Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The gegoraphy of our stories, and David Lynch

This series of short interviews was commissioned by David Lynch. He sent a team across America, on a 20,000 km road trip. The team interviews everyday people, hundreds of them, about their hopes and dreams, what scares and inspires them. It's worth a look, and you'll find some of the stories gripping.

I tried to identify, as I watched, why that was. Was it simply that some problems are universal? Probably. Each of our stories is far less unique than we'd like to think, and yet we are so individual and fascinatingly different that it defies belief. The answers to questions from the interviewers are honest and revealing, and the stories released thus far resonate long after watching.

The focus on geography also caught my interest. The interactive map that shows the path that the Lynch team is taking, the links and pictures on the route you can select to discover more. So many of our stories explore location in a very real sense now. So many applications are available now that map the geography of our lives. Whether it's using Google Maps to place a national news item in an online newspaper, or an iPhone location reference displayed to tell anyone that will listen where we are, as we tweet what we're doing.

Hearing voices and reading stories from a 'real' location helps the stories feel real, and we want real, we want startling honest evidence that these stories are true. 'In the olden days' as daughter calls my past, when we wrote letters instead of emails, location was the sending address on the envelope, the origin of the postage stamp and the postal stamp.

Many of our stories online are however, not marked, and drift in the ether. Spam messages with no evident origin or owner, stories that could have been posted from home, or on a trip interstate in the car. Perhaps the increasing focus on the geography of our stories is because we fear this feeling of our stories being adrift.

When we see where the story has been made, it feels like a tangible thing, not something we've read online. When we see where something happened, we can imagine the terrain of the event, map out how we might have experienced it. When we know where it was, it feels a little closer, we feel a little closer, to the people involved, to those telling the story. In the end, being a little closer is what so many of our stories online are all about.

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