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Crossing the Meridian: on stories and ideas

This week I had a really interesting conversation about how to communicate ideas and what role stories play in that. Shortly afterwards I crossed the Meridian Line in London and it made me think about all the different lines that connect our planet and us to each other. Networks, infrastructure, data… we often visualise the connections in a linear fashion. And most stories, too, follow that patterns, they have a beginning, middle and end, reaching from A to B… and back again.

But as an Anthropologist I’ve come across many stories that follow a different pattern, stories that we tell, not necessarily write down, that are transmitted as part of our cultural heritage in the form of songs and tales, art or dance or in material culture.

Over time, those stories can change, we may loose bits or make new additions. We may understand them differently as our context changes, we may not wish to remember them.  Some stories never die, whilst others are forgotten.

But whatever shape or form or history stories may have, the act of the telling, is an important part of what we as human being do to make sense of the world. And our place in it. And our own stories. That is why I like to blog for example. It’s a strand of my story that I want to create and share, but also a tool for me to make sense of what I do and think about. It’s part of who I am and of my professional practice.

So when I cross the Meridian I think about navigation and Patrick O’Brian and history. I think about measuring the globe and map making. I think about Victorian explorers and the nature of time. It’s the tapestry of my stories, the frame of reference I have built over the years and that helps me make sense of the world and my ideas about it. Yours will be different, everyone’s is. But if the story I tell is good, then it will communicate my ideas to you and enough of my perspective to enable us to establish some shared understanding.

This week has been a good reminder that what I have to share, what I have to say, is already part of the stories in my head.