If you’re trying to leave a message for Trevor MacDermid, odds are his voice mailbox is full. With a passion for documenting the human voice within a shortage of storage space, Trevor is the pioneer of Voicefield: a place for people to express themselves by leaving audio messages on a community website. The antithesis of other popular social media platforms, messages created using Voicefield are meant to last and can be created by anyone, anywhere, at any time. Voicefield embraces nuanced sentimentality and is on the BR!NK of becoming the next YouTube or Twitter. Trevor talked to us about the origins of Voicefield and why sharing our voices now is more important than ever.
What is Voicefield? How do you describe it to people?
It’s a new platform that celebrates the most personal, most expressive forms of communication – the words we speak. You can record anything you like and listen to others do the same. Technically speaking, Voicefield has two interfaces: phone and web. Users may record themselves using either, and people can then choose to “follow” that person and listen to their recordings. Voicefield messages can be embedded in web pages and shared as links. The easiest hook is to say that it’s voice-Twitter; you can follow that immediately by saying it’s YouTube for the spoken word. But Voicefield is not trying to muscle through the bottleneck of typing and reading with talking and listening – It’s not about immediacy; it’s something a little more romantic than that: It’s about conveying over the internet to an attentive community the emotions that can only be conducted by voice.
What inspired you to start this project?
I’ve got this love affair with recordings, with voice messages, with old tapes – I just like them. I’m the guy whose friends can’t leave messages because my voice box is full and I hate the idea of deleting these messages. In one-way or another, they’re precious. I was talking to a friend about how to create a site where you can post interesting, poignant voicemail, and in our discussion, what he recommended to me was that the speaker should be voluntary. So it becomes like a voice diary.
How do you think Voicefield fits in the realm of social media?
What it’s not is immediate news casting. No one’s going to use Voicefield to get sports scores or stock quotes. It’s not making things faster with talking and listening. I think it’s a fantastic compliment to Facebook. It’s a nostalgic, romantic, personal take on who we are, what we’re doing, what’s on our minds.
It seems you really believe in the power of the human voice. Where does that come from?
When I was five or six, a babysitter gave me a little tape deck that she had. My brother and I used to just record things. I had some older cousins that I thought were really cool, so when we were all together, we would sit in the back of the station wagon and make radio shows.
Who do you see using Voicefield?
Anyone. Children, poets and comedians, lonely people, those with broken hearts, people who are intoxicated, people who have a desire to confess something, people who find themselves alone and thoughtful with a few minutes on their hands, and people who just want to share. Voicefield has a great opportunity for people to be anonymous or to be a persona that they create.
What have been some challenges with the website so far?
I don’t know anything about programming computers. I have relied on help from some very talented people. These are people who deserve to get paid. I haven’t had a whole lot of capacity to pay them very much so it’s been slow to do things, which just comes with building any kind of website. The other is building a community. Though people seem to instantly get it, doesn’t mean people are instantly excited to participate in it. It encourages me to think back on people’s initial reaction to what YouTube was five or six years ago. I feel that people want to express themselves and be witnessed and heard and love to be attended to by others. But they also don’t want to do anything wrong and they don’t want to be embarrassed, so it takes a leap.
Where would you like to see Voicefield growing in the next couple of years?
I would like to have an effect on the way that people express themselves. On one hand, it’s a technological achievement that’s moving us forward. But really it’s about the voice – the way that we communicate – which is something that I feel is getting lost. I would like for it to become a platform where there is thoughtful, personal expression.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to the success of Voicefield?
Well, they can start using it and contributing to it. I imagine there are three types of Voicefield users: people who want to just listen, people who want to speak and want to share, and then, somewhere in between, there are people who want to curate, who will want to go the website and organize messages. People can use Voicefield and encourage their friends who are great storytellers and personalities to do the same thing.
To experience and participate in Voicefield, go to www.voicefield.com or call 212-937-8981.