There's an inherent pleasure in unexpectedly hearing the voice of someone you know and love. And now that pleasure will last forever, for everyone.
Andy Mabbett is trying to preserve that thrill for future generations through Wikipedia's Voice Introduction Project. The project, Mabbett's brainchild, aims to collect 10-second audio clips from anyone who has a bio page on the site. John Updike, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Jane Goodall are a few of the voices that the project has already captured.
Many people feel video clips are a more complete record of a person, but Mabbett was drawn to vocal clips for a few different reasons. The first is practical: name pronunciation. In the future, it might be really hard to know how to pronounce a name without hearing how the person in question pronounces his or her name. But more importantly, Mabbett feels that a voice paints a portrait of someone more completely than even a picture can.
"It's a very personal thing," Mabbett said. "If you think about the people in your own life, you know their voice the moment you hear it. As much or sometimes even more so than a photograph." And unlike faces and bodies, voices stay fairly consistent across a lifetime — you can hear Dustin Hoffman now and recognize the voice in all of his iconic roles at once, from The Graduate to Rain Man.
Listening through the brief clips, it becomes even more apparent how valuable a program like this could be. Hoffman and Goodall immediately spring to life, adding rich personal context to their otherwise dry wiki pages. Making such voices publicly accessible on the Internet enables the legacy of our culture's foremost creators and thinkers to be accessible in a fresh way. It's a personal touch in the digital age.