Your experience matters. Where you heard the song, when you heard it, what you were doing at the time, whom you were with, the sights, sounds and smells that surrounded you.
How you experienced it matters.
That’s why I chose the Grateful Dead. Every time I hear this song, they’re the ones that come into my mind. Even though I know who wrote it and who first played it and who made it really famous.
How you experienced it matters.
History has always been about people and experiences. When those experiences are shared at human scale, they take on a life of their own. That’s why eyewitness accounts matter. That’s why contemporaneous records matter.
It’s said that history gets written by winners. But sometimes victories can be Pyrrhic, and it’s hard to figure out who really won.
I can see from your coat, my friend, you’re from the other side
There’s just one thing I got to know
[And that gives me an excuse to plug one of my favourite versions of one of my favourite songs. I was torn between choosing one of the early Crosby Stills and Nash versions, or going for a classic Kantner/Slick Jefferson Airplane version. Wooden Ships happens to be written by Crosby and Nash. And Kantner. So I couldn’t decide. They were both integral parts of my memories of the song. I went for a version that had Crosby as well as Slick.]
I was there.
I. Was. There.
History is at its most interesting, at its most engaging, when it’s written by people who can say “I was there”. Memories.
History used to be by humans, about humans.
Humans have had memories ever since humans had humans. But it hasn’t always been easy to share those memories. Archiving them, “persisting” them, so that they can be shared across generations, that used to be hard. Doing a Lazarus on those memories, bringing them back to life in audio or video, that used to be hard as well.
When the power to print and publish was held by a narrow elite, history was written by “winners”. When the power to record, to edit, to publish audio was held by a narrow elite, history was heard through the voices of “winners”. When the power to film, to edit, to publish video was held by a narrow elite, history was seen through the eyes of “winners”.
Those powers are democratising now. Those powers are available to all of us. There are those who are unhappy with this state of affairs, as their erstwhile powers erode. But for humankind as a whole, this is a Good Thing.
History can be recorded, archived, shared, read, heard and seen at human scale now. For years we’ve lived with the broadcast paradigm and for years we’ve felt an increasing loss of authenticity. That’s not to say that everything that was broadcast lacked authenticity, far from it. But the ethos of broadcast was riddled with that risk.
Today, in the era of the internet and the web and smart mobile devices and increasingly better connectivity, we don’t face those challenges. Instead, we face new ones, to do with airbrushing and Photoshop and provenance and curation. We face new ones to do with the longevity of the materials and techniques we use to record and archive our memories.
But they’re new problems, and we will find new solutions.
In the meantime, we should celebrate our new-found abilities to be part of the historical record at human, individual scale, yet always in community. Because that’s part of what makes us human.
Crowdfunding techniques allow us to become patrons at human scale, to allow people to capture and share their memories of the momentous events that they were part of, that shaped their lives. Events that we may all learn from, become vicarious participants in, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, always human.
That is why I chose to participate in the Kickstarter campaign for The House On Coco Road. It’s the shape of things to come, about the shape of things that once were.
Take a look at the trailer for the documentary. And then decide whether you want history to be human again, to be by humans about humans. Make that house on Coco Road part of your history. Because today you can.