December 22, 2003
project realize: vision
Our lives are what we remember. Our culture, our society, our heritage: it’s the knowledge we share that defines us. Memories and imaginings form the substance of our shared humanity. Preserving and publishing our memories, whether the story of our individual lives or the history of our neighborhoods, is a profound and necessary endeavor, for it brings us together as a people. Cherishing our shared heritage helps create and sustain real community, real meaningfulness, which many of us hunger for as an alternative to the soulless singularity of corporate branding and rubber stamp franchises that are slowly erasing the color and character of our towns and families.
In the last two decades, our mass media has expanded its influence by using a technique well known in marketing: keep it simple, stupid — narrow your message to what works on the many. The result is terrifying: we’re becoming more apathetic and close-minded, unwilling to learn and care about each other. We’re becoming a nation of strangers. We don’t care about the rest of the world. We don’t care about our neighbors. Our conversations have dumbed themselves down to smalltalk culled from movies and TV.
Yet there’s hope, I think. In recent years, we’ve seen the beginning of something very new: an explosion of personal expression using our new electronic tools. It’s becoming ever easier to capture our lives with our cameras and camcorders. Through the Web, we’re now able to publish ourselves, without sanction from media middlemen.
But for every person comfortable with making and sharing their digital imaginings, there’s a dozen others frightened of this new world, too intimidated to even make a start. Two significant barriers to entry block their way: 1) current tools are too hard to use, and 2) it’s too hard to organize everything. This last barrier is particularly bad. Those who overcome their fears and learn to capture and create their memories are later rewarded with an unmaintainable mess of poorly organized files and folders, like some refrigerator-sized shoebox of snapshots too overwhelming to even sift through, let alone share.
Our goal is to remove these barriers. Our software will engage novices immediately. They’ll be able to plug in their cameras, transfer their photos, answer some simple questions, and then browse through their memories effortlessly. The ease with which they can explore and share this shared memory space will encourage them to further tell the stories of their lives and communities. By tapping this significant market, our software can make money while bringing meaning to the lives of many.
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