Calling Card Stories: A calling card system as a storytelling device.
The goal of this project is to tell the stories of newly arrived immigrants. People new to the United States rely on calling cards to communicate with loved ones in their country of origin. Calling cards offer low rates but at the same time bury a multitude of hidden charges and fees in the fine print. Through this project you will be able to learn more about life in a new country by listening to the recorded phone conversations of immigrants. That is, if you have enough balance left on your card.
I want to create a calling card system as a storytelling device. I want users to be able to access a story and at the same time apply the functionality of calling cards to the user experience of hearing the story. As you listen, the balance on your card decreases. Since the stories will be serialized, you can hang up during the story and return to the nearest chapter marker when you call back. If your balance reaches 0, the system disconnects.
In theory you would have to get another card to refill your balance. For the final project however, you can simply call back and your balance will be restored. I am doing it this way because I am not producing unique PINs on each card. Instead, I am using the PIN as an extension that connects you to the story. There will be two stories, therefore two “PINs” (two extensions.) I will reproduce only 2 cards. I will associate card amounts to the phone number of the caller. When a new number gets added to a database, it gets credited with a certain amount. Or, when a credit reaches 0 and that person calls again, it receives a new credit.
Flowchart (click to enlarge)
Caller dials access number on calling card. She hears a recorded greeting. Meanwhile, Asterisk checks the callerID. If it is blocked, she is prompted to enter her phone number.
The number, whether user-entered or taken from callerID, is entered in a database and immediately associated with 2 fields: one field that gives value to the card (AMT) and one that keeps track of your place in the story (CHAPTER).
The caller is then prompted to enter the PIN printed on the calling card. The caller’s balance is announced. The story begins. The database calculates a fee for every minute the caller listens, with a connection surcharge for the first minute. This is subtracted from AMT. Calls are rounded up to the nearest minute.
The story is a series of recorded conversations each 1-4 minutes long. There are about 5 conversations, and each conversation is considered a CHAPTER. Between each conversation will play a 20 second clip of interstitial music. Once a conversation ends, the CHAPTER marker increases. This way if a caller hangs up without hearing the whole story, or if the caller runs out of credit, then s/he can return the last listened-to conversation without having to start from the beginning.
If the calling card credit runs out, the story gets interrupted with a message announcing the lack of remaining credit and then hangs up. The caller then has to call back to get more credit, it will remember the conversation location.
At the end of the story the caller is asked if she would like to record a response. She does so and it gets posted on the Calling Card Stories web site.