Spokes on a wheel: understanding human behavior

It was nice to sign on in the evening after we had lived such entirely different days. Almost like the spokes on a wagon wheel: each spoke having an entirely different experience as the wheel turns, coming together in the center for a common purpose of holding up the wagon. We were all spinning in our separate school days, but intersected in a brief examination of short films. That’s one of the great things about “What’s the Story?” and about community-building work in general.

It’s always interesting to see how new groups of people interact for the first time. So many different factors play into how people present themselves—group size, the people present, the purpose of the meeting, and whether we’re meeting in-person or online. How we present ourselves changes drastically with time, something that’s become clear to me as I’ve gotten older. It had been something that I found uncomfortable, meeting people for the first time. I was insecure, unsure of my ideas, hyper-aware of how people reacted to them, and so focused on how others perceived me that I lost many opportunities to enjoy connecting with new people and new teams. As we age, we are able to form our own opinions and pose them confidently. I am now excited, rather than fearful, to hear how my initial thoughts contrasted (or aligned) with others’ in the group, or how someone else’s thoughts pushed or expanded my first reactions. All of these dynamics were very present in our first small group meetings and changed the more we met. As someone very interested in better understanding how humans behave, being able to tune into the interactions that underlied our meetings was fascinating.

The digital age (accelerated rapidly by the COVID pandemic) has redefined what it means to be a community, but film has been a technological tool for eliciting human emotions for many years. It is an innovation that transformed not only the way we convey information, but also the way we view the world. And for social beings whose behaviors are determined by biology, that is remarkable. I appreciated in every short film that we watched the way the filmmaker left great room for the viewer to fill with their own emotional response. The simplicity of the storylines, the final messages left by the protagonists, the cohesiveness of the shots, all of these components allow the viewer to mold their experience of the film into one that resonates with their understanding of the world around them. We as viewers are left feeling that we took ourselves through a journey of discovery though their film. And being able to make conclusions or articulate some kind of shift in thinking after engaging with images on a screen is very powerful.

Human thought is very perplexing especially as it pertains to understanding how and why we think and act as we do. The complexity of understanding human behavior is heightened when trying to create a film that has some sort of effect on the way the viewer thinks or acts. I’m so greatly looking forward to the opportunity that “What’s the Story?” offers to better understand what it means to create positive social change and to do so through film.

Lena Ashooh

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