Alex McDowell: Designing stories that shape the future

Worldbuilding combines the disciplines of design, technology and storytelling.

Worldbuilding combines the disciplines of design, technology and storytelling.

In this presentation from the 2016 Design Indaba stage in Cape Town, Alex McDowell - a professional worldbuilder and storyteller - details his journey into the power of stories well-told and the revolution in story delivery that is happening right now.

Alex McDowell on the Design Indaba stage

Storytelling was - and still is -  an act that helped us make sense of the world around us. But storytelling itself is going through a revolution and we are rediscovering the power of stories to shape our future. If we want a recent example of this - think of how 'weaponised stories' have shifted the historical trajectory of the US and the UK.

One of my favourite books is Wild by Cheryl Strayed (they made it into a movie starring Reece Witherspoon, but the book is so much better than the film).

There is a passage related to this in the book that has stuck with me ever since I read it.

In the book, a young woman decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail alone in an effort to find herself; and at the very beginning of her mammoth hike she is understandably nervous and worried about her personal safety. This quote is from the part of the story where she had just started walking:

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild

No spoilers here - if you want to find out what happens to her, read the whole thing. It's bloody brilliant.

Storytelling can do more than just explore the world that we know already, it can also shape the future. It can direct us toward the future that we desire. We are only at the beginning of truly understanding how that might be.

Previously: The future of crime in the year 2054 - Cherryflava