[murmur] (2003)

by Shawn Micallef, James Roussel, Gabe Sawhney

[murmur] is an audio storytelling project that uses mobile phones to share first-person narratives and location-specific stories that often go unheard. Green [murmur] signs (featuring a telephone number and a unique code for that location) indicate the availability of stories. By dialing the number with their mobile phone and entering the location code, pedestrians can hear one or more short stories about the actual place where they are standing, then explore further, or move on to the next sign. The stories are in the storyteller's own voice; they are personal and anecdotal in nature, and are naturally intertwined with history of that place. The result is a collection of stories which provoke an immediate emotional response, but educate and inform at the same time.

[murmur] lets people hear history as it was lived, complementing the "official" history of the city and its neighborhoods. Oral storytelling has a long tradition of ...

Full Description

[murmur] is an audio storytelling project that uses mobile phones to share first-person narratives and location-specific stories that often go unheard. Green [murmur] signs (featuring a telephone number and a unique code for that location) indicate the availability of stories. By dialing the number with their mobile phone and entering the location code, pedestrians can hear one or more short stories about the actual place where they are standing, then explore further, or move on to the next sign. The stories are in the storyteller's own voice; they are personal and anecdotal in nature, and are naturally intertwined with history of that place. The result is a collection of stories which provoke an immediate emotional response, but educate and inform at the same time.

[murmur] lets people hear history as it was lived, complementing the "official" history of the city and its neighborhoods. Oral storytelling has a long tradition of offering insight and understanding and listening to [murmur] stories is much like walking through the city with somebody who knows its stories. In experiencing [murmur], people can develop a new intimacy with places: once a story is attached to a place, that location has a new significance and can no longer be arbitrarily overlooked or forgotten.

[murmur] first launched in Toronto’s Kensington Market in summer 2003 with stories exploring that neighbourhood’s rich history. In September 2003, [murmur] was introduced in Vancouver’s Chinatown area, featuring several stories told in Cantonese, giving listeners the option of hearing a translated English version. The French-language [murmure] launched in Montreal in October 2003, with stories collected about that city’s famed Boulevard St-Laurent. [murmur] launched in Toronto's Annex neighborhood in August 2004.

[murmur] has been featured at Digifest (Toronto, Mar 2003; winner of the New Voices People’s Choice Award), FCMM: the New Cinema New Media festival (Montreal, Oct 2003), VSMM: International Conference on Visual Systems and MultiMedia (Montreal, Oct 2003), nextMedia (Charlottetown, Oct 2003), Pre/amble (Vancouver, Nov 2003), the Digital Storytelling Festival (Nov 2003, Cardiff, Wales and Jun 2004, Sedona, Arizona), Creative Crossings (Apr 2004, London, England), Futuresonic (May 2004, Manchester, England), psy.geo.conflux (May 2004, New York City), and the McLuhan International Festival of the Future (Toronto, Oct 2004). [murmur] was nominated for the Best Forward Award at the Steam Whistle Art Awards (Toronto, Feb 2004) and has appeared in various media across Canada and the USA including several CBC programmes, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, eye Weekly, the National Post, La Presse, the Utne Reader and Wired News.

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