what makes interesting: phenomenology of story telling and the serial podcast
Academic articles with long and impressive titles always make me smile. Having had to write a couple of these and read many more of them for my Masters dissertation, they cease to be intimidating and become almost entertaining.
I read the following this week:
Having done my graduate work in the area of spirituality, the idea of "phenomenology" is familiar. (And I really wanted to use a big word in the title of this post.) It's the idea of attempting to objectify something that is typically subjective by nature.
Like a person's spirituality.
Or what people find interesting.
That's what makes this article worth reading.
Why are some things generally interesting to people and other things generally uninspiring?
This article from 1971 answers that question in a way that is ... well ... interesting.
Bottom line, the author says: "Interesting theories are those which deny certain assumptions of the audience, while non-interesting theories affirm certain assumptions of the audience."
The general formula for "interesting" is "what seems to be X, is actually Y."
He gets quite specific regarding what this might look like.
"What seems to be structured, is actually highly unorganized"
"What seems to be bad, is actually good"
"What seems to be unrelated is actually deeply co-dependent"
"Things that seem to be different are actually very similar"
You get the idea (read the article, for more specifics).
This is why the "you won't believe what happens next" headline works for clickbait.
I think this article is probably most important for story-tellers. The best stories — the ones people love to listen to, tell and re-tell are the ones where nothing is as it appears to be.
That's why Harry Potter is so popular.
That's why Serial is such a phenomenal podcast.
Fiction or non-fiction, great story telling is interesting story telling.
Interesting story telling is about messing with people's assumptions.
I will be cross-posting this to my new project over at folkloristic.com. Check it out!