Story Mapping as Augmented Reality

For some reason, I’ve never quite considered that story maps augment reality, but indeed, that’s what they do, especially if they geolocate their stories and we can read or hear the stories on the spot. Technology  provides one way for stories to intersect with our living, breathing presence in the world, overlaying or underlaying a street, or a tree, or spot on the sidewalk with a story that went down in that very spot–real or imagined, personal or public.

I’ve created such a story map with students at Earlham College (and earlier, at Cornell College), where the students imagined fictional stories on spots around campus, though some wrote poems or essays rather than fiction. One of my favorite pieces on the Earlham map imagines the whispers of emerald ash borers as they whittle away at their host trees, destroying them, then longing for them after the trees have been cut down and carted away. It’s part love story, part eco-lament, part essay on parasitic intimacy. For the next round of Earlham stories, I’d like to team up with a computer science professor or students, or a technology librarian, to develop a better interface, as the current Google map doesn’t open the stories on exact location (you scan the QR code on the spot, but the code opens the general map. The reader has to find the right pin to read the associated story.)

I have a piece of my own included on Mapping Salt Lake City, where the stories live on the website rather than augmenting reality with geolocated pins, but it’s certainly a story map, revealing the palimpsest of stories and experiences that exist around us in every space.

I’m thinking about all this today because I just read about Wikupedia, an augmented reality app developed by Adrian Duke, a member of the Muscowpetung Nation who lives in Vancouver. Wikupedia crowdsources the indigenous stories of Canada, geolocating them. The stories are told by an animated raven. I’m ready for a good long walk through a Canadian city, delightfully interrupted by these stories that aim, in part, to “foster reconciliation through storytelling.”

Here’s the article on Wikiupedia: “This Augmented Reality App Tells Indigenous Stories in Canadian Cities” (by Megan Devlin)

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