Perspective, or more importantly narrative. We each have several, perhaps hundreds. On the front door of my identity there are a few narratives: male, curious, young, European-descendant, son of a logger. What does it mean though for my personal narratives if I can successfully mesh with narratives around me? Or, perhaps, narratives that will never come in contact with my own (ie. the narrative of a Siberian Mystic living in obscurity)?
One of the many gifts of this first decade of this millennium is that we can access foreign perspectives without leaving our homes in a variety of ways. Obviously, books have been the main route to this kind of mental self-expansion, but now we have tools that bring the Earth and other perspectives into our ears, eyes, and collective consciousness.
I recall when I first began realizing how magnanimous this idea is when the famous Japanese astronaut @Astro_Soichi began tweeting his pics from space to his fellow ground-based friends (all 300,000 of them). He would snap a picture each day from out the spacecraft window and send aerial photos of cities that he would then send a shout-out to. A friend of mine commented “when that dude flies over Portland and tweets us from space I think I’m going to explode.” In that moment, we would have both the perspective of life on the ground, and ourselves from space, simultaneously. You know, like when you look in the mirror with another mirror in your hand at that pimple on the back of your neck.
In the context of narrative, ours are probably bigger than any of our ancestors. We have huge narratives. It’s worth bragging about!
So if twitter allows us to hold two mirrors to ourselves, what is it when we begin to mesh perspectives and narratives? Just more damn enlightenment, or something useful? Well before we answer take a look at a dual sunrise/sunset, filmed at the same time, but on different sides of our home planet. When the sun sets in Miami Beach, it rises in Southern China. Why this only has 80 views is beyond me.
Let’s explore more. The other day I found a little site called Globe Genie developed by someone at MIT (presumably jmcmicha? feel free to snoop his directory) and it got me thinking about this subject. The tool allows users to click on a continent, or choose all seven and then transports you via Google Earth street view to a random but specific location. We all know about Google Earth but this subtle variation disallows us to choose our destination, and relies instead of an algorithm that will drop you pretty much anywhere on Earth. Suddenly, you are on a street in the outskirts of Rio, or on a rocky beach in midsummer in Antarctica. Here are a few places I was dropped instantly, each on a different continent:
I find it so fascinating that this tool (or trick, is it as cheap as a trick?) not only takes me to a place but it’s so obviously a moment in time, especially apparent when a human is in the picture. I can then imagine what that moment was like and almost share it with the human in the photo. In fact I am sharing the moment with the human in the photo. I can imagine their perspective, checking out the odd Google car with a creepy all-seeing camera mounted on the hood. Perhaps they knew what it was, perhaps they forgot about it moments after it passed. But I’ve not forgotten about it. A couple years after the photo was taken (I’m guessing) here I am bringing this moment back to life at this incredibly specific place and wondering how it’s impacting my life to have access to this information.
I promise I won’t get meta, but come on this is thrilling! Now, we all have our own tools that get us excited for similar reasons, perhaps yours is Vimeo, or reading blogs (have you heard of that fort something-or-other?), or human-to-human interaction. Whatever it is, we’re expanding. In the context of narrative, ours are probably bigger than any of our ancestors. We have huge narratives. It’s worth bragging about!
If this doesn’t influence my work, then I’m not doing it right. I want to expand my contexts, narratives, and perspectives as violently (figuratively speaking) as possible. We’re talking weekly, collecting new ones, if possible. Man, this place is sparkly.
OK, here are 3 (hopefully fresh for you) quick perspective narratives. Holy Islamic, Military Industrial North Korean, and early morning Vancouver, Canada neighborhood. Combine, stir gently, and consume. It’s delicious, I promise. The awesome thing is, these 3 things (and millions more) are all happening simultaneously. Where are you in all this?