A “story field” is the psycho-social field of influence generated by the coherence and interactions among a culture’s many stories, events, roles, practices, symbols, physical arrangements, artifacts, cuisine, etc. A story field shapes the awareness and behaviors of the individuals and groups within its culture. It can be referred to — and aspects of it described — but it cannot be fully articulated.
To put “story field” in context, compare it to these similar concepts
- A “Big Story” or “cultural narrative” loosely connotes the commonly-held big picture story that most people in a culture use — consciously or unconsciously — to explain their lives and legitimize their assumptions. It is the narrative manifestation of a culture’s worldview.
- A cultural myth can be a Big Story or some aspect of it — i.e., one of its component stories that explains or teaches — especially if it involves archetypal images, characters, or events that embody core truths about life. Myths are often held to be sacred. In this site, the word “myth” does not carry the connotation of being false, as it often does elsewhere.
- A “metanarrative” connotes an articulable big-picture story that often claims to be universally true. Sometimes metanarratives are associated with ideology (“the Marxist metanarrative”) and domination, and are therefore seen as something to be asserted or resisted.
A story field is
a particularly powerful field of influence
generated by a story or,
more often, by a coherent battery
of mutually-reinforcing stories
— myths, news, soap operas, lives, memories, games —
and story elements
— roles, plots, themes, metaphors, goals, images, events, archetypes —
that co-habit and resonate
within our individual and/or collective psyches.
A story field ubiquitously frames what is real, acceptable, and possible, and directly shapes our lives and our world, often without our even being aware of its influence. Changing the story field of a culture changes what is real, acceptable, and possible in that culture.
Ultimately, the aim of this gathering is to further the growing capacity of society to continually and consciously evolve into ever more life-serving story-fields.
For more on this, see this article on Story Fields and this page of examples.
Expanded definition(s) of “story field” — after the 2007 conference
Definitions of Story Field
The term story field was coined by Tom Atlee in 1993, as defined in 1(a) below. Independently, Jennifer Myronuk coined the term as a name for software – see definition 4 below. However, during the organizing of the First Story Field Conference of August 2007, definition 3(a) came into common usage and definition 2(a) began to emerge. During and immediately following the conference, all the other definitions below showed up in conference participants’ communications.
1. A narrative field — a psychosocial analog of a magnetic field — in which the member entities generate and are shaped by the field in which they are embedded.
(a) The meta-narrative field of a culture’s collective thoughts, feelings, responses, sense of reality and possibility, etc., generated by all the stories and story elements (characters, themes, settings, images, dialogue, etc.) within it. “The shallow individualism that so dominates the story field of US culture threatens not only the planet, but even the health of unique individuality.”
(b) An energetic narrative field created by participants in a group or gathering, the energy of which can be felt by the group individually and collectively. “Participants at the conference were blown away by the intense story field there. We all felt like we were living the New Story.”
(c) The shared narrative of an activity, its intention, vision and plans, which contains and is lived out by the participants in that activity. “Now that we’ve lived together through this conference, we can be much more conscious of the story field we create about our individual and collective work.”
2. The field of study and practice that includes stories in various media, know-how about story generation and impact, and networks of story practitioners. “Our next conference can convene even more of the story field.” Within this usage, the term can refer to a field that embraces one or more of the following:
(a) work to influence narrative field phenomena, especially the culture’s story field (see 1a)
(b) socially conscious work with story
(c) any work with story.
3. Activities to gather story field workers together. Used without an article, often capitalized and made into one word. Specifically:
(a) The Story Field Conference of August 2007. “Did you attend Storyfield?”
(b) The activities of the network arising out of that conference. “We need to get more journalists involved in Storyfield.”
4. The brand name of proprietary project management software for coordinating community oral history projects. See http://www.storyfield.com.