What is True Storytelling?
Professor in storytelling, New Mexico State University, David M. Boje (Adviser Old Friends Industries)
October 6, 2016

Within the normalizing discourses (and narratives) of oppressive power relations and disciplinary technologies, in and around organizations, it is difficult for people to not to become docile bodies useful to command and control. For Foucault this is the combination of micro-physics of power and the macro-political biopower and biopolitics of our subjectivization, during newloberalism governmentality that has gone global. Is True Storytelling at all feasible within the micro and macro politics of power and disciplinary surveillance? Is an emancipatory True Storytelling of resistance, an liberatory praxis possible?

 True Storytelling is possible in consciousness raising boot camps of self-transformation and critical reflexive inquiry into our own habituated thoughts and actions within micro-physics systems, and embedded macro-political systems of power.  It is possible to recover an agency of resistance to normalization under the detailed disciplinary technologies of the institutions we work in.

For help in True Storytelling, besides Foucault’s technologies of the self and his critiques of governmentality of Neoliberalism, we can turn to Roy Bhaskar’s (1993) dialectical critical realism (DCR). A True Storytelling would not be the correspondence theory of logical positivism, nor the consensus theory of social constructivism, but rather an “existential realism” (Bhaskar, 1993: 225) where “dialectics is at the heart of every learning process” (Bhaskar, 1993: 43).

For more help in True Storytelling we can turn to Heidegger (1963). For Heidegger its the “uncoveredness” (# 220), Being-in-the-world that is “grounded in the world’s disclosedness” (# 221) where care is “ahead of itself” and is in “being already in the world” (# 221). Heidegger does not abide just and kind of storytelling.  Our reading of Heidegger is that True Storytelling is “not ‘telling a story’ … defining entities by tracing them back to their origin in some other entities”, which is much too ontical, something the consultants sell you as an elevator pitch or stump speech ( #7; also Boje, 2014).  Rather, True Storytelling would be a disclosedness of whole Being-in-the-world, authentically, and primordially (# 297). A True Storytelling as a learning dialectic (Bhaskar) would be a return from “Lostness in the ‘they'” that allows our “ownmost potentiality-for-Being-its-self” (# 307) to become our authentic self in an authentic histoiology (# 497) or “historicality” (# 411), not a shallow historicity of a biological (career) narrative.  Rather True Storytelling is always primordial locus of truth, “grounded in Dasein’s uncovering” (# 226) of ontological possibilities, and potentiality-for-Being in-the-world as our “ontological ground” (#229).

Antenarratively, True Storytelling is “pre-ontological” in all kinds of fore processes, ante to ontological: fore-having (before), fore-conception (beneath), fore-structuring (between), fore-sight (bets on the future), and fore-caring for our own liberatory praxis (Boje, 2014; see work with Martia Svane, and articles with Haley and with Saylors). In short True Storying to quote Heidegger is “the meaning of the Being of care” (# 317), that is pre-ontological in space, in time.

Soren Brier’s work as a Peircian scholar who reaches out to combine insights from Luhmann, contributes greatly to our understanding of True Storytelling. Brier’s contributions to biosemiotics and cybersemiotics ground True Storytelling in Heisenberg and Bohr’s (p. 7170 quantum physics. Brier works with the triadic (dialectic) logic of Peirce, and the cybernetic complex adaptive systems theory of Luhmann. In Peircean pragmatist realism, we are doubly grounded (Brier, 2010: 700).

1. We are grounded in existing patterns of mind-independent reality, in materialism of the quantum.

2. We are grounded in observer specific biological and epistemologically constituted history and interpretive social practices (e.g. Luhmann second-order cybernetics).

The Peircean Triadic signs is combined by Brier with Luhman’s three kinds of autopoieisis of self-organizing complexity, which we will extend into Hegel dialectics:

Firstness of cybernetic Significations in individual autopoetic systems (.e.g qualia of feelings; what we now call sensemaking, or more accurate in Peirce, sign-making; what Hegel (1807) called being-for-self)

Secondness of matter, energy and force Significations in social systems autopoiesis (what Hegel called being-for-others). These “explication stories” are are magical-mythical, political, cultural, and socio-economic organizations that are both meaningful and meaningless (p. 709).

Thirdness of multiple ontological biosemiotic Significations habituated, and embedded living systems of environment (ecosemiotics) evolutionary systems, and (what Hegel called Being for-it-self, and in-itself).   Naturual objects as signs (p. 716).

Brier (2010: 707) concludes “semiosis is everywhere” with signs in the three  triadic, since the entire universe is “perused with signs.” In short, Brier’s Peircean and Luhmann combinations into biosemiotics gives us a way to understand True Storytelling in a “quantum field thoery” (p. 713).

In sum, from Foucault, Bhaskar, Heidegger to Brier, we conclude that True Storytelling is uncovering the ontological and pre-ontological ‘real’ of ‘resistance’ from the pervasive practices of micro-physics and macro-politics of power, and its many surveillance and disciplinary technologies.