Tell me a story Siri

Santa Cruz Boardwalk Copyright 2012 Robin L. Chandler

Nearly every morning I meet my good friend at Java Junction and we bike to work at UC Santa Cruz along the boardwalk and finally up the hill and through the great meadow and the redwood trees. It’s a special way to spend the early morning: connecting with a great friend while cycling in such a beautiful place.  The eight miles pass quickly always made fun by the stories we tell each other.  My friend says “its all about the conversation,” and she is so right; life is all about sharing our stories.

In this age –  our moment in time – it’s all about sharing our stories of the past, present and future and staying connected.  Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, WordPress, Yelp and YouTube make this possible. Its also about having the tools to make sense of all this information – to gather, organize, comment, enhance and recommend this information using tools like Digg, Reddit, RSS feeds, Storify, Tumblr, TweetDeck and Unilyzer to name but a few.  My life in archives and libraries is all about collecting, preserving and making accessible our culture’s stories – and it is a broad range of stories – published and unpublished, formal and casual, analytical and subjective.

At the recent WebWise 2012 conference we learned about many exciting projects funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help individuals and groups create, share and preserve “stories” and build tools to make sense of and use this information. Simply put its about making it easier to make connections.  Dave Isay founder of StoryCorps spoke passionately about his belief in the power of the microphone.  A simple, straightforward format places two people in front of a microphone for forty minutes and their stories are recorded.  While it does not take the place of formal oral history, StoryCorps capture an important snapshot of people’s lives in space and time.  In over eight years, StoryCorps has captured over 40,000 interviews with over 70,000 people that are now archived in the Library of Congress.   David Klevan of the US Holocaust Museum described the sobering but important work of the Remember Me? Project which uses Facebook and Twitter to release photographs of children (now adults) orphaned by the Holocaust and World War II with the goal of reuniting them with surviving family members worldwide.  Eileen McAdam of the Hudson Valley Sound and Story Project described her project’s work to share sections of formal oral histories using new technologies synchronizing oral history snippets with GPS enabled mobile apps.  Doug Boyd of the University of Kentucky Digital Library Project to create the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer to dynamically index audio and video digital files creating access points to collections of oral histories.

Today’s technology is increasingly about sharing and staying connected.  We have a world of knowledge at our fingertips and a world populated with individuals we can tap into <and they to us> in an instant 24/7.  As in past revolutions, our emerging technologies provide new opportunities to share and learn about each other.  Creating new opportunities to build tolerance and patience, and perhaps empathy for one another. To make a connection.  It is a promising story with promise to fulfill.