More on Stories and Facts

In my last post, which itself was inspired by Ethan Zuckerman’s post on overcoming polarization, I pondered whether stories could help bridge contentious cultural and political divides, and if so, how. I was interested in how storytelling actually functions.

Just after publishing that I came home to my most recent edition of Orion Magazine, and to an article on listening to the music of water by Ginger Strand. In her article, Strand explores some of the differences between sight and sound. The discussion is a useful complement to my own thinking about facts versus narrative. Here is a piece of that article:

“Sound connects us to things in a way that looking doesn’t: it’s more immersive, more corporeal. [...] And listening generally takes longer that looking, because sound unfolds over time, rather than being there all at once. we can take in a landscape at a glance; we can even reproduce it in a snapshot. But a sound can never be captured in a n instant. To hear something, we have to hear it out.”

While she is talking about listening to water, it’s easy to see how her observation is relevant to thinking about stories and political polarization. Facts are often snapshots, whereas stories are something we have to “hear out.”

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