New Storytelling, Design Thinking, AI and peak age of the Audience Effect.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah
6 min readJun 11


The Audience effect.

“Dr. David”, a delegate asked me at a conference, “how do I tell great stories?” “Well you think of yourself in the future knowing you’ve immersed yourself with all these forms around you, and then you work with your audience. What do you, and they want?”, I said.

We all have great stories within us and they’re a myriad ways to how we might tell them. Then there’s the relentless barriers in front of us, but ignoring the potential audience is an unwise proposition.

Yet a sizeable number of new storytellers (and established ones) find this a challenge. The strength of their idea, their individualism and what makes them tick is primary.

In any case “Who is this audience?” they might get asked, for which their response is “everyone!” Not bad if it is, but that’s rarely the case.

There are auteurs and gifted geniuses amongst us who appear to have the power to create a universal audience around their work, from original work, however many of us (people I know, and those I’ve not met) have to truly sing for their supper.

But for the auteurs there’s a phenomenon, rarely acknowledged hidden in something of the paradox called the “audience effect”, “Me-you”, or “Yɛ” translated in my language Twi, that helps them succeed. They come to assimilate their audience or vice versa in a looped engagement.

So on the one hand the strength of one’s own conviction and low costs can provide a route to telling that story with a devil-may-care attitude and seeing how the chips land. On the other hand, for others original work stems directly from the audience effect paradox.

What if we could creatively steer this process, and look to platform a storytelling model ? What if this platform brought together strategies where the head wind is going:

  1. Cinema Journalism
  2. The Audience effect
  3. Applied Storytelling
  4. D(e)isign thinking approach.
Author 1991, featured in BBC magazine Aerial

I’m an Associate Professor/ Reader with a background at the BBC, Channel 4, and ABC News who consults on emerging models of storytelling and tech. It’s helped me garner a few International Awards too. I’m into story forms and tech workflows that seek ways of working, particularly in collapsing forms together.

The brilliance of Steve Jobs as a storyteller stemmed for the numerous galleries he visited in Paris like they were going out of fashion.

Spike Lee’s influences include Roy DeCarava, and photographers Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. In several cases across a spectrum of practitioners they’re implicitly affected directly by their audience or indirectly ( inner multiple voices). It’s like a spiritual connection in which you hear yourself first asking how would Avedon do this?

Cinema Journalism

To tell an original engaging filmed story is a general wish many of us harbour. How we might harvest memories, snippets of events from our past and present, ideas that have come to us in dreams or awake us - that’s the loadstar.

To tell stories that are so visually and textually arresting that viewers make sense of, and invest their emotions and time. And yes such stories help us earn a living. There’s the gargantuan filmmaking model e.g. Hollywood — few of us will come near to — and then the plethora of independent approaches enabled by digital/ SM platforms.

The stories buried or remain undiscovered are invariably like your diary, first intended novel — they’re personal. My BBC diary from 30 years ago has an insert about a personal story when I was living in South Africa and wanting to make a programme of the generation of Black and Brown grads who would be the engine growth of the country.

“No one’s going to want it” I was told by those in seats of power. Often people generally make the mistake this is a Black story. Yet it’s symbolic of humanity, and what a group of diverse people are going through: love, living, overcoming adversity etc.

Firstly, can we create stories with (contemporary) historical spines which provide a currency for the present, even solutions?

Cinema journalism is a way of creating stories within different genres that are mostly non-fiction. Practitioners blend cinema styles and narratives with fact based storytelling. It has several roots and whilst aided by tech, it’s intrinsically cognitive. It’s a thinking process. An example I run with delegates; how do you show the following emotions: love, hate, anger, jealousy without words?

You get to be a cinema journalist by seeing and like the 17th century alchemist experimenting with things so odd that you’re close to being the dreamer and charlatan.

Cinema is a language that is reified from within a camera lens, where expressions, tropes and metaphor, and language is amplified. As the Italian futurists discovered at the turn of the 20th century, often unappreciated today, cinema is many media and influences.

Journalism is in essence truth storytelling. Amazingly and many experts forget, journalism borrowed its clothes from cinema; terms like wide shot, sequences etc., with the exception that it was life unfolding.

This is my promo for my next project bringing the aforementioned together. I use AI within this storytelling process.

Audience Effect

The audience effect is a form of social anxiety. It happens when people have to face an audience and are concerned by what they may feel about them. It emerges from studies of social psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1965.

But there’s a paradox to this phrase. A positive side that creates self-critique. You can point to the audience effect in literature from Simon Sinek, Malcolm Gladwell, and social psychologist Amy Cuddy. In his “Start with Why” Sinek talks about the importance of an emotional connection with your audience.

Some artists engaging with their audience become their audience. This is the Me-you” or “Yɛ” phenomenon. “Yɛ” is an akan phrase. If you ask a Ghanaian in their local language “How are you?” The response can often elicit a “We”, which points to a community or audience response.

Applied Storytelling

A story can have many outlets, a book, a theatre, an exhibition. This existence in several planes contributes towards a different way of thinking about the story.

How do you take a story that is typically non-linear to express in a book or blog? African ( Ghanaian) stories relish fractured narratives, such as non linearity. It’s embedded in their culture and symbols like Sankofa and language exchange.

Future storytelling visualises ways of storytelling in the future as a way to enact today. For instance, in 2016 and 2019, I ran workshops on the impact of AI. This year collaborating with groups we use AI to recreate scenes for films. The promo above The Ghanaian has benefited from this approach.

How can you take a story and build a concomitant platform that moves the story onto finding a solution, in a platform, app or movement?

De(i)sign thinking

Whilst many of us might be familiar with design thinking which envelops collaborative and empathetic approaches that is engaging users in a loop to refine an idea, few would actively engage explicitly with diversity and inclusion. It’s about knowing what the implications are.

These three elements rolled into a delivery platform are precursors for storytelling now and meta ( in the future). You can find more on these in previous posts. I’ll be posting some more soon.



Dr David Dunkley Gyimah

Creative Technologist & Associate Professor. International Award Winner Cinema journalist. Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled Top Writer,