In part one of my review of the authors Nyström and Sjögren (2012) who cover in 2 chapters how storytelling can benefit the development of libraries, I focused on customer, user or patron storytelling (to me it does not matter what we call them, though some LIS persons are at war over the semantics). In this entry I wish to focus on chapter 7 of their work, in which they discuss the persona method.
The persona method creates a fictional user based on real data about users, including the stories that are collected from users and the statistical results of surveys. In this method, this fictitious person represents the entire group of users believed to act similarly and need a particular product or service. This fictitious representation of users is a way of aggregating what is known about a range of users or nonusers. This fictitious person is then placed in a specific context, and a storyline created to describe that user or non user (or the group to which the person belongs). In this sense, the persona method reverses the principle of organizational and even personal storytelling.
In personal or organisational storytelling, people construct stories that represents a real event happening to real people (Gabriel, 2000). These stories created are symbolic representations of a real event that is filtered by one's own mind and memory (Gabriel, 2000). However, with the persona method, the story is begins by characterising real people or persons and then constructing an artificial event based on these persons who are the main characters in the story. In this sense, persona is like the method of novelists, while personal and organisational storytelling is in the tradition of memoirs and other lifewriting forms.
Nyström and Sjögren advocate that one of the advantages of applying and creating personas is that it enables the retention of details revealed from data collection in organizational memory. They argue that the method also simplifies the communicative task of getting employees to understand, identify with and care about the targeted group. In this sense the persona method helps to aggregate quantitative and qualitative data into a narrative or story format that makes for easier communication and presentation to employees and even funding partners.
The persona method according to Nyström and Sjögren is a tool to be applied for strategic development or scenario planning, for marketing and for the designing of web services. Nyström and Sjögren also discusses the history of the method, describing it as being developed in the mid-1990s by designers of computer based systems. The method has been applied for designing websites and Internet services to ensure that these are functional for certain target groups. (For those wanting more coverage on what the persona method is, please check http://usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/personas.html, or the last reading below).
Gabriel, Y. (1991). ON ORGANISATIONAL STORIES AND MYTHS: WHY IT IS EASIER TO SLAY A DRAGON THAN TO KILL A MYTH. International Sociology, 6(4), 427-442. doi:10.1177/026858091006004004
Nyström, V., & Sjögren, L. (2012). An evaluation of the benefits and value of libraries. Oxford, U.K.: Chandos Publishing.
U.S. Government: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (nd.). Develop Personas . [ONLINE] Available at: http://usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/personas.html. [Last Accessed July 10, 2012].