Il superato storytelling

Jeff Jarvis è da oltre un paio di decenni uno dei più bravi studiosi dei cambiamenti nell’informazione e nelle cose digitali che ci sia in circolazione: in questo blog è stato citato più volte, per esempio con la sua sensatissima definizione di cosa sia il giornalismo, che disdegna le sciocchezze sulla professione, la categoria, il tesserino, in favore della qualità del servizio pubblico.
Ora Jarvis ha scritto una cosa lunga e ricca di idee molto ben argomentate e non banali (di alcune aveva parlato a Perugia, c’è il video in coda all’articolo): ne cito due perché sono passate anche da questo blog, ma ce ne sono molte altre e migliori, alcune delle quali tratte da due libri che sembrano essere molto interessanti.
Una è – per dirla con quel famigerato titolo – la riflessione sul fottuto storytelling.

My greatest heresy to date — besides questioning paywalls as panacea — is to doubt the primacy of the story as journalistic form and to warn of the risk of valuing drama, character, and control over chaotic reality. Now I’ll dive deeper into my heretical hole and ask: What if the story as a form, by its nature, is often wrong? What if we cannot explain nearly as much as we think we can? What if our basis for understanding our world and the motives and behaviors of people in it is illusory? What would that mean for journalism and its role in society? I believe we need to fundamentally and radically reconsider our conceptions of journalism and I start doing that at the end of this post.

Jarvis cita lo studioso Alex Rosenberg e il suo libro sulle neuroscienze e la storiografia.

If that is Rosenberg’s view of history, I wondered what his view would be of the first draft of history — journalism. So I emailed to ask him and he kindly responded, observing that journalists “keep asking the question ‘how did you feel about…’ that invites the interviewee to roll out the beliefs and desires that drove their actions.” He acknowledges that our business model drives us to attract large audiences “in the face of the public’s demands for a good story.” Indeed, Rosenberg himself admits he is a sucker for a good story; we all are.
So what do we turn to instead of the story? “My message isn’t that journalists have to work harder to dig out the real motives behind the actions they report,” Rosenberg emailed me. “It’s that they need to change their target and their approach to it. Stop trying to explain what people do as actions driven by motives, and start taking on major social trends and figure out how the structure of cultural variation and selection imposes outcomes.”
In a panel about the seduction of storytelling I organized at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, I was asked to reread that last sentence of Rosenberg’s email three times, so boggling is it for us storytellers. Rosenberg is on one level saying that we journalists should focus on issues and trends over personalities and predictions — something friend Jay Rosen argues often. In that panel, Rosen said that the report, the discussion, and the investigation are more reliable units of journalism than the story and our skill is more verification than storytelling.

L’altra cosa che cito è, per dirla con quell’altro titolo, meno famigerato, che il giornalismo è un inganno.

I also shudder to think what becomes of media. Says Weinberger :
«Why have we so insisted on turning complex histories into simple stories? Marshall McLuhan was right: the medium is the message. We shrank our ideas to fit on pages sewn in a sequence that we then glued between cardboard stops. Books are good at telling stories and bad at guiding us through knowledge that bursts out in every conceivable direction, as all knowledge does when we let it.
But now the medium of our daily experiences — the internet — has the capacity, the connections, and the engine needed to express the richly chaotic nature of the world».
Chaos is what journalism promises to tame. But journalism fails. It always has. The world is less explainable than we would like to admit.

Leggetevelo, l’articolo di Jarvis, se vi interessano le cose dell’informazione contemporanea. Soprattutto nella seconda parte ci sono efficaci e preziosi esempi su cosa sia un giornalismo intento solo a raccontare “storie” (che va bene, eh: basta non pensare sia tutto lì) e cosa sia invece un giornalismo utile a capire le cose e permettere di migliorarle. Ovvero quel giornalismo là, di cui dicevamo:

Journalism helps communities organize their knowledge so they can better organize themselves. Thus anything that reliably serves the end of an informed community is journalism

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