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Serenity Now: The Web as a Sanctuary for Storytellers

When I was building Cowbird, I was trying to create a kind of sanctuary for storytellers on the Internet.  A lot of the Internet, in recent years, has become like a shopping mall or like a superhighway that you experience at 90 miles an hour with billboards flashing by you and most Web sites have hundreds of links and banner ads and videos flashing at you and things advertising how many times a given article has been tweeted or liked or shared.  And it’s just sort of this frantic, schizophrenic experience. I was much more interested in creating a space that felt like a church or a forest or a park or something very quiet and sacred and contemplative that would really honor stories and honor storytellers and give those things a very respectful home.  

So I was trying to build a kind of sanctuary for storytellers and there was a whole slew of different design choices made to try and encourage that, things like only showing one thing at a time, like a full-screen image, which you completely absorb while listening to the author speaking over it. And, when you’re finished with that, you can move down and you can start to see metadata that connects that story to other things in the ecosystem.  So there’s really this combination of having the sort of two-inch view very close to something beautiful and then, once that’s been deeply felt, stepping back and zooming up to 10,000 feet and starting to see where that individual moment fits into a broader context, both statistically and also just experientially.  So allowing for both of those modes of exploration was really important.


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