Storytelling and Mobile, A talk at InfoCamp Seattle, 2012

powers of ten ray charles eames
A still from Charles and Ray Eame’s Video The Powers of Ten

Session 7, NamHo Park @namho

Sunday at InfoCamp, Namho Park shared a beautiful presentation about communication technology. It’s a matter of scale.

Firstly My Story I journal, I have a history and by telling some of those details to others I share my personal stories. In the olden days, my story wouldn’t have been told. At most, an entry in a family book, born, maybe a marriage date and then the date of my death. If I was a pharoah, I’d have a scribe following me around, writing my story as I was living it.

Nowadays, information storage is plentiful and devices to record my life are numerous. Human brains create narrative. We love making and consuming stories. (StoryCorps, QuantifiedSelf)

Nicholas Felton and his personal infographic
Nicholas Felton

Nicholas Felton is an infographic designer who collected information about his life, about his father, to create annual reports. These collections weren’t just data. They were curated to form meaning. He was one of the founders of Daytum. You think to yourself, I’m not that crazy data collector that he is. Well, guess what. He helped design your new facebook that collects all of that personal data for you and rearranges it into Timeline.

Others’ stories How can we ingest them easier? Answer: friendly interface. Facebook among others is so captivating because of all the stories, all of the pictures. Flipboard, Daum, Scavenger reinforce our pursuit of the intersection between media and reality.

Collective Story We are the stories that we tell ourselves. Our identity is reinforced by these stories. What does a city tell themselves about themselves? History has been curated by historians, but now we record our information. What can the data we contribute do? Will our tweets and facebook statuses condense into the historical narrative? When you generalize, individuals’ stories are bent and blurred. Ushaidi, A tech company, collects users contributions, showing graphs of frequency of crisis reports telling a very specific story about what’s happening in a region. (Other story-telling websites: Cowbird, Momento, We Feel Fine

Information Overload Curation has value by definition. If we let the #trending messages tell us what’s important, we might miss the things that truly matter. Tweets Per Second is a way to measure how important something is to culture some might say. Beyonce’s baby hit the top of the list whilst Steve Jobs death is number nine on the list. (article)

What are valuable metrics that will help us sift through all of the stuff that is recorded? Jonathan Harris demonstrates a photo essay’s power when his camera is hooked up to his heartbeat and increases frequency of capture as his heart rate goes up in The Whale Hunt.

As a civilization, we spend a great deal of time collecting information about ourselves, our past, our identity. The power of the machine to collect this information for us frees us up to do other things instead of scrapbooking, journaling and indexing. There will be a backlash. As individuals, we want to find ways to capture our memories in a way that will resonate best with how we think, whether that’s audio recordings, blogs or even drawing and writing. Mobile will be there. Mobile is our new scribe that follows us everywhere. Our phones are changing the way we think. It tells us stories and tells our stories and it fits in a pocket.



  1. Glad this was a useful post, Clif. I love kepnieg my antennae up for memoir news. This new awareness is a little like I was pregnant and for the first time began noticing how many pregnant women and babies there are in the world! Memoir is all around us and sometimes the more boiled-down it is, the more profound.

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