People are story-telling animals.
This simple assertion is Walter Fisher’s answer to the philosophical question-“What is the essence of human nature”?
Just as Berger’s Uncertainty Reduction theory describes us a curious and Mead’s Symbolic Interactionism theory describes out use of symbol manipulation, Fisher insists our story telling is what makes us unique?
He is convinced we are narrative beings who “comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives, as conflict stories, with characters, beginnings, middles and ends”.
He is uncomfortable with the prevailing view that rhetoric is only a matter of evidence, facts, arguments, reason and logic.
It is not the story we think of in novels, plays, movies, TV sitcoms, and yarns told around the campfire.
He does see the difference between a poem, a novel, a theatre performance, a philosophical essay, historical report, political debate, theological discussion or scientific thesis.
Most religious traditions are passed on from generation to generation through the retelling of stories.
EXAMPLE:VHS/DVD THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
NARRATION AND PARADIGM: DEFINING THE TERMS
Fisher describes narration as “symbolic actions, words or deeds- that have sequence and meaning for those who live, create or interpret them.
He believes that all messages are best viewed as a story, because they cause us to live out our own stories.
EXAMPLE: VHS/DVD I ONCE DREAMED OF A PLACE CALLED AFRICA
Fisher uses the word “paradigm” to refer to a “conceptual framework”.
A paradigm is a universal model, which calls for people to view events through a common interpretive lens.
Fisher’s theory is a humanistic counterpart to finding a universal communication model of the 1970’s.
Fisher offers a way to understand all communication and to direct rhetorical inquiry.
His structure is the foundation on which a complete rhetoric needs to be built. It provides a comprehensive explanation of the creation, composition, adaptation, presentation, and reception of symbolic messages.
PRADIGM SHIFT: FROM RATIONAL WORLD PARADIGM TO NARRATIVE PARADIGM
According to fisher, the writings of Plato and Aristotle reflect the early evolution from a generic to a specific use of logos. The Greek word logos originally included story, reason, rationale, conception, discourse, debate and thought.
He believes that this logos has now evolved from story to statement.
Rhetoric fell somewhere between logos and poetry. A type of bastardized offspring of pure logic and emotional and passionate stories.
Fisher lists five assumptions of the prevailing rational-world paradigm.
1. People are a all essentially rational.
2. We make decisions on the basis of arguments.
3. The type of speaking situation (legal; scientific, legislative) determines the course of our argument.
4. Rationality is determined by how much we know and how well we argue.
5. The world is a set of logical puzzles that we can solve through rational analysis
EXAMPLE: VHS/DVD THE TITANIC
Fisher is convinced that the assumptions of the rational-world paradigm are too limited. He calls for a new conceptual framework (a paradigm shift) in order to better understand human communication.
1. People are essentially storytellers.
2. We make decisions on the basis of good decisions.
3. History, biography, culture and character determine what we consider good reasons.
4. Narrative rationality is determined by the coherence and fidelity of our stories.
5. The world is a set of stories from which we choose, and thus, constantly recreate our lives.
From a narrative perspective, e stuff of stories.
It is not the logic that is relevant in so much as the style and beauty of the story. Armed with common sense, we can all believe a good story
EXAMPLE: VHS/DVD THE TITANIC
NARRATIVE RATIONALITY: COHERENCE AND FIDELITY
According to Fisher, not all stories are equally good.
NARRATIVE COHERENCE: DOES THE STORY HANG TOGETHER?
Does the narrative “hand together”?
Do the people and events it portrays seem to be one piece and do the characters act consistently?
Does the story have structural integrity?
Logic is only one factor that affects narrative coherence.
Stories hang together when the narrator has not left out any of the important details or fudged the facts.
We often judge the coherence of a narrative by comparing it with other stories that have the same themes.
Narrative fidelity is the quality of the story that causes the words to strike a responsive cord in the life of the listener. A story has fidelity when it rings true, when the story rings true with the hearer’s experiences, and squares with the stories they might tell about themselves.
Fisher believes a story has fidelity, when it provides a logic of good reasons to guide our future actions.
Values are what set the narrative paradigm and make stories truthful or humane. People prefer to hear these types of stories.
PP. Little Red Riding Hood
Griffin, Em. (2003). Theory Communication: A First Look at
Communication. “ Dramatism of Kenneth Burke”. Fifth Edition. McGraw-Hill. New York. N.Y.