Postcards from Beijing

Postcards from Beijing is an interactive storytelling piece combining the two mediums of audio portrait and prose poetry. It explores the interplay between the written word and recorded sound. The writing was inspired by my experience living in Beijing, during which I took extensive field recordings of China.

Interactive essays often include audio recordings only as “supplementary material” to enhance the essay. The audio being of secondary importance compared to writing. Postcards from Beijing attempts to craft a narrative in which the recorded sound is on equal ground to the written word.

There are many experiences that words can’t convey: the sense of immediate presence, the atmosphere of a location’s surroundings. There are many experiences that an audio portrait can’t convey: thoughts, emotions evoked by a particular location or sound. This piece juxtaposes the nature of these two mediums through an audio postcard.

Each of the seven postcards are blank, the image of a place or iconic monument replaced with the audio from that location. For example, the card on the Great Wall of Beijing is but the sound of footsteps.

Modes of communication can often come in pairs. Videos feature audio and visuals. Essays often feature image and text. But rarely does text and audio form two equal halves of a piece – a notion I wanted to explore through the interactive storytelling piece Postcards from Beijing. The next iteration of audio postcards will feature integrated NFC chips for automatic card detection. The cards will also feature low cost embedded paper speakers as designed by the High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media lab. This will produce a fully integrated system for the next Postcards From Beijing.

You can read and listen to the material used in this project below:

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