New website asks ‘Where are you from?’

Less than a year ago, communication professor Alessandra Von Burg launched an ambitious project that invited people to share their ethnic and cultural experiences through one-on-one video interviews.

Von Burg’s vision was born of the idea that everyone has stories to tell whether they are lifelong U.S. citizens or recent immigrants. The compilation of these video stories is now online at the new Where are you from? Project multimedia website.

Alessandra Von Burg

The site, designed by documentary film program graduate student Chris Zaluski, includes short interviews of people discussing their heritage as well as an interactive feature where visitors can post a self-made video interview. A Google map info-graphic shows where people in the videos were born. The new website is the next step in creating a common history that will help connect Americans who come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Von Burg, along with Zaluski and her team of Wake Forest documentary film program graduate students, undergraduate communication students and willing volunteer storytellers, has produced more than 30 videos. The project began with experiences of migration and mobility told by students, faculty and staff at the University. Now, interviews from permanent residents, green-card holders, foreign-born naturalized citizens, as well as undocumented residents and refugees, are also included.

While video submissions continue, and all are invited to participate, the next phase of the project is in planning. Full transcripts of the interviews will be made available for data analysis as open source material on the website.

Math professor Kenneth Berenhaut and communication professor Ananda Mitra will be analyzing data from the interviews. Von Burg has presented preliminary findings from the project at domestic and international conferences. “We anticipate the interviews and the conclusions from the data analysis will inform and influence policies about immigration,” she says.

Computer science professor William Turkett and students in his department are developing an application for mobile devices that will allow users to watch the interviews, leave comments, record and write their own story, upload video and pictures and invite others to submit interviews.

The website launch was announced at an international dinner hosted by World Relief, an organization that assists with immigration and relocation in the Triad area. The organization is developing an outreach campaign to help identify new community partners for the Where are you from? Project.

The Where are you from? Project is made possible in part by funding from the North Carolina Humanities Council, a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Categories: 2012 Highlights: Diversity, Community, Faculty, For Alumni, For Parents, International, Top Stories, Valuing Diversity