A Meta-Narrative is a “story about the story”.
In 2005 Kevin Kelly, in his famous speech [macme title='What does Technology want?' id='35'], defined meta-narratives as the provision of story details and character information over different media. He views meta-narrative creation as a focus for the integration of mobile content into traditional content. Storytellers can use each media channel to communicate different kinds and levels of narrative information.
We can use this observation to reflect on the ways in which human beings live, express and relate in the world.
We constantly build meta-narratives in our daily lives: we live, work, study and relate with other people and we constantly decide what is important, what we feel like about a certain thing, we form opinions, we rank things for importance and priority according to our view of the world, and we communicate all this to other people by talking about our lives and the things which happen to us every day.
These are all stories, which describe a certain way of living in the world: our way. And they are interactive stories, as when we discuss with other people our perspectives on the world we are in a constant state of mutation, as other people’s points of view change ours.
They are stories which we interweave on reality at different levels and with different scopes of intimacy. They operate at syntactical, semantic, symbolic levels and they describe our experience of the world and our interpretation of reality.
This process is fundamental for society, as it allows people to create and enact ethics and cultures, to create common dialogues and topics of interest which are able to connect human beings into imagining, designing and enacting the world as we want it.
[macme title='Gregory Bateson' id='36']
Gregory Bateson, in his fundamental book Steps to an Ecology of mind, describes human culture as living system. The different aspects of the living system that is human culture are linked together in “branching and interconnecting chains of causation” and bounded by self-validating and usually unconscious “epistemological” assumptions concerning “what sort of world it is”.
Cultures are meta-narratives on the world: based on an interpretation of our sensorial and relational experience to the things and beings which fill our environment, we create our own perception of the world at many levels, and we confront this perception with the perceptions of other people around us, creating dialogue, discussion, confrontation, agreement, conflict, sameness and difference. This constant state of encounter and confrontation gives rise to the creation of networks: These networks are cultures: a constantly mutating, relating network of interpretations of the world which mutually interact and influence each other.
Digital technologies and networks enable these meta-narratives to scale up to planetary levels. Ubiquitous technologies allow them to be made accessible in any place and object.
This observation creates an incredible opportunity for us: the possibility to design digital systems which act as ecosystems, as living spaces in which multiple interpretations of reality exist at different levels and in which a continuous state of interpretation and relation contribute to the constant definition and collaborative, interconnected, mutation of our cultures and views on the world.
To achieve this goal we need to specifically include into our designs the possibility for human beings to create meta-narratives.
This can happen in multiple ways, and mostly along these two paths:
- the possibility for the creation of multiple layers of interconnectable forms of self expression
- the possibility to create autonomous, emergent forms of information curation, which allows for the creation of continuous processes of remix and mash-up of the world which describe our perception of reality by dynamically creating and redefining ethics, aesthetics, values, relationships, affinities and differences;