Entertaining a Shift in the Story Field

Entertainment media like soap operas and video games are being used for social change – to shift the embedded stories of our culture, what I call our “story field”.

Fifteen years ago I came up with the idea of “story fields”, a close cousin of “cultural narratives”. A story field is the narrative “force field” made up of all the stories which shape – and arise from – the ways we live our lives, the ways we think, and the ways we feel, individually and as whole societies. Story fields show up in – and are fed by – many forms of story. I discuss all this in detail in one of the more important essays I’ve written.

I’ve often reflected that truly potent forms of social change and evolutionary activism would feature the conscious, strategic co-creation of new story fields. One medium for this would be soap operas. I had heard of the conscious use of soap operas to seed strategic questions and possibilities into a society, but I hadn’t seen a good writeup about it until now. See the overview below, The World’s Most Subversive Soap Operas. I recommend reading the whole article.

Soap operas for social change seem an interesting companion to gaming for social change, another intriguing realm for shifting story fields. Examples include mainstream efforts like

With such TV shows and games, people show up for entertainment – and find themselves shifting as they watch and play and engage… Just imagine what we could use this for…



The World’s Most Subversive Soap Operas 
by Christopher Dickey
Oct 27, 2013
From telenovelas about Latin America’s missing girls to a series on conflict resolution in wartorn lands, soap operas are surreptitious agents of social change in the developing world.


[It is called] “soap opera for social change.”

Over the last 40 years, such serial dramas have spread far and wide. Melodramatic telenovelas have helped bring down the birth rate and stimulated literacy in Mexico and Brazil. They’ve supported the search for women kidnapped and trafficked in Argentina, and they are used in the fight against AIDS in the Caribbean. Pick almost any social, health or environmental issue, it seems, and there’s a soap opera somewhere that has worked it into a narrative…

“These are not shows about advocacy, they are shows about possibilities,” said Deborah Jones after Common Ground launched ‘The Team’ in Tanzania in April. “The balance between men and women can be very delicate in a lot of these countries. We want to get people to ask questions about what the relationships are. We want to take them to the end of the line—but we don’t want to push them over. To have plenty of people asking plenty of questions will be enough. People will start asking, ‘What do we want to do?’”

The answer: something different than what we’ve done before.


Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440
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