The Presentation That Never Ends (& How We Grade It)

“Picture a situation where you had to make a decision and what lead you to make it; then think of a value you were representing when you made that decision,” was what Kate told us (well not those exact words, I paraphrased from memory) to do in our first Advanced Seminar of Media and Communications class. After that, the class left in pairs to relay our own stories to each other. When we got back, there was a little spreadsheet online, where there was a box next to our name ready to be filled in with the value we thought we represented in our story.

What intrigued me as those little boxes started filling up with different values – why those values? Each individual person knew what this activity was aiming to do. We knew what to look out for in our story. We knew what questions were going to be asked. With that in mind, why then did we chose that specific story?

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone when I answer this. However, I think there’s something to be said about the way we choose to represent ourselves in different settings. Wether consciously or unconsciously, a lot of our decisions is done based on wanting to present ourselves a certain way: especially when it comes to our own narratives.

During this activity, the story I chose portrayed me as someone reliable or dependable. Upon reflection, the reason that happened is because to me that’s one of the things I like about myself. It’s one of those things I believe is an accurate characterisation of me. More importantly, it’s how I want people to think of me.

Everything we do in the public sphere comes with the undertones of self presentation. What we wear, what we tweet, the way we interact in conversations, the kind of food we eat. Self-presentation also shifts based on many different factors and can change many times. Maybe it’s just me, but I constantly feel the need to prove myself as a person, especially when some aspect of myself has changed. This could be things like choosing to speak up on a particular discussion in class, wearing a new hat to show change of style or retweeting several articles on twitter when I’ve had a shift in political views.

In this era we are given countless platforms to curate the way we present ourselves in society. The one thing we can’t do however, is have complete control over all narratives of ourself. I was very surprised at how my classmates were unwilling to write a blogpost on the stories of other peers because it could lead to misrepresentation. It was a lovely insight into how thoughtful and considerate people can be.

I don’t think completely avoiding narratives by others is possible though. Just in this blogpost, you get my narrative of what Kate said in class and of the attitude of my classmates. This is my lens of how they presented themselves.

As someone who is studying media & journalism, I want to be able to tell the stories of others. However, I’m hoping to be able to create narratives that respect their self presentation.

The question then is how comfortable are we letting others write out narratives for our carefully curated self-presentation? And how do we make others comfortable that their narratives are safe in our hands? Because I can already think of a number of situations where I know my personal biases might factor into how I present narratives.

I’m not sure I have all the answers for that yet, perhaps in another post once I’ve sat through a few more of Kate’s classes.

The thing I’m leaving with you with at the end of this blogpost: what was I trying to present about myself with this blogpost & why? Could you curate a narrative about me that you feel is fair? (I don’t actually want to know the answers, just a thing to ponder).




  1. The thing that’s really sitting with me at the moment is this question of how we can’t avoid the narratives of others, we can’t avoid including others in the stories that we share. I’m trying to write something about this myself, and I get tangled up in what I want to say, what I think is fair to say. I feel you’re right to focus on what it takes to allow someone else to take our story, to carry it safely in their hands.

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  2. The notion of self-presentation in a variety of spheres is an interesting concept to me. Kate explicitly asked us to discuss a story which had a positive outcome. Had she not laid this last condition, I wonder how many of the stories would have been more ‘negative’ in structure? As discussed in class, sometimes we are more inclined to tell negative stories about ourselves because of a funny thing called pride. Why does it work in reverse? Why do we want people to see and understand the values we hold within ourselves, yet remain so reluctant to share them? Like you say, there are issues with comfort in both sharing a story with somebody else and taking another’s story to morph into some sort of authentic narrative. I really enjoyed the issues you discussed in this post and I’m sure you will find interesting answers to the questions you pose as your career as a journalist unfolds.
    -Claire 🙂

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  3. I’m leaving comments around the place, and they’re merging on this point: that we instinctively flinch from telling positive stories about ourselves. Is it pride? I’m not sure. What is it exactly? Why do we talk against ourselves? I’ve shared an article on Twitter which I’ll slip into Slack, on how we narrate the lives of others, and the opportunity we have to make a generous change to outcomes by speaking positively of co-workers. Thinking about this.

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