Aaron Uhrmacher

Telestory is a secure web and phone based interface for recording stories to share with future generations of your family.

Mark Twain demanded that 100 years pass before the publication of his memoirs so that everyone referenced therein was no longer living. What stories do you want to pass on and how long would you wait to reveal them? Telestory auto-generates calls at a determined frequency (once a month, twice a year) and prompts the user to record a story. With the secure web interface, the user determines how much time must pass before the story becomes public. While we can’t (yet) live forever, our voices can.

My interest in what happens to all of the ephemera we create online during our lifetime has led me down similar paths at ITP. In the Spring of my first year I created a project called Gotham Guide.

Visitors to Gotham Guide are greeted with a map of Manhattan. Together with the tour guides from Real New York Tours, I created a series of videos at some of the most interesting locations around the city and then posted quick-response (QR) codes in the vicinity of where the recordings were made. Anyone with a QR scanning application on his or her mobile phone could scan the QR code and watch the video explaining the historical significance of the space in which he or she stood. I later turned this in to an Augmented Reality app.

During the fall of my second year, I became frustrated with the difficulty in retrieving and capturing all the data from the various social media communities in which I participate. The project I built in response, titled "All My Life" repurposed lifestreaming software to create an archive of all my online activity going back several years. Instead of visualizing the data in linear time, I extracted a random sample of updates in Processing and placed each one in a bubble that would only reveal the contents when touched on the screen. In this way, I wanted to explore a new way for interacting with all of the content we create independent of time, and in some way try and simulate the feeling of nostalgia one gets from looking through an old high school yearbook.

Telestory will probably appeal most to people with children. My testing revealed that users with kids were more compelled to tell stories and to feel frustrated if they missed a call. However, I believe Telestory is for anyone that wants to document their lives in their own voice for future generations of their families.

User Scenario

  • A user signs up for an account by creating a user name and password as well as submitting her name, birthday and phone number.

  • The user then selects which categories of questions she would like to answer from the following: Romance, Technology, Money, Family History, Education, Childhood, Food, Decisions

  • The user provides a phone number and indicates how often she wants to be called. This frequency could be as often as once per month or as infrequent as twice per year.

  • During each automatically generated call, the user will be asked one question from a list of over 100 and prompted to share a story. The story will be recorded and added to the database for that user.

  • The system then calculates the user’s birthday and sets all stories private until the user is 85 years old.

  • On the backend, users can log in and curate their content, change their call times and the time at which the stories will become public.

  • Users also have the option of sending an email to their friends and family inviting them to call in and submit questions that will help prompt the user to tell a story that is meaningful for the family.

Telestory is built using a combination of PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS and Asterisk.