SAM Seminar: The Truth about Narrative

When:26 Jun 2019, 4pm - 5:30pm
Venue:Room G17, Robert Webster Building
Who:Associate Professor Paul Dawson (UNSW)

Dawson seminar 2

Please note the room change to G17, Robert Webster Building.

The Truth about Narrative: Emergent Storytelling and Affective Publics in the Digital Age

This paper argues that the #MeToo movement is both one of the most prominent and internationally significant viral phenomena of recent years and an example of a new narrative phenomenon I will call emergent storytelling. #MeToo is a prime example of what Zizi Papacharissi calls "affective publics,” which she defines as "public formations that are textually rendered into being through emotive expressions that spread virally through networked crowds." This definition revolves around two key terms of media studies – virality and affect – both of which are, essentially, non-narrative. At the same time, Papacharissi states that she is concerned with explaining the “soft structures of storytelling” provided by Twitter. To interrogate the role of narrative in the digital public sphere, then, we must ask not only how narratives go viral, but how the causal logic of narrative itself processes viral activity.

A central premise of the paper is that Twitter can be characterized in scientific terms as a complex system in which emergent behaviour arises from the ambient interaction of users with its algorithmic structures. Building upon current social media research into 'ambient affiliation' (Zappavigna), 'affective publics' (Papacharissi) and 'shared stories' (Page) to develop this proposition, the paper will investigate how the #MeToo movement relies upon different and competing concepts of narrative facilitated by the technological affordances of the hashtag. By addressing how the concept of ‘affective publics’ relates to the problem of narrative truth, the paper seeks to elucidate the crisis of referentiality in public discourse occasioned by anxiety about a 'post-truth' culture fostered by social media.


Paul Dawson is an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of narrative theory and novel studies. He is the author of two monographs: The Return of the Omniscient Narrator: Authorship and Authority in Twenty-First Century Fiction (OSU Press, 2013) and Creative Writing and the New Humanities (Routledge, 2005). Paul is also a poet. His first book of poems, Imagining Winter (IP, 2006) won the national IP Picks Best Poetry Award, and his work has been anthologizied in several collections, including Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013). Paul is currently an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales.

SAM Seminar Series

This series provides a showcase and forum for local as well as international scholars, researchers, industry practitioners and creative artists – ranging from early-career to well-established – to present on their work. No need to book, all welcome!

Note: New dates in Term 2 - SAM Seminars will be held on Wednesdays at 4pm.

Coming next:

Week 6 - Wednesday 10 July
Towards a theory of conceptual trilateration: Understanding strategy’s centre of gravity
Paul Ryder (UNSW)
Visit the event page.

Find out more and see the full program.
Enquiries contact: SAM Seminar Convenor, John Attridge –

Finding us
Robert Webster Building is located mid-way off the UNSW main walkway. Map Reference G14. Room G17 is located on the ground floor. Please note the main entrance off the central walkway is on Level 1.

More information on getting to UNSW.
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Supported by UNSW Creative Practice Lab

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