Friday, December 07, 2007
Our lives are a fabric of overlapping stories: stories that are entirely unique, stories that are richly specific, stories that define who we are, where we have come from, what we believe in. And while each story is ultimately personal, we find across them the common themes of love and loss, adversity and triumph. Listening to others’ stories, we can better appreciate our shared humanity, and recognize that the stories and lives of everyone, everywhere matter.
In the U.S., the StoryCorps effort seeks to capture, preserve, and share the stories of ordinary people. These can be heard on Friday mornings on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” Earlier this year, a number of interested Googlers met with Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, and also with leaders of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) and UNICEF. We realized that collectively, we had a unique and very real opportunity to leverage our respective strengths to take this idea global and to build together an ability to preserve and share online millions of personal stories from around the world.
With the good efforts of many people from each of the partners, we brought this inspiration to fruition over the last six months, and are excited to launch the Our Stories project and the www.ourstories.org site today. From the Google side, this grows out of our passion and commitment to make the experience and wisdom of these personal stories universally accessible to users around the world.
One Laptop per Child (www.laptop.org) is a heroic effort to help bring laptops to children in developing countries around the globe. (Google is a founding supporter of OLPC.) The distribution of OLPC laptops provides us with a platform to help preserve and extend the histories and identities of these traditional cultures. Children receive training on the Our Stories activity on the laptops, and record in their native languages the stories of their elders, their family members, and friends. These stories are then uploaded and shared through the website, where they can be found on a Google Map.
For this project, UNICEF’s in-country communications teams are working with the schools using OLPC laptops, and also with children using other recording devices, computers, and mobile phones to preserve and share stories online. An enthusiastic team of Google volunteers, including me, developed the laptop application, the interview guides based on the work of StoryCorps, and the website.
In the coming years, we hope to capture and share millions of stories, which we believe will help to preserve a truly global, multi-lingual history of humanity in the 21st century. We also hope that, in some small measure, the ability to listen to the voices of others, to hear first hand about their hopes and challenges, contributes to a better understanding of our shared humanity across the many lines which often divide us.