Karl’s Timepaths Project

Old family stories that take you there. Meet the Author via video

The purpose behind TimePaths is to Inspire families, especially the younger members. Have them seek out the older living relatives and connect in storytelling. Pull out their stories while they are still alive. Then collaborate with the other family members to bring the stories alive using whatever creative means they can imagine. Once the choreographed multi-media masterpieces are complete, share them with family and friends.

What would be the objective of this type of engagement, melding old adventures with young curiosity?

Well, we think it builds family unity and an appreciation for the struggles of our grandparents. Gaining gratitude for their tenacity on our behalf and an appreciation for what we now have. 

It might even tweak enough courage for us to go off and do hard things.

So what challenges could come off with such an endeavor?

Stories range from doze-off-boring to white-knuckling your grip in your chair. Interviews live and die on asking the right questions. What is it the audience really wants to know?

That great shared story embarrassing Uncle Joe, is that the reason the rest of the family zipped up from having any further interview with you? You have to ask yourself what should stay in and what should be edited out.

Our project dealt with all of these, plus the technical side of Hosting a site, making content shareable and securable. Seems family members were a bit rattled knowing the proto-type was totally unsecured.

Matching the right editing software constrained by budget, skill, and feature set, and then there was how to view and navigate through a life set of stories.

In IT, there’s a phrase called Minimum Viable Product. It goes with a project management philosophy called Agile. Our project started once we determined the minimum viable product would be a new website with one story put on a map. The one story would be an initial interview of a grandmother by her son. The story would be edited by her grandson’s partner, and the map would be drawn out by her great-granddaughter. We then stepped back and shared the context with immediate family for feedback.

Subsequently, we interviewed what would be a good coverage of this grandmother’s major life stories. Built on the prior experiences and choreographed them all. The great-granddaughter flushed out the map, and I devised a navigation mechanism that would allow one to interact with the map and scroll through the time path of the grandmother’s life, seeing the path grow as you scrolled forward in time. Some contextual content outside the interview was collected and added to the path.

Once one person’s time path was finished, we extended our feedback group to once-removed relatives. Here’s a link to our first Timepath with a scrollable path.

We hit a snag here as a younger member hypersensitized to racism by her school came away questioning if her grandma was racist. To us, the material opened our eyes to how harsh things were for kids during the war. All the fathers and husbands were off dying; kids were orphaned. Barely any food and bombs dropping all around you.   Racism didn’t come into our purview.

Seems her education didn’t focus on how much things have improved since her grandmother’s time. Only on the craft of how to identify it and call it out. For us, this was the biggest hurdle. After all, they were the main target of our project. Here we did see a necessity to bring in time-period-related content. Get the social norms of the day. What the political climate was like. What the citizenry were free to do and what would land them in trouble. The jobs folks had to do to get by, and what made up a typical day.

The hope will be that the audience will hold off judgment as they look at the disparity between the two worlds. Have this as a pre-narrative to the individual’s TimePath.  Now we can appreciate that not all stories would need this, but it’s interesting that this one did. Not sure how often this would come up as we are only in the early stages of this project.

A lesser challenge was content editing. When the grandmother rags on one son’s bad habits, or elaborates on an episode that puts him on the outs with the family, do you include it or not? Not all grandparents have tact. Their story could be really interesting to you, but considered as “airing out dirty laundry” by the rest of the family. Dealing with these challenges then shines the light back on the interviewer. Using the best of journalistic skills, one could navigate the story around some of these minefields and saves you editing time. Again, this is something that came to light after the fact, so we had lots of editing.  

Curiosity was tweaked when we investigated the Big 5 Personality tests on the family members. The individual reports highlighted aspects of your personality everyone already knew, but the icing on the cake came from the relationship reports once you paired with others. You just got to see them in a whole new light. 

Our project’s IT tech skills were limited in being able to wow visitors upon visiting our site. We’re at round three of expanding the minimum viable product. This round focuses on the skill sets necessary for the role of Chief Family Editor in their Family News Network.

We wanted to have an experience portion of the site that would also help motivate folks to come on board and dabble as a journalist.

Overall the project is motivating and shows promise. The artful skill of interviewing seems to engage one to advance. The project fosters numerous iterability opportunities to keep making the next one just a bit better, and isn’t that worth engaging in?