#130) The ABT/Narrative Fingerprint of the United States

Southerners tell stories, northerners are more informational/intellectualMaybe.  More than a billion tweets suggest this.

 

YOU MIGHT THINK EVERYONE TELLS STORIES, BUT … LOOKS LIKE THERE’S SOME REGIONAL VARIATION.

 

THE GREAT AMERICAN WORDMAPPER SHOWS AMERICA’S “BUT VS. AND” PATTERNS

One of the best payoffs from the presentation Jayde Lovell and I gave at SXSW Interactive was the vigorous discussions that popped up on Twitter.  In the middle of one of them we got a big treat which you can see above.

Jack Grieve is a “forensic linguist” at Ashton University in the U.K.  He joined our discussion and mentioned this amazing study he was part of.  It’s called The Great American Word Mapper, where they analyzed over a billion tweets in the United States.

On Monday this week we had him connect through Skype to our Story Circles Narrative Training Demo Day with USGS folks in Minneapolis.  He told us more detail about the study.   It turns out every time you tweet, there are geographic coordinates recorded.  That’s what they used to produce this amazing regional resource.

We were discussing my Narrative Index (BUT/AND x 100).  He sent us the above plots for BUT versus AND.  Which is incredibly fascinating.  And exactly what I would predict.

 

SOUTHERNERS ARE STORYTELLERS 

Long, long ago, when I was still a professor at UNH, I heard a talk from the Director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.  He made the case that the south is THE voice of American culture.  He based this on a number of aspects, such as the only truly original art form the U.S. has given the world is jazz music, and the largest number of great novelists and playwrights have come from the south.   He also pointed out there are no other centers for the study of culture for other parts of the country. 

Having grown up in Kansas and spent plenty of time in the south, I definitely know that it is the greatest region for storytelling in the country.  Which means I would expect it to be the region of the greatest ABT activity, and thus … exactly what you see — the greatest use of BUT in tweets.

There’s lots of other reasons for this pattern you could suggest.  He felt it was strongly correlated to African American populations, but … look at Maryland — it has the 4th highest percentage of African American population.  And look at New York versus Arkansas — they have the same percentage.

I think it’s a higher level function.  I would argue the north/south difference in storytelling holds across all ethnicities.  But then what do I know — I’m just making this ABT stuff up as we go along!

#110) Banning Trump from Twitter: Valarie Plame Advances a Great Narrative

Valerie Plame understands media. It’s not about facts. It’s not about pointing out individual pieces of misinformation from Donald Trump. It’s about advancing new narratives, like “Let’s buy Twitter and kick Trump off.” The information side of that is cockamamie, but as a narrative it’s awesome and attention-getting. And idea-generating. She gets it. If only the Democrats did as well.

 ADVANCING THE NARRATIVE.  This is what it’s about — launching new narratives.


ADVANCING THE NARRATIVE. This is what it’s about — launching new narratives.



DIPLOMACY CAN’T AFFORD TO BE NON-NARRATIVE

I’ve spent all year trying to explain there is an analytical reason for why President Trump should not be allowed to use Twitter for anything related to diplomacy. Back in January I pointed out that Twitter is too short, by half, to allow the communication of coherent ABT-structured narratives. And I’ve spent the year wondering what in the world is wrong with Congress that they can’t seem to see this as anything more than a laughing matter.

Twitter is not a joke. It’s a source of rapid mass communication. It creates all sorts of mass MIScommunication, as I explained in that essay, using Stephen Colbert’s debacle as an example.

Finally someone truly gets it. Former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson has taken the issue into her own hands with an attention-getting idea that is unlikely to occur, but that’s not the point. She is identifying the problem — that we’ve got a President who is well known to behave in a reckless manner. He simply should not be allowed to do it with Twitter.



WE’RE IN A POST-SUBSTANCE WORLD

The last election showed how we have entered a new phase of The Information Society. Facts and accuracy now count for very little. What matters now is higher levels of information organization — namely narrative threads.

Some how, some way the Democratic party has to grasp this, realize that Twitter is dangerous, realize that the last President used it very cautiously, but the current President is running roughshod with it.

There has to be a way to stop this from happening. It begins by identifying the problem and getting everyone talking about it. The Democratic party has done nothing at all about this. It’s up to single citizens like Valerie Plame Wilson for now to at least try. She gets it.





#101) How Twitter fuels our increasingly mediocre narrative-driven world

The news used to be driven by the truth, at least in theory. Today — more than ever — it’s driven by story (as Trump knows well), which requires sources of contradiction. When contradiction is in short supply, Twitter conveniently provides it. USA Today knows this at a deep and instinctive level. They continue to blaze the path into The Age of Mediocrity.

STORY TRUMPS TRUTH today in ways not seen since the medieval Dark Ages.  Brought to you by science, technology and Twitter, run amok.

STORY TRUMPS TRUTH today in ways not seen since the medieval Dark Ages. Brought to you by science, technology and Twitter, run amok.



STORY TRUMPS TRUTH

Narrative consists of three forces — AGREEMENT, CONTRADICTION, CONSEQUENCE. If you want a solid narrative structure, you need sources of all three.

Furthermore, Rule #1 of storytelling is that “The power of storytelling rests in the specifics.”

Today’s news media has a ravenous appetite for both contradiction and specifics. Twitter provides both.

If I tell you Ann Coulter got into a spat on a flight, that’s moderately interesting. But if I can use Twitter to quote specific words from her AND specific words of opposition, as USA Today does in this article today, it’s much more powerful. Who cares whether the Twitter sources are reputable.

Even more to the point, if I tell you Ed Sheeran’s appearance on “Game of Thrones” sucked, that’s moderately interesting. But it’s much more interesting and engaging if I can cite specific voices — regardless of whether they are professional movie critics. Who cares who they are, they are sources of contradiction and specifics — precious narrative fuel.

It’s happening all day, every day now. How do movie critics even have a job any more? How do any experts have jobs? We are devolving into a gelatinous mass of supposedly all-knowing crowd-sourced knowledge, driven by an increasingly insatiable thirst for narrative, accompanied by an increasing disgust and even contempt for what used to be known as “the truth.”

Thus continues our information-glutted sleigh ride into The Age of Mediocrity, overseen by The Master of Contradiction in the White House. And followed suit by the increasingly dull and mediocre Democrats who respect and value the voices of mediocrity.