Have you ever watched a story take shape?
I don’t mean looking over some author’s shoulder as she hacks away at a novel, or listening to the librarians at story time. More like when you’re listening to your grandma and her friends talk about some event of the day.
They go back and forth with facts, sure — who missed birthday club and who was there. Who came late and what they served. But most of the conversation, the negotiation really, is about what all those facts should mean.
Was so-and-so late because she’s lazy or because she’s having a rough time at home? Was that new recipe interesting or inedible? They hash and rehash until they reach a consensus of sorts, like water droplets pulled into a hulking cloud of public opinion.
We do it all the time — at the water cooler, around the dinner table. We mold the facts we’re given into stories that tell us how the world is, or was, or how it ought to be. But, for the most part, we do it unconsciously. Enter a few University of Iowa graduate students, who have started an interesting experiment.
They’re interested in the stories that are taking shape about Iowa City’s increasing racial and economic diversity. They’ve started a collection of sorts — art, journalism, personal stories and film, and posted them on a Web site they intend to be a living, evolving documentation of Iowa City’s changing demographics, and the stories we tell about that evolution.
“This website is our attempt in forming a space through which the Iowa City community can gather to listen, read, hear, and see the stories of long-time residents, new arrivals, students and media,” they write.
They want to highlight different projects about urban-to-rural migration from both Chicago and Iowa City. They’re inviting local residents to share their stories, voice their concerns and share their thoughts in a way that’s honest and respectful.
It’s an interesting formalization (hey, they’re grad students) of a process that happens naturally, anyway. And that’s what intrigues me most: The fact that we don’t yet know exactly how all of this will mix and change and eventually condense into a new story about Iowa City.