Hi aims to create a narrative map of the world. What exactly is a narrative map, you might ask? Craig Mod does an amazing job of answering that question right here, and in a nutshell, a narrative map is a collection of stories--thoughts and images--that are tied to a specific location. With Hi, these narrative bits, called moments, can be expanded upon any time you like, with the goal of developing a larger, deeper, more personal narrative around your physical space. This platform is exciting for so many reasons--new ways of telling stories, the ability to refine and expand half-baked ideas, and a gorgeous design that responds to variations in content--but what I find most interesting is that this website actually connects us to our physical space. Why is this so revolutionary? Because this is the exact opposite of what the entire digital space does. Sitting here in front of my computer right now is actually removing me from my physical space. I am in a coffee shop, and while I may occasionally notice the granite floor, I am basically in headphone land, focused on my screen. This is just the nature of interacting with a computer. Hi might help me to look around and really see my world, to think about it, to create stories around it, and to engage with physical space in a new way.
In the essay, Mod writes, "We have the devices. What we don't have is a
strong framework for building habit. Or, more specifically, a system
encouraging the habit of seeing." Hi has created an ecosystem where I can do much more than just post a photo or a status update about my location; there is the possibility for depth in terms of expression. And a variety of depths, depending on how much effort we want to put into extending a moment. This is unlike say, Instagram (another place where I might share a bit of my physical space) which is a fairly limiting platform. In fact, this may be why it's fun and easy to use. See something cool. Take a photo. Post. Yay. All in all, this is a fairly superficial act that doesn't require a ton of thinking, and it's pretty enjoyable. But there isn't much narrative being created on platforms like Instagram, despite the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words. Ha. What I'm getting at is that we've already been able to capture these moments in some ways but we've never (until now!) had a space where we can actually create stories around them and connect all of those stories to a map.
It's easy to see how Hi could become an incredible archive of historical events, which are always tied to a specific location. But, as someone who has moved a dozen times in the past decade, I'm even more interested in exploring stories on a smaller, more personal level. Who is doing what at Adelphi & Dekalb, my old cross streets in Brooklyn? What is happening in Capitol Hill, say at Caffe Vita in Seattle? What are people seeing in Golden Gate Park on this sunny Thursday afternoon? And because the platform revolves around location (not individuals) I can see what strangers are up to, which is much more delightful than keeping tabs on my friends. Hi brings us closer not necessarily to the people around us (though there is that too) but to the spaces that surround us.
Proust wrote, "The real voyage in discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." This, I think, is what Hi is about. Giving us new eyes, and new ways to see the things around us. Traveling, whether it be walking to the grocery store or flying across the Atlantic, has always been about capturing moments. Some of these moments are worth a story (and some aren't) but they all make up the map of our lives. How nice that Hi has given us such a beautiful place to collect and map our stories.