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Tour Guides Only Tell You One Version of a City's Story. This New App Lets Residents Tell You Theirs

Banner of words from Voicemap. Republished with permission.

Banner of words from Voicemap. Republished with permission.

When you are traveling, you want to learn about your destination. But you are tired of the same old boring factoids, historical monuments, and traditional narratives written by tourism offices?

A screenshot from Voicemap. Republished with permission.

A screenshot from Voicemap. Republished with permission.

Voicemap is an app that allows storytellers to tell others about their own neighborhoods. The tracks are recorded in the voices of the storytellers, rather than professional voice artists, for a friendlier and more personal tone.

After 10 years of globetrotting, founder Iain Manley found himself working at a tour operation company. He remembered that in his own travels, the best experience was when someone showed him “their” city through their eyes. He started in his own hometown of Cape Town — a city he says is full of many different perspectives.

“Ultimately, we are really interested in doing more than providing people with tours. We want to sue this as a new medium, a way of telling stories, that can shape a narrative in new and interesting ways,” he told us through a Skype interview.

Voicemap focuses on creating multiple stories about one place, getting away from the single voice so common in tourism. Instead, they want to give a sense of ownership to people who live in the region to tell their own histories about their communities.

The website explains:

Stories have always given meaning to the world around us. Home is a story we tell ourselves, and sometimes it is a part of the story about being Away. Mount Everest, the Mississippi, the pyramids at Giza and the Berlin Wall are really just stories, told and retold every day. Your neighbourhood is a story too.

A video about the project describes Voicemap further:

There are challenges: trying to predict where people will walk and where they will stop, learning to map the walking speed to the talking time, and so on. “Instead of providing people with a list of landmarks, we want them to engage with the place,” Manley said.

And there can be surprises — “Sometimes two people will talk about the same [landmark] with completely different opinions. That is much more interesting than something coming out of an encyclopedia or a guidebook.”

Find Voicemap in the iTunes store, and stay tuned for an Android version coming soon. If you are interested in signing up as a storyteller, you can start by telling them a story online.

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