What makes a great story? For legendary filmmaker Ken Burns, the answer is both complicated and personal. In this short documentary about the craft of storytelling, he explains his lifelong mission to wake the dead. Recently featured on The Atlantic. (theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/05/ken-burns-on-story/257165/)
Directed by Tom Mason and Sarah Klein
Music by Ryan Sayward Whittier
Animation by Elliot Cowan
Transcript for Closed Captioning
Ken Burns On Story Transcription
You know the common story is one plus one equals two, we get it. But all stories are really, the real genuine stories, are about one and one equaling three. That’s what I’m interested in.
We live in a rational world where absolutely we’re certain that one and one equals two, and it does. But the things that matter most to us, some people call it love, some people call it God, some people call it reason, is that other thing where the whole is greater than the some of its parts, and that’s the three.
Oh great story, they are everywhere. There are millions of them! Abraham Lincoln wins the Civil War and then he decides he’s got enough time to go to the theater. That’s a good story. When Thomas Jefferson said we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, he owned a hundred human beings and never saw the hypocrisy, never saw the contradiction, and more important, never saw fit in his lifetime to free any one of them. That’s a good story. You know the stories that I like to tell are always interesting because the good guys have really serious flaws and the villains are very compelling. My interest is always in complicating things.
Jean Luc Goddard said cinema is truth 24 times a second. Maybe. It’s lying 24 times a second too, all the time, all story is manipulation. Is there acceptable manipulation? You bet. People say oh boy, I was so moved to tears in your film. That’s a good thing? That was, I manipulated that. That’s part of storytelling. I didn’t do it dis-genuinely, I did it sincerely, I am moved by that too, that’s manipulation. Truth is we hope a byproduct of the best of our stories and yet there are many, many different kinds of truths and an emotional truth is something that you have to build.
I made a film on baseball once and it seemed to me that there was a dilemma for the racist of what to do about Jackie Robinson. If you were a Brooklyn Dodger fan and you were a racist, what do you do when he arrives? You can quit baseball all together, you can change teams, or you can change. And I think that the kind of narrative that I subscribe trusts in the possibility that people could change. I hope it’s a positive version of manipulation, but I do think that we do coalesce around stories that seem transcendent.
I don’t know why I tell stories about history I mean there’s kind of classic dime-store Ken Burns wolf-at-the door things, my mother had cancer all of my life, she died when I was 11, there wasn’t a moment from when I was aware, two-and-a-half, three, that there was something dreadfully wrong in my life. It might be that what I’m engaged in, in a historical pursuit is a thin layer perhaps thickly disguised waking of the dead, that I try to make Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson and Louis Armstrong come alive and it maybe very obvious and very close to home who I’m actually trying to wake up. We have to keep the wolf from the door, you know, we tell stories to continue ourselves. We all think an exception is going to be made in our case and we’re going to live forever, and being a human is actually arriving at the understanding that that’s not going to be, story is there to just remind us that it’s just okay.
The web is evolving, orienting around people rather than content. As a result, almost all UX professionals will increasingly need to design social experiences. Designing interactions between people is different from designing user experiences. For example there is often no clear task to design for, no set user goal, and no clear outcome.
To complicate matters further, people's sense of identity and the social interactions they have with others are subtle and nuanced. This means you can never predict how people will respond to what you create for them. Not only does this uncertainty mean that we need a very different approach to product development to be successful, it means that we need to be ready to iterate in real time – to change what we have launched almost immediately after we have launched it.
Paul will talk about the social design process, how it differs from classic user-centred design methods, and will explain why he thinks UX professionals will need to change how they work to be successful in the future.
We all have reason to be proud of the progress our profession has made in recent years. Awareness of (and demand for) interaction design is at an all-time high. We have better job opportunities and better salaries than ever before. Product managers, engineers, and other stakeholders are increasingly drawn to interaction design’s promise: more successful products and services, greater customer loyalty, and more efficient and effective processes.
Though we’ve accomplished a great deal, our chosen field is not yet mature. There aren’t enough skilled practitioners to meet the demand we’ve created. Far too many of our best ideas still don’t make it into the hands of users. Many stakeholders still don’t know how to make the best use of our skills. All of us—together and as individuals—must find ways to address these issues if we are to deliver on the promise of our profession.
About Kim Goodwin:
Kim Goodwin is VP of Design at Cooper, where she leads an integrated practice of interaction, visual, and industrial designers. Kim has also led the creation of the acclaimed Cooper U curriculum, and is the author of a comprehensive how-to book, Designing for the Digital Age. Kim knows the design world from multiple angles; in addition to spending the last 11 years at a leading consultancy, she has been an in-house designer, sole proprietor, and in-house creative director. She has led a wide range of design projects: Web sites, complex analytical and enterprise applications, phones, medical devices, and even organizations. Her clients and employers have included everything from one-man startups to the world’s largest companies, as well as universities and government agencies. Kim’s design expertise and teaching skill have made her popular as a speaker at conferences around the world.
Design and business can no longer be thought of as distinct activities with individual goals. Design the New Business is a film dedicated to investigating how designers and businesspeople are working together in new ways to solve the wicked problems facing business today.
The short documentary examines how they are joining forces by bringing together an international collection of design service providers, education experts and businesses that have incorporated design as a part of their core approach. Design the New Business features inspiring case studies and insightful discussions, helping to illustrate the state of the relationship and how it needs to continue evolving to meet tomorrow's challenges.
This film is a Zilver Innovation initiative, and was created by 6 students from the Master in Strategic Product Design at the TU Delft in The Netherlands.
Zilver Innovation is now offering workshops that explore this relationship in more depth and the implications for practitioners. For more information, visit our website:
Featuring (in alphabetical order):
Alexander Osterwalder (Co-Author of Business Model Generation)
Aldo de Jong (Co-Founder at ClaroPartners)
Amanda O’Donnell ( Head of Customer Experience at Virgin Mobile Australia)
Arne van Oosterom (Director & Founder at DesignThinkers)
Arno Wolterman (Managing Partner & Design Director at In10)
Benjamin Schulz (Service Innovation at Volkswagen)
Damian Kernahan (Founding Partner at Proto Partners)
Deniz Arik (Associate at ClaroPartners)
Erik Roscam Abbing (Director & Founder at Zilver Innovation)
Frido Smulders (Coordinator of MSc Strategic Product Design,TU Delft)
Guido Stompff (Senior Product Designer at Canon-Océ Technologies)
Jacco Ouwerkerk (Creative at In10)
Jan Buijs (Assistant Professor at TU Delft)
Joe Heapy (Co-Founder & Co-Director at Engine)
Lukas Golyszny (Service Innovation at Volkswagen)
Maria Bezaitis (Director of Intel's People and Practices Research Group)
Megan Ellis (Associate at ClaroPartners)
Oliver King (Co-Founder & Co-Director at Engine)
Ralf Beuker (Dean at Munster Design School)
Rich Radka (Co-Founder at ClaroPartners)
Ton Borsboom (Senior Director for new Business at Philips Design)
Willem Boijens (Head of R&D at Canon-Océ Technologies)