Listening to Conversation Narratives through StoryCorps

A polite exchange at the cash register, kind words with loved ones. An ever-present form of narrative is in our conversations, the things we say and hear from others. These conversations can be precious, but their mundane disguise can make them easy to overlook.

StoryCorps seeks to capture these interactions, to engulf the sound and language that is shared from person to person. Individuals work in pairs, one interviewing the other so-to-speak, in an honest exchange of words. Liza Long and her son engage in this dialogue as she strives to understand his experiences with Bipolar Disorder and other mental illnesses.

The context of this speaking exercise allows them to tackle topics in a different way, just as it allows listeners to hear these stories from a different perspective. This snippet of conversation seems to sharpen what we hear, or rather, what we become aware of. Long also linked to her own blog post reflecting on her experiences as the mother of a mentally ill child: “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me” (Liza Long).

The conversational aura of these stories encourages people to naturally share their personal insight. I also appreciate the focus that is brought to  the sounds of stories. By stripping stories down to their spoken core, listeners are not distracted visually. We can close our eyes, just for two minutes, and focus audibly on the human voice.

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