Florian, Berlin

Florian Thalhofer has been fascinated by the impact of storytelling on our thoughts and actions. His Korsakow project offers a tool for film makers to create non-linear films. The other morning we had Spaghetti bolognese for breakfast in his kitchen and talked about how to talk about complex situations.

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Things are complicated. And mass media mostly tell us stories about events instead of explaining their context. …

Things are complicated. And mass media mostly tell us stories about events instead of explaining their context. They tell us linear stories, something Florian and I consider as highly problematic. Here is what I think is happening: An event is extracted from its – complicated – context and pressed into a simple linear narrative pattern. (Alain de Botton talks about those here.)

 

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Our minds are cluttered with huge amounts of information …

Our minds are cluttered with huge amounts of information embedded in various overlapping contexts. We are confused. Stories are much simpler for our minds to digest. They are linear and due to their ever-repeating patterns barely contain anything new. They are candy bars for the mind. Simple, emotional… and harmful in the long run. Now what’s the problem?

 

 

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Linear storytelling always tends towards extremes. …

“Linear storytelling always tends towards extremes.” says Florian. First of all those stories are an oversimplification. A lot is left out. And there is not much room for middle ground or differentiation. Dramatic movie stories very often boil down complex moral conflicts to simple questions of “good” and “bad”. This pattern becomes problematic when you apply it to real political or social situations which cannot be interpreted in such a simple fashion. People might find it hard to listen to differentiated viewpoints or multiple truths and instead feel tempted to go for the simple elevator pitch.

 

 

 

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But worst of all, those stories develop their own dynamic …
But worst of all, those stories develop their own dynamic. “Good discursive material” provokes responses in the form of yet more stories, further transforming and enhancing certain aspects of the event.

 

 

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They just can't help themselves! …

So I ask Florian: “Why do journalists do it? They are smart people after all! Why are they so eager to fall for sensationalist stories?” He says: “They just can’t help themselves! They have to.” We talk about the situations of journalists today and how they are pressured to come up with material that arouses attention in short amounts of time. Which is why they simply must go for those stories. And I can relate in a way… whenever I see a cookie I feel also trapped in a systemic problem: We (the cookie and me) both know what is going to happen. There is simply no way around it…

 

 

 

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Florian says watching a movie is probably the most extreme linear experience …

Florian says watching a movie is probably the most extreme linear experience, he calls it “hyperlinear”. We can’t even move, most of our senses are deprived except for vision and audio and we are completely absorbed by the story we watch. A rate of 25 frames per second doesn’t leave much room to analyze or understand.

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Radio programs might also keep your ears busy but while listening you can still look at other things, move around, maybe even drive a car. There is freedom to drift off and add personal experience to what you are listening to.

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Books even allow you to read at your own time. Florian is surprised when I tell him that I use many books as a catalyst for my own thoughts. My primary aim very often is not to “correctly” understand what the author is trying to say. Rather I use what I understand to trigger my own thoughts and weave those new insights into my understanding.

 

 

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