Community Design and Transformation of Narratives: When Low Tellability Becomes High Tellability

Jennifer Yoohyun Lee, Peter Hasdell

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


When working with local narratives in community design, are different forms of narratives taken into consideration? How important is the source of narratives in community design? How does local narratives influence design process and vice versa? This study looks into why design process should care about the moments when narratives with low tellability becomes narratives with high tellability. The concept of “tellability” was first developed in conversational storytelling analysis by Labov in 1967, as an evaluation device to avoid a “so what?” reaction from the audience. It basically gauges the noteworthiness of telling. This has developed over the years with a focus on when and why something becomes tellable – how emotional significance and cultural meaning is cultivated. It also highlights the different poles in conversational narratives of highly tellable accounts, which commonly involve one active teller with passive listeners, on one end and moderately tellable stories on the other, which are co-constructed by several tellers with uncertain fluid stance. What this study investigates through ethnography and narrative analysis is the transformation of narrative tellability among the community members, and its significance. The aim of the study is to understand the existence of different narrative forms within the shared understanding in a community, how different forms of narratives determine tellability, how this specific aspect of narratives can influence the community design process, and ultimately why understanding the transformation of tellability may shift the orientation of community design all together.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2021
EventFifteenth International Conference on Design Principles & Practices - University of Monterrey, Monterrey, Mexico
Duration: 2 Mar 20215 Mar 2021
Conference number: 15


ConferenceFifteenth International Conference on Design Principles & Practices
Internet address


  • Community design
  • local narratives
  • tellability


Dive into the research topics of 'Community Design and Transformation of Narratives: When Low Tellability Becomes High Tellability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this