Truth, Fiction & Justice: The Interdependence of Stories, Media Systems & the Built Environment

Stories are fundamental to how we understand and reimagine the world. We "read between the lines," decipher intent, live through character's emotions, piece together meaning from narratives that are incomplete without our engagement. We latch onto things that resonate within us and construct our own narratives instinctively and fluidly, perhaps without so much as even realizing it. 100 people can walk out of 1 movie having seen 100 different stories. The same 100 people can read a different intent into a glance. What we take away from a story, how we construct the narrative, depends on our belief systems, the world from which we have come, and how we think. And these stories we tell ourselves, like feedback loops in a larger media system, fortify or challenge our values and evolve the system of ideas around us. Put another way, stories can cement existing traditions or allow us to envision alternate ways of being. This is key to understanding how stories and systems impact justice.

 

The medium is the method of delivery. The media is part of a system of understanding, and is ever-evolving along with new technology, new means of content delivery, and new ways of understanding. McCluen famously said "the media is the message" and observing our modern world it is easy to see how the channel through which a story is delivered, shapes the story itself. Put another way, form matters. Each media has its own characteristics and seemingly its own system of rules that dictate what stories are told, as well as how they are received and interpreted. And each media, and how it is used and perceived is also in an evolving state of flux.

With this backdrop of stories, told through evolving media systems, that impact how and what we think, it's critical to engage with both real and imaginary environments, to question our assumptions, interrogate the feedback loops, parse out how stories and systems form frameworks that imperil or facilitate justice. The built environment, like other media, shapes and is shaped by the stories we tell, what we imagine, or what feedback loops we fall into. The interdependence between the real and imaginary, form and function, materiality and content, private and public, identity and reputation brings to light the importance of new cultural imaginings and experiments in carving a path towards justice.