Wiki-History is an interface that allows the entire edit history of a Wikipedia article to be viewed on a single page. This is a prototype. In the future, I hope to improve the interface and make it flexible enough to be easily applied to any Wikipedia article.
For the Collective Storytelling assignment, ‘Participation, Transactions and Narrative Spaces’, Elena and I concentrated on face-to-face story exchange. Whether through literature (Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey) or legend, we both image that in times past, people regularly shared stories with strangers while sitting around fire, inn tables, and at local watering holes.
To recreate that situation, we visited McSorley’s, one of the oldest bars in Manhattan, and one of the few that seat you around a crowded communal table, encouraging conversation with strangers. Our goal was to record the course of a conversation over multiple beers, capturing its changing content and tone.
Soon after we entered the bar, we were approached by four 20-something men, anxious to be recorded for our project. We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking and chatting about their jobs, travel, pyromania, and as they consumed more alcohol, their sexual exploits.
The result is Beer Stories, a site which plots our conversation on a beers vs. time chart.
To use this site: click a data point to hear a story. The audio is best experienced with headphones.
Last Wednesday, ITP’s Collective Storytelling class toured the New York City Tenement Museum. The building itself was beautifully preserved and restored. Frankly, it looked like a great place to live (although not with my entire extended family.)
The Tenement Museum tries hard to anchor the building’s history in the stories of the families that lived there. But, I found I was I was preoccupied by how generic the “specific family’s” story seemed.
About each family, we saw pictures and heard a few anecdotes. But, the information provided actually seemed to be about “Russian Jewish garment workers living in the LES during the turn of the century,” then the Rosenthals of 183 Orchard.
I realize that creating accurate, specific historical narratives is incredibly difficult and I’m sure the Tenement Museum is eager to remedy the vagueness I’m referencing. But, I couldn’t help imagining how my family would fare as fodder for historical recreation.
Our story would be:
The Tibbetts’ Story: “White Collar Scandinavians living in Detroit during 1980s auto-boom.” Would the old-fashioned home I remember be filled with white-laminate furniture, since our family represented life in the 80s? Would they have filled my childhood bedroom with Barbies and Cabbage Patch Dolls instead of the plastic horses I loved?
What made my family interesting (just like what made the Rosenthals interesting) is the choices we made which distinguish us from our surroundings. So, why pretend you’re representing the complicated hopes and dreams of a specific family, when the story you’re telling is really about showing a “way of life”?
As I put this together, I was amazed how naturally I conformed to so many This American Life style conventions. It’s the radio I know, and clearly, it’s the radio I emulate.
Nevertheless, my audio story: Home Intruder
I took one photograph per hour on Monday, February 6th. In doing so, I have created the world’s most boring comic. But please, join me on this day of walking, studying, and eating.
There was a time when I took a lot of photographs, I forgot how nice it was to always have a camera with you (I realize a cellphone is now also a camera, but that’s different.) I found tying the photos together in a narrative difficult. On one hand, I wish I had taken photos that weren’t so vague (here I am at my computer, here I am with an unnamed book). However, it was the lack of specificity in the pictures that allowed me to create a narrative.
For class, I chose to write according to the 25-word, hint fiction format.
Generous, though he may be, his increasing megalomania eventually forced us to shoot his sleigh out of the sky.
Years ago, I first read the myth (?) about Hemingway’s 6- word story. It’s a great story and it’s nice to be reminded that narratives can be built out of very little. But, I chose not to write a 6-word story because minimalistic composition is immensely difficult. Instead, the 25 word story affords more room for error (which is why I predict most people will have selected to write 25-55 word stories and avoided the painful task of writing an autobiography of any length) .
The compositions in “Hint Fiction” remind me of the book “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.” They feel less like full stories and more like “story starters,” straight from a book of writing exercises. I wrote my story by typing all the weird story scenarios that popped into my head for 15 minutes. The next day, I revisited the list and started refining this, my second to last option, which suggested an annoyed person killing Santa Clause. After a little refining, I added a title, which added necessary context to the short story.
I enjoyed writing something so short. In most stories you have to catch a reader’s interest quickly, but in this format, catching the readers interest is all you have to do. You can go all-in with no thought of what happens next.