This public art and civic journalism project will produce and collect stories tied to physical locations throughout Atlanta. Signs with Echo phone number and location ID will invite pedestrians and cyclists to access a story about that site via cell phone, podcast or the Web. “When a space becomes inscribed with cultural or personal stories, it transforms into a place of significance,” said project leaders Lila King and Karyn Lu, movers behind CNN’s user-generated site iReport.com.
Echo Atlanta successfully launched as a beta site. They’re planning a launch party that will include walking tours of the neighborhoods where they collected audio stories. Their “to-do” list remains full. They continue to apply for more funds to add signage around town and produce more content for the site.
It’s hard to believe that more than a year has passed since we won the New Media Women Entrepreneurs grant. In that time, Echo Atlanta has made steady progress toward launching a beta launch, building a platform for mobile, digital place-based storytelling in our city, and learning to become a business.
There are tons of updates from team Echo! June is going to be a busy month for us, as we are aiming to launch our pilot within the next four to six weeks in the Candler Park neighborhood of Atlanta. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on that. Here are some notes on what we’re working on:
We added a (much-needed) project manager/business manager to our team, Shannon Hubbell. Shannon is a dream come true – she not only keeps all of us on task every week, but she is super smart and full of brilliant ideas. Also, she is incredibly passionate about entrepreneurship (having helped to found two start-ups in the Atlanta area). Shannon is helping us explore whether Echo can become a viable business and, if so, what our business model should be so that we can generate enough money to sustain and grow the project.
We’re reaching out ...
Karyn and I stopped by our friend Joe’s shop this week to talk through some options for Echo signs and got to watch a few of them materialize before our eyes. (Note Karyn’s awesome photos!)
Joe owns a local design-build shop that makes furniture and signs and full-scale installations for places all over town, so he’s got some pretty nifty equipment, including a machine that makes incredibly precise cuts in all kinds of materials. To give us an idea of what he can do, Joe cut a few variations on our logo out of some metal sheeting.
The Echo beta launch is approaching fast! We’re working through final iterations of our logo and site design, and the back end is coming together. In the month of March we’re going to be doing some serious story collecting, both through a few more scheduled interviews with Lake Claire icons and through some community outreach so that we start off with a nice balance of produced stories and community-generated ones.
Once we finalize our logo design, we’re planning to work a friend of ours who owns a contracting and design shop to see our signs come to life.
Happy new year from the Echo team! We hope that everyone had a fantastic holiday. Both of us took some much-needed time off at the end of December, but we did manage to get a bunch of content to our developer and designer so that they can begin their work in earnest this month. We finished editing our first batch of stories (about a dozen from the Lake Claire neighborhood) and sent off the audio files and accompanying metadata.
We also put together wireframes and content for the first release of our site. Adam (our developer) and Ronnie (our designer) are both now hard at work, and we hope that by the time we post our next blog entry, we will have some preliminary designs or even a prototype of the voicemail system to share with you.
Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on the back-end infrastructure for Echo. In addition to the giant flow chart we’ve created for mapping out how users will navigate the system, we’ve developed a spreadsheet outlining all of the pertinent metadata for each of our stories. We also just finished developing wireframes and content for the first phase of the Echo site, which will prominently feature an interactive Google map zoomed into Lake Claire, our pilot neighborhood. We can’t wait to see how our designer Ronnie translates all this into a beautiful visual interface for Echo.
In the back of our minds we’re also wrestling with an interesting challenge, which came about when a friend who lives in Lake Claire told us that his wife remembers the runaway pony story differently (hear it from our 9/8/08 entry). How do we showcase a story when multiple people remember the event differently, ...
Team Echo spent the weekend in New York City, where we met up with our designer and developer in a picturesque start-up-y setting: a giant, open, randomly furnitured office loft in Dumbo. (Thank you, News Groper, for lending a Saturday afternoon perch!)
We spent most of the day Saturday working out some tough questions from our developer Adam about the structure of the Echo database, and how the various pieces of data will flow between the web and phone systems. We also talked through the hierarchies of location data and organizational structures we need to give our stories. Like, what happens when themes begin to emerge among stories and across neighborhoods? We’ll want to add in some new categories and connectors for, say, a civil war bike tour or a map of tales involving barbeque, on the fly without having to rework the database.
We laid low for a couple of weeks while we worked like crazy at our day jobs and did some lovely traveling (Seattle and fabulous Brazil), but last week Echo was back in full force.
The first order of business is a massive flowchart for the voice xml system that will power the mobile phone element of Echo. It gave us a new respect for those automated customer service lines (press “1” to get some help already, “2” to hear these options again …). Our idea is fairly simple – hear a story or leave one – but thinking through all the options, and then mapping them out in a way that wouldn’t be completely confusing to someone standing on a street corner with a cell phone is anything but. We feel good about where we landed, though, and made an important decision in the process. We’re going to organize Echo ...
Lila’s husband Brennan has found the perfect quote to capture the spirit of Echo, and we wanted to share it with everyone:
From Toni Morrison’s Beloved:
“I was talking about time. It’s so hard for me to believe in it. Some things go, pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my rememory. You know. Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it’s not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it’s gone, but the place-the picture of it-stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don’t think it, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.”
This weekend is going to be a busy one for us. We’re going to be conducting a series of interviews in the lovely Lake Claire neighborhood of Atlanta, where we plan to chat with members of a cohouse, someone who calls himself “Treeman” (he teaches people how to climb trees!), and folks attending a drum circle at the Lake Claire Land Trust. In addition to the stories we’ll be producing, we’re going to gather stories from locals about why specific spots are meaningful to them. We can’t wait to hear the stories from this neighborhood. The content we get from the Lake Claire community is going to serve as our pilot and proof of concept.
In the meantime, getting together to talk about Echo is often the highlight of our day! The two of us have been meeting for breakfast every other Wednesday at one of our favorite spots in Atlanta, ...
Introducing the Echo team
Meet Lila King and Karyn Lu and hear them explain their winning project, Echo.