Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Apps to set the scene, introduce conflict, and resolve - for scientists?

I encountered too many related stories on the web yesterday not to post something attempting to connect them, including a Dot Earth blog post on storytelling including an app for story building, a Ted Talk including an app for developing Ted Talks, and the article I wrote.

My own Ways to estimate Ontario's losses on electricity exports
... despite a difference in big numbers, all the methods tell the same tale.
Graphics are probably a tool increasingly used to try and move communication away from abstract numbers.

Stories, we are told, are another.

Can Storytelling Be Factual and Effective? | Dot Earth | New York Times
Randy Olson’s journey meshing science and storytelling continues. Theonetime marine biologist turned first to filmmaking, shooting edge-pushing movies on the fights over evolution science and global warming. Then he wrote “Don’t be Such a Scientist,” a manifesto and manual urging scientists to communicate in fresh ways.
Now he’s back with “Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking,” a book that demystifies storytelling for scientists – or anyone else – by breaking the process into its basic components. The book is actually about storymaking, more than storytelling, he stresses. Olson’s co-authors on this book are Dorie Barton, an actress and script analyst, and Brian Palermo, an actor whose specialty is comic improvisation. The also have developed a Storymaker app and run related workshops.
One mantra for this team is “and, but, therefore” — a distillation of the idea that any time you replace an and with a but or a therefore, you’re not just listing facts, but creating a narrative with points of conflict, tension, humor and the like – in other words, one that might actually captivate an audience.
The article continues at the New York Times where there is also a related video posted.  I can't strongly recommend either because I think it both are more about manipulating than communicating, but I thought the basic and/but/therefore was a reminder of the value of communicating your premise, when possible, in a manner which includes the introduction of conflict (but), and then conflict resolution.

In working on my article yesterday, a predictable google search led me to a dated TED Talk by Sebastian Wernicke: Lies, damned lies and statistics.  I found it very entertaining, if not as interesting as finding out how French coffee spreads happiness in your brain.

I did not search for the app on building the perfect Ted Talk (or the worst one they might allow) - but now I know if you want to tell a story and/or do a Ted talk, there are apps.

Which I felt good about at first.

I have premises
and I wish to communicate them
and I can use apps
and they'll help me communicate
any idiot could better communicate their poor conflicting premise with the same, or better, tools
therefore ...
etcetera, etcetera

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