A framework for designing storytelling experiences

Narrative Architecture

Stories are systems of knowledge organisation. Storytelling is the revelation of connected information over time.

Designing the order in which knowledge is revealed, how it is revealed, and to whom, is crucial in any storytelling or narrative experience. The state of play, who knows what, at any particular time, is therefore crucial to understanding the way in which the different parties that are part of the experience, will feel.

One interpretation of the process of storytelling that leads on from this, therefore, might be that storytelling is all about the disparity of knowledge, and…

A sequel to this time last year.

My 2018 in photos (clockwise from top left): 1. Ancient Greece. (June) 2. Fire hydrant cartoons (June) 3. Early morning Eiffel (February) 4. My coffee name is Pool, Madrid (October) 5. Friendly Dolphin at the Fenix Hotel (June) 6. Dead Dalek, Twitter UK offices (July) 7. A triumphant Lego Robot (August) 8. The Good Birthday Cake, not for me. (March?) 9. Churros is Churros (October).

The picture above doesn’t really tell the whole story.


After what amounted to a rather hectic (and, admittedly, slightly stressful) end of 2017 work-wise, 2018 was much more kind to me. A new team, a stable thing to work on. Very much the ‘bread and butter’ of product management, as it was referred to. Good experience to have under my belt, and I’m happy with what we got done. …

Context is royalty, or so they say, in our online environments. It’s often seen as crucial to the success of new (especially digital) products and services. Design a product to adapt to different contexts, they say, you’ll delight your users, and become indispensable.

Contextual Design

There’s a whole sub-discipline of design, known as ‘contextual design’, dedicated to understanding a user’s environment at any one time, and shaping a product or service around that.

Understanding the context of a user at any given time, of course, means collecting a lot of data — not only about the user themselves, but about the environment…

2017 is a year that, personally speaking, I suspect I’ll look back on fondly. Inspired by Alyson, here’s my 2017 ‘year notes’.

My 2017 in photos: (Clockwise, from top left) Windmills of Mykonos; Parks & Recreation supper club; New Year’s Day walk; Lunch by Regents Canal; 300 km/h through France; storytelling research; making plans; sun in Salerno; view from the Musee D’Orsay.


When I left the BBC and joined Springer Nature in September 2016, I did so with the aim of getting more experience in product management. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have ideas I’d like to bring to fruition in my career, and having a few years of product management experience would be no bad thing.

2017 certainly delivered on the promise of ‘experience’. Together with a small but determined team, we grew ‘Recommended’ from…

tl, dr: The Digital Research Assistant helped you keep a track of primary paper research from across the Web. If it had a DOI, we kept a note of it, so you could find it again later. It was available as a Chrome plugin. As of 2021, the service was no longer available. The following serves as a record of what we built at the time.

I’m the Product Manager for Recommended, a Springer Nature service that offers personalised primary research paper recommendations, from any publisher, based on what you’ve been reading across the Springer Nature portfolio — so on…

or at least some way of discussing and building upon this…

Some basic propositions

There are proven, accepted facts, which should not be called into unreasonable question, until the weight of legitimate evidence proves otherwise.

Nothing should be set in stone, we should accept that our understanding evolves and changes as new evidence comes to light.

This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth or accepted facts; nor that nothing is true; nor that all opinions are equally valid or legitimate; nor that ideas exist in a vacuum where they cannot do any harm.

We may wish to recognise…

Context: The folk at Unthinkable Digital asked me to write something about the dream & creative potential of linked open data and the Web, as I saw it, and what the barriers to it have been. The following is what resulted.

Although I don’t go into the practicalities of it in the piece, I do believe that through a well-thought-out, disciplined approach to information architecture & web design — basic things like one-URL-per-concept, and contextual links, based on domain models, between those concepts — such a dream is not beyond our grasp — or at the very least, worth experimenting…

Imagine if the goal in politics wasn’t to ‘win’ an election, or to ‘beat’ your rivals, or to ‘prove’ that your side is correct and the other side is evil.

Imagine if the leaders of the main political parties agreed that, despite their inevitable differences of opinion, working together for the good of the country, society and humanity was more important than sticking doggedly to their dogma.

Imagine if they acknowledged that actually, no one has all the right answers, that compromise and a change of mind based on feedback and experimentation was not a sign of weakness, but a…

A bit of context: Back in May last year, I met up with Donna Lichaw, who invited me to contribute a short ‘side-bar’ to her upcoming book, ‘The User’s Journey”.

In the end, none of the side-bars by guest authors were used, but seeing as the book is about to be published, a few of us thought it might be good to release what we wrote, to sit alongside the finished book.

Obviously the following is therefore aimed at a wide readership who may not be familiar with the work myself and others at the BBC (and elsewhere) have done…

The programme for the IA Summit 2016 has been announced. You should go, if you can.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get in. Which is a shame, but by no means the end of the road.

You see, I’ve been carting round a presentation based on a set of ideas for about three years, now. Each time a conference comes round, I refresh it. Indeed, the final version of it is going to get an airing at World IA Day London this weekend.

But now, I’d like to try something new. As discussed previously, I’m extremely interested in the structure of stories…

Paul Rissen

Structured narrative & journalism strategist. Senior Product Manager @ Springer Nature, ex-BBC. Views are my own. Sporadically writing here.

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