Based on the recommendation of Barbara Ganley (one of whom I would recommend following recommendations thereof) for the past few weeks I’ve been dabbling in Cowbird, an online storytelling platform that center heavily on photography as well as original writing.
Tagged as “a witness to life”, Cowbird is described as
Cowbird allows you to keep a beautiful audio-visual diary of your life, and to collaborate with others in documenting the overarching “sagas“ that shape our world today. Sagas are themes and events that touch millions of lives and shape the human story.
Our short-term goal is to pioneer a new form of participatory journalism, grounded in the simple human stories behind major news events. Our long-term goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the commons, available for this and future generations to look to for guidance.
Essentially, what is created revolves around a high resolution image that becomes the first focus of a story, and is accompanied by text and/or audio. In typifying Harris’s style, it is both rich and simple at the same time. When you write something in cowbird, you are asked for meta data (without them saying, please give us meta data) that includes location, time, people, keywords that become a way to create meta organizers of content from across the site.
There are no comments in cowbird, and the feedback you give is more than giving it a like, you “love it” (technically the same thing of course), and you can follow the work of others as well as share outwardly through social media. One of the unique features is the idea of sprouting a story, where you can write a new story inspired by the work of another (hey, it’s like a trackback only more spiritual?).
There are rich experiences just in the exploring of the space, and in fact, they suggest when you start that you first explore, and express your loves before starting to write (this is a useful suggestion for any creative site), I believe that access is still by invite or responding to a request for an account, but I found it did not take long for this to happen.
There’s plenty more covered in the FAQ. Enough of the what it is, what the bleep am I doing there?
I’ve been spinning the neuorons trying to figure out what, if anything, I would do with my experience last year of not working and traveling- I have tons of things written as blog/diary and photography, plus all the stuff I collected in the storybox.
Writing a book? meh, too much work, the world has plenty of stories like this. Making a movie? ditto. I was really looking for something that was of the web.
What I am doing is going back to my photos from a year ago, flickr’s archive lends itself easily- May 8 2011, I was walking about Manhattan, and using those as my own sprouts for creating something- only sometimes narrative of events or places, but more so just stories. Sometimes it is a look back at myself and what I was doing/thinking, but in other cases I am just writing fiction. Mostly it just emerges after selecting what I think is an interesting photo and seeing what comes out of reflecting on it
In tine for a change, I open it with a stretch back to my first day of self-unemployment.
What is it about for the cheese we are about to receive? I don’t know, it is just what that image brought back.
Sometimes it is just gibberish– for this photo of a weathered pip at the bottom of Fossil Creek Canyon
I ended up just babbling w words – is “w’d” a story?
weathered, witness, worn, washed, withered, was, watching, wizened, wayward, witchy, wonder.
In other cases I make up other people’s conversations- we gotta talk
And as a sprout example, my cowbird of a stack of wood, written as parts and whole was sprouted by Barbara in her Five Cords. I’ve hear her tell the story, and it is powerful in all forms (as good stories are)- and her story has sprouted 3 more – how cool is that; plus her was featured last week as a Story of the Day.
There are interesting things here just in shaping your own space but as well the networked space of stories- the notion of stories sprouting stories sprouting stories is the kind of viralness that is more interesting than cat videos.
Right now, I do not know where, if anywhere, I will go with this. Like my trip, I just have chosen a vehicle and a general direction. I like the idea of this as both a reflective and creative activity; I can look at the stories as a lens to myself inward but also the world outward.
It may just end up as another of my piles f digital stuff that does nothing on this own. But I remain convinced the doing of activities like this, be it daily photos, writing, etc, is one that does more than we realize at the time.
I plan to keep at the cowbirding, especially as the clock rolls into late June when my trip last year started. Right now it is pretty much my personal thing, and that is my audience. It sits nicely in the space of narrating and making shit up. And it puts photos front and center, where for me, the creative metaphor juice is freshly squeezed.