Home > Creativity, education, PAR journal, Planning > Exploring the “n-dimensional” space of Narrative Inquiry

Exploring the “n-dimensional” space of Narrative Inquiry


I always thought of storytelling as being of 1 kind; I am uncovering that there is something like an “n-dimensional space” of perspectives on story-telling.

For instance, on just one dimension: scope.  There is a hierarchy of how “complete and of what size” the story is that includes the following categories (arbitrary right now, and of my own making)

1. microstoria: what David Boje describes as the pre-story fragments  that surround us all the time, that are in the process of being uncovered, and morphed in a rich tangled hairball of pre-narrative snippets.

2. the event log (a chronological recitation of phenomenological events)

3. A 1st person “story”: an initial, single voiced, single-perspective telling of the tale, directly

4. A play: multiple points of view told thru a single narrator

5. A narrative: a polished,  reconstructed thematic telling, with the voice of some analytical and integrative authority

6. Our story: a group-constructed agreement in narrative form

7. A Meta story: an archetypical narrative that represents a collection of similarly themed stories and narratives which take on a cultural persona and force

8. A Grand narrative: Boje has identified 10 such grand sweeping histories which not only describe key events in the past, but begin to decribe what may be known and what future findings must fit into (Marxism, the Enlightenment perspective, post-modernism… are 3 of his examples)

This list is not exclusive and is only one dimension among many that can be used to differentiate “stories”. Other dimensions seem to include: Voice, Time, Purpose, Artifact vs Experience, and others.

I am trying to “deconstruct” and then map the many perspectives and distinctions I am uncovering in the many named methodologies of the narrative inquiry tradition to see what a cognitive mapping of the field(s) might look like. Creswell, for example, has one of the narrowest definitions of the field I have found, narrowly defining Narrative Inquiry as an indivual telling their life story within a specific event(s).  Prasad finds at least 19 different traditions of various iverlapping approaches which makes me eager to get on with the mapping.

I am no longer remotely confident of a single overarching definition of Narrative Inquiry; but I am already sure that “storytelling” as imagined and undestood within my profession is a quaint little niche indeed.

There are so many traditions and disciplines out there, that it is a rich area for future qualitative researchers to explore for years to come.

Need more hours per day to get it all done!

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