Be Here Stories: A Digital Storytelling Experience

With over 400 million people using Instagram’s story feature daily,[1] digital storytelling is becoming an integral part of how we connect to people and places. To facilitate digital cultural storytelling, MuseWeb Foundation developed Be Here Stories – an app that utilizes a mobile device’s geolocation and microphone tools to allow users to record stories about their favorite arts and culture sites. Whether guests to your organization are visiting virtually or in-person, Be Here Stories’ straight-forward design allows for the easy creation of a digital storytelling experience for audiences near and far.

How Be Here Stories Works
Community-sourced details about local history and beloved attractions are uploaded to the app. These stores are accessible in two ways. In app location tools allow people to listen to stories while personally visiting the place. Alternately, for virtual visitors, the MuseWeb Foundation has created an interactive map where visitors can listen to stories recorded by Be Here Stories’ users from around the world.

The app’s homepage, which appears when the app is opened, invites users to “Listen” or “Speak.”

 

  Be Here Stories’ mobile homepage

Be Here Stories’ mobile homepage

 Listen to Stories
Selecting the “Listen” feature allows users to stream audio contributions from people who have used the app. A filter button gives the user the opportunity to select if they would like to hear only local content, or stories from far away. This tool provides something akin to a recorded walking tour on their mobile device based on their location.  

  Be Here Stories’ listening feature

Be Here Stories’ listening feature

Record Stories
Selecting the “Speak” feature allows users to select a program they want to contribute to. Some programs listed, such as “Waterways” are specific to certain geographic locations, but the “Your Town” option leads to a list of general questions that prompt users to share stories and information about where they are. Selecting “Share a story about your town” takes the user to a page where they can record, and re-record, a story of up to 300 seconds, and upload it for sharing. Before uploading, users can add photos or text from their phone to support their audio.

  Be Here Stories’ recording feature

Be Here Stories’ recording feature

 

Be Here Stories Pros and Cons
Be Here Stories emphasis on human connection to place presents a lot of opportunities. The app can be a platform for your staff, artists, or experts to share about the history of your organization. It can highlight a piece that particularly speaks to the mission of the organization or relates to the world at large. Equally important, it can be used to invite your audiences to share their personal connections to your spaces and programming. Not only does this serve as a digital engagement tool, but it provides unique insight into your audience’s experiences and your organization’s ties to individual members in your community.

This app, however, does have some notable limitations. Here are things to consider before using the app:

  • Through planning and scripting your organization can control what information your team shares through Be Here Stories, however, once you upload a post there is no opportunity to make edits to that post.

  • You cannot control what your audience hears when they utilize the “Listen” feature of the app. There is no way to vet what kind of content your audiences may share, and it is unclear if the app developers filter out stories with strong language or graphic content.

  • It requires iOS 10.3 or higher and is not compatible with Android or Google devices.

  • Unlike apps such as Facebook and Instagram, Be Here Stories does not allow users to integrate video content at this time.  

  • As the apps content is crowd-sourced, the “Listen” feature’s usefulness is dependent on how many individuals in a certain area have contributed audio to the app.

  • When testing the app there was clear confirmation when a story was successfully uploaded, however a few days after recording there was no evidence of the recording on the app either when checking the interactive map online or when walking by the location where recording was performed. An FAQ page accessible on the Be Here Stories website or through the app explaining why there may be lag time between when stories are recorded and when they are made available to others would be helpful.


While it is important to consider the above, Be Here Stories is a user-friendly app that is both free and fun to use. The app is appropriate for both individuals using it personally and organizations looking to strengthen ties with their community or enhance audience engagement.

Resources

[1] Yurieff, Kaya. “Instagram Stories Is Twice as Popular as Snapchat.” CNNMoney, June 28, 2018. https://money.cnn.com/2018/06/28/technology/instagram-stories-users/index.html.