EuroIA 2015

Madrid, 24 – 26 September


What do storytelling, data and Paul Rissen have in common?

Posted on: September 2nd, 2014 by Borislav Kiprin No Comments

With EuroIA 2014 fast approaching, we thought it would be interesting to speak to some of the people behind this year’s workshops. It’s been brilliant to see the reasoning behind the topics, as well as to learn what you might get out of attending.

First off, we’ve got this brilliant interview with Paul Rissen, who kindly humoured us by answering a few questions around his slightly curious topic of ‘Storytelling through data’:

1. We know about controlled vocabularies, taxonomies and content models. Describe how your workshop will make these building blocks into narratives and stories that engage.

‘Storytelling’ has been a huge buzzword in the digital industry for a couple of years now. But it’s often rather hard to pin down exactly what we mean by it, and more importantly, how we can practice it in an effective way on projects. The nearest equivalents in our day-to-day work are user journeys and scenarios.

But these narratives, the tales we tell ourselves about how users might engage with our content, aren’t often carefully interrogated in the same way we model and structure the content itself.

In my workshop, I’ll introduce you to a method of capturing these stories as structured information, tying these scenarios directly into your vocabularies, taxonomies and models. This method allows you to create flexible narratives that don’t tie you down, allowing for multiple stories built from the same tasks, and even different perspectives on those tasks.

And, as we’re looking to make these journeys compelling, we’ll go back to the master of storytelling himself, William Shakespeare, infused with advice from modern-day professional screenwriters, to understand – what makes a story dramatic? How might we create drama and delight from the structure we’ve compiled?

2. Storytelling and narrative sound really cool at the BBC; how can it apply to e-commerce?

We tell stories the whole time. They may not always be dramatic and fantastical, but they’re crucial for how we think about making our way through life. Take something as mundane as budgeting for a family, or indeed, an e-commerce site. As I mentioned earlier, we often tell ourselves completely fictional stories about how we expect users to engage with something – they’re crutches for helping us understand the strengths and weaknesses of our designs. Holding those up to more rigorous examination, as well as allowing for multiple interpretations or paths, is key to developing more flexible, long-lasting products.

Users tell themselves stories whilst travelling through your product, too. Indeed, some of the best things I’ve seen don’t explicitly have a narrative imposed on users – instead, they provide, as Tom Armitage puts it, the narrative exoskeleton, for users to make their own stories with. It’s all about focusing on the objects that will matter most to your users, allowing them to pick up and play with, creating their own scenes which are embedded in their lives, rather than conforming to the story you’ve decided to tell.

3. If a participant’s boss asked them to justify attending your workshop over another, how would you answer them?

I believe that understanding narrative, and the different ways in which people interpret and understand them, is crucial to better communication between businesses and users, and indeed between users themselves.

I’d hope that this workshop will make you more aware of the multiplicity of ways in which users really engage with your content, and how that’s actually OK. The workshop will also give you the practical tools to directly join up user stories with content models, making those journeys compelling, doing so in a way that sets you up for the future of online interactions and structured data, and, finally, should be creative and fun, too!

You can learn more about Paul’s session and see the full schedule of workshops we’ll be running at this year’s conference over in the Workshops section. Keep an eye out for more interviews over the coming weeks leading up to EuroIA 2014.

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