By Brian Alleyne
SAGE Publications Ltd, 224pp | Buy on Amazon
What’s a narrative? That’s a question we don’t ask ourselves, even though narratives are all around us – from the books and movies that we enjoy, to Facebook, and to this website. This book challenges and inspires readers to think about narratives in a new way and analyze them properly.
In its simplest sense, a narrative is a story – a set of interconnected events usually presented in a sequence of written or spoken words, or still or moving images. Narratives are fundamental means through which we communicate, and in a way, they’re fundamental to our humanity. The stories we tell and we hear shape our identities, and they shape society. Especially in a world with so much social media and so much information freely flowing around, understanding narratives and the effects they have is crucial. This is why we actually need a book like this, and I’m certain it will become a reference as years pass.
Having no background in sociology and narratives, I found some of the sections a bit too technical for me, but I’m sure that anyone working in a related field will have no problems. Alleyne also introduces specialist software to the readers, and he even developed a website, Narrative Networks, to offer more information and serve as a guideline for those who want to dive deeper into the concepts presented in the book.
What I liked the most about the book is that it directly deals with modern ways of telling stories – blogging and social networking have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other, and while they offer new possibilities, they also raise new challenges. The book responds to these new, dynamic and interactive ways of creating stories, while also offering a comprehensive discussion of the underlying philosophical and methodological issues of narrative.
The author also cleverly mixes examples from a range of other fields with his own experience – which also covers an impressive range, from hacking to activism – in a very pleasant and easy to follow way. While I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone as a light read, I’d definitely recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more about social research through the frame of modern narratives.