Feb 192012

I was fortunate to recently receive an invite to Cowbird.

It is a very beautiful and purposeful place on the interwebs for storytelling and building a history of interconnectedness and interdependence through an interface that encourages the recording of characters and places and seeks a depth in the online reflections of its contributors. It was this aspect that attracted me to the site, the seeking of stories that looked inwards and downwards rather than hanging out in the shallows of the masses of content that exists on the internet.

It is an interesting little start-up experiment, one that I’d like to engage my children in as they are starting to develop and explore their own storytelling and place in the world. So, I managed to get in touch with co-founder of Cowbird Jonathan Harris and ask him about the purpose and hopes for this new little storytelling site in the cloud. I tried to keep to the Cowbird style: simple, short and seeking the humanity of what is being done here. Three questions. I hope you enjoy the answers.

Donahoo: How did Cowbird start and what is the origin of the name?

Harris: I noticed that the pace of communication had been getting shorter and faster. From letters, to phone calls, to faxes, to emails, to chats, to texts, to tweets, self expression had been getting more and more compressed. But it wasn’t clear if there would be another level of compression after the tweet. It seemed we had reached a terminal velocity, and that we were about to bounce back in the opposite direction, suddenly craving more depth.

So I wanted to build a place on the Web that would be more conducive to self-reflection and deeper connection — a place for the kind of thoughtful storytelling that had been washed away by the social web’s relentless promise of “newness.”

The name “Cowbird” combines the traits of those two animals — mixing the slow, grounded, contemplative presence of a cow with the fast, free, efficient, and joyful presence of a bird. Most of the Internet (including websites like Facebook and Twitter) are all bird, and no cow. Meanwhile, more traditional mediums like opera and novels are all cow, and no bird. Cowbird combines these extremes, creating a storytelling environment that is fast and efficient, but also deeply meaningful.

Donahoo: Who is Cowbird for?

Harris: Cowbird is really for anyone curious about life and how people live it. We are a small community of storytellers, sharing heartfelt, personal stories.We do our best to be students and teachers of each other’s experience.

Read more . . .
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