Stories Analyze Us

Canadian sociologist of illness narratives Arthur Frank collects examples of the ways in which patients and health professionals tell stories of their experience of health care.

Arthur Frank, The Renewal of Generosity (cover painting "Germinating" by Malcolm Glover)

He opens his book The Renewal of Generosity (2004) with a reflection on how he has chosen to work with the stories that are given to him.

In doing this he asks his readers to hear these stories as if they were part of what social workers and family therapists sometimes call a reflecting team. "Reflecting teams do not offer analyses or judgments, diagnostic or otherwise. ... A good reflecting team expands people's sense of who they are and who they could be."

This orientation to generous rather than analytical listening can be difficult for professional scholars to accept as a practice of rigour. Nevertheless, it's a model for thinking about wiki-as-reflective-community.

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I do not analyze these stories. I advocate trying to think with them, a process closer to letting the stories analyze us. Stories analyze us by allowing us to notice what attracts us to them, and what we resist about them. They show us what we want, and ask us what we need. We begin to think with stories when situations in our lives recall these accounts so often that they settle into our awareness and become habits of thought, tacitly guiding our actions.

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