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Diving deeper

Presenter discusses ethics behind storytelling

Twelve speakers shared insights on how they dove headfirst into passions related to their jobs, hobbies or interests during Northern Michigan University's TEDxNMU: Diving Deeper at Forest Roberts Theatre on Saturday. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — Twelve speakers shared insights on how they dove headfirst into passions related to their jobs, hobbies or interests during Northern Michigan University’s TEDxNMU: Diving Deeper at Forest Roberts Theatre on Saturday.

Attendees had the opportunity to listen to talks on everything from political discourse to the ephemeral qualities of stone skipping. Both NMU alumni and students were chosen to speak at the event. NMU student Ryan Watling presented his topic, the ethics of storytelling and the role of the listener and teller to foster social sustainability, that afternoon.

“When stories are shared appropriately — when we think about the ethics behind them — they have the potential to foster social sustainability in our communities,” Watling explained in an interview.

Watling took a TED Talks motto ‘stories worth sharing’ and dove deeper by adding ‘or not.’

A large part of Watling’s presentation was informed by his experience collecting material for the Great Lakes, Great Stories project, which was a minimal-impact bicycle trip that he, his fellow TEDxNMU speaker Olivia Walcott and NMU student Dylan Gonda took around Lake Superior to record and share stories from people around the lake.

Northern Michigan University student Ryan Watling presents his topic, the ethics of storytelling and the role of the listener and teller to foster social sustainability. NMU alumni and students were asked to speak at the event. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“We noticed that stories were valuable and that we had an opportunity to take that older idea of storytelling, say from your grandparents, and bring it into the light of our generation, to kind of preserve that history for the next generation,” Watling said.

After that trip, some of the material that the three gathered was unusable due to technical issues. The group had a decision to make; should they retell another person’s story in their voice or should they leave this narrative out of their collection? In the end, they decided to leave it out.

“There are some stories that are meant only for the present moment and to be understood and empathized with,” Watling said.

Watling explained that some stories are not meant to be shared by an individual storyteller, only heard. Storytellers should look for narratives with perspective and the emotions that are sourced from their own experience. He concluded that stories shared ethically have the potential to create more just, inclusive, resilient and sustainable communities.

“It’s not just the story that matters, but also the storyteller and the meaning of that story that evokes emotion and change,” Watling said during his talk. “However, we must be aware when it’s appropriate and ethical to share those stories because remember only you own your story.”

TED Talk audience members had the opportunity to participate in various demonstrations and a variety of activities around campus between talks. There was a vendors space for local artists at the event as well. According to a press release from NMU, this year’s event was five times larger, with 500 seats and concluded with a fully catered dinner for all participants. For more information on this year’s TEDxNMU event, visit www.tedxnmu.com.

Corey Kelly can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.