I was reading the reports about Facebook recently – mostly those around its new Timeline feature, but also this piece of news: 4% of all the photos ever taken are now hosted on Facebook. That’s quite a significant figure.
But it wasn’t the figure that made me think, it was the idea that photographs allow us to capture a moment in time. And those moments we share with people. We go back to look at them, to bring back memories. It was the memories part that really made me think.
The reason it made me think so much was based around that occurred earlier in the day. It was Sunday. I’d been to visit my Dad. My four-year old daughter was with us. It was a usual family day out. But when we got back to my Dad’s we discovered a bag of old photos. We plundered it.
And the reason we plundered it was because, almost 4 years ago my Mum passed away. She knew my daughter for just a few months. My daughter has no recollection of meeting her, although there is a bond. So we looked at photos of her – when she was young as well as ones taken in her final days. And my daughter asked me about what her Nana was like.
So, I told her some stories.
Each of these stories was based around a photograph we were looking at. That was easy. I was able to look at the snap and work out where it was taken, the approximate date and build a narrative around it. Then my daughter floored me with a question: what is your earliest memory of Nana?
Now, I have had this memory clear in my head for years and years. My Mum and I actually discussed it a week before she died. It was a simple memory of me being swung between my mother and father as we went to visit our new house. I was between 18 months old and 2 years old. But the memory, now some 36 years later, is as clear and vivid as if had happened this morning. It’s a happy memory.
So I posted it on Twitter and added a hashtag, #myearliestmemory.
Whenever I post a hashtag on Twitter (or Instagram for that matter) I always look to see if anyone else has posted something against it. This time only my Tweet came up in the results. So I turned to Google. Was anyone else doing a project about earliest memories? If they were, I wanted to contribute.
Nothing came up.
A quick domain search showed me that myearliestmemory.com was available (someone has the .co.uk but is doing nothing with it). So I bought it. Set up a Tumblr, wrote some rules and My Earliest Memory was born.
I stuck a post on Twitter. It was picked up by some friends and retweeted. I set up a Gmail account. And then, all of a sudden, I had a submission. This project was real.
But this project is more than a simple way to capture memories and present them to the public. I think it’s about stories. Because stories can be formed from memories and memories can also be formed from stories.
I shot off an email to a friend, Greg, at Mudlark – an agency based in Derby that uses gaming and storytelling in real-life situations to make life playable. I knew he was interested in stories and how technology can be used to bring them to life in new ways, to introduce new people to them. We’d had discussions about Broadcastr and other platforms that allowed storytelling. Greg mentioned Richard, his colleague.
Both have really interesting ideas on stories and how they are created and the role that they play in creating and evoking memories, as much as how memories can be used to create narratives. They have their own projects based around stories and memories. I feel certain I will post about these as and when I’m able to.
I also believe we will be having many other chats about this. Exciting times.