Matt Blackwood is the creator and project lead for MyStory – a location-based fiction project funded and hosted in Melbourne. Here he talks about MyStory’s origins – how they got started with it, and why he’s doing the project:
They say it’s all about the details; the minutiae, the flecks of paint, the beads of sweat, the congealed Chupa Chups sticks, the smiles, the snarls and the occasional gleam – and you know what – ‘they’ were right.
The small things have always intrigued me. That’s not to say I don’t dig Space Odyssey 2001 or The Vidiot from UHF, but everyday humanity is something I’ve always cherished. It might have something to do with my background: not having much money, I spent more time staring at Lego catalogues than piecing together choke-sized blocks for spaceships.
And sure, it might not be trendy to be interested in the small and everyday when Sexagenarian in the City and Warepires are ruling the popular mindset, but the way I look at it, it’s now more important than ever to look at the everyday, to assess where we are, where we’ve been and where we are headed.
So these were the thoughts that spun around my head some 12 months ago; thoughts of how being a writer in a City of Literature didn’t automatically make my writing appear in the city. Thoughts wanting more people to read my work, wanting more support as a writer, and wanting to feel more connected with my fellow Melbournians, and so the framework for MyStory began.
In essence I was interested in location based stories.
I started by looking at different ways to combine the surging uptake in smartphones, mobile internet and the human desire to be told stories one-on-one. I wanted people to reconsider spaces they might have already walked down a thousand times before, or take a chance and venture down somewhere new. I wanted to peel back some of the layers, and perhaps even pre-conceptions about some of these spaces, while spinning tales that were true and truish. All this meant creating an interactive database where writing could be easily accessed in a form that made the most of mobile technologies, but also didn’t exclude people without smartphones or laptops. And I wanted to take it a step further, so that people with vision impairments could also access the content.
Then came the realities.
I knew that people weren’t going to stand and experience a story for a huge amount of time, even if they did happen to love the space they were in. The spaces were always going to be dynamic. This dynamism would obviously affect the experience of the literature; if the spaces were too loud or too busy, raining or sunny, busy or quiet, dark or midday bright; it was all going to impact the interpretation of MyStory.
So the short stories became bite-sized tales of 600 to 1200 words that touched on the raw elements of each of the sites to give the stories grounding. This format meant that people didn’t need to commit hours of their life to engage with MyStory, and by having each of the sites no more than five minutes walk apart, audiences could easily skip from one site to another, or even from one tour to another, if they didn’t connect with that particular writer’s style. Fiction or non-fiction, self contained stories, or larger pieces split up over several sites; these were the options I toyed with, trying to find a balance between the most immersive experience and not being too prescriptive to my guest authors.
Then it was the small matter of finding these guest authors.
Authors who not only had a high profile and would say yes, but had a synergy of styles between the four of us. It would also be handy that my own work would stand up alongside theirs. So I managed to coax one of Australia’s most well known larrikin of an author in Barry Dickins, Cate Kennedy and her award-winning ways, and Tony Birch and his street sensibility, to hopefully complement my own love for the small importants, to make a series of stories that would touch on the humanity of places.
And then along came the 2010 Laneway Commissions.
The City of Melbourne have offered these commissions for the past seven years, and a nagging voice inside my head kept muttering that even though they had never commissioned a solely digital piece, let alone one heavily relying on text, it was worth the shot in applying.
The City of Melbourne seemed to dig it.
And so MyStory was born.
So six days a week for the past six months have been spent midwifing a website, a smartphone version of the site, and a soon to be released iPhone App, that will hopefully combine to connect people to stories and place and people to literature in general.
The plan now is to try and expand MyStory to include more stories of Melbourne, and even grow across more cities, engaging truly diverse audiences with stories of all kinds. So come and have a look and spread the word, and by all means send me an email via the website to let me know what you think.
Happy listening, reading and exploring.
Matt Blackwood writes MyStory with Barry Dickins, Tony Birch and Cate Kennedy. MyStory features audio, writing, and multimedian, location-based stories by the four. Get MyStory on your smartphone here, or begin listening to it on your computer today.