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Ethnography, 21st century-style

animation of a man and woman on a couch doing an interview.

The new StoryCorps platform will help users prepare questions, find the right environment for a conversation, record a high-quality interview on a mobile device, share the finished product with friends and family, and upload to StoryCorps.me.

Today we celebrate the official release of StoryCorps.me, a global platform where anyone in the world can record and upload an oral history interview. This effort is a wish come true for StoryCorps founder Dave Isay, the 2015 recipient of the TED Prize. The prize comes with $1 million to invest in a powerful idea. Dave’s was to create an app, with a companion website at StoryCorps.me, that guides users through the StoryCorps interview experience from recording to sharing the story online. Hear him talk about his vision in Vancouver last week. The website will serve as a home for these recordings, and also provide interviewing and editing tools.

All stories shared to StoryCorps.me during the first year after launch will be archived at the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress.

StoryCorps started in 2003 and is now one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. Each of the approximately 50,000 interviews to date are preserved in our archives, and StoryCorps broadcasts can be heard weekly on NPR’s Morning Edition. Until now, StoryCorps interviews have been collected in mobile booths, and in permanent StoryBooths located in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta. The traditional interview model involves a facilitator and two people talking for 40 minutes in a booth. Now, anyone can participate via the app or through the StoryCorps.me site.

The new app “has a microphone. It can give you instructions. It can send audio files. Those are the key ingredients,” says Isay. “It helps you pick questions, and gives you all the tips you need to record a meaningful StoryCorps interview, and then with one tap upload it.”

The Library will regularly gather copies of these uploaded interviews from the StoryCorps.me site for long-term preservation. While traditional StoryCorps interviews can be accessed onsite at the Library, for the life of StoryCorps.me, all access to the new DIY collection will be through the website.

“This effort is an exciting next step in our archives’ long history as a living record that is truly of, by, and for the people,” said AFC Director Elizabeth Peterson. “We are excited to see our decade-long collecting partnership with StoryCorps go global.”

3 Comments

  1. Meg Kinney
    March 26, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I love StoryCorps. I have the App and have recorded a story in the mobile unit. But, it is important for the author and readers of this article to be clear: oral history is but one of many aspects of data collection for ethnography. It is in itself, not ethnography. As a professional in applied anthropology, this sort of generalized use of the term “ethnography” is disheartening and a bit reckless.

  2. Teri Brewer
    March 26, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I agree with Meg Kinney, but I think this is an interesting development, which will not take the place of experienced ethnographers, but might be a great supplement.

  3. Elizabeth B. Thomsen
    March 26, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    This is really great news!

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