Saving The Internet Through Storytelling

Today's guest post is by John S. Johnson.  The Harmony Institute, a research group that John runs, is offering a free new guide to help combat the Telecom's tales in their efforts to end net neutrality.  Here he explains a bit of the why and wherefore you need to download it (for free!) and read it NOW. In 2010 it’s easy to forget how profoundly the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, interact and access information. When you logged on this morning to check your email, bank statement, or local news you may not have noticed that there are very few limits placed on the sites and services you have access to. While some people must crash the couch of their best friend to catch the latest HBO release, since he’s subscribed to all premium cable channels while they’re still stuck with rabbit ears on their TV, no one has an edge over anyone else when it comes to what we can access on the Internet.

Yet this principle of net neutrality that allows all sites, services and applications on the Internet to have equal access to consumers, and vice versa, is being fundamentally threatened. Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to revise rules that have kept Internet Service Providers (ISPs) at bay for decades. These companies, like AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, would love to become the gatekeepers of the Internet, reserving preferential bandwidth for those sites and services that make them the most money.

And I can guarantee you HopeForFilm is not one of those sites. While offering thoughtful critique of the film industry, HopeForFilm, like most online communities that have sprung forth from inspiring ideas that can only be fostered online, will perish if service fees force all but the super-rich from accessing and producing online content.

While there’s a broad coalition of supporters that lobby for responsible telecommunications reform ensuring net neutrality, the issue has been bogged down for years in technical and policy jargon. The conversation has stayed behind closed doors, not because it won't have a drastic and potentially life-altering effect on Americans, but because those leading the fight for net neutrality have predominately favored petitioning Washington over telling the compelling story of how the loss of an open Internet will affect our daily lives.

Recently my research group, the Harmony Institute, published a communications guide that hopes to bring much needed attention to this pressing issue.  FTW! Net Neutrality For The Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet was written to inform people working in a diverse range of fields, including media and entertainment, on the looming threat posed to the open Internet. The guide is part of our mission to harness the power of entertainment and mass media to tell stories about key social issues, such as the fight for net neutrality, that will resonate with a broad audience and promote action.

The guide explains how we can use the untapped potential of narrative to increase support for net neutrality.  Telling stories about how vital the open Internet is to our livelihoods is the key to getting people to take notice and take action. Using recent polling results and behavioral science theory, the guide offers seven communication recommendations that can be applied to new media projects, as well as existing media campaigns.

I truly believe that today is the day for you to invest in igniting a broader, more passionate conversation about net neutrality. It may be easy to allow this concern to take a back seat when an unstable economy, violent conflict abroad, and an environmental catastrophe dominate our headlines. But you realize that the open Internet, safeguarded by net neutrality, influences how we understand and interact with almost everything else we care about, it's clear that maintaining our rights in this respect is not only a personal, but also a national priority.

So, how do you get started? I encourage you to download Net Neutrality For The Win today, and become part of the rapidly growing community of Americans who care deeply about preserving the open Internet for all.  Its free and it will help you be more persuasive with your friends and readers, online and offline around this issue that is going to affect each of us. Get your free manual here: [link:]

The New York Times profiled John and The Harmony Institute earlier this week.

John S. Johnson is the Director of the Harmony Institute, a research group that studies the application of behavioral science to communication in media. He consults with media creatives, socially conscious film funds, and production companies to help their work achieve concrete, positive change in specific target constituencies. Johnson is also the co-founder of, a trend detector and platform for transmitting contagious media. In 1997, he founded EYEBEAM, a MacArthur and NEA funded non-profit art and technology laboratory in New York City. John is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and editor of a book in production titled "The Atlas of Art and Capital: Business Models of Art Production for Artists from 340BC to the Present".