Stories in Cyberland
STORIES IN CYBERLAND: In Brief
Stories in Cyberland is an online audio archive project that is crafting a shared media landscape across borders. Pilot projects have begun in Cyprus, Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece. The project aims to share stories through the internet in a user-friendly fashion. It also aims to allow users to upload their own media from their own computers, giving the project tremendous horizontal growth potential. Developed over the past few months, we have been in the streets collecting people’s thoughts and feelings. These focused opinion collections are then uploaded to a computer, edited, compiled in categories determined by question, and then broadcast through the Stories in Cyberland website (www.talkoftheisland.org/StoriesInCyberland).
Stories in Cyberland was begun in Cyprus, and the Cyprus branch is most developed. Cyprus Stories in Cyberland is broadcast through the Talk of the Island internet radio station (www.talkoftheisland.org). This is achieved by taking random selections from the Cyprus Stories in Cyberland database through a program that automatically inserts them into live internet broadcasts.
We believe that listening has the power to inspire empathy. The project includes no photographs of faces on its. This decision allows for the listener to hear another’s story without judging their appearance.
We like stories. We hope others find the project enjoyable and moving. We think there is power in asking oneself questions that provoke self-reflection. The process of looking inward when responding to questions that are past oriented, future oriented, or change oriented can give one the space to connect with themselves and reconsider their identity in relation to society.
In hopes of creating a future we desire, we also encourage reflection on human consumption and materialism; and awareness of as well as relationship to media and the news. Furthermore, the project has the potential to take new directions and dimensions depending on the interests and creativity of those involved.
We are in the process of developing a thought-provoking structured set of questions that are brought to people informally in the streets or arranged in the studio. The questions are focused, but leave room for unpredictable responses that make interviews both exciting and serious. Additionally, we are developing a well-structured web site.
The following questions and topics are examples of hyperlinks that can be clicked in order to listen to a series of 5-30 interviews from the streets of Cyprus.
Examples of questions posed up to this point: • I believe… • If I could change one thing about Cyprus it would be… • If I had one million Cypriot Pounds I would… • In the year 2025 Nicosia will be… Cyprus will be… … Europe will be… the Middle East will be… Africa will be… the US will be… the world will be… • If I woke up tomorrow and the UN peacekeeping troops were gone, my first reaction would be…
Examples of topics posed and those possible: • Island-wide cooperation • Interviews with individuals who were involved in the bi-communal youth movement and how their involvement has affected their lives • European Union related • Mothers interview their daughters • Grandchildren interview their grandparents • When was the first time you crossed the buffer-zone after 1974? • Growing up, what were things you were encouraged to believe about people of your cultural heritage?
The website could easily include an interactive map (“Cyprus Stories on the Road” and for other countries if funded) through which visitors can click on different areas of the island/country to hear audio from those locations.
Stories in Cyberland believes that in order to learn we must listen. Dedicated to the values of peace journalism, we believe there is great value in both sharing oneself through radio as well as listening to others tell their stories and opinions.
Audio recorded by the project is accessible online and cross referenced through the project’s website, boosting the impact of the project. With the additional feed in mechanism to Talk of the Island Online Radio, the opinions shared through the project will be able to reach a wider audience.
Further, it is our high priority to structure the web site in such a way that new interviews can be inserted easily or even on the fly by visitors directly from their computer. A computer technician for the Future Worlds Center is familiar with a type of software called Mambo, which is a very powerful content management system, which can be used to carry out this goal.
BUILDING ON CURRENT Future Worlds Center PROJECTS
Cyprus Stories in Cyberland expands the concept of the "Talk of the Island" beyond the one hour programs designed by two journalists, and allows for people to informally express themselves through an island-wide media source. Using this method we will be able to create a permanent presence in the work of media and allow people to express themselves at all times on any issue.
Project feedback has been utterly positive. People on the streets approach the poster printed with posed questions with a quizzical demeanour, and those who are shy to respond usually walk away deep in thought. Visiting students from around the world have expressed great interest in the findings of the project, as well as given input on how to improve the project and possible questions to pose. Overall, people are finding the project to be promising and innovative.
There are endless possible segments that could be added to Cyprus Stories in Cyberland. There could be sections including photojournalism (though it is encouraged to consider the benefits of the “non-visual” medium of radio, and chose visual material to be included carefully), sections devoted to social scientific research that request visitors to scale their opinions based on their relative importance (0 – 10), relate the project to teaching human rights through media literacy, develop an approach more inspired by oral history, etc.
There is also the potential to proceed by making more agreements with local stations to broadcast sections of these recorded interviews. More easily, we can give segments to Hasan Kahvecioglu and Kyriacos Pierides to broadcast during breaks of Talk of the Island programs.
One of the excellent things about Stories in Cyberland is that it is able to operate with little funding. With the hard work of volunteers interested in conducting interviews, much ground can be covered and shared internationally in a short time. Furthermore, Stories in Cyberland is an innovative project that can propel itself horizontally with little labor. This is possible with the development of the software that allows for people to directly upload their words from their computer into our database.
At the same time, the project is ripe for further development. Working on grants to obtain funding that would support the sustainability of the project is highly encouraged.