To write bios like we had a solid plan from the start is always misleading, or worse, it implies that we learned nothing along the way. Therefore I don't mind telling you that I've spent as much of my young life as possible reading in the bathtub. It seems to be the one place where I can rewire reality in peace, via stories and far-out thoughts.
When not in the bathtub I try out these stories and far-out thoughts. During grad school I bicycled from the top to the bottom of Africa. It wasn't a great idea but I got off easy, only breaking one bone and only riding naked through one country. My love of stories led me to write, shoot, and edit a documentary en route that has now aired over 50 times on NBC/Universal Sports.
Then, after some serious thinking (and splashing), I decided I wanted to be a professional young man. I founded, took public, and sold two communications start-ups. While learning to rewire the realities of others, I did story work with the Madoff Investor’s Action Coalition (the victims), GREY Advertising, Robert McKee, Medtronic, Lilly, and J&J. But more wrinkled reflection taught me that I get happier by helping, so I started a small company that uses stories and education to manipulate people with type 1 diabetes—a condition I've had for two decades—into improving their health.
My fascination with stories and realities led me to study psychology. I quantitatively tested undergraduates’ mental states before and after movies and novellas, and identified the psychological components and effects of inspirational stories. I then qualitatively interviewed acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning novelists and explained their narrative intelligence and how others can learn to see the world like they do. After I earned my fifth degree they decided I was probably having more fun than I was supposed to, so they made me cut it out and start teaching.
Now I teach story, story structure, and how it rewires reality, to graduate students. I also write a good deal about how media rewires our realities and how we can choose our media - and our realities - wisely.
If I find a magic lamp - or just live long enough - I’ll spend my days working on the world’s hardest story problems, my nights with an English professor (playing scrabble of course), and my weekends playing the piano in an old man jazz band.
Should we meet, you'll be pleased to discover that 1) I'm squeaky clean; and 2) in person, I don’t talk nearly so much about myself.
Industry Expertise (10)
Areas of Expertise (8)
Fielding Graduate University: PhD, Media Psychology 2011
Fielding Graduate University: MA, Media Psychology 2008
Saint Mary's University: MSc, Industrial/Organizational Psychology 2006
Richard Ivey School of Business: HBA, Business Administration 2003
University of Western Ontario: BA, Psychology 2003
Media Appearances (1)
Psychologically, we are our stories
TEDx Talk (International Editor's Pick) online
Jonny White proposes that two of the most powerful forces shaping our lives are (1) the way we tell our own story and (2) the stories we experience through media (including the Web, TV, ads, books, film, and mobile devices). As a media psychologist and lecturer, he lives and teaches his philosophy about shaping and choosing our stories wisely, while writing and producing media designed to have positive psychological effects. At 30, he has created an award-winning web-documentary, earned two undergraduate and three graduate degrees, started and sold a web-based company, kitesurfed on three continents, and bicycled from the top to the bottom of Africa. Strictly due to his ongoing research on how our stories create our reality, Dr. White may tend to seem a little uncertain about whether he is awake, dreaming, or just making it all up.
This research-based dissertation asked whether expert storytellers, represented by acclaimed fiction writers, have an advantage in 'creating themselves'. That is, if we accept that we create ourselves in part through our stories, and we accept that acclaimed fiction writers are among the world’s foremost storytellers, does this give them an advantage in the way they create themselves? Is there some pattern in the way they see themselves or tell their own story that leads to their success? Are there hints in their self-stories about their creativity?
The answers are ‘yes’.
The back-story? Psychological research on creativity in writers and how we create ourselves through stories.
The action? Narrative inquiry into the brilliant minds of Stuart Archer Cohen, Robert J. Sawyer, Eric Kraft, Jennifer Egan, and Nino Ricci.
The outcome? A new theory of storytelling creativity.
(December, 2014) This third volume of Fielding Graduate University's Monograph series includes six articles that seek to broaden the boundaries of Media Psychology, a field that Fielding introduced as a doctoral discipline in 2003. One reason is that the frontiers of Media Psychology will continue to move as long as the intersection of media and human behavior continues to shift as well, powered by astounding technological innovation that actively stimulates new areas of human endeavor. One goal of this monograph, then, is to illustrate the range of topics that the media psychology discipline can encompass, as illustrated by the recent dissertation research of six media psychology alumni from Fielding Graduate University. Jonny White’s phenomenological inquiry addresses the realm of storytelling. Narrative psychology holds that the way we tell our self-story influences our life. It follows that a professional author’s incarnation of his self-story is perhaps an important root of that author’s creativity. Based on five in-depth interviews with accomplished authors of fiction, augmented by additional case study material, Dr. White concluded that authors benefit from stepping outside of their societal narrative conventions in order to develop new perspectives for storytelling.
Faced with an infinite buffet of entertainment and information that is designed to be irresistible, how do you keep your brain healthy?
Information and entertainment was scarce throughout most of human evolution, just like food. We therefore have an evolved desire to take in as much as possible. The problem is that in the digital age we have an unlimited buffet of information and entertainment, and the unhealthy stuff is the most tempting. As a result most of our brains are just as fat and unhealthy as our bodies would be if we ate nonstop and indiscriminately. The solution – for those who want healthier (smarter) brains – is to learn the nutritional content of the information and entertainment they take in, as well as strategies for making better choices.