Thesis and Purpose Statement

It’s 2011, and we still store our photos in a shoebox.

With our futuristic phones, we’re taking more photos and recording more videos than ever. Eventually, most of us are filing all of this into the cloud somewhere or onto our hard drives at home where they will probably never see the light of day. The problem with our fancy phones and online services is that they rarely encourage us to look back on the moments we’ve captured. They also fall short in helping us to relive those past experiences.

According to my brother, William Lu, a 4th year grad student at Yeshiva University who’s also doing research in memory, said that “these past experiences provide us with insight into current problems, helps us make informed decisions, and forms who we are.”

Story Forest is a service that gets your memories out of the shoebox by sharing and replaying your memories at locations where they were made within a city.

"City as a Shoebox" - Paul Pangaro

"City as a Shoebox" - Paul Pangaro

So why a city?
A city has more to offer than the setting of our own homes. It is filled with memory triggers that simultaneously stimulate all of our senses. It allows us to compartamentalize our memories into different parts of the city making the retelling of a story more vivid.

These memories, which stimulate both visual and auditory senses, are embodied by virtual trees that live on a digital layer overlaying the urban landscape. Through the use of a mobile device, pedestrians can grow their own trees or contribute to existing ones. When a story and its corresponding memories are added to a tree, a branch is formed along with its leaves. Each leaf represents a memory artifact (text, photo, or audio), related to that story. As others reflect on existing stories or as new ones are introduced, networks of branches are formed. These networks create a system for people to catalog and navigate through shared memories at a specific location.

Over time, individual trees planted throughout the city form system of interrelated memories. These systems then form larger clusters that represent the various periods of a person’s lifetime.

The Anatomy of a Story Tree

The Anatomy of a Story Tree

The trees of Story Forest are life’s trail markers, informing and guiding urban pedestrians on the path that lies ahead. By contextualizing a city’s environmental cues to geolocated memories, pedestrians are invited to recreate and reflect on their past experiences. In doing so, they are encouraged to live a more conscious present in order to make better decisions in the future.

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