The Danger of the Single Story – Why Quantity Matters

I listened to a beautiful podcast the other day by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on “the danger of the single story.” Her point was that when we only tell one kind of story about a person or a place we cheapen our understanding. She began with her experience as an African writer, one who all too often only hears one kind of story about a whole continent. As she remarked, it’s not that stereotypes aren’t true, it’s that they make one story the only story. Having more than one story gives us a richer understanding of the world.

How does this connect to the lab? Well, our aim is to use quantity to better understand literature and creativity. Adichie’s point is that when we focus on single things we get locked into single versions of them. We need quantity to help envision and imagine alternatives. Often when we use quantity we do so to reduce diversity into a single summary-like assessment. Fan fiction tends to look this way or the nineteenth-century novel behaves this way. I’m hoping that as we move forward we can begin to locate the diversity within quantity, the different kinds of stories that are available to us within the large quantities of stories that we have been telling ourselves for centuries. The goal is to make our generalizations more flexible, while still being based on something more than our personal beliefs or single pieces of evidence.