Really Grandma, It's Not That Hard!
I remember trying to explain e-mail to my grandmother. She sent me letters quite often, but I, being a child of the late twentieth century, insisted that she learn how to use both e-mail and instant messaging so that we could correspond more quickly. I told her that the Internet allows us to connect instantaneously, so we wouldn’t have to wait a week for a letter to get from Ottawa to Toronto. She promised to try.
Stuart Byatt beside the online article written by metro Calgary.
Of course, after going through the entire process of explaining how to use the Internet and how to get into e-mail, we decided to ditch the instant messenger. It’s not that she couldn’t grasp it, but the technology was foreign –something she had not grown up with. For everyone born after the 80’s, the Internet is considered a part of daily life, just like radio was considered a technological wonder in the nineteenth-century.
In a funny way, it can seem a strange contradiction that The Memory Project captures the stories and experiences of Second World War veterans using technology that is often unfamiliar to them. Instead of putting our interviews on records, cassettes, or CD’s, we chose to put it on the Internet for everyone to see and enjoy –or at least everyone who knows how to use the Internet.
In addition, media coverage of our project—like much modern press—is often to be found online. And the veterans written up sometimes have trouble finding it. The image below is a perfect example. Stuart Byatt, a merchant navy veteran of the Second World War was interviewed by Metro at our Calgary event. While he was thrilled to speak about his experience, he never saw the article until he joined The Memory Project at an event in Canmore several days later. Being able to connect Mr. Byatt with the article about his service was a truly wonderful experience. His excitement to see himself as a part of contemporary web dialogue—despite his own Internet-apprehension—was both rewarding and amusing.
Of course, the goal of The Memory Project is to capture the stories for future generations –generations who already know how to use the Internet. And through that technology, these stories will live on forever. But an equally important part of what we do is make the stories that are so generously shared with us available to veterans themselves. Bringing Mr. Byatt’s shared story back to him was an opportunity to do just that.
As for my grandmother, well she eventually got the hang of email and sent everyone monthly updates, funny jokes, and birthday wishes. But the phone was still her favourite.