Theories of Communication: Narrative Theory
In other words, language use in self-narratives accurately reflects human personality. According to communication theorist Walter Fisher, humans are natural storytellers (1978, 1984, and 1987). We continually weave discrete events and experiences together into coherent wholes that have all the features of stories; a plot: characters: action: a sequence of beginning, middle and end: and a climax. 1. 1. 1 Narrative Paradigm Narrative paradigm is a concept in communication theory and was developed by Walter Fisher. The concept is adopted from the oldest form of communication – story telling.
He stated that all meaningful communication is in the form of storytelling. Calling his theory narrative paradigm, Fisher defined narration as “symbolic actions- words and/or deeds that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create or interpret them” (1987, p. 58). Fishers claimed that narrations abound in everyday life. You go to a mosque, church or temple, and a religious leader tells stories. Lawyers too tells stories when they give Jurors accounts of what happened and why and who is to blame (Burner, 2002).
Peoples past experiences influence our need for communication and also base our behavior. Thus narrative paradigm is very helpful in analyzing the nature of human communication. 1. 1. 2 Good Reasoning In western cultures, rationality is considered extremely important. We are taught to evaluate the worth of ideas and arguments by Judging how much evidence is provided. Fisher thought the Western emphasis on “pure logic” and conventional rationality was excessive. He also thought that logic or strictly rational thinking do not always explain why we believe what we do.
In his original statement about narrative theory, Fisher (1978) claimed that telling compelling story is more persuasive than cads of statistics, expert testimony, and logical deduction. People are basically story telling beings. We make decisions and form beliefs on the basis of good reasons. We consider a good reason depends on history, culture, personal character and biography. Narrative rationality is evaluated by the coherence and fidelity of stories. Life is a set of stories: in choosing to accept some stories to reject others, we continuously re-create our lives and ourselves. 1. 1. Narrative Rationality, Coherence and Fidelity To answer reservations that the narrative paradigm provided no standards for judging the quality of various stories, Fisher presented the concept of narrative rationality. He claimed that not all stories are equally compelling : that is not all stories have the same power to gain our belief. We Judge stories on the basis of a distinctively narrative form of rationality, which Fisher saw as quite different from conventional criteria of rationality. Fisher identified two standards for assessing narrative rationality, which is coherence and fidelity.
Coherence refers to formal features of story conceived as a discrete sequence of thought and or action in life or literature (any recorded or written form of discourse) e. It concerns the question of whether or not a story coheres or ‘hangs together’ whether or not the story is free of contradictions. In a story, we examine how the story strings together, how probable the story seems, are the important details included, is it free from contradictions, how does it compare with other stories, and do characters behave/think consistently.
How do you decide whether the story makes sense? Fisher suggested that we first ask whether a story has internal coherence. We Judge whether the storyteller has told us all of the important details so that the outcome is believable. The way we assess coherence is to compare a specific story we are told with other stories about the same or similar situations, events and so forth. Fisher’s (1987) second standard for narrative rationality is fidelity, which is defined as “the extent to which a story resonates with listeners personal experience and beliefs”.
According to narrative theorists, we find stories believable when they are act as we do or as we would like to see ourselves acting. Fisher’s explains that the standard of fidelity involve Judging the values in narration. When we identify with a character, we regard her or his action as admirable, worthy, reasonable. When we accept a story as true and right, we Judge it to reflect the values in which we believes and the ways of the world as we have experienced them 2.
Weakness of the theory There are 3 major weaknesses that are commonly being brought forth by other scholars and they are: I) Incomplete description I’) Too broad iii) conservative bias Incomplete description: Most scholar are skeptical that the theory could comprehensively describe all forms of communication. One of the arguments are from Robert Roland(1989) that stated that not all form of communication are narrative and do not attempt to be. As an example, Robert highlighted that science fictions and science fantasy stories do not attempt to make sense in term of most people’s experience and value.
He stated that the main purpose of science fictions and science fantasy is to challenge prevailing values, experience and ways of being in the world. In the perspective of communication, scholars have identify 2 types of communications that do not apply to the narrative theory. 1st, Kirkwood (1992) argues that Fisher’s view of narrative had failed to explain how stories create new possibilities, new version of ourselves and social life. This is because like the story of Martin Luther King is out of the standard form of storyline among the people within that timeline in how they see themselves and how they are suppose to act. Andy, James Cheeseboard (Bibb) believes that the theory are unpractical to the extend that if it is true it could cause harmful social consequences. For an example, the narratives of injustice and the right to revenge that are very common in most stories. Thus we could infer that assuming that the narrative theory is true it would incite riots and killing, thus it seem that Fisher did to account the impact of stories in developing new vision or how it would instigate harm.
Too broad: In establishing a communication theory, it is essential to create a distinguish it self from another. Thus when Fisher stated that all form of communication is a form of narrative thus he is simultaneously stating that everything and nothing in the same time. Such sweeping statement on the view of communication do not assist researchers, scholars and the general public to identify the important distinction among the myriad forms of communication.
Conservative Bias: Finally the third weakness that one could identify is that the theory is very insensitively bias. In the context of evaluating theory, conservative is referred to the preservation of existing or established values and practices thus due to that, according to William Kirkwood (1992)Fisher’s idea of good reasons give privilege to prevailing value and attitude and focus less on to the ways in which stories can promote positive changes in the human condition.
This contradiction can be seen in one of the narrative rational criteria of fidelity. Whereby there are cases of when even if the stories that we here ‘resonates with the listeners personal experience and lives'(Fisher 1987) but in truth even if it is consistent with our experience we tend to find some stories to be more credible from one to another. As an example, a video entitled ‘A Man Falls down and Cries for Help Twice. The Second Time, My Jaw Drops. On the www. Purports. Mom shows a man wearing a hooded,pair of Jeans and a snowman lying down at a town square calling for help, but after 45 minutes there was no one that came to assist despite of the large crowd passing through. This shows that despite of the general experience of being sick, and the general believe of doing DOD no one was convinced that the guy was sick or need any form of assistance. In addition to that, Kirkwood argues that this standard of Judgment encourage us to say only what will square with the other’s experience and to avoid challenging prevailing views, vale and the status quo in social life. . Strength of the theory There are 3 major strengths that are commonly being brought forth by other scholars and they are: I) Heuristic Value it) Parsimonious iii) Dynamism Heuristic Value: Narrative theory is viewed as an original work of study that has a high value of evolve as it has provoke new perspective of communication, the nature of reason and the bases of Judging rationality Narrative is considered to be a major approach to rhetorical criticism (Bureaucrat, 1995, p. 271).
Within rhetorical studies, narrative has been theorized as a rhetorical paradigm, and has been used in the analysis of various case studies from the speeches of Ronald Reagan to the rhetoric of the American Civil Rights movement (Lewis, 1987; Sells, 2008). The concept of narration also has been said to compliment well with Aristotle ancient treatise on rhetoric, ND it redefined as a primary component of a speech. In a section discussing the organization of speeches, Aristotle (2007) conceives of the narrative as the part of the speech in which a speaker leads the audience “through the facts” of the speaker’s subject or case (p. 38). The narrative section of the speech should vary according to the type of speech delivered. In an influential work, Fisher (1984) has argued that narrative is a fundamental paradigm of human communication. Under the narrative paradigm, human beings are defined by their roles as storytellers, and narrative is a constitutive part of human nature. According to Fisher (1984), rhetoric is “communicated ultimately as stories meant to give order to human experience” (p. 6).
Furthermore, narrative can be conceived as an alternative to rationality as a way of understanding the world, and is more intuitive than reason because it does not need to be taught Fisher’s narrative paradigm has since been critiqued and expanded upon (for more on the narrative paradigm, see also Fisher, 1985; Fisher, 1989). Parsimonious: Due to the simplistic nature of the theory that uses a limited number of concepts to explain communication, the theory had multiple applications in different fields.
Narrative has been studied in fields such as: rhetoric, literary theory, philosophy, history (see for example: White, 1980), psychology, political communication, journalism, studies of folklore, persuasion theory, media studies rhetorical studies, and political communication. In communication, scholars have studied narrative’s role in politics and their use in news media. For example, Bennett & Delano (1985) present a pessimistic view of political narrative, arguing that narratives transmitted through mass media act as barriers to solving social problems by casting policy issues in simplistic, ideological terms (p. 8). For Bennett & Delano (1985), the power of narratives to label political participants as “heroes” or “villains” or “deserving” or “undeserving” create “public policies that are rationalized by the construction of social problems for which they become solutions” (p. 159). Other scholars have also examined the ways in which Journalists use narratives in the construction of news content (see for example: Lull, 2001, p. 11-26; Gangs, 1979, p. 78-115) Dynamism: The theory is very dynamic to the extend where it could evolve and compliment in any form or context in the view of life .
Fisher had rebutted the idea of how his theory could and would maintain the status quo. In his critical article in 1987, Fisher stated human beings are wonderfully creative and imaginative beings. Thus he claims that we are able to invent and accepts new stories when they are better explained or offer a better direction for future living than the stories had heard and believed. This is proven in the case of Hill vs. Thomas. During and immediately after the court hearing, the national polls reported that a majority of those polled had thought that Thomas story to be more credible than the one told by Anita Hill.
However, a year after the hearings, when the people thought more about it, the majority of that poll has shifted their votes toward Anita Hills account. This shows that given time to consider and weigh of both stories, people could come to believe one that initially they had found lack of credibility. This shift suggest that fidelity ,may not be fixed at a moment but may shift in response to additional experiences and or reflection. 4. Examples f the theory 4. An article about narrative theory http://www. Marketing’s. Co. UK/trends/brand-storytelling-narrative-theory/ 4007279. Article The Marketing week has made a cover on application, effectiveness ND importance of The narrative Theory in delivering an effective branding image building. In the article Jonathan Bacon stated that ‘Storytelling, or providing consistent and compelling content to build a picture of a company, is becoming more important as people scrutinize brands and businesses. A research done by Monopole; which was commissioned by brand storytelling agency Aesop; attempts to define storytelling according to 10 criteria, including whether brands “have a clear sense of purpose”, whether consumers are “intrigued to see what they’ll do next” and whether those brands “create their own world”. More than 1,500 1-J adults were asked to rate 100 major brands against these criteria before Monopole used the responses to compile a 81st of the best storytelling brands. The following are the results of the research.
Thus we could conclude that a good brand story is important and this is supported by Deed Woodcock, strategy director and co-founder of Aesop which believes that a transparent and famous goal is paramount too believable brand story as an example, he state that Apple’s top ranking is the result of its almost evangelical commitment to creating technology that improves people’s lives and the clarity with which it tells that story. “Its sense of mission manifests itself in everything it does: from the design of its products and stores to the simplicity of its advertising,” he says.
Apple is currently running a campaign using long copy to explain the story behind its products. Woodcock commented that in the cases of utility firms, the ineffectiveness of their branding strategy is due to poor marketing or bad publicity. “Even though utilities could be said to have a noble mission, perhaps the story the consumer tends to hear is fat cat utility rips off defenseless consumers’,” he says This is consistent to Fisher’s theory which stated that fidelity and coherence are crucial in evaluating a story.
Thus a bad publicity would tainted the rationality of the theory, with even if it has good reasoning it is not consistent with how the general public perceive these utility companies. Given the central role that storytelling plays in developing a brand’s identity, it is perhaps not surprising that the ranking is dominated by some of the world’s biggest brands, with Apple topping the list and other brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Heinz featuring in the top 10. But the study also offers an interesting insight into perceptions towards different industries.
For example, while retail, food and drink and FMC brands fare particularly well in the rankings, brands in the utilities, financial services and automotive sectors are considered less adept at storytelling. The highest ranking financial services brand (Visa) is 30th out of 100, while the best storytelling bank or building society (Nationwide) is only 53rd. The top storytelling brand in the utilities sector comes 55th (British Gas) and the bottom four brands overall are all utilities, with Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) receiving the lowest ranking 4.
Participation Observation & Interview SURVEY QUESTION ANALYSIS 4. 2. 1 Respondent background A survey was conducted on 21st of April 2014, at KILL cafe and the following are the backgrounds of our respondents. They are separated in two types of demographics which is local and international student of KILL. There are four local students which is consist of 2 Malay, 1 Chinese, 1 Indian ,and there are six international students which is consist of two Indonesian students and four from Arab countries (3 Sudanese, 1 Nigerian ). They are ages group are ranging from 18- 25 years old.
The survey was conduct by a face to face interview. . 2. 2 The Finding Overall during our survey, there were one main question that was focused which is how does the general public of KILL student identify and rationalize a lie and it was found that 7 out of 10 respondent has given a response that is consistent with Fisher Narrative Rationality Criterion. Which are Fidelity and Coherence. This can be seen throughout respondent 4-10 whereby when ask about being lied to all would have similar methodology of identifying a lie.
Which are either through Fidelity Leg: There were lack of details that was told (lack of value in narration), She use the lying that I also use to tell people (personal experience) or Coherence [The story that the liar told me doesn’t hang together (consist of contradiction). The flow of his story was not consisted with what I know (Inconsistence in sequence)] On the other hand, there are instances during our interviews that were not align with the Narrative Paradigm. [By looking at the pace of his speech (body language), He acted guilty (body language+ personal experience) He confess it by himself] 4. . 3 Summary It can be concluded that; in general, Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm theory is applicable to the masses to KILL student but to a curtained extend. As what has been found via the analysis above there are a few findings that shows that there are some of the general student that do not Judge reason only from the sequence of a story and whether it make sense but they use other technicians like body language, analyzing body reaction, or some would Just tell the respondent that they had lied previously.
Which to a certain extend derailed from the perspective that Fisher had brought forth which is communication is a form of narration “that all forms of human communication need to be seen fundamentally as stories-?symbolic interpretations f aspects of the world occurring in time and shaped by history, culture, and character;”( Human Communication As Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action, Walter R. Fisher 1987) as for body language require a skill set and intuition rather than a layman interpretation off unconvincing story.
Narrative theory by Walter Fisher is still applicable in this current society. There are certain people who usually talks to themselves but most of them are talking to other people and that makes them involve in becoming the narrator or a storyteller. Secondly, we make decisions on the basis of good reasoning or logic. When we deciding things in our life, we tend to think logically rather than Just Jump into it. In order to make a good decision in life, people will think logically especially in making decision. Fisher’s Narrative Paradigm is a very useful theory that explains one aspect of human nature.
Fisher tells of how we are basically “storytelling animals” and how the receiver of the message Judges the credibility of the message due to its consistency or coherence. For example, when we feel sad and automatically our face will turn to something unpleasant. Suddenly there is someone notices the changes of our motions and he or she will automatically ask us about what happen and we explain it to them. The explanation done by us is what we call as narrative and this is what Fisher trying to explain that human is a natural storyteller.
Nowadays the theory is most prevalent in marketing. Marketing executives are actively seeking to fulfill these two criteria to make their brand more appealing towards their customers. Even though there are only two criteria stated by Fisher, there are more criteria a person would Judge a person narrative, especially in two way communication. Thus, even though Fisher succeed to capture on why human is a storytelling species, it does not explain fully on the traits that an individual would Judge others in real life.
In conclusion, narrative theory is applicable in the current society and it is present in our everyday life. 6. Suggestion to improve the theory Our suggestions to improve this theory so that it is applicable in current society are to narrow down the scope of the theory. Two major criticism of narrative theory is it could not comprehensively describe all forms of communication and the broadness of the theory. This problem can be avoided by narrowing down the scope of which narrative theory can cover.
This meant that narrative theory needs to specify what type of communication it should represent. Another criticism faced by narrative theory is conservative bias. This criticism the nature of theory that conclude that human beings have a set of template on how they would respond to a specific conditions. Responding into this criticism, narrative theory needs to acknowledge that a person acceptance of a narrative can change overtime. This way, narrative theory can accommodate the flexible nature of human being.