This year, for the first time in history there are more mobile phones than people on the planet. Our ever-growing dependence on technology has had a major impact on the ways in which we communicate. Our phones have become like a phantom limb. We're addicted.
Pressed for time, looking for an emotional short cut we often substitute text for voice. We replace conversation with messaging. It's a digital hit and run. Texting is perfect for 'Cu at 7', 'I'm running late', but how do we navigate more complex dialogues in a couple of sentences. In an age of rapid fire, often character limited exchanges, do we think before we text?
Memories, both good and bad, are often triggered by a text message or an email hidden in our mobile phones. Our phones have become portable personal archives that hold stories, secrets and clues about who we are. I'm currently directing Text Me, a multi platform storytelling project, which will bring to life a multitude of stories hidden in our phone archives. Text Me is about the story behind the message...
My own story began more than a decade ago. At 38, I was a freelance film director. After a short relationship ended, I found myself single, pregnant and broke. I decided to have the baby and raise him alone. Years after my son was born, scrolling though an old Nokia, I found that I had unwittingly archived a three-year dialogue of text messages between my son's father and I. Hidden in the inbox sat 100 texts that told the story of how we met, broke up, dealt with, and then failed to deal with, the unplanned pregnancy. As we grew further apart, conversations were replaced by texts. His first text read:
'Loved meeting u xx'
Three years later, he requested a paternity test when our son was two. I received this text afterwards:
'I got the results. I needed to know. I'm moving to Spain...'
That was his last and final text. My son is ten now. He hasn't seen my ex-partner since he was two. He has no memory of his father. What remains of him is the digital footprint he left behind.
I've recently completed a memoir which explores the highs and lows of this three year text thread. Each chapter of my memoir uses one of the key texts as a catalyst to signal the start or close of another drama, capturing the story behind each message.
'What a great 48 hours' - received after our third date. 'Hope today goes well' - received as I had my first scan. 'You have a son and he's beautiful' - sent hours after our son was born.
With the memoir as a starting point, I've adapted it into a ten-part animated series for the web. In each episode of the series, extracts from the book will be brought to life. Once complete, each episode will be available online.
Text Me begins with my own story but there are many more compelling technology stories to uncover. With a recent award from Creativeworks London, I'm exploring how new technologies and platforms can enhance our audience participation. I'd like people to think about their own digital footprint and to share their own stories and secrets, starting on Twitter and Tumblr. All messages will be published anonymously. We will encourage users to share their own digital secrets, the messages they treasure and the ones they wish they'd never sent.
Perhaps the last message you received from a relative who passed away, the first text your child sent you, a text that broke your heart, a text that fixed it, a text that bought good news and bad... Or simply a message you don't want to forget.
We will use these messages to develop a web-based interactive app, which will allow users to share their own stories and view those that others have created. The final Text Me website, which will go live later this year, will feature editing software which contributors can use to create their own film out of a text message or thread. Text Me is a legacy project, providing a permanent collection of text messages and micro movies that I hope will create a fascinating dialogue about our digital secrets.
Our mobiles now contain a complex archive of our lives. An archive that may well replace the shoebox underneath our beds, full of the mementos, photos and letters that once defined us. Now our archives are digital. The phone in our pocket and the communications we send up into the cloud holds an ever-expanding and treasured archive of our lives. Text Me will explore how these stories flow through our phones and what journeys they ultimately take us on.