How Will You Draw Yourself into the Story?

by Andy Wood on March 7, 2016

in Consumers, Exploring the Possibilities, Insight, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Photos

One of Laura Kate's many insertions.

One of Laura Kate’s many insertions.

Take a gander at my seven-year-old granddaughter’s impressive collection of books and you’ll find something very interesting. In volume after volume, page after page, she has drawn a picture of herself.

Ask her why, and she’ll reply, matter-of-factly, “I wanted to draw myself into the story.”

This isn’t just about a second-grader’s imagination. It’s about an entire culture. Laura Kate is just one poster child among millions who have quietly (or not-so-quietly) gone about rewriting the rules for just about everything, from entertainment to technology, to politics and even religion.

I wanted to draw myself into the story.

There is actually a heady name for that – best I can tell, coined by British scholar Alan Kirby. He calls it “pseudo-modernism” and it is reflected mostly by those born after 1980. But don’t get lost in the label – it has other names as well. Do pay attention to how it works because it will probably choose your next president (it already is), determine the fate of your favorite pieces of technology, and frame the success or failure of the organizations you are a part of.

What is It and Why Should You Care?

I was born at the tail end of the Modernist culture. Modernism is characterized by the belief that everything can be known in terms of real, measurable experience. Rooted in the belief in absolutes, it is a philosophy that permeated science, architecture, and even religion and theology.

Then came Postmodernism, which questioned reality. Life is a story, a narrative, and knowledge is a conversation to be had, not a set of facts to be discovered. There are no absolutes – truth is relative. But of course, we can even have a conversation about that.

(All of this, by the way, is a terrible simplification of these ideas.)

Pseudo-modernism is a completely different animal. “Reality” is now defined as whatever I’m doing in the moment. Welcome to the selfie revolution.

With the help of the Internet and interactive technology, with pseudo-modernism the “consumer” is now a co-creator of the “product.” For example, take a look at the success of “reality” TV shows like the various “Idol” programs “Survivor” where the plot is determined by viewer or contestant participation. You see this in modern journalism also. News articles now routinely cover the tweets of various people and post videos almost randomly shot from iPhones. “Reporters” now just report on what’s already going viral on the Internet. Most online articles have comments open to whomever. Thus consumers make the news and interactivity is everything.

They’re writing themselves into the story.

Pseudo-modernists expect ownership. Down: Passive viewership or reading for information, such as sit-coms and detective stories. Up: Presidential debates where polls mean everything, social media (name it), or online information outlets (news, blogs, etc.), where interactivity is expected and embraced. I have never seen such angst by twenty-somethings over a presidential election (or any other election) as I have this one. They actually believe they have a say in all this! (What a concept!)

And like it or not they are writing themselves into the story.

Little Glimpses Along the Way

I hear of church ministries using technology to help steer the flow of an actual sermon. Some pastors are “going interactive” and responding to questions texted or posted by listeners – not next week, but live as part of the service. That’s one example of how some people are responding to the “I define reality” culture. The pastor doesn’t change the core of his belief system, but does show how it answers real questions from real people in the real moment.

They’re writing themselves into the story, and he’s letting them. But he’s not changing the core content of the story to make it happen.

I believe this also explains the current cultural Elephant in the Room – the rise and failure to disappear (so far) of one Donald J. Trump. Given the nature of the culture, and the fact that all elections reflect the pulse of the current culture, is it any surprise that the current electoral process resembles a high-stakes reality TV show? Where the goal is not to win today, but to survive getting voted off “the island” this week and survive for another episode? (We call those “primaries.”) Or where the key to survival is staying in front of the camera? Where any attention is good attention? Where you can navigate your strategy from week to week to capture momentum from somebody else?

Is it any wonder that the Reality TV star is winning the Reality TV election? He’s appealing to people who want to write themselves into the story – many of whom have felt “written off” by the current brokers of power.

Love It or Hate It

Like most cultural movements, this has its critics, as well as those that see it as so normal they don’t know what the fuss is all about.

Doesn’t everybody want to write themselves into the story? Haven’t they always?

Well, no.

But that doesn’t change the fact that an entire brand has been rebuilt around the little letter, “I.” And that entire industries and businesses rise and fall around their ability to welcome interaction, co-creation, and participation. Say good-bye to cable TV, record companies and one day probably “smart phones” as you understand them today.

You may also be waving good-bye to political power as you once defined it.

It also doesn’t change the fact that if you want to reach the culture around you, it will require that you reach the culture as it is, not as you would wish it to be. In other words, you’d better be prepared to show how your product, your service – even your church or theology – speaks to a new generation of people.

They’re already drawing themselves into the story. The only question is whether you will welcome them into yours?

As for you personally, you may feel that life has etched you in stone – that you are unchangeable and your life is what it is. Nothing could be further from the truth. I happen to know that the greatest Storyteller of all has personally included you in the epic saga of all time and eternity.

How are you drawing yourself into His story?

Martha Orlando March 7, 2016 at 12:09 pm

This was fantastic, Andy! You brought up so many changes in our culture that I hadn’t previously reflected upon. Makes perfect sense!
And yes, I hope and pray I’m drawing myself into His story. That’s the real story, and the one I want to be a part of.
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Crazy Socks!

Gregg Greer March 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Awesome post!

You mixed philosophy, politics, demographics and popular culture together and Bam! the light went on for me.

I’ll be chewing on this one for a while, I think…
(By the way, I never read the comments on blogs and leave comments even less often, but here I am, writing myself in…)

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