How Stories Interact with Infrastructure

I’ve just finished reading Charles Tilly’s new book Why? What happens when people give reasons ... and why. He’s particularly interesting because of the way he puts stories into a context of a social system of reason-giving. He describes four basic types of reasons, conventions, codes, stories and technical accounts. The diagram below summarises the classification for the visually acute. Malcolm Gladwell has also written a very good review of the book, focusing on the four ways of giving reasons (thanks Maish for the initial introduction).

For me, however, looking at his book from a knowledge management point of view, I was taken by the way Tilly starts to explore the interactions between the four different ways of giving reasons - it’s the first time I’ve seen how stories can interact with knowledge and information infrastructure. Tilly’s account of how stories make technical accounts more accessible, or how codes solidify and extend the social insights expressed in stories, has got me thinking. I’ve probably got more thinking to do, but have already started sketching out some of these dynamics to structure my thought. Click on “Read more” to see where I’ve got to, and if you have comments, suggestions or questions, let me know.

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