Forms of Expression

This page will present to you the many diverse opportunities we are afforded in life as ways of expressing oneself.

On this Page:

The sound of a kiss. Greetings in 59 languages. Mankind’s greatest symphonies. The intricate sounds of our world.

Carl Sagan and Annie Druyan understood that to best communicate the things that make us deeply human and unique to an alien species was to be completely transparent. Our world, despite our mistakes, was a beautiful world. And it was worth sharing to others out there. And so they gathered a library of sounds, music, world languages … all expressions of our collective existence.

It was the summer of 1977 and NASA planned to sail toward Saturn and Jupiter, snap a few photographs, and trail onward beyond the edge of our solar system. Two spacecrafts launched on the Voyager Interstellar Mission. And on one of them, a Golden Record that Sagan and Druyan had curated to express human existence in our time.

But this story goes beyond the bounds of a mere mixtape. This became an expression of love.

During the Voyager mission, Druyan and Sagan fell in love with one another. And just before the rocket was set to launch, Druyan wondered how to express the feeling of love to an alien species. She went to a New York City hospital to have the electrical impulses measured and recorded while she meditated on “the wonder of love, of being in love.” And now, whomever intercepts the Golden Record may be able to understand such an expression of love.

Looking for more astronomical ways of expression? Consider the following …

In 2018, the Nevada Museum of Art launched a 100-foot art sculpture into space on a satellite that is called the “Orbital Reflector.” But it may be blurring the lines between artistic expression and simply space junk. What do you think?

The Bounds of Expression

There are many ways to express our experiences in the world. This page is about presenting a few of the many veins of expression we can explore in our lifetime. Whether partaking in the expression of others, or looking for our own form, there is a lot to choose from.

Here are a few…

Film
Art
Poetry
Music
Cooking and baking
Dance

Comedy & Improv
Fashion
Writing
Teaching
Public Speaking
Decorating

Healing Arts
Architecture
Activism
Volunteering
Sign Language

There are clearly many more forms of expression to explore. Below you’ll find a few examples and stories about creative expression. Consider each as you delve into ways in which you’d like to find meaning in life through expression.

Storytelling

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” ― Joan Didion

There was once a pig and a seacow that loved to play and run in friendly races in the forest. But one day while they raced, the seacow slipped and injured its legs. The seacow wasn’t able to race anymore. So the wild pig walked over to the seacow, picked him up and carried him down to the ocean. The seacow flapped its arms and swam around the ocean to race the wild pig that was on the land forever. One on land and one by the sea.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of art and expression. It’s hard not to feel something when you hear a story like this. Friendliness, compassion, friendship, community. Stories have the ability to enhance social cooperation, empathy, justice and equality among cultures around the world.

Here are a few organizations that are great for storytelling and inspiring millions to use this form of expression:

Storynet

Storynet works to advance all forms of storytelling within the community through promotion, advocacy and education.

Art Start

Art Start nurtures the voices, hearts and minds of New York City’s under-served youth through consistent creative workshops inside homeless shelters, alternative to incarceration programs, and partnering youth agencies.

Story Corps

Story Corps works to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

Also Discover…

So why is this form of expression so compelling? Well, much of it has to do with the emotional appeal of stories.

The Golden Era

When a podcast called Serial reached more than 5 million listeners in 2014, people began to take notice. The level of investigative journalism was truly remarkable for these radio detectives. Sarah Koenig, a producer of the popular podcast This American Life, anthologized the crime of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee which resulted in the conviction of Adnan Syed. As a listener, you got to uncover alibis, clues and new facts about the case, which put the crime back in the spotlight and gave other podcasters some ideas about how to solve cold cases themselves.

Podcasting has since become a wildly popular form of expression that’s ushered in a new era in radio for storytellers, journalists and even companies like Patagonia. Podcasts are ways for writers, comedians, digital producers, and even investigative journalists to reach people through the powerful art of storytelling. The form of podcast has more or less hit its golden era of broadcasting, and for good reason. It’s a fairly cheap way to express individual views, record live storytelling shows, broadcast news reports and even solve crimes.

There are thousands of podcasts out there from which to choose. And each can serve as a gateway to expression. Here is a shortlist of a few podcasts to get you started.

Listen to:

  • If you like straight up storytelling, try This American Life and The Moth. Here are a few more.
  • For an interesting take on stories behind architecture, check out 99% Invisible.
  • If you’re looking to solve a mystery, see Up And Vanished, S-Town, and Crimetown (or this link for more).
  • Looking for a laugh? So many comedians nowadays are turning to podcasts to get their material out there. Check out a few of the best comedy podcasts here.
  • Are you a musician looking for some inspiration? Song Exploder is a fascinating way to break down songs into their bare bones and understand how the artist intended to express themselves.
  • Really into politics and trying to figure out what you can do to get involved? Check out all that Crooked Media has to offer.
  • You can hear how top thinkers express their arguments on current issues in Intelligence Squared Debates.

The list of insightful, inspiring, and creative podcasts out there is growing every day. What are some of your favorites? Contact us, and we’ll take your recommendations. 🙂
Here are some other favorites of ours:

Brain Pickings – A slew of fascinating content delivers in a fun way.
On Being – The podcast for philosophers. Modern topics of philosophy, with priceless interviews.
TED Radio Hour – Highlights on a given topic from the TED stage, including further interviews with speakers.
Star Talk with Neil Degrasse Tyson – Everyone’s favorite Astrophysicist answers cosmic queries and explores the universe.
Invisibilia – A carefully crafted podcast about easily-overlooked yet fascinating stories.
Hidden Brain – A story-driven look at the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text – Life lessons and thought experiments from Harry Potter.
Revisionist History – Explore misunderstood history with renowned author Malcolm Gladwell.
Waking Up with Sam Harris – tasty food for thought with this prolific modern philosopher and author.
Ministry of Ideas – ‘A small show about the big ideas that shape our world’
Oh No! – Join Ross and Carrie as they partake in spiritual events, religions, ‘alternative’ treatments, and more, with a skeptic’s eye.
The Science of Happiness – A podcast by the Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley.

Looking for more? You’re favorite news outlets may have a podcasts to choose from. Otherwise here are a few storytelling production companies to look into. You can’t go wrong with any of them …

Radiotopia
Gimlet Media
Vox Media
American Public Media

Interested in the sound engineering aspect of this form of expression? There’s a boatload of fascinating avenues here. Watch Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad talk about the idea of Digital Shamanism and the magic of storytelling. Abumrad is known for creating vivid images and emotions with sound on his podcast, one of the most-popular ever, Radiolab. As a trained composer, he breaks down sound bites, stretches them out, and manipulates voices in a way that is way too hard to explain. You simply have to listen and experience it yourself.

The Neuro Ballet

“We live in a world where joy and empathy and pleasure are all around us, there for the noticing.” Ira Glass

The funny thing is, even though we know we’re not physically a part of the story, our brains create almost a “neuro ballet” that we’re suddenly transported into. There is an experience of empathy toward the stranger when we hear a story expressed that gives off a level of tension. We play to the universal story structure, where a conflict arises, a protagonist faces it, and there is some form of resolution.

Researchers found that the podcast form of expression tells the brain to go through a type of neural transportation where we too share the same emotions while we engage and listen. We’re not physically a part of the story, but we may share very similar feelings and emotions as the protagonist does. In other research at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, they found that such an audio structure as podcasts will stimulate a listeners reaction more than any other type of narration. Sound engineering, where producers use sound to give the story a sense of space and place, give listeners a certain mental imagery.

The podcast, as a form of expression, is unique in its form. It gives our minds a way to create our own characters and images for itself.

Despite the variety of expression and endless possibility for worldwide distribution, there’s much more going on in our brains for listeners of these radio stories. And that goes for storytelling in general, whether it be through a theater performance, spoken word poetry or a feature film. As someone shares a story in any form, oxytocin is released and the brain tells you to trust the situation and engage in the moment. We have these richer brain events that give us a sense of deep connection with the world around us.

Storytelling takes many creative forms of expression.

Ave-News

“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” – Seth Godin

We constantly refresh our phones for the latest tweet. We’re tapped into a steady stream of news, unable to go minutes without an update from the drama of our time. The convenience of having everything we need to access in our hands has literally become a mental health hazard. So how does one reckon with this?

It would serve us to remember that the news, much like prime-time television, is part of our capitalistic industry. It needs you to read the paper, to stay tuned in to your Twitter feed, and to refresh your CNN app in order to increase its market share. And fear-based, negative broadcasts are more likely to create an atmosphere of anxiety for people.

Considering what we face with news media, how do we go about making a meaningful connection with how we share online? How can our expression not be a commodity, but still hold cultural and historical significance?  And, with attention as a commodity, how do we create boundaries around exploring social media? Apps like Instagram can be a time suck, but they can also offer an artist a deeper connection to an audience they might never have known existed.

Social media is a relevant avenue of expression that’s not going away any time soon. It’s a skill worth fostering to know how to engage with it.

Social Media

Sharing honestly online actually can create a sense of well-being and connectedness for some. It can offer a springboard for those who consider themselves reclusive to a larger, more integrated community of people. On the other hand, some studies suggest that greater Facebook use decreases one’s sense of satisfaction, leading people to social comparison and detracting from one’s sense of meaning. (1, 2, 3, 4) When we curate our lives to match something it’s not, i.e. social comparison, it gets quite dicey. It’s true, face-to-face interactions are much better. But is there a way we can balance these worlds we dive in and out of so often during the day?

Well first, let’s consider: social media interactions that incorporate collaboration and supportive interactions can increases one’s overall life satisfaction. With that, we can explore some of those avenues in the event of your proposed expression with online platforms.

Can I Text Someone A Hug?

Consider filmmaker and artist Miranda July’s concept around meaningful interactions with social media. She asked the question, “Can I text someone a hug?” Enter the Somebody app. Although the app lasted about a year as an artistic experiment, July wanted to put the “social” back into social networking that made us more conscious of the world around us. Check out the film about the experiment on how Somebody worked. Maybe you will work out the kinks for a similarly human app experiment and shape our future world of online interactions?

Despite social media’s negative effects on our behavior, there are ways we can choose to curb our addictions on the daily. Consider the following as you explore how you’d like to express yourself to the world online:

1) Choose printed forms of media to help slow down the intake of information. Fear-based/emotionally charged media is more likely through visual means (in your face, like on television, a computer, or your Twitter stream). They are crafted in such a way that NEEDS your immediate attention.

2) If access to a print publication isn’t possible, consider these computer and phone apps that give you headlines and news summaries: The Gist, Quartz Brief, Flipboard

3) Consider a day of the week without technology. Leave the phone. Take a breath. Let your mind wander. The news can wait.

4) Be active about turning off the news (consider a new Screentime function on iPhones). Set boundaries and limits for yourself. You are in control. Don’t feel overwhelmed and passive about the news.

In addition to the news, you can use an app called RescueTime to record how much time you’re spending on certain apps and websites. You may be surprised to learn how you are really spending your time digitally.

5) If the news is bumming you out, do something about it! Find ways to get out and be involved in your community (volunteer!). If politics are getting you down, find a way to connect with people (see Vote Save America). This is the best way to cure your negative news woes. Remember that you always, always have the choice and the power! We’ve also compiled a number of resources on how to take action in the world right now through service-based work and volunteering. Take a look over here for a few things to get you started.

6) If your phone is going to be attached to your hip (maybe because of work, family, etc.) then consider a few ways to live more wisely around your phone.

Perspectives:

Consider Reading the Obituaries. There are many here among us who have lived historic lives that may be news to you.
New York Times Obituaries
The Week’s Obituaries

Gain insight (and certainly a few laughs) from a Cartoonist’s perspective. It can offer a summary of some social or political context without taking an immense amount of time.
The New Yorker Daily Cartoon
Politico’s Cartoons

Play a game when you’re with friends: the first person to pick up their phone loses. It’s an app!

If you’re an android user, it may fascinate you to learn of the many ways Google helps their users’ digital well-being. You can audit your app usage, and even interrupt youtube bingeing with a reminder.

Lastly, check out these pages for further inspiration and new lenses on expression:
Power of Perspective
To This Day!
Your Life, a Story

Moving on, you can check out Profiles In Expression, where we look at particularly interesting stories of expression throughout the world. Truly inspiring!
Or, you can visit the final page for this section, which will list resources to further you understanding and action toward meaningful expression.