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Vision Statement

Rudo Kemper edited this page Aug 4, 2020 · 2 revisions

The Big Picture

Our long-term vision for Terrastories is that it will be so easy to use that a community elder can readily utilize the core features of the application.

Setting up Terrastories will not require running any lines of code, and adding stories will not require entering geographical coordinates.

Offline "field kit" instances of Terrastories will readily sync stories and data when coming in contact with each other, and the Terrastories database is frequently, automatically, and safely backed up.

Terrastories will be compatible with other mission-aligned open-source applications, and shares core technologies.

Terrastories will support text-to-speech for any language in its internationalization (i18n) protocol to help with learning of endangered languages and usage of the app for non-literate communities.

It will be possible to "curate" the stories and places on the map using a user-friendly curriculum builder, and the speakers' biographies and photos are featured more clearly on the user interface.

Community members using Terrastories will have full and granular control over who views and accesses the data, per the individual login credentials.


Somewhere, in a remote part of the world, stories are being shared in a village in the traditional way they always have; by the elders, sitting by the fire at night, duly passing along oral histories about their homelands that they learned from their ancestors, for the benefit of the younger community members sitting nearby. But something has changed. There are less youth around. Many have left the village to go work in nearby mining and logging concessions that are destroying the homelands. The few that remain are only passively listening, more engrossed in their phones. Without a proper listener, the words of the elders are ineffective, and they vanish in the air. Soon, the elders will pass along too, and with them their vast and ancient ancestral wisdom.

One concerned community member, Maaike, decides to take action. Maaike has lived equal parts in the modern city and in the village, and is fluent in both worlds. She knows the power that digital media and the internet hold for preserving knowledge and for captivating the youth. She realizes that the words of the elders demonstrate the importance of caring for and protecting the community’s homelands, instead of permitting outsiders to destroy it. So, Maaike starts videorecording the elders to ensure that their stories live on for future generations. But she needs a way to show to the community, and to the outsiders, how the elders’ knowledge maps onto the homelands, which are being threatened. The traditional leadership is calling meetings in the village to discuss important matters about the future, but there is no internet there to stream videos or zoom in on digital maps.

Back in the city, Maaike approaches a geographer, Maria, for help. In the past, Maria has worked with the community to make some maps showing their ancestral sites and local place names. Maria tells Maaike about a new application called Terrastories that can work entirely offline, and which she can use to manage the video recordings and pin them to points on the map. Maaike is intrigued, but apprehensive; while she knows how to use a computer to check email or Facebook, she has no technical background in the least. Maria assures her that she won’t need any of that, at all; in fact, while she herself has some knowledge of software used to make maps, she is not a technical person either, and it will be her first time using Terrastories too.

They decide to do it together. Maria uses a platform called Mapbox Studio to lay out some of the community’s mapping data. Following the instructions, she downloads the Terrastories software onto Maaike’s laptop. She also downloads a map style file from Mapbox Studio, which she places in a designated area in the Terrastories files directory. From there, she double clicks the install file, which automatically sets up Terrastories on Maaike’s laptop with the map files that Maria customized in Mapbox Studio. Upon installation, they visit in the browser, and are welcomed by the Terrastories home screen. They click enter and see the mapping data laid out, ready for usage.

From here, Maaike can take over. The instructions provide a startup login to enter the administrative back end. She logs in and new options appear on the interface to add and edit new stories. She attaches her external drive, and uses the user-friendly interface to upload videos and pin them to places on the map. Suddenly, the map is coming to life with the recordings of elders telling stories about the homelands. She can customize the interface with colors and visuals that are representative of her community. She is also able to set up a login for the community to access the most sacred of stories, which are for the community only and not supposed to be heard by the outsiders. But she leaves some of the stories as unrestricted too, so that these can be shared with the outsiders when needed.

Maaike now has a tool on her laptop that she can share with her community, and she is elated. She shows it to community members of various ages who are able to use the application’s user-friendly interface to explore the map and the recordings of oral history storytelling. The application is translated into their own language, there are clear tutorial markers indicating how to use the application, and the interface is clean and attractive. The application provides tools to filter through the stories and the mapping content. The youth get it right away, but even the elders are able to use Terrastories with some initial guidance from Maaike.

After all this, Maaike wishes there was a way to get it on the youth’s phones more directly, too. Maria reads through the Terrastories instructions and finds there is a way to install Terrastories on a device that can broadcast a wireless signal which other devices can connect to load the application. The instructions are thorough and complete, so she feels comfortable in obtaining the hardware and installing Terrastories onto that, as well. Now, Maaike can bring back the device to the school, turn it on, and it automatically transmits a wireless signal that the youth can connect to using their phones, and freely explore the map and story recordings on their own. Maaike feels satisfied having found a tool that can easily help her community preserve and visualize their place-based oral histories without much fuss or setup.