The value of voice

I’ve said it before.  Specifically in multiple conversations with Evan Dawson of WXXI’s Connections (both on air and at other events) and in my TEDxRochester talk.

As connected as we think we are in today’s world, there is a magic to finding someone willing to LISTEN.  To hear your story without judgement, without interjection or revision, with empathy.

It can be hard to find.

In my experience gathering stories at the market, this held so true. People were drawn to the opportunity to tell a tale.  The intimidation factor and imposter syndrome would make an appearance but quickly be swept away as people just started talking.  That someone cared to mark their personal experience was all the encouragement they needed.

Enter the Storybooth (pictured here in it’s beta appearance at the Key Bank Rochester Fringe Festival – and available to try all hours that Spiegelgarden is open until 9/23).  The driving purpose of the Storybooth is to get stories out into the streets – to create the opportunity to stumble upon the stories of others and also leave your own.

In this environment, I figured that the value of finding a listener would be less important.  Maybe the novelty of the interface would play a bigger role.  The gaming element of Discovery might be a driving factor, placing the stories themselves second.  Yet I still hoped the stories would deliver their message of universal humanity and sow the seeds of community building.

Instead, what I’ve found after a weekend of working the booth and observing how people interact with it is that the power of voice runs both ways.  The ability to leave a story for someone, anyone, to listen to couples with the ability to hear the voices of others telling their own stories and creates something magical.

“I’m not sure about the story, but there’s something about this that is just so cool,” proclaimed one smiling teenager.  You could almost see the shiver that ran through him.  The story that he had listened to wasn’t anything incredible for him, but reaching through the recording to hear someone else describe their experience was something he’d not soon forget.

Another visitor talked of the therapeutic power of being able to leave a story for that anonymous listener.  There’s a value to getting it out, to saying the words – and understanding that someone is bound to hear.

One young lady talked about the power of the human voice.  That listening to someone’s voice alone can connect you to them – can be a beacon in the wilderness to pull you through and low points and struggles to the next adventure.

The smiles, giggles, eye-rolls, grimaces and response once the phone is hung up are also testament that the stories still have power.  If I did not feel so nervous about my own pictures, I would probably take more of people interacting with the phone.  I’ll try to get at least some before the fest is done.

I love that the concept is proving out even stronger than expected.  That the power of story, of a listener, and of hearing the voice of a fellow human is showing so strongly.  And I’m excited to see where it leads.

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