Why might self-storytelling have evolved?

Evolution tends to imply function

Origins

200k - 500k+ years ago. If self-storytelling evolved, the early human communities must have required it.

Evolution

Language development and storytelling tendencies suggest the importance of groups.

Sociobiology

Evolutionary biologists such as Wilson (1980, 2012) argue that group-level selection and human 'eusociality' must exist to facilitate a strong human tendency to live and work in groups.

Problems

Pinker (2012): what looks like group-focused altruism is actually 'selfishness' seeking individual advantage. Haidt (2012): humans have 'groupish' tendencies.

Analogies

Human eusociality is at best a metaphor: no biological equivalent of ant pheromone trails or genetic specialisation in bees. Marcus (2004) - human behaviour best seen as 'prewired' rather than 'hardwired'.

Spandrels

Gould (1991, 1996, 2006): we may be seeing spandrels and evolved diversity rather than 'progress'.
And finally...

In Conclusion

 

Online self-storytelling:

  • Twitter Networks visualisations Oxford Internet Institute

    A Twitter networks visualisation from the Oxford Internet Institute

    In this model of storytelling, there is no one consistent truth, but instead a range of individual situated storytelling identities, each with a unique map of knowledge about the surrounding community: narrative-as-network.

  • Points to a love of ‘stories with ragged edges’ that have no fixed beginning or end, and which bleed into other people’s stories.

  • This has found a natural home in social media and other linked storytelling opportunities like Amazon and TripAdvisor reviews.

  • Phatic, networked storytelling is flourishing after years of declining communities – and other evolved behaviours are perhaps evident too.

  • However, we should be cautious of appropriating terms from sociobiology without a full understanding or critical engagement.

 

Cited works

 

Further links:

☁ Katherine May writing in Aeon on participatory digital narratives

☁ katherine-may.co.uk