TEDx: Jo Tyler

By Nathan Peereboom

Jo Tyler believes in a right way to tell stories.

A Penn State professor, former student of applied storytelling at Columbia, consultant, and mosaic artist, Tyler spoke about the nature of storytelling to the TEDxUChicago audience.

According to Tyler, stories are not meant to be used as tools and ideally are told with honest intentions by people who have authentic relationships with the story themselves.

She began by explaining the difference between a lion in a zoo and a lion in the wild as a metaphor for the story. For Tyler, stories, like lions, are alive and should not be caged if they are expected to maintain their beauty and power.

Describing the caged lion she saw at a zoo, Tyler lamented, “That lion did not roar; that lion did not lift his head; that lion did not even swish his tail. I knew intellectually that the lion was beautiful but I couldn’t really see his beauty.” This, according to Tyler, is what happens when you try to “capture” a story and use it as a tool.

Her theory of storytelling places agency within the story itself, not just with the storyteller.

“The stories are alive whether or not we tell them. The stories enter into a kind of energetic negotiation with us about whether and how they are told,” she said.