If you know me you know that I am somewhat obsessed with storytelling. I have been since a class I think about 6th grade. This is where it began: in a summer class I had on storytelling. The teacher enforced that our stories had to be spontaneous. Never written, camp fire style, on the spot, out loud to a group of 20 other people. I remember the class was full of kids that were older than me at the time, probably by only a couple of years, but in my world then that meant a lot. Most of us were visually terrified until our mouths’ opened. And out it came. Like Ray Bradbury said once: “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” Needless to say, it was beautiful stuff coming out. We would tell our stories in unrehearsed and make-believe bits. Beginnings, middles, and endings wavering off of lips like leaves in the fall.
Since then I have been consumed by the act of telling a story. The immediacy of our experiences, but yet the speraticness of our memories and our abilities to conjure them (though it may be inaccurate).
Recently I’ve been thinking about communities and storytelling specifically. There has been a lot of focusing in my graduate program on the aspects of knowing an audience or a even further investigation: the user. Talking about intercepting and perceiving their agencies in ways that are complex, conceptual, and sometimes abrupt. Techniques that are attentive and cognitive, basically trying to comprehend the fabric that makes us conscious (like all artist, I guess). But, what becomes apparent hastily is that there is an immediacy to our surroundings but our behaviors pivot less and are habitual. When looking into a singular moment we see stories of actions and rewards, both short and fleeting, yes, but eventually they morph into these ephemeral feel good impressions. Take for example the idea of love at first sight; one that is truly fantastical but yet primitively rewarding.
I propose that the narratives we draw in our memories are of value to our geography and to future generations that will share this geography. We are water barriers of localized knowledge in the age of information. Maps will allow us to contextualize our knowledge in a way that are not apparent now. Well, I take that back, it may be apparent it’s just not being used now. Businesses would foam at the mouth for this kind of information, and in a way, isn’t this what companies like Facebook are selling? Our stories go way deeper then “What we did today”. They tell of our sorrows and our dreams, they can stretch from the lowest lows to the highest highs. They tell our future and our history and all the wonderful characters and magical locations along the way. Potentially we will tell them block by block, commute to commute. I heard a Chinese bloggers’ Ted talk once where he said there were more people micro-blogging in China on a daily basis then there were citizens of the entire United States. We are ready to share our stories. The internet is full of space to share our stories and is quickly filling out with methods make that easier. Isn’t it time to map them?
So what is next, how do we get people to attach their stories to locations? How do we get people to then search out these locations? Is it too much to ask of the user? Are we still in the infancy with the immediate ‘status update’. Updates that tell snip-its of stories, little more than enough to spark interest? Isn’t it true that our technology and the communication withins has made us bleeding hearts for interest? – yet we only let people nibble. And we nibble back. Nibble Nibble. Think of Hash-tags, a tool allowing people outside of your communication circles to receive your information. It’s new but people love the reward. Though I would be willing to argue it is only the most extroverted of us putting it to use. As of now this construct is still only falling into the realm of micro-blogging, but it could be so much more. It could be maps! Dog walks with stories in your local park, of your local park, by people sitting next to you on that bench in your Local Park! It could be us. It will be us. The question is who will make it, why will it succeed and when will people be ready to go along?