the twofold nature of storytelling as a synthesis of making up a story and relating that story. It remains to be seen how much effect digital technology may have on how we make up stories beyond the role that PowerPoint-like presentation templates can have in getting us started. However, when it comes to the social process of relating the story, digital technology can have a major impact through the richness of the media objects it can provide and support. Returning to how that social process was characterized by Johansen and Knapp (Section 3.1), there is now a substantial tradition of the use of digital technology for bringing people together; and much of that tradition has been excellently reviewed by Michael Schrage [18]. Does this mean that the importance of digital storytelling is simply a corollary of the hypothesis that "more bandwidth is better?" The failure of the Outlook Exchange to support that hypothesis decisively would place such a corollary in jeopardy of defeat. The challenge facing digital technology is not one of bringing people together but of contributing to building up shared understandings. FXPAL has begun to explore this problem in terms of how a well-equipped conference room can be cultivated as a "Knowledge Place." This environment has been envisaged "as a laboratory in which one can study the nature of knowledge work in a shared space" [19]. Needless to say, social goals for the design of this space are as important as the technical ones; and identifying those technical goals has become our most important design priority. $10.00 (c) 1999 IEEE 4 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999 Proceedings of the 32nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 1999

DOI: 10.1109/HICSS.1999.772681

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Smoliar1999StorytellingJA, title={Storytelling, Jamming and All that Jazz: Knoweldge Creation in the World of New Media}, author={Stephen W. Smoliar and James D. Baker}, booktitle={HICSS}, year={1999} }