Part 4, The need for retrieval of the consciousness

To end up fighting for children´s rights was an awakening since I had resided as a good dog within the bubble of entertainment believing that a meaningful experience was directed towards something positive and where my wheeling of the narrative vehicle differed from the opposite which could be seen in an absence of a reciprocally shared goal where expectations by a “we”, based on preconceptions, considered to know what was best for others.

Even if we know through physical and biological tests that punishment and low expectations have bad effects on people´s motivation and learning, the absence of knowledge how narrative construction can engage and disengage people became evident. During decades Jerome Bruner criticised science for overlooking narrative as an arbitrary, unreliable and illusionary activity at the same time scientists constructed narratives themselves. Since Bruner was engaged in the cognitive revolution during the fifties, he experienced how cognitive science was diverted into two camps and how “computationalism” (seeing the brain as a computer) did not see a cause, by the terms of desire and beliefs, and were agency in relation to intrinsic motives became causeless behavioural outputs (Bruner, 1990). What he basically meant was that one excluded the motivating engine by how we like to do the “2 + 2” and where we don´t want to know that we are working for our meal but where conditions of rewards or punishments moved intrinsic motives to become extrinsic and where people got the “4” and had to act upon the risk to be punished for their behaviours. And it is also here we can understand the emotional difference between a horror based experience from an entertaining point of view with real life´s fears and worries and whether the narrative construction allow people do the “2 + 2” or if it pushes people to know “4” by how the meaning-making lens turns thoughts.

Through Bruner I understood why it was wrong to say no to study narrative or think one understood it since narrative in itself has no obligations to be right or wrong and can be used either the way to create intrinsic or extrinsic motives. To not understand the most fundamental by how we create meaning and the mechanism behind how our emotions are involved when learning it was time to rethink narrative. Therefore I decided to give science a last chance.

With a triangulation of methods and models under my belt to show how meaningfulness could be tested and “measured” as to provide an understanding how to create meaningful experience for a positive and engaging direction of learning (for the children) I returned to the field I left six years earlier. I shall not hide that I was disappointed that the so-called “new media” turned out to be influenced by the more and hundred years old ideology from learning and motivation theories that not only permeated education but also computer science, human-computer interaction, game studies, neuroscience, etc. All versus I had experienced through the years as narrative vs. gameplay, narrative vs. games, narrative vs. itself, etc., was originated from the Western culture that separated mind from body. When making my claim to the academic to rethink narrative as to retrieve a consciousness I knew it was unlikely that they would embrace the idea since what I basically did was to suggest a paradigm shift. And when I got the answer from authorities within game studies and human-computer interaction that I was chaotic I couldn’t agree more. It was chaotic. And if Jerome Bruner, who reached a respectable age of 100 years, and many with him, found it hard to change how science regarded thoughts, beliefs, intentions and dreams, others than being illusionary, how could I?

In 1996 Bruner wrote in “The culture of education”:

“But it is usually the case that discussions of narrative reality lead not to reflections on the negotiation of meaning within the human community, but to the indignant rejection of “stories” as sources of human illusion. Stories, for all that they require verisimilitude, cannot produce the Truth. Truthfinding is the prerogative of science and logic alone – the paradigmatic mode of knowing.”

In ”Poetics of cinema. Three Dimensions of Film Narrative” from 2007 David Bordwell wrote:

”Narratives use folk psychology, which is notoriously unreliable in certain matters but nevertheless remains our court of first resort. In real life, it may not be fair to judge someone on our first impressions, but we do, and narratives capitalize on this tendency by introducing characters so that their essential traits pop out clearly. Likewise, when I say that narratives rely on causality, I don’t mean that it yields strict deductive entailments. Because people devise narratives outside the lab, it’s likely that the kind of causality at stake won’t meet the standards of scientific inquiry. Something like common sense reasoning or folk causality is likely to be the plausible candidate.”

The same day I learned that science wanted to remain in the 19th century a new generation that resides at my home came back from the first day at the university. It was like an echo from the past when I heard the words: “Where is the narrative? There is no narrative”. Since I couldn’t stand seeing a new generation entering higher studies of game development and human-computer interaction without being able to use terms or concepts related to narrative as a meaning making and core cognitive activity, I decided to create a home to everyone that likes to understand and give words to “it Which Must Not be Named”.

Katarina Gyllenbäck


Bordwell, D (2007). Poetics of cinema. Three Dimensions of Film Narrative. Routledge. 2007
Bruner, J (1990). Acts of meaning. By the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Bruner, J (1996). The culture of education. By the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Stanton, A (2012). The clues to a great story. TEDTalks.

Back to part 3 When the cognitive vehicle of narrative backfire

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