Placecloud’s basic building block is the viewpoint. What is a viewpoint? Simply an audio recording with GPS co-ordinates attached. Neither of those two elements is new, of course. But when you combine them, something magical happens.
When a Placecloud expert makes a viewpoint, they introduce intangible things (stories, memories, knowledge, imagination) into the physical world. It happens in two stages. First, they give these bodiless things a body: their human voice. Second, they attach GPS co-ordinates to that voice, and in so doing, they place it somewhere in the world. Now the story/memory/knowledge actually inhabits the physical world alongside all the buildings and people. This is where the magic happens.
Stories, memories, etc. are very potent. By placing them somewhere in the physical world, their potency pours into the building, bridge, hillside, whatever it is, like an electrical current. When someone listens to a viewpoint, that place becomes emotionally charged. Not just while they’re listening to it, but forever. A new, permanent feature in the listener’s ’emotional landscape’ (to coin a phrase) has been created.
Such is the power of viewpoints.
There are some wooden timbers half-submerged in the muddy foreshore of the river Thames, at Vauxhall, in central London. Mudlarkers and walkers on the shore often sit on the beams for a few moments’ rest. For them, the beams are merely some damp logs conveniently placed. But it just so happens that these timbers are the remains of a dwelling built by hunter-gatherer londoners in the late Stone Age. As such, they’re totems of a whole world that existed at that very spot, 6,500 years ago.
If the mudlarkers had known this other aspect of the wooden beams – if they had listened to a viewpoint about it [update: now there is one!] – something extraordinary would have happened. The spot would have become suddenly charged with significance for them, bursting onto their emotional landscape. Returning to the place at any time in the future, or even thinking of it, would trigger thoughts and feelings of that Stone Age dwelling and of the real people that lived there all those years ago.
This is what happens when memories, stories, knowledge and imagination make contact with the physical world. Places come to life, and our emotional and psychological landscape is extended. We become less self-enclosed. The world becomes bigger, deeper.
Such is the power of the viewpoint.
Our vision for Placecloud is to fill the physical world with stories, memories, knowledge and imagination, through viewpoints. We envision viewpoints of all kinds, from memories of individuals’ experiences, to biographical stories, to ethnographic tales, to historical knowledge, to architectural musings, to poetic articulations.
Of course, there are quite a few places in the world, and each one holds a potentially infinite number of viewpoints. That’s a lot of viewpoints. Only an active community of passionate cultural experts can make this happen.
So if you’re a cultural expert, and what you’ve just read excites you, please join us. Start sharing your cultural knowledge about places in viewpoints. People will hear them, and their world will be more enchanted because of it.