In a society where the ideal is inclusion and access to all, it is not exactly a surprise that several projects have emerged to embrace this need for connection. One such project is StoryCorps, an initiative that seeks input from average citizens (you, me, the guy who sells your morning coffee from a cart on 14th Street) and recognizes that all of us have some extraordinary (or extraordinarily ordinary) narratives.
StoryCorps brings people into one of its recording studios to make an oral record of the participants’ memoirs. The project seems to be geared towards a younger generation interviewing their elders and the recording studios are presented to users in the form of both “mobile studios” in hip, retro AirStream Rvs, and in stationary booths like one set up at Grand Central Station. Though the internet and its blogging, live-journaling paradigms provide a sense (or an illusion, depending on who you talk to) of connectedness, the key to StoryCorps is the direct interaction between two human beings, the exchange of spoken words, without the impersonal mediation of a screen and a keyboard.
What do projects like this indicate? The obvious answer is that we are yearning to reconnect in an increasingly disconnected world. The question remains though, will the self-involved, mobile phone attached New Yorker remove their white headphones long enough to take in someone else’s story? It is likely that projects like these will serve to reveal how diminished and weak our sense of community has become. Perhaps in a couple of decades, when we remember what was missing (if we do, and I hope we do) we’ll at least have a record of all the voices we didn’t quite hear while we were downloading the latest stock quotes on our phones.