Friday, July 10, 2009

Preserving Oral Traditions

If a picture could talk, what would it say?

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. But no matter how well a picture captures a scene and a snapshot preserves a moment in time, there's no way that a picture can tell the whole story. The picture above conveys a message, but it can't tell you that it is quite content living in a garden that's lovingly maintained by a 90 year old gardener and that it's surrounded by equally beautiful flowers and produce...

In this day and age, we're bombarded by media from many sources. While I love the instant access to this visual and auditory media, I find that it's actually contributing to a loss of our oral traditions. We rely too heavily on a picture to tell the whole story and we leave out too many of the details.

More and more these days, I've recognized the need to preserve our oral traditions. We still need to be story-tellers first and foremost. Because pictures can't always speak for themselves.

I'm currently visiting family in Southern Ontario. While I'm here, I get to spend time with all four of my grandparents, each of whom are entering their 10th decade of life. I'm also spending lots of time at the other end of the spectrum with my two year old nephew. One of the things that's really struck me throughout the last couple of days is the ability that some people have to weave their webs through stories. To add value and meaning to their stories through the subtle little nuances of their speech and to embellish their stories with actions and artifacts.

I've got my camera with me but, to be honest, I haven't pulled it out as often as I thought I would. I've also got my Flip Mino HD in the bag, but it, too, has remained in the bag more often than not. While I really wish to capture and preserve all of the stories I'm privy to out here, nothing can really bring any of these stories to life as well as taking them in firsthand.

In order to preserve our oral traditions, we don't need to do away with all of the media. We just have to find better ways of merging it with our stories. Tools like VoiceThread are amazing for this purpose, providing you with ample opportunity to add more meaning and context to the images that we share. And then there's all of the web 2.0 tools that provide you with different ways to tell your stories and focus on the content.

And now, I'm off to historic Fort Henry, to hear some of the stories it has to share...

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