Protopian storytelling 101

ari kuschnir
3 min readSep 16, 2019

How can we create stories that activate better futures?

In other words, if the stories we consume shape how we perceive the world and how we perceive the world shapes our future, then how do we incentivize and quantify creating stories that bring about better outcomes for our world?

And how do we get coherent storytellers to create content that helps us cross the bridge from the old story of separation (Game A) to the new story of interbeing (Game B) in the fastest way possible via media.

What if we had an Activated Story Commons that challenged writers, brands, networks, creators and studios to rise up and actively generate better futures. Think of it like a green certification or Fair Trade. Of course this is not a new idea, if you are a company you can become a B-Corp (people over profits, etc) if you are a food grower you can be organic or biodynamic (better for the earth, better for you) but if you are a storyteller or a production company creating story worlds, well there’s nothing quite like that. When I first realized this I thought it was disheartening but now I see it as an opportunity.

This mark or certificate approach has been a solid way to push industries towards doing greater good. The mark itself can become a coveted cultural measure of how well the content affects our perception of ourselves and our future. It’s also a way to create a new storytelling community based on a series of principles. I’ve been outlining some of the principles in talks and previous posts so here I’ll post everything I have in the hopes that there are way better ideas out there

#1 Set your story in a Protopian World, not a Dystopian one: Protopias are slightly better worlds where we are solving some of our problems. Right now Dystopia is hot and if we only imagine worse worlds without offering solutions we are perpetuating the old story of separation that leads towards extinction. We need more Protopian stories in our culture.

#2 Create sense-making stories: It’s getting harder to make sense of the world. In the post-information age (the Integration age?), the stories we create support our collective sense-making and our ability to make better choices. Aim to clarify what is real, what is true and what works.

#3 Stories that heal: Aim to heal ourselves, our issues, our traumas, our divides, our misunderstandings. Think of your creation as medicine for you and others. It can also be dark, it's good to face the shadows and shine a light on them.

#4 Radically Inclusive, diverse and just stories: The solo heroes and saviors are part of the old story of the separate self, it’s all about the margins, the collective and the new voices that haven’t been heard in the mainstream culture before.

#5 Create paradigm-shifting stories that alter our way of being in the world: Aim to change our perception of what’s possible within us. It changes us, evolve us and rethink our assumptions of the status quo

#6 Story as a Living Being: Treat the story as a being itself that wants to come into the world through you. You are in a symbiotic relationship with the story and trust your higher intuition. Great artists have always said: “it wasn’t me or I don’t know where it came from” so embrace story as a living being.

#7 Stories that go beyond the hero’s journey: We are stuck in the hero’s journey. It’s the young archetype who reluctantly goes out and “defeats evil” coming back home wiser…and then what? We need more post-hero’s journey narratives in the culture.

#8 Stories that contribute to better outcomes The narratives should project better futures than our current present (Protopias). As a reference point, the work of Ikire Jone’s Our Future Heritage in Africa is to create triumphant stories of people who many of us have previously ignored. Ask yourself if your creation is contributing seven generations stewardship

Ikire Jones Our Future Heritage

Examples of Activated/Protopian storytelling: Black Panther, Arrival, OA, Biggest Little Farm, Spaceship Earth.

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ari kuschnir

Creating stories that activate better futures now. Founder of the new wave production partner m ss ng p eces