The Reality / Narrative Gap


We humans are always trying to fit our experience into some kind of narrative that helps us make sense of things.

Unfortunately, reality rarely (never?) has a nice, neat narrative. So we end up with gaps between reality, and the stories we tell ourselves about reality. I call this the “Reality / Narrative Gap”. This gap is tremendously important.

The Reality / Narrative Gap can take any experience and make it terrifying or exhilarating, a heaven or hell, a triumph or a disaster. It all depends on the story we create about the experience. There are many professions that have great sway over the personal narratives we end up with. Authors, musicians, therapists, teachers, preachers, politicians, philosophers, movie-makers… and designers… have  tremendous potential to empower their audiences by facilitating more empowering, more uplifting, more beautiful personal narratives.

As Tony Ventrice says, gamification is largely about taking a person’s behaviors and reflecting them back as a story of growth.

Some say much of therapy can be summed up as taking a patient’s experience and helping them convert it into an empowering, optimistic story.

What narrative do you intend to craft for your audience?

Now do some research and find out what story they actually have. And what story did they have before they even encounter your design?

Now how can you weave together everything in your design purview to provide an empowering Reality/Narrative Gap. Because there is always a gap. And if you let it go un-designed, you’re leaving one of your most powerful tools on the table…

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