Transcript Intro: Coming up in this edition of the Voices of the Past Netcast, we’ll meet Dale Jarvis. Dale is a folklorist and storyteller who is pioneering ways to share his art with new generations using online media. He experiments with traditional storytelling methods using social tools like Twitter, Facebook, podcasts and even Second Life. He’ll talk about the timelessness of storytelling and how you can still communicate the power of place through the web.
Thanks for joining us. I’m Jeff Guin. We’ll have that interview in a moment. First, here are a couple of briefs about the heritage world online.
An online magazine dedicated to conservation science is welcoming a new feature. E-Conservation is now featuring a regular column by conservator and blogger Daniel Cull. Dan tells us his articles will discuss conservation-related news and controversial issues.
[Dan Cull Soundbite]
E-conservation is an open-access magazine produced by and for the international conservation community. Issue 12 features the first edition of my regular column as a permanent collaborator. For our previous collaborations, we developed a good working relationship and I was delighted to accept this position. The column will cover topical, controversial or otherwise interesting topics in the field of conservation. My hope is that it will foster dialog that will in turn feed back into the magazine.
[Dan Cull Soundbite Ends]
According to its publishers, the objective of e-Conservation features news, events, and scientific articles from around the world. The magazine features items about conservation of detached mural paintings in Portugal and wood science for conservation of cultural heritage. In addition to the magazine, the e-Conservation website features internships and job opportunities, and an online forum.
You can learn more about Dan and his personal conservation blog by reading our interview with him at the Voices of the Past website as well.
E-mail Saves a Tree
Trees are among the least-understood historic features, often removed because of safety fears or to make way for new construction.
A 170-year-old tree is still standing thanks to the power of the internet. The osage-orange tree is the lone survivor of a hedgerow planted in Kewanee, Illinois circa 1840. The concept was promoted by Illinois College professor Jonathan Baldwin Turner and became the shelterbelt system saving America’s soils from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Because of its significance, Illinois arborist Guy Sternberg mobilized his online contacts to preserve the tree.
Sternberg learned of the tree’s fate just days before its scheduled removal. Within a 48-hour period, the city received dozens of e-mails from arborists, forestry professors, and other professionals contributing their expert opinions and support. Others from across the country offered the city donations and technical assistance to help preserve the tree.
The campaign branched out into other forms of electronic communication as well, including blogs and podcasts. In the end, the efforts paid off and the tree was saved. If you would like to contribute to the tree’s continuing preservation, you can donate via its Facebook fan page.
Dale Jarvis, Folklorist/Storyteller
In a world that communicates 140 characters at a time, Dale Jarvis has found a way to keep the storytelling tradition alive. In fact, he’s broadening the world of storytelling through creative uses of web-based tools.
Dale is the Intangible Cultural Heritage development officer for Newfoundland, Canada. And when he’s not sharing ghost stories and legends with community groups, he might be found in Secondlife sharing stories around a virtual campfire. Or collaborating with others to tell stories on Twitter.
Here’s what Dale had to say about how he captures the essence of the oral tradition while adapting it to new media.
Dale Jarvis: As a storyteller, one thing that people ask me all the time is is storytelling dying. You know, is this a dying art? And I really believe that things are always in a constant state of evolution. I think traditions are always changing, and I think that the rise of things like YouTube indicate that people are really passionate about storytelling. They really want to share their own personal stories.
So, it is sort of a really great democratization of storytelling in a way. Maybe people don’t sit around and tell the long form fairy tales in quite the same way that they used to, but people are incredibly interested in sharing their own personal stories and creating stories and sharing them.
So I am fascinated by sites like YouTube because I think it does indicate that their is this human desire to share stories. That storytelling is something that is something that is really important to us as a species. Everyone wants to share their story in some way.
I think technologies, like cell phones, are something that we are going to see more and more get used for some of this stuff, especially like the iPhone. Especially with the GPS capabilities, and I mentioned before that I am real interested in place-based narratives, place-based storytelling. I think that we are going to see more and more of this type of stuff.
One of the projects I am involved with right now is a project that was started in Toronto called Murmur. The murmur project started off as an art project in downtown Toronto, where people collected local stories told by local people, they recorded those stories, they put them all online.
So there is a map of the neighborhood and you can go to the site and click on the little dot and listen to a person tell the story about that particular location. But then if you actually go to the street and walk down the street, there is a little sign on the street with a phone number and a six-digit code, so you can take your cell phone and dial the number, punch in the six-digit code and listen to the person tell their story on that spot.
And this a project that started in Toronto, it’s moved across Canada. There are now projects in South Pablo and Brazil, there’s projects in Scotland and Ireland, and we are starting up a similar project here in Newfoundland.
I think that that has great potential. That these sort of cell phone based stories and sort of using new technologies to get local stories and local traditions and local knowledge out to a wider public are going to be very, very popular.
I know places like the Appellation Trail and national historic sites in the United Kingdom are starting to experiment with GPS based narrative-type devices, so you can have your iPhone and walk around the site and listen to different types of stories. And I think we are going to see a lot more of that type of stuff happening more in the very, very near future.
Jeff Guin: Storytelling is evolving. There are different ways of telling a story now, and I actually noticed that one of the things you are involved with is using Twitter to tell a story. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Dale Jarvis: Yes, Twitter is one of these things that you have to sort of boil down to something to a very little short sort of thing.
So storytellers are sort of used to waxing poetic and telling these long stories. I can tell stories as a storyteller, you know, sort of those long fairy tales that take 30 minutes 45 minutes to tell, and I know storytellers who can tell one story that can last three hours.
So Twitter sort of forces you to rethink how you approach a story. I have told stories on Twitter. As part of a storytelling festival I was involved with, I actually told a long-form story just 100 characters at a time in over the course of a week.
So people could sort of follow my tweets and then read the whole story as I posted it. But I think that there is also the potential to use Twitter as well to share some tiny little stories.
There are some great little websites. There is one called Twistory, which is sort of one of these sites that collects all the things that people are putting as updates on Twitter and post them under different categories. So you can find everything someone hates or loves at a certain moment or what they believe in at a certain moment. And they are fascinating.
It is maybe not sort of narrative storytelling in the way that we think of it, but it is sort of a remarkable insight on into current moods and how people are perceiving their own little personal worlds.
Now, Dale just published his first book about Ghostly Ballerinas. He was also involved in organizing the Place, Narrative and New Media conference, a half-day symposium on how new technologies are being incorporated into storytelling. We have links to Dale’s blog at our shownotes site. While you’re there, check out our extended audio podcast with Dale.
That’s it for this edition of the Voices of the Past netcast. Until next time, we’ll see you online.