We will be presenting an online application called Distributed Biography. This is an application that lets a group of people contribute their own stories about someone they all know, or some place they’ve all been, or something they’ve all experienced. What emerges from this collection of stories is a biography that offers a real sense of understanding this person, place or thing.
In the case of person-al biographies, firsthand accounts give you one view of that person, a view that centers on a particular relationship. For example, I knew a woman named Linda. She was my mother. And that’s how I knew her – as a mother. She died when I was a kid. When I’d ask people about her, they’d say things like, “She was a beautiful person” or “She had a great sense of humor.” These summaries don’t tell me anything about who she was.
So I’m managing her Distributed Biography. My dad is contributing stories that will help me understand her as his wife, my grandmother is contributing stories that will help me understand my mother as her daughter, and so on. This biography will let me, or anyone else, come to understand who my mother was.
Distributed Biography is kinda like a Chuck Close painting. A photomosaic. Each story is one pixel in the life of the subject. You can read those stories when you’re close up. But step back, and an image emerges.
Date: August 5, 2009