Critical analysis of theories of stories

Methodology of stories and tales


As my research into the sustainability through rationing developed, recollections of innovative solutions took shape that while being shaped by the circumstances of sustainability; the methods were passed down through stories of my grandfather, mother and father. The stories acted as a engaging method for the lessons they learnt to be passed down and has inspired me to look into the story telling as a design method for passing on methods of sustainability.


– Humanizing design with narrative


Further research in stories as a design methodology lead me to a journal titled “ Humanizing the Design through Narrative Inquiry”, expressing how “practice disciplines” are embracing story telling as a powerful method for teaching “intangible, human issues” and in my opinion I believe it shares my interest in applying story telling to teach rationing sustainability to address a human issues.


– Homi Bhabha story reflects perspective of historical facts


In my research into story telling as a method of conveying the forms of sustainability developed through the people, I was lead to look into Homi Bhabha’s story “what does the black man want?”. Bahbha uses stories as a method to express the different treatment and experiences of the Black people as expressed through the differentiation “white skin, Black skin”. The stories reflect what psyche of the treatment that came as a result of colonialism and speaks to the “disturbing qualities of black skin, white skin” as it reflects a perspective “rarely historicizes the colonial experience”


Often in the telling of history there is no narrative that expresses how “realist perspectives” that reflect the “social and historical facts” from which problems emerge in “individuals” (or collective) “psyches”.


The way Bahba’s stories reflect the perspective of the people of different ethnic backgrounds based on historical events, gives a voice to how the people were affected. I believe this relates well with my project, as I look into historical events that developed a unique perspective of rationing for sustainability.


Bahba’s story lead me to look deeper into the psyche of Cape Town citizens to pass on the lessons of sustainability to others through story telling that come along side social things reflecting from that perspective of sustainability and allowing them to interact with the narrative.


– Dictionary of Narratology


Inspired by the effective means of communication story telling has in reflectivng the psyche of the people based on historicial events, I have delved deeper into the methodology by researching the terminology through the “dictionary of naratology” by Gerald Prince. Mr Prince writes of the terms and “wide currency of narratology”, which can be used to express different “theoretical and methodological preferences”.


As I looked through the various terminology I came across a term “actantial model” whcih relates to my goal to merge a story narrative with an object. Greimas states that the “narrative is a signifying whole because it can be grasped in such a structure”, relating to the narrative structure being part of the object.


The actantial model involves 6 actants, the subject (looking for the object), object (looked for by the subject), sender (of the subjects quest for the object), receiver (of the object to be secured by the subject), helper (of the subject) and the opponent (of the subject).


I find that this actantial model can be applied to express the perspective of rationg for sustainability told through the stories of the people of Cape town and engaged with through a social object.


The story being told of sustainability (subject), the object being sought or discovered (sustainable method social thing), the user being taught (receiver), as they are helped by the design (designer as helper) as they ration their lack of resources (opponent) in order to sustain themselves.


This story of a method of sustainability being sought by the user when their resources are low, they use the social object; they learn and experience another’s perspective gaining knowledge along the way to sustain themselves. .







Tale of Cliff Tam sustainability

Rationing data as a resource for sustainability based on Cliff Tam experience 

The return visit to Cape Town took me by surprise as I had recalled my times of resource ration, I had been faced by the new need to conserve and ration my data. Due to the limited amount of data available to the public and the high cost of data, it was treated as a resource to be conserved

Link to Tam site


  • Low Broadband – limited data amount and increased cost for data
  • Cliff Tim shared rationing of data – due to high cost to use YouTube
  • Software LimitNet – displayed and limited data use


The shared data rationing experience


The return visit to Cape Town took me by surprise as I had recalled my times of resource ration, I had been faced by the new need to conserve and ration my data. Due to the limited amount of data available to the public and the high cost of data, it was treated as a resource to be conserved. When I returned this project lead me to delve deeper and I came across a man named Cliff Tam that shared this experience in Uganda. He confirmed my suspicions that this issue was due to the low bandwidth and lack of Wi-Fi providers, which fitted my research into low bandwidth being a result of few Cell towers, resulting in a lack of data that can be provided over a large area and increasing the cost of data. Mr Tam also experience d a sudden drop in data allowance when using online applications such as YouTube. Further research revealed that the data cost for simple online interactions such as watching videos online, were quite high and not viable under these limited use of data. Mr Tam’s response to this was to look into software called Netlimiter that allowed him to monitor how much data he was using, in order to most efficiently use the data resource.


Product influenced by rating and frugal design – Netlimiter 


Tale of environmental sustainabilty

The Potatoes farm

Food rationing by means of a Potatoes Farm

The story of the potato farm started a few months ago when my mother came across the Facebook post that told the tale of how to grow her own food.


Facebook post

(access the collective knowledge of a growing community)


Potatoes planted


Method 1 

Planted in Flowerpot

(See image flowerpot)



Watering potatoes

(See image Tap water)


Method 2

Planted in the Outside field

(See image crop field)



Quality Check

Potatoes grown

(See image potatoes)


Benjamin Smidt:


“The potatoes lack nutrients from the growth process”

Grannies tale of growing plants (Click audio)





“People didn’t watch for calories they just eat what they grew, it was back when I lived on the farm where we grew the food from scratch that was before they put all this crap and chemicals in the food”


Farming tips


“Naturally grown fruit have more flavour”

“The fruit hear receive more water from the rain than in south africa”

“Rain water dilutes the taste of the fruit and so you need to keep the fruit sheltered from the water and control how much water they receive”


Local neighbours cooperation




“Naturally grown fruit can be used for a lot of home made recipes that gives flavour that you wont get from the food in shops like Tesco”

“I grow my own fruit and I use it to make my own sauce for my home made meals”



Improved method of food sustainability influenced by Tales from Cape Town


Benjamin Smidt examined the potatoes and found that it lacked nutrients and in his professional opinion is that to avoid this issues nutrients needs to be given throughout the growth process.


We later heard from the stories of my Grandmother that food given nutrients fills the fruit with too much unhealthy chemicals that dilute the taste.


She confirmed from her past experience with life on the farms that the amount of water was a key part of the growth of fruit.


She spoke of “water dilutes the taste” just as Bennie had said in the quality check, however rather than adding nutrients “you need to keep the potatoes sheltered from the rain” so that that the water process can be controlled to prevent the flavour from diluting.


While my grandmother had experience in growing in Cape Town, the climate was different in the UK and I was reminded of the cooperative liberal approach that UK citizens took in the past World War 2 as neighbours cooperated in what would be called “dig for victory. Recalling that my neighbour is an expert in farming I sought to


Tim confirmed the more natural method of farming without chemicals provided “naturally grown fruit have more flavour” and that a plastic cover needs to be used to keep out the moisture. Tim commented that he himself uses this method to make his own sauces for homemade meals rather than purchase from Tesco.


Demonstrating a self-reliant method of sustaining the users need for food by growing and rationing self-grown crops that have a positive effect on the environment.


Application of knowledge to sustain environment


Stories from grandmothers past influenced with mothers experience from posts on face book accessed using data later leads to cooperation of neighbor that further leads to an improved collective knowledge of food rationing in uk that meets the needs for food with the positive growth of vegetation that sustains the environment


Tale of sustainability

Follow the sustainable journey about rationing, where through stories past online a woman learns of a method to grow potatoes by simple taking one of the left over potatoes bought from a shop and placing it in fertile soil


Lacking knowledge of farming she learns from the tale that flowerpots can be used and moves forward to try the method.


A few days later she finds that the pot has roots growing and that more potatoes have grown from the single potatoes she first planted


Curious to what effect home grown food can have over meals she gets the advice of the neighbor who shares his knowledge on planting as he has his own crop regularly tended to. The neighbor shares his stories of how to make a small crop in the yard and the meals and home grown sauces that can be made without the high costs seen in shops with more authentic taste


And so a story that began with a story l ad to a method that through cooperation with neighbors allowed for a more engaging and easy method of producing their own food, similar to the liberal approach to rationing taken during the war where net bouts helped each other to grow food in their gardens





Tale of food sustainability

The tale passed on from my Grandfather

The Circumstances of sustainability

  • Apartheid – trade sanctions
  • Trade cuts and Boycotting
  • Disinvestment from South Africa
  • Lack of food from imports
  • Society ration food

Tale: Easy effective method to for public to grow natural food.

Tale of Food sustainability

During these times my Oupa Kopie (grandfather) devised a creative method of growing plants and fruit that would allow the society to grow what they needed with little farming knowledge. The method was simple and involved a biodegradable container that held fertile soil and seeds (saplings), with holes for water and roots. The container would be placed in the soil, given the instructed amount of water and the holes would prevent too much water from being given. Over time the plant would grow and the lid would open to show the plant while the roots would dig through the holes at the bottom. This would continue until the plant was grown and the container degraded, leaving a grown plant capable of producing a variety of fruit. While this type of farming may be found in shops today, back then it was a product that was not available and it was born out of the need to sustain oneself with personally grown fruit.

Object of narrative using frugal innovation 




Tale of social sustainability

The SA Tale that saved the life through a method of rationing that lead to social sustainability


Circumstances that influenced tale

Power outage


Threat to sustainability


As a result of the power outage the heating system that helps the snakes regulate body temperature shut down putting the snakes health at risk and as a result the sustainability of the owner’s social interaction with their pet snake has been put in risk.


Opinion of owner as expert in animal management


“ Venus’s (snake) body is too small and frail to regulate her body heat in the cold weather, we need to find something to keep her warm so that she can regulate her heat.


The owner of the pet snake realised that the heating system had ben shut down and proposed that an alternative form of heating needs to be used.


Owner experience in Animal management and method of sustaining animal 

The owner proposed using a pillowcase to prevent the snake from moving away.


Problem in method

We do not have energy and cannot heat water for the snake to regulate heat.


Grand mothers experience in power cuts and method of sustainability


What would you do to heat water when there were power outages in South Africa?

“We would use gas to heat the water when the power outages happened”


So you would use this method to make your coffee?

“Yeah, we would use gas bottles to heat the water”


Footage of CIRCUMSTANCES behind tale of sustainability

Here is footage of the events that tell the tale of a snakes life put at risk by the lack of resources for sustainability

(See video 00:10 – 00:20)

Merging methods

  • Heating water

(See video 00:02 – 00:08)

  • Hot water bottle

(See video 00:17 – 00:20)

  • Placing hot water in hot water bottle

(See video 00:38 – 01:07)

  • Placing snake in pillowcase

(See video 03:26 – 04:44)

  • Placing snake on hot water bottle

(See video 04:47 – 05:54)



(click images to see enlraged story)


img_0507 img_0506

Solution between animal management and SA method of rationing for social sustainability 

A solution where collective knowledge between that of snake animal management and stories of rationing, cooperated to save the life of a pet snake and in doing so sustained the social bond of the human and the pet.

Tale of economical sustainability

What to do when the energy bill comes

Tales influence on UK lifestyle Case Studies – The Tale of efficient energy use in the UK

Circumstances that influenced the tale

Energy bill: An energy bill was received that demonstrated that we as a household had collectively gone over our budget for energy for the month by £300.

Threat to sustainability

Economical sustainability of the user is put in risk due to difficulties in meeting costs for resources.


The Tale that influenced the survey

Upon going for a haircut I raised my theory of cooperation through stories that passes on methods of sustainability through rationing.


I spoke of the case studies relating to the stories passed on across the generations (see Fathers electricity rationing story) it was then that the hair dresser gave me her opinion.


Local hairdresser:

“I completely agree, I have an uncle that uses an app linked to the power grid that he uses to check what uses the most and by being conscious of that he switches off plugs and avoids using the dryer”

Local appliances survey

Upon hearing this tale I was inspired to conduct my own survey on the matter within my household and in doing so check the various appliances in the household that are the cause for high energy cost due to a lack of knowledge on what is consuming a lot of energy.


Plug Sockets:

consume constant energy



lights dependant on light bulb


Boiling kettle:

high-energy cost to heat water



highest energy cost in household to heat wet clothing to evaporate water


Application of knowledge – influence of SA tale to find solution 

By making the users conscious of what they are using they of their own free will take actions that save and conserve their available resources, knowing that the cost is higher than the current needs. The experience of losing power leads us as users to adapt to find alternative methods for sustaining our needs. 

Alternative heat resource for sustainability

Identifying other source of heat

(See video 00:00 – 01:20)

Alternative use for source of heat

(See video 01:21 – 02:06)

How not to use alternative source

(See video 02:08 – 02:18)

Personal experience on what to use with alternative heat source

(See video 02:25 – 02:50)


Economic sustainability


Through the influence of the SA tales where sustainability is achieved by making best use of the resources you have available, a solution was found by using an alternative source of heat to dry clothing and by doing so the additional costs associated with heating and drying clothes through a dryer was avoided to provide the user with a method for economical sustainability that is most effective in circumstances where the user has gone over the budget on their energy bill.


What is the best saving energy method?


The case study that tells the tale of rationing resource by more efficiently using resources available by finding additional tasks that a resource can do with the same energy consumption, brings me to question what is the best method to save energy. Often we consider that a appliance that saves energy is the most efficient but what of multitasking with the same resource cost. To understand the difference I am conducting a survey that follows up a comparison between appliances that save energy and alternative functions that could be conducted with existing appliances.


Energy saved at being more proficient in use


– Light bulbs

– Led

– Cost is height than lower quality lights


Energy saved by finding an alternative method of completing a task without high-energy use


– Dryer is high use

– New models use less

– Using the boiler heat has no additional energy cost

– Energy efficient kettles use less energy

– As proposed from granny gas can be used to heat water instead and left over waters can serve additional function for food


Which is more effective reducing energy used or multi purpose functions that do 2 tasks for the energy cost of 1


Applying alternative forms of generating energy


– Solar power generated as other task is being conducted

– Wind energy for when clouds are out

– Energy generated from heat can be gained by boiler


Application of knowledge to sustainability


– Apply objects of inspiring cooperation through rationing as a methodology that leads to improved collective intelligence and sustainability

– Energy can be produced and shared between community as a result of actions in pursuing sustainability by rationing that meets the needs of the individual

– Interactive methods can be presented as a collection that makes a community driven smart house.



Tale of electricity sustainability

A Tales passed on from Father to Son

Father’s tale of electricity rationing


  • Eskom PowerStation crisis – no energy provider
  • 2003 Timeline – deny need for more power
  • 2005 – Power crises leads to power cuts
  • 2006 – Load shedding begins
  • 2008 – SA relies of sustainable sources of energy for power

Tale: Reduce the use of electricity as part of load shedding, alternative energy for using high electricity consumption appliances such as kettle, by using fire to heat water.

Tale of electricity sustainability

This may surprise you but the appliances often using the most electricity is your Kettle, due to the energy needed to warm a liquid from cold to warm. Due to the energy supply of the UK this may seem insignificant, however in places that lack power supply a simple boiling of the kettle is enough to knock out power for your home and neighbours. Leading to a sense of shame in the community where their actions result in a loss of power for other members of the community. In order to sustain themselves they find creative ways of warming water through heat from flames.


Object of narrative


Son’ s tale of sustainability through rationing


  • Taught to of trade cuts – learnt to grow food
  • Experienced the drought – ration water
  • Experienced the energy crises – ration electricity
  • Experiences sustainability from solar power – use alternative from of power
  • Understanding sustainability through effective and alternative use of resources to sustain society.


Tale: Using a ordinary pipes and conductive sheets to construct solar panel, filled with water collected by rain, which uses sola power to heat water during load shedding.

Son’s tale of electricity sustainability

I looked into the way solar power heated the panels and began prototyping a solar panel that could be used to heat water directly. The prototype through trial and error was successful by using a series of tubes hidden underneath a panel; pipes were filled with water and would be heated by the heat conductive sheet covering the panel. This may not seem viable for those who want hot water and don’t want to wait, but this is water that is constantly being heated by the sun. The panel can be expanded to provide more water for bathing and other necessities. Demonstrating how I once used the tales of sustainability to find a solution in a time of national crisis, and I would like to expand on that experiences through a thesis that tells a tale of sustainability as we go through the basic needs of water, food electricity and yes data.

Object of narative and frugal innovation


Tale of water sustainability

Tale Passed on by my mother


  • Drought – Dam levels low
  • Public asked to preserve sustainability of resource through rationing
  • Society ration use of water

Tale: Use Bricks to limit water used in toilets.

Tale of water sustainability

In order to give context to the tales of sustainability I tell the tale of a story where water was saved in a country consumed with constant drought in the most unexpected way. Most would not think of it but the toilets that we have in our homes make use of a lot of water with each flush and when considering the basic need to use the toilet in a day, frequent uses can lead to lack of water in a time of need. The solution of the community was to place bricks inside the toilet, which would take up a large space of where the water would have been and causing less water to be flushed with each use. This creative method allowed the people to control the amount of water used.


Object of narrative 


(See Actancial model theory)

Tale influenced product of frugal innovation

These object share the influences of frugal innovation in their green impact on nature and the easy to understand functions that meets human needs.

Smart faucet


Research brought me to the Smart Faucet an object that gives users control of their resource just as the creative use of the toilet used a brick. A water faucet designed to demonstrate to the user the precise level of water they have available, along with the ability to provide manual control over the amount of what they would like to use.

Toilet rations water

img_0504 img_0505

The toilet has been influences by similar circumstances where the toilets use too much water that effects the sustainability of the household. As a result frugal innovation in the form of “green” and “easy to use” by adding to buttons that decide how much water is used.