The mission of the Knowledge, Learning, and Societal Change Alliance (KLASICA) is understanding and accelerating collective behavior change that facilitates movement of communities on pathways to just and equitable sustainable futures. Since its start in 2008 by Ilan Chabay, inclusion in the International Human Dimensions Program in 2011, and becoming a project at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in 2015, KLASICA has had a research focus on narrative expressions in their respective contexts and cultures. The purpose was and is to gain insight through narratives into social identities and visions of the future, from which to identify and understand promising levers for collective behavior change in communities and regions.
Throughout our existence, humans have created narratives to capture valued knowledge and ideas gleaned from living in a complex world and distilled them into memorable and readily communicated expressions. These narrative expressions, whether as spoken or written words, moving or still images, song, or dance serve to reinforce culture and bind together communities (and exclude others), give voice to visions of a future, motivate enactment of the vision, or reflect on present or past societies and their contexts.
KLASICA seeks to understand the factors expressed in narratives that are rooted in beliefs, values, and identities, thereby playing critical roles in motivating and enhancing - or restraining and obstructing - changes in collective behaviors toward sustainable futures. Collective behaviors in this context are concerted actions of collectives that substantially shift human actions away from current unsustainable patterns (e.g., consumption of non-renewable resources, exacerbating inequities, driving climate change, and biodiversity loss).
The theme of the 3rd KLASICA Taipei Symposium, which will be held online across multiple time zones on 26-28 October 2020, is “Digital Narratives in the Quest for Sustainable Futures.”
1) Generative concerns and resonance of narrative expressions
- Embedded in the source, use, context, and content of narrative expressions are implicit and explicit stimuli that may include deep-seated visions or fears, protection of identities and affinity-group ties, and reactions to perceived unfair or unjust treatment. These lie at the core of why many narratives are created and shared virally in digital media. How can we identify and characterize the root issues behind the narratives and use the insights gained to facilitate actions that address the root causes?
- What social identities or group affinities (e.g., race, gender, LGBTQ, class or status) are overtly or indirectly expressed in particular narratives and what evidence indicates the role and influence they play in the group’s internal dynamics and external actions?c) Would insights from a) and b) help us to become more effective in catalyzing positive, constructive dialogues by going beyond fighting the escalating and largely technological information wars of generating or opposing each instance of “fake” news and conspiracy theories?
2) Subjective and objective valuation: beliefs, biases, heuristics, trust
- How can trust in information sources and content be increased to overcome the highly polarized echo chamber climate? Trust here is meant both in the personal, relational sense (i.e., based in actual or imagined relationships) and in the technological sense of data security measures.
- b) Can narratives be shaped to include ambiguity and to sustain empathy and develop trust for those who do not share common beliefs and if so, what are examples and characteristics of such narratives?
3) Agency, responsibility, and motivation for collective action
- Does understanding the structures and mechanics of narrative from novels, plays, essays, streaming media, and film enhance our understanding of narrative as an instrument of social analysis and social change?
- How do implicit or explicit portrayals of protagonist, antagonist, scene/context, key plot points in narrative forms evoke a sense of opportunity and motivate actions – e.g., as a protagonist seeking efficacy in a particular situation?
- What dramatic elements in narratives best convey and empower a sense of agency and transformative capacity and thereby motivate actions?