Facts + Sentiment = Story

I woke up today with this formula in my head:

facts + sentiment = story

That means:

Story – sentiment = facts


Story – facts = sentiment

The biggest missing variable here is time (I think – what else?). To add time, we need to introduce the Snapshot / Movie continuum.

We can take a snapshot in time of some story and apply the equation. If the snapshot is of something in the present, it’s going to be colored by the past (look at a daily headline today). If we’re picking up a snapshot taken in the past, it’s colored by our view in the present (look at an old headline, and take note of what informs how you think of it that they didn’t know when they wrote it). We have to handle snapshots very carefully, because they can be connected non-linearly.

We can also take a series of snapshots (that make a flip book or even a movie) to show the progression of each variable in the equation over time. We still get the artifacts of the coloring discussed above, but we can also gain a much better understanding of the interplay between sentiment and facts (or information). When we think like a movie, we connect snapshots in a linear manner.

I wouldn’t argue either that either the snapshot or the movie approach is better or even more reliable, BUT when we are trying to understand something, it pays to know which approach is being taken by the presenter.

There’s a big difference between presenting a snapshot (or snapshots) unbounded from time, and presenting a sequence of snapshots bound by a time. The formula and the continuum can help us to be skeptical of any assumed credibility. They can also help us understand, when we are presenting how to gain credibility (more on this at a later date).

When we bind facts and sentiment to time, we also start to uncover the feedback loops and paradoxes that shape the broader story. Feedback loops are self-reinforcing bits of sentiment (progressions that go up or down, as in from good to great, or from bad to worst). Paradoxes are self-contradictory statements (progressions that go around, so when great rolls over to bad, or when worst rolls over to good).

We all spend our days telling and consuming stories. If we can just break apart the facts from the sentiment and understand how time is being used in the explanation, we can gain a better understanding of where we are, and maybe even seize control of where we are going.

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