Johnny White, PhD
I use writing, media, and education to make people smarter, healthier, and freer
I write and teach on how we construct our reality—via stories, myth, education, news, apps, and humor. And I try to use all that stuff to help people.
How did I get here? Honestly? Ever see Good Will Hunting? Remember when Will got a better-than-Harvard education for the cost of a few library fines? Or Little Miss Sunshine? Remember when Dwayne realized suffering makes us who we are? Or Groundhog Day? Remember when Phil escaped tedium by making others happy? I love these moments—and thousands like them from books, speeches, and media—for the insights I get to test. Testing those insights is how I got here.
When I read that “attacking the only secret—” (Thackeray), I bicycled Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town. I wrote, shot, and produced a documentary, solo. It aired 50 times on NBC/Universal Sports. A story I made up created insights for others. It was like telepathy. I had to learn more.
In my MSc I identified psychological effects of inspirational stories. In my MA/PhD I interviewed Pulitzer winning novelists and explained how others can see the world like they do. When I earned my fifth degree they decided I was having more fun than I was supposed to and made me cut it out.
With student debt to pay, I founded, took public, and sold two communications start-ups. I rewired people’s realities through story for the Madoff victims, GREY Advertising, Robert McKee, Medtronic, Eli Lilly, and J&J.
But media is a double-edged sword. I want to teach others to use the good edge, so now I…
1) write, to help people choose media and tech that makes them smarter, happier, and more free;
2) “storify” teaching families with type 1 diabetes to improve their health;
3) teach grad students how to use information and entertainment to rewire reality; and
4) write papers on optimal media use and free will.
If I live long enough I’ll spend my days solving the world’s hardest story problems, my nights with an English prof (playing Scrabble, of course), and my weekends playing piano in an old man jazz band.