Anecdotes and arguments

I did some teaching last week. It was brilliant. I met two groups of thoughtful, critical students at the Royal College of Art and The Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

In both cases I’d been invited to talk about storytelling. To give students a lens for thinking about how they present what they do.

Instead, mostly, I talked about collecting anecdotes*. Blog posts, photos, films… the kind of thing Giles has written about before. With a large enough pool of anecdotes about how and why you’ve made something, you can be selective about how you share work with the world.

In the lectures, I called that ‘building an argument’. I always picture it like using anecdotes as Lego bricks. Clicking things together to make something that stands up.

I told them to steer clear of “narratives” and “storytelling”, because I don’t really trust those ideas.

I get why people who do things for the internet talk a lot about narrative. Mostly, people who work on the internet spend lots of their time typing. Making that typing part of some epic mythology introduces some romance and drama into it.

Arguments are flexible, changeable things. I think being flexible and changeable is much more valuable than being tied to a story that you can’t critically examine.

There are no monsters. Typing isn’t battles. There is work. The best way to communicate work is show it. All the little pieces, and all the people involved in making it.

Anyway, it was a great time. I didn’t take any photos of the classes, because I thought that’d be rude. Instead, here’s a picture of some stairs the stair-making class at AHO built. It’s probably a metaphor or something.

*I also talked a lot about Rupaul’s Drag Race, which is an amazing example of TV built on anecdotes and snippets from a billion places. Like Ella says “Professional blogs are a lot like reality TV”