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Storytelling for Systems Design: Embedding and communicating complex and intangible data through narratives

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Elise Talgorn and Monique Hendriks

Our research explores how storytelling can support complex systems thinking. In systems thinking, a major challenge is to communicate a large amount of data of complex systems and to give meaning to this data through expressing intangible aspects such as interpretation, intuition, purpose, mental bias, and uncertainty. This is key for systems thinkers to fully apprehend systems, but also for other stakeholders involved in the co-design process to easily access this complexity. There is a need for practical tools that embed in the systems design process the systems’ complexity associated with relevant intangible aspects. Narratives do have the potential to gather, embed, make understandable and memorable the complex and intangible data of systems. We propose several uses of systemic storytelling, an approach based on building parallel story arcs constructed on and/or connected by systems’ elements. Systemic storytelling combines logical analysis with an intuitive and empathetic comprehension of systems. This approach has benefits at several stages of the systems design process: to engage stakeholders and enable the sharing and capturing of their different perspectives, to effectively communicate systems insights, and to ideate on future systems. In this short paper, we describe the method principles and show three preliminary application examples.

Keywords: storytelling, complexity, intangibility, perspective, communication

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Posted September 2021

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Suggested Citation Format (APA)

Author(s) (20XX). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSDX) Symposium. rsdsymposium.org/LINK.