As part of this blog we at Carbon thought we’d start to document some of the process we’ve been going through as part of the project. This is the first in a series of blog posts on our design process

As you may know the Pararchive Project has two distinct parts; the first is digital archives and the second is storytelling. The aim of the project is to present storytelling as a way for people and groups outside of institutions to interact with and respond to digital archives. It became clear that whilst accessing archive content would be fundamental, a lot of the creative work for us at Carbon would revolve around creating a really great storytelling interface.

2014-02-03 20.26.05 As such we have concentrated a lot of our initial efforts researching storytelling online and on the stories people want to tell. We’re lucky to be working with a diverse (as well as dispersed) group of participants and therefore we felt it would be really important to spend some time finding out about them and the subjects that they were interested in.

We started off running a number of workshops with the groups. These workshops were focussed around information gathering, discussions of archive access and the participants stories. From these workshops we started to build an idea of the stories and interest areas the groups had. Marrying this with our knowledge of the web and digital content, we started to develop a system that could both accommodate their needs but still allow the benefits of networked content to surface.

The system consisted of a number of digital “objects” which could be combined together to make stories.

  • Stories
  • Storyblocks
  • Artefacts
  • Information
  • Connectors

We’ve expressed and explained these more thoroughly in a glossary of terms.

The next step was to validate this thinking with the groups themselves. We decided to do this via a paper-based exercise where the system itself could be manipulated directly by participants and used to create stories.


We hoped in this way to determine whether the system we’d created really did cater for their needs or whether there were places where it didn’t or where they would be attempting to achieve something entirely at odds with it.

Next: Taking StoryBlocks to The Community Groups