StoryBeads: a wearable for story construction and trade
Barbara Barry; Glorianna Davenport; Dan McGuire

In Proceedings of the IEEE International Workshop on Networked Appliances 2000. Newark, NJ, IEEE, 2000.


Stories take hundreds of different forms and serve many functions. They can be as energetic as an entire life story or as simple as directions to a favorite beach. Technological developments challenge and change storytelling processes. The invention of writing changed the story from an orally recounted form, mediated by the storyteller, to a recorded version which was technologically reproducible. The fleeting experience of a storyteller’s woven tale became an immutable object. In cinema stories are told with a sequence of juxtaposed still images moving at a speed fast enough to fool the eye into seeing a continuously changing image instead of one image after another. The invention of the computer with its capacity for storage and manipulation of information let authors design stories and present them to different viewing audiences in different ways. Mobile computing, like the technological developments that came before it, will demand its own storytelling processes and story forms.
This paper introduces a tool for mobile, digital storytelling called StoryBeads. StoryBeads are necklaces made of small computer “beads” capable of storing, transmitting, or displaying images. They are wearable computers used for constructing stories by allowing users to sequence and trade story pieces combining image and text. The beads communicate by infrared light, allowing the trading of digital images from bead to bead. The network consists of a chain of beads connected wirelessly, where individual beads communicate with their two nearest neighbors. Each necklace is a database of images distributed across a network of communicating beads. Inter-necklace communication allows a community of users to share stories digitally by beaming them from necklace to necklace or by exchanging physical beads between necklaces. As images travel between users, new image descriptions are added, providing historical context. Theories of play styles, narrative accrual, and image-based storytelling informed the design. StoryBeads encourage messaging among a group of story participants, demonstrating that mobile and portable devices can create new possibilities for participation in distributed and networked story experiences.

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