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Participatory Ecological Storytelling for Inclusive Systems Design

Format: Papers, RSD12, Topic: Methods & Methodology, Topic: Socioecological Design

Elise Talgorn

When stories drive human-nonhuman entanglement and systemic awareness

Narratives are a practical way to include planetary stakeholders (human and nonhuman) in systems design through empathy building. Story-making and telling are known design tools to create an empathic connection with the subjects of the stories—classically end-users—and to understand their needs and perspectives in order to create solutions that are meaningful for them. We propose and examine taking a similar approach for all planetary stakeholders, human and nonhuman. We will introduce participatory ecological storytelling, a design method where participants co-create stories based on character personas that can be human or nonhuman. We will show the results of a series of workshops that we conducted with students, designers, and business stakeholders using this method. After analysing the personas, stories, and participants’ feedback, we find that the story-making process triggers an empathic connection with the characters of the story. Imagining the emotions and experiences of nonhuman entities is eye-opening for many participants and motivates them to act more pro-environmentally. At the same time, participants express their own emotions, intentions, and values through the characters and their journeys. The process blurs the demarcation between the human and the nonhuman by creating an entanglement of emotions, agency, and goals for change between the story creators and the story characters. This is an important step when approaching ecological systems beyond the human-nonhuman dualism carved in Western cultures. We will discuss how participatory ecological storytelling can be practically used in systems design to understand and integrate the needs of planetary stakeholders, to stimulate a re-evaluation of our relationship with the natural world and a mindset shift towards more systemic awareness, to ultimately accelerate the sustainability transformation. 

KEYWORDS: storytelling, sustainability, stakeholder, inclusive, nonhuman, more-than-human, Planet, persona, character, empathy, imagination, emotions, mindset shift

RSD TOPIC(S): Methods & Methodology, Socioecological Design

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Citation Data

Author(s): Elise Talgorn
Year: 2023
Title: Participatory Ecological Storytelling for Inclusive Systems Design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/storytelling-inclusive-systems-design
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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