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Policy Possibilities as Storylines

Our Interactivity Foundation project discussions focus on developing contrasting conceptual policy possibilities as different ways that our society might approach an area of emerging social and political concern. At first blush this sounds a bit too technical for most folks. Often people wonder what it might mean to come up with a “policy.” They think that a “policy” must be something fairly technical and full of details—especially when they hear we’re talking about a “conceptual” policy possibility. A “conceptual policy” sounds like it’d be even more abstract and hard to think about than a more concrete policy approach. But our interest in IF projects is not to generate abstract and highly technical policy descriptions. We’re more interested in the basic story or storyline about how our society might deal with some emerging matter of public concern. So another way to think about generating a policy possibility is to think about telling a story. What different stories might we tell, stories that let us know how we, as a people, might deal with a matter of public concern?

When we think of policies in this way, we move policy discussion from province of technocrats to the everyday realm of democratic citizens. Of course, in an IF project we’re not talking about telling the sort of detailed stories you might find in a novel or even a short story. We’re talking about providing a basic storyline for the public actions that might be taken by our society in dealing with an area of public concern. That’s what we have in mind with calling these “conceptual” policies—we’re focusing on the basic storyline, not nuanced plot details. Such a storyline might tell essentially who would do what—and why—letting us know the motivations for the actions and the thinking or values behind them.

Setting out a basic storyline like this can help to make clear the orientation our society might take toward an area of concern. A story presents for our consideration a way of being, a way of orienting ourselves to possibilities. If we think of describing policy possibilities in this way, we might find it easier to leap into the task of imagining them. And once they’ve been generated, we might also find it easier to share them with others, if we approach them as essentially different stories our society might tell.