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Toronto's PostSecret

It's no secret that sharing secrets is one of the in-things to do on the internets these days. The runaway popularily of PostSecret is a testament to that.

What will be interesting to watch is how the idea of sharing secrets evolves and what types of interfaces will be created to facilitate the process.

As reported in an earlier post about the Habitat New Media Lab, a few enterprising grads recently unveiled a Toronto grown interpretation of a PostSecret like experience. It's called "things left unsaid".

Sharon Switzer and Bronywn Anderson, two of the three Toronto-based founders of the site took some time away from their new media pursuits to fill me in on some details about "things left unsaid". Here's the Q&A:

Q. What is "things left unsaid"?

"things left unsaid" is an anonymous space where secrets can be disclosed, and the musings of strangers explored. Visitors interact with other people's contributions by moving words around a map of disclosures, making poetic associations. This experience is enhanced by a fictional video that chronicles the struggles of four friends as they try to connect, and communicate the things left unsaid in their lives.

The project goes mobile with weekly text messages of the best-kept secrets, and a series of downloadable videos for mobile phones. The movies are silent, using inter-titles instead of audio to convey the tension that exists in lives filled with secrecy.

Q. This reminds me a bit of the blog PostSecret. How do you account for the popularity of sites that trade in secrets?

First, we want to address your use of the term 'trade', which has strong associations with commodification. Both PostSecret and "things left unsaid" are free sites.

Our site is one of a growing number that are creating new ways to explore the potential of the internet - creating online community. Our objective is to humanize the web, so that it's not just about commodity or information, but about connecting with others in real ways.

People carry "things" with them daily - guilt, fear, regret, anger. These sites offer a repository where people can anonymously leave their baggage and move on. For anyone who hasn't participated in a site like this - I encourage you too. It's surprisingly cathartic.

Q. This was a project that came out of the Habitat New Media Lab. How did your experience there help shape this, and what did Habitat do to support you in your efforts?

The project wouldn't have happened without Habitat. It brought the 3 creators, Sharon, Bronwyn and Me together. None of us would have ever conceived of doing this kind of project independently. The first half of the residency was geared towards opening our eyes to what is already being done, and how to think about possibilities for our contribution to this field. The second half of the program revolved around an intense critique process that really helped to shape our vision, and the eventual execution of "things left unsaid".

Q. What's next for "things left unsaid"?

The official launch of this year's Habitat prototypes is in July. We are entering our videos in local and international mobile film festivals, continuing our efforts to make the videos more easily accessible to mobile video phone users, and trying to secure a distribution deal. We hope word spreads about the "things left unsaid" online community, and that it continues to grow organically.


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