A Bad Rememberer

Note: I wrote the first part of this entry over a year ago. After finding it in the “pending” section of my posts, I decided to add onto it and post it now.

This morning I found a fitting quotation in a New Yorker interview:

When it comes to memories of that iconic type, memories that are burned into you, I have maybe ten or so from my childhood. I’m a bad rememberer of situations. I forget almost everything as soon as it happens. But when it comes to landscapes and rooms, it’s different. I think I remember every single room that I have been in from the age of seven. What I did was to place myself in those rooms, and when I started to write about them it was like unlocking a thousand small doors, all leading further into childhood. It’s all there, you know, inside us, it’s just a matter of finding the way.


This quotation really resonates with me and my feelings about remembering. The idea of finding the way to remember is significant for my Farm project. One of the reasons that I’m revisiting my archival materials and the footage that Scott and I shot over a decade ago is so that I can hopefully unlock some doors into my past.

I also like the idea of the bad rememberer. As I think about it more, all sorts of questions about remembering are popping into my head. I wonder, what does it mean to be a good rememberer? Do they remember past experiences just like they actually happened? Is that even possible? 

Since writing these statements above, I encountered a very different take on the “bad rememberer.” In an essay for Rookie Magazine, Zadie Smith embraces her bad memory and a “miasma of non-memory”:

I have the kind of brain that erases everything that passes, almost immediately, like that dustpan-and-brush dog in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland sweeping up the path as he progresses along it. I never know what I was doing on what date, or how old I was when this or that happened—and I like it that way. I feel when I am very old and my brain “goes” it won’t feel so very different from the life I live now, in this miasma of non-memory, which, though it infuriates my nearest and dearest, must suit me somehow, as I can’t seem, even by acts of will, to change it.

Zadie Smith

I like this idea of non-memory and Smith’s willingness to accept embrace it. I especially like how she links it to her fiction writing in the next paragraph of her essay:

I wonder if it isn’t obliquely connected to the way I write my fiction, in which, say, a doormat in an apartment I lived in years ago will reappear, just as it once was, that exact doormat, same warp and weft, and yet I can’t say when exactly I lived there, who I was dating or even if my own father was alive or dead at the time. Perhaps the first kind of non-memory system—the one that can’t retain dates or significant events—allows the other kind of memory system to operate, the absence of the first making space for the second, clearing a path for that whatever-it-is which seems to dart through my mind like a shy nocturnal animal, dragging back strange items like doormats, a single wilted peony, or a beloved strawberry sticker, not seen since 1986, but still shaped like a strawberry and scented like one, too.

Zadie Smith

I wonder, is this “other kind of memory system” only suitable for fiction? Why? What sort of truth/truths can we communicate by conjuring up beloved fragments of memory?

Since it’s early in the morning and I’m running out of time, I’ll leave that last question unexplained…for now. I plan to interrogate it further soon. 

Storytelling through/with Maps

I’m fascinated by the use of maps for telling stories and I’d like to experiment with them in my own storytelling, especially on my big Farm project. As a way to get me experimenting, I’m tentatively planning on working with my daughter RJP to tell one story of our Utah trip through an interactive map/maps.

Why Maps?

They provide a nice contrast to my imaginative renderings of space as symbolic place. Plus, they offer other ways to “tell” stories about land: it’s elevation, degree of isolation, proximity to home

As I’ve been researching interactive documentary tools, I’ve encountered a few different tools/platforms for map storytelling:


Story maps combine interactive maps and multimedia content into elegant user experiences. They make it easy for you to harness the power of maps to tell your stories.


Odyssey.js is an open-source tool that allows you to combine maps, narratives, and other multimedia into a beautiful story. Creating new stories is simple, requiring nothing more than a modern web-browser and an idea. You enhance the narrative and multimedia of your stories using Actions (e.g. map movements, video and sound control, or the display or new content) that will let you tell your story in an exciting new way. Use our Templates to control the overall look and feel of your story in beautifully designed layouts.


The Map component creates a full-width map with custom location markers, including the option for the map to follow you as you scroll down the post.

Now I have two days to figure out which of these to use!?

Hello Utaahhhhhh!

For the third year in a row, STA and I, along with our kids, FWA and RJP, are driving to Zion National Park in Utah. This year, all four of us have iPhone/iPod cameras. I’m hoping that we can use them to experiment with different ways of telling our stories. I’m especially interested in finding ways to counteract the telling of a “single story”/ master narrative about our trip. So far, our Utah digital stories have been from my perspective. I’m curious, how do STA, FWA and RJP experience Utah? What stories do they want to tell about it?

a tentative plan

Each family member is required to create a daily digital moment of our trip. These “moments” should roughly be a minute long and can use voice-over, photos and/or video footage shot on that day and edited using iMovie for iPhone.  Should we able to use each other’s footage too?

The primary goal is to create a collection of stories that don’t tell the same story and that reflect our different experiences on the trip. Another goal is to get the kids experimenting with iMovie. It’s really easy to use and I think they might enjoy creating their own stories–especially RJP.

Returning (again)

For some time, I’ve wanted to create a separate space for blogging about my storytelling-self. Initially, I created a “process” blog, housed in my big storytelling project, The Farm. But, I was never really satisfied with that solution; it tied my storytelling practices too closely with The Farm and my experimenting with and development of that project. So, now, finally after over a year, I have established this blog as it’s own storytelling space. I’m hoping to use it as an open-ended space for all things related to storytelling, where I can craft stories, reflect on the process of storytelling, question methods and reasons for why we tell stories, experiment with new techniques, analyze existing technologies, imagine and plan out new ways of telling and sharing stories, and more.