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Putting life stories on the web: the small histories project and performances of reconstruction
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Putting life stories on the web: the small histories project and performances of reconstruction

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Presentation by Stefan Schutt at RMIT University graduate research conference, June 2010. An overview of Stefan's PhD project Small Histories.

Presentation by Stefan Schutt at RMIT University graduate research conference, June 2010. An overview of Stefan's PhD project Small Histories.

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Putting life stories on the web: the small histories project and performances of reconstruction Putting life stories on the web: the small histories project and performances of reconstruction Presentation Transcript

  • putting life stories on the web the small histories project and performances of reconstruction Stefan Schutt
  • what i will touch on today
    • what is the small histories project?
    • how does it work?
    • the web as performance space
    • trauma and ‘performances of reconstruction’
    • where to from here?
  • but first…. let me tell you a story.
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story…. To: Stefan Schutt Subject: DAVID NETHANEL Date: Tue, 29 July 1997 22:14:08 There is little else I can say than DAVID NETHANEL 67 xxxxx Street Bat Yam, Israel tel: xxxxxxxxx He is at home only in the evenings! I have had a long conversation with him. I still have goose pimples as I write to you. To think that I have no phone number for you, no idea where you are tonight! There is absolutely no doubt - he IS the right person. He is over the moon that you searched for him, even more that we found him. He will, obviously, tell you details himself, but I wanted you to know at this stage that he had asked mutual friends (?family?) of your mother's to find you two , and failed. They had searched in Germany, had no idea about Australia. He has seen you as a baby, even has some photographs of you. It is amazing that he has been in England for a while in 1960. I am almost certain that we met at that time. When you sent his picture I was certain that I knew the face - but I often get this feeling. He has a daughter of 18, is divorced (?seperated?) from his wife. Apart from the fact that you searched for him, I have told him nothing about you - I have little doubt you will do this yourself I wish I could have phoned you! David
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story….
  • my story….
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  • my story….
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  • my story….
  • interesting story…. but what about the project?
  • what is small histories ?
    • work-in-progress website and PhD project
    • designed for people to create, keep, publish & compare life stories
    • www.smallhistories.com
  • how does it work?
    • you log in
    • you upload items (text, audio, images, video etc) into a repository
  • how does it work?
    • you begin to create a story:
  • how does it work?
    • you choose and order the items to be included in your story
  • how does it work?
    • But before you can choose and order your own items:
    • you must first include one or more items uploaded by someone else
    • Why? A few weak links across nodes can generate a larger connected network [ Barabási, 2002]
  • how does it work?
    • you choose a presentation style:
  • how does it work?
    • your story appears on the web, and is fully editable by you:
  • how does it work?
  • nuts and bolts
    • written in PHP, MySQL, Javascript
    • Model View Controller design pattern (for flexibility)
    • potential to release as Open Source software
  • why create it?
    • allow people to build narratives that “create meaning by the principle of sequential ordering of elements” (Dalgaard 2003)
    • compare perspectives on events and times in history
    • “ … a bridge between the tacit and the explicit, allowing tacit social knowledge to be demonstrated and learned, without the need to propositionalize it ” (Linde, 2001)
    • self-generating archive of personal stories
  • nodes and roads
      • for consumers of stories , a narrative is a path taken through a series of nodes within a network (like a road trip through a series of towns)
      • to add more nodes and roads is to set up new possibilities for the making and remaking of meaning
  • more roads and nodes…. The important thing is the creation of the links between the nodes How you see the node (or photo, or piece of writing, or sound) will depend on how you have approached it, on the context your journey has created for it . Jonathon Potter (1996); Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction ” Truth can be treated as a commodity which is worked up, can fluctuate, and can be strengthened or weakened by various procedures of representation. "(p5) "Histories cannot be produced without drawing on the techniques of narrative and character construction which are so developed in the fictional domain" (p94)
  • the web as performance space
    • the stage:
      • emergence of ‘auto/biographical society’ [Plummer 2001]
      • web as a ‘technology of memory’ [Van House & Churchill 2008]
    • the performance:
      • networked identities [Boyd 2006]
      • sense of immediacy and audience
      • the urge to share:
        • past - reclaim lost history (mitigate loss, memorial, post memory)
        • present - reclaim spaces and places (personal identity, community)
        • future - stake a claim to the future memory (future generations, legacy)
  • performances of reconstruction
    • a century of fragmentation, dispersal, trauma
    • the web lets you gather up fragments, recombine, reconstruct
    • conduit for/exploration of postmemory (Hirsch, 1997):
    'a powerful and very particular form of memory precisely because its connection to its object or source is mediated, not through recollection but through an imaginative investment and creation. ... Postmemory characterises the experience of those who grow up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth, whose own belated stories are evacuated by the stories of the previous generation shaped by traumatic events that can be neither understood nor recreated' (Hirsch, 1997) how? some clues in artistic practice…
  • some clues…
  • some clues…
    • rescuing fragments, summoning ghosts, seeding interactions
    • how to apply this to a website?
  • issues and thoughts
    • trust:
      • autobiographical persona/identity (Gornick, 2001 & Tamboukou, 2005]
      • autobiographical contract with the reader (Lejeune, 1989)
      • truth vs effect [McLean, 1988)
      • private vs public spaces; levels of control, authority
    • content:
      • database-driven open-endedness: anti-narrative?
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  • the end. [email_address] www.smallhistories.com