Terminator, Attention and Storytelling

This last week, we went and watched the latest Terminator movie.  Essentially, it takes place after the machines are trying to kill all of the humans and ends up providing more of the backstory to the previous two movies.

In the movie, there are several fight scenes that take place in factories where the robots are manufacturing themselves.  Suspension of disbelief aside, I had to step back and think about how a machine might design a factory for its own reproduction and would it looks like this particular set.  It was clear they had designed the set to resemble as closely as possible how we (humans) might design a factory for such a purpose — namely, there were many, many hand rails.  Now it’s possible the T-800 needs to catch it’s balance sometimes, or occasionally missteps off the edge of a platform and needs the railing to catch on to, but it seems more likely the machines would designate those as wasteful.

However, if they had designed the set to truly project what the robots would likely design, it would have been a very uncomfortable environment for the audience.  Rather than drawing their attention to the action sequences (that, of course, used the railings to very dramatic effect), we would be drawn to the sheer difference in the way the factory was designed.

This got me to thinking about the large-scale implications of story telling.  There are many aspects of a story that might be interesting (i.e. the exploration of how a factory would be designed by an artificial intellegence), and yet, these would cause a great amount of distraction to those being told the story.  The unimportant elements need to fade into the background and be boring/dull by comparison to the important elements of the story.

This applies to any of us who are telling our customers stories about who we are or how the product is beneficial.  The story needs to focus the attention of the listener on the elements that are helpful to the comprehension and full emersion into the story, and avoid the Curse of Knowledge by mentioning all the unimportant details along the way.







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