I believe the saying goes “If these walls could talk.” Well what if they could? What if stories and memories echoed long after we leave a place? To avoid delving into a philosophical nightmare, I am talking about the audio narratives put out by Broadcastr, a company that labels itself as “a Social Media platform for location-based stories,” and it really is. But it could also be described as a platform for location-based people, whose curiousity is satisfied by taking a walk and learning something new. The goal of Broadcastr is to compile a global archive of narratives. As time passes these voices become relics describing a place long since gone. Its co-founders, Andy Hunter and Scott Lindenbaum see it as nothing short of a revolutionary concept, reviving the lost art of storytelling. Untapped previously covered Broadcastr’s partnership with the 9/11 memorial and last week I was able to check out one of their audio narratives across the Brooklyn Bridge with founder Andy Hunter and two of his staffers, Matthew and Sara.
There are two primary ways people can engage the software while out and about: 1) Let’s say you’re walking around the neighborhood you grew up in and want to share a story about an experience you’ve had there. Using your iPhone or Android, you can record your story and geotag it to the location it took place. 2) If you are walking through a place that you want to know more about, with the Broadcastr app turned on, a prompt will tell you when you are close to a story. You can then choose to listen to what others have said about that place.
Using an iPhone for the bridge walk, I opened the Broadcastr App and it immediately recognized my location. I hit “yes” and the audio narrative began. It consisted of excerpts from David McCullough’s book, The Great Bridge. As I walked along the 127 year old span, I learned about the massive undertaking of its construction, the corruption that almost doomed it, the public’s perception behind it, and how it is taken care of today. Naturally, listening to an audio recording is a solitary act between you and the voice in your ear but, as Andy pointed out, it is the only form of sensory engagement where you are not removed from your surrounding environment. Rather you are able to listen to a place and directly apply that information to what you see.
With partnerships, including the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Simon and Schuster, and the Fodor’s Travel Guides, Broadcastr isn’t just aiming for individual participation, but also larger banks of information that can provide an added layer of facts and stories for all.