January 18, 2011

Smartphone App Gives Voice To Oral Histories Of Sept 11

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has collected some 2,000 oral histories of witnesses, first responders and others who shared their experiences of Sept. 11, 2001.

When it opens to the public next month, Broadcastr will be a repository of thousands of these audio clips linked to specific geographical spots.

Web startup Broadcastr is putting those oral stories on the internet and on smartphones for the world to hear. This partnership allows the museum's oral histories to be available to Ground Zero tourists and on the web.

Witnesses and first responders recount where they were and what they saw when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.

"This is a way to get these stories out to people who are visiting the city or who are halfway around the world," Joe Daniels, president of the foundation that is building the memorial, told the associated Press (AP). "It's pretty powerful stuff."

Brink describes finding himself at the nearby St. Paul's Chapel, where he used holy water to wash the toxic dust out of his eyes. "All we wanted to do was find some clean air to breathe," he told AP's Karen Matthews in an interview.

Broadcastr seeks to make the human voice as ubiquitous as videos on YouTube or photos on Flickr. Broadcastr is the brainchild of Scott Lindenbaum and Andy Hunter, who met in a creative writing graduate program and founded a literary journal called Electric Literature.

"It's the oldest form of communication, the oral tradition," Lindenbaum told Matthews. "Every person in the world participates in oral storytelling all day long. And yet social media is missing an oral storytelling component."

Broadcastr will be packaged as a free app for the iPhone and Android and has been open to invited users since last month. Broadcastr.com will be available to the public on Feb. 8. Users upload audio and "pin" it to a geographical location. When you visit a location either physically or with your web browser, you will be able to listen to stories pinned to that spot.

Visitors to Broadcastr's website will be able to hear the same voices by zooming in on a map of lower Manhattan. Brooklyn-based Broadcastr is operating with seed money from investors, Lindenbaum said.

In addition to the Sept. 11 Memorial, its partners include UNICEF and the Shoah Foundation, which has collected testimony from tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors.


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