Making sense of stories

Who makes sense of the stories matters for how they are interpreted, and understood:

Level 1: individual

People who tell their own stories use the process of telling a story to find and make meaning.  Stories can help people see their own experiences differently—distilling and articulating them in a powerful way.

When we watch their stories, we also make sense of the stories as people.  We have a reaction to the story on the basis of our own personal history.  Stories have different meanings for everyone—we relate the story to our own experiences, emotions and bodies, making sense of the story for ourselves.

Level 2: collective

Stories can be used in a sequence or collection to make sense at a collective level.  Seeing a series of stories on a topic can help a group to see a particular issue or problem in different ways.

For collective sense-making, stories are selected and grouped according in order to provoke dialogue and discussion.  A facilitated discussion on the basis of the stories can lead to deeper reflection by groups on the issues addressed.

Level 3: social

Some stories can travel well—they can reach beyond the person or people who told them and they can cross boundaries of language, culture, and politics.  For certain stories, with adequate contextualisation, stories can contribute to sense-making in a broader sense.  When connected to social media and digital forms of distribution, stories in the public domain can help to draw attention to important issues and provide new and fresh insight into problems.