Marty Lucas: We hear a lot about community, but sometimes an online community is just a couple of people launching flames at each other. Other times you get people sharing their treasures, their feelings, and useful information. What does it take to create a real community experience like Private Art?
Rebecca Hargrave: Well, Im not a war buff or a historian. I dont know much about war, but I understand people and their emotions. I think you really score with a community when you understand how to move people and get people involved. Thats when you build a community. You and I have talked before quite a bit about community from a marketing standpoint. You know, the various discussion boards and stuff. That stuff kind of leaves you flat. But when you build a real community it means that people are involved enough moved enough to take the site beyond the Web.
Marty Lucas: In the Digital Storytelling Cookbook by Joe Lambert, he sets out seven elements that he feels make for good digital storytelling. One of the elements is a point of view. The story of Private Art is told so directly, so plainly, and without glamorization it doesnt dehumanize anybody. I couldnt help but feel that the point of view is essentially an anti-war story. What do you think about that?
Rebecca Hargrave: Thats interesting. I dont know. The point of view I used was the point of view I saw sitting in my kitchen with Private Art and Rose (Arts wife). And youd almost have to know them to appreciate their point of view, but I think I convey that on the site. People get emotionally involved with the characters because the site successfully communicates their individual personalities. But you saying, its an anti-war story, I think the way that we tell the story lets people draw their own conclusions. We have some people that think its the most patriotic story theyve ever seen.
Marty Lucas: Well theres no contradiction in being patriotic and being anti-war, hopefully at least, right? For me, the death of Bob Bailer on the North Atlantic in 1943, and seeing it in the words of people close to him was a moving experience. And there were so many other lives that ended too soon. And yet, Private Art never dehumanizes the enemy - it says the enemy did some bad things, but it doesnt dehumanize them.
Rebecca Hargrave: Its totally from the points of view of the people at the time and how they expressed it then in their own words. Its Private Arts point of view, its Roses point of view as she makes [present day] comments in the blurbs that accompany some of the letters its Arts mothers viewpoint too.
I suppose it is anti-war in that you wouldnt want this to happen to anybody that you know and love, you wouldnt want your family to go through this. So in that respect it is. But its really what the user brings to it, they read it and draw their own conclusions. Users say, Private Art means this to me, and I think thats part of its success.
Marty Lucas: Tell us a little about how schools are using Private Art.
Rebecca Hargrave: We get a lot of e-mail from educators who are using it to supplement their basic curriculum. We also get a lot of e-mail from people who are home schooling their children. Many people think that the best way to really know about history is to see it through the eyes of a real person,
to listen to a first-hand account from somebody who was there.
We get teachers and students checking in with us regularly. Private Art and Rose have conducted interviews with students, and we get a lot of e-mail from students asking permission to use images from the site in their report, that kind of thing.
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