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Story Forest

After my meeting with thesis adviser, Rob Faludi last Thursday, I’ve updated my statement to the following:

Story Forest shares and replays your memories at locations where they were made within a city.

Story Forest is a service that invites urban pedestrians to relive and share their past experiences by contextualizing a city’s environmental cues to geolocated memories.

These memories, which stimulate both visual and auditory senses, are embodied by virtual trees that live on a digital layer overlaying the urban landscape. Through the use of a mobile device, pedestrians can instantiate their own trees or contribute to existing ones. When a new memory is added to a tree, a branch is formed along with its leaves. Each leaf represents a memory artifact, either a photo or audio recording, related to that memory. As others reflect on existing memories or as new ones are introduced, networks of branches are formed. These networks create a system for people to catalog and navigate through shared memories at a specific location.

The urban landscape living in harmony with memory trees

The urban landscape living in harmony with memory trees

Over time, individual trees planted throughout the city form networks of interrelated memories. These networks then form larger clusters that represent the various periods of a person’s lifetime.

A memory tree grows with the addition of artifacts

A memory tree grows with the addition of artifacts

However, as memories become increasingly ubiquitous within Story Forest, permanent accessibility may begin to threaten the integrity of these memories. According to Yadin Dudai, the Head of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, “The more you use a memory the more likely you’ll change it.” To reduce the likelihood of this change, once a memory artifact has been accessed, it disappears from its respective branch. After a period of time, the memory artifact eventually grows back.

The trees of Story Forest are life’s trail markers, informing and guiding urban pedestrians on the path that lies ahead. By contextualizing a city’s environmental cues to geolocated memories, pedestrians are invited to recreate and reflect on their past experiences. In doing so, they are encouraged to live a more conscious present in order to make better decisions in the future.

What if your memory tree was larger than the Empire State Building?

What if your memory tree was larger than the Empire State Building?

Below is a quick Post-It experiment I did with data sent to me from friends at the last Superbowl party with three memorables moments from each person. Via quick observation, the Post-It memory tree provides a more guided method of navigating through the content.

Data from Superbowl party

Data from Superbowl party

Data organized into a tree

Data organized into a tree

According to the Wikipedia, autobiographical information is split into three categories:

  1. Lifetime Periods – Themes within one’s life, e.g. university theme, work theme
  2. General Events – More specific than lifetime periods and encompass single representations of repeated events or a sequence of related events, e.g. first kiss, first baseball game
  3. Event-Specific Knowledge – These are the actual events (the trees themselves) that make up general events, which make up lifetime periods. Users are able to group their memories based on this hierarchical structure. They can also sort and view the memory forest based on this structure with memories in chronological order.
An overview of the different map modes used to navigate memories

An overview of the different map modes used to navigate memories

Also mentioned in the same post, autobiographical memories are broken down into four types (I’ve denoted how this project will utilize each type in each sub-bullet):

  1. Biographical – Information about who you are, such as where you were born or the names of your parents.
    * Users can designate their starting point on the map. Navigating memories will all originate from this starting point.
  2. Copies vs. Reconstructions – This addresses the level of authenticity of memories. Copies are vivid autobiographical memories of an experience that contain a considerable amount of visual and sensory-perceptual detail. Reconstructions are not reflections of raw experiences, but are rebuilt to incorporate any new information or interpretations made in hind-sight.
    * Other users that are tagged to a memory can contribute artifacts such as past photos, text, and voice recording to help cue the original memory.
  3. Specific vs. Generic – The level of detail about a memory. Memories can be made public or private. Public memories may help other users remember about certain things that used to reside in the city, i.e. A recreation park that was torn down 15 years ago and is now occupied by a 50 floor skyrise.
    * Users can also add these public memories to their memory trees in order to create a cohesive narrative.
  4. Field vs. Observer – Field memories are documented in the original perspective whereas generic memories are from a third-person POV. Observer memories are more often reconstructions while field memories are more vivid like copies.
    * After my discussion with Rob along w/ some initial prototyping, I realized that a lot of my memories were from the observer perspective. In my initial prototyping, I did a lot of backtracking with the help of family members. As a result, the contribution of others is invaluable (as mentioned in #2 Copies vs Reconstructions).

Additional Changes
I am forgoing the part about dimentia/Alzheimer’s since it is another (huge) layer of complexity. Also, I think it’s a good idea to scratch the random appearing/reappearing memories theme mentioned earlier in previous posts. Instead, I’ve been thinking about cherry blossoms and how they come into season once a year, for one week only. What if these memory trees behaved the same way by further constraining the accessibility of its contents to a short period of time? We are killing two birds with one stone; 1) no more randomness and 2) people cannot access their memories all the time.

One thing that I didn’t address yet is the possibility of an augmented reality feature for the mobile app. Since I lack the skills and money to build an app at this very moment, I’m going to leave it up to the magic of vellum and printed photos to express what I have in mind.

As you ride the elevated subway, you come across a memory tree

As you ride the elevated subway, you come across a memory tree

A city block with memory trees left behind by you and your friends

A city block with memory trees left behind by you and your friends

Things to Do

  • Prototyping the reflection and documenting process of a memory with others
  • Project requirements
  • Refine project timeline

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  • 26 Feb 2011

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