Gamification: Creating Innovation through Narratives

Poetry and Truth in the Bazaar Community

Does the internet’s liquid communication change the social discourse for better or worse? Digital media narratives and gamification give orientation, create identification and generate change processes. Content-based gamification is a great chance for companies to promote innovation and increase commitment through business narratives.

Narratives organise the internet’s bazaar community and give orientation. As self-fulfilling prophesy they project the design of the future. Gamification encourages groups of people to buy, learn, socialise and harass. But who decides, which content is PR stunt, fake news, artistic creation or sneaky sabotage?

Content flood, hybrid threat, social engineering and digital nudging are buzzwords that describe the internet’s liquid communication in a negative way. The World Wide Web was once a promising device of free knowledge for all. But now it seems to have become the tool of powerful manipulators. Interest groups and lobbies use methods such as astroturfing and integrity initiatives to build a controlled democracy, struggling to obtain the sovereignty over the discourse. Has the truth played out? 

One thing is for sure: Objective truth is a myth of theory. Even if churches, sciences, nation states or conspiracy supporters claim it for their cause, they may be proven wrong very soon. So-called objective truth is always a timely limited social consensus formed by a homogeneous majority. In order to adapt to an ever changing environment, pluralistic societies have invented a tricky balance of tolerance and democratic rules: even minorities who are unable to gain social consensus are able to express their ideas freely. 

Narrative Codes and Leitmotifs Create Identification

Narratives create leitmotifs and subtexts that interact with factual truth. Thus pluralistic exchange of opposing opinions is possible on a meta-level. Pluralistic discourses not only maintain the respect of equal rights, but bring progressive opinions quicker to the center of the discourse. This drives innovation, but also assumes, that all citizens are able to communicate constructively and confidently in the digital sphere. 

If different perspectives of opposing interest groups clash, they cause a conflict which is destructive and productive at the same time. To reach a new social consensus, pros and cons of several aspects of common conventions have to be negotiated and adjusted over a longer period of time. This does not always happen smoothly. You need a culture of criticism and debate to get to the psychological and epistemological core, from where the basics for a group consensus can be identified. Narratives take up these points of friction.

How does the internet’s liquid communication change the social discourse? The ideal of the self-organizing bazaar community is an open source code: narrative codes change transparently and collaboratively in real time. They are no longer selected and sorted out by media authorities in the first place, which was the case in the 20th century. The cathedral becomes the bazaar – instead of the mass media’s top-down hierarchy, the internet media is a simultaneous field that forms decentralized clusters. Even though reality is regulated by politics (data privacy, upload filters etc.) and intelligent design by large social media platforms, social media has largely democratized the media. The public sphere irreversibly differentiates into a digital, cross-border and multiphonic agora.

„I think that the cutting edge of open-source software will belong to people who start from individual vision and brilliance, then amplify it through the effective construction of voluntary communities of interest.“ (Eric Steven Raymond: „The Cathedral and the Bazaar“)

Narratives and Gamification Generate Change Processes

The feedback of the community decides, if PR and communication campaigns go viral or trigger a shit storm. What do companies learn from this? Narratives can support change processes and pass on knowledge to stakeholders in a concise and easily accessible form. Business narratives can promote innovation, generate attention, increase commitment, resolve conflicts or increase activity in product marketing, branding, corporate communication or personnel management.

Gamification through business software offers tools to integrate narratives into work flows. If you want to create a media representation of a narrative, you should have a look at the company’s capacities and requirements. Maybe a simple website is enough, or you want to go for a learning simulation or a game. Gamification offers the greatest possible freedom, while keeping to some simple rules: open to choice with clear and measurable agreement on objectives, incentives for participation through collective goals, regular informative feedback. As an innovative teaching and learning method, gamification offers greater autonomy than conventional methods. These are the freedom to fail, the freedom to experiment, the freedom to perform and the freedom to present oneself (for more info see the report “Gamification and the Future of Education”).

Six Features of Content-based Gamification

  • Good versus bad storyline

A distinct friend/foe scheme creates an „us vs. them“-feeling which strengthens the team work and provides a clear direction.

  • Virtual avatar with high recognition value

A personalized avatar satisfies the need for self-expression and directly addresses intrinsic motivation.

  • Unrestricted repeatability

Permanent access to the narrative by placing narrative elements at touchpoints serve to strengthen the learning effect for employees/customers.

  • Transparent progress

Missions, quests, rankings, progress bars, high scores, reputations, badges, etc. boost performance through competition and activate personal self-control.

  • Call-to-action

Identifies the individual challenge and enable the employee’s “path to mastery” by successively increasing the level of difficulty.

  • Open-end or follow-ups

An open-ended narrative allows for further development. Follow-ups can be newsletters, workshops, a mentoring program or spin-offs designed by employees/customers.

Simone Belko is a linguist and European studies scholar with a strong focus on digital literacy. With experience in journalism, PR management, marketing and training she has excelled in Germany and abroad. As a manager for digital products in the online games and FinTech industry she gained deep insights into how online platforms and communities work. Simone is the author of "Digital Consciousness" ("Das digitale Bewusstsein") and currently works at Otto GmbH, leveraging her expertise in business transformation.

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