Digital Storytelling

As we wrap up IST646: Storytelling – which seems to have flown by and made 6 weeks seems like such a short period of time – I am left thinking about not only my future with storytelling, but the future of storytelling in general and how digital storytelling will play its part.

This week Professor Arnone mentioned that she has attempted to maintain a balance between digital and oral storytelling throughout the course and asked us why and/or if we found this important. Throughout this course I have probably been viewing digital and oral storytelling as two separate entities, however I do think there is a very important connection between the two.

The responses from other classmates on this week’s topics have been interesting. One classmate asserted that oral storytelling remains our most important form of storytelling and digital storytelling serves to enhance that. While I certainly agree that using digital components can enhance oral components greatly, I also think new technologies have proven there are new and interesting ways to tell stories without relying mainly on an oral narrative. Twitter, for example, seems to be a digital tool that has spurred opposing opinions on whether or not it serves as a good storytelling tool. While many have valid complaints against the medium – it’s disjointed, there are too many voices, etc. – I believe it not only has the potential to serve as a great storytelling medium, but that many people have already figured out how to do this effectively. Take for instance author Elliot Holt’s mystery story that she told using the twitter feed of three fictional characters. Her use of Twitter and her ability to create three characters with distinct personalities and voices – without any oral components – in such a short period of time and concise use of words was really impressive to me. I thought the short tweets and disjointed narrative switching back and forth from characters actually brought more intrigue and confusion to the story – which is exactly what you want in a murder mystery.

Holt’s story is an example of how Twitter can be used to create and tell original stories in new ways, but there re also people who are using the medium to revisit existing stories. Another classmate, in response to the above article about Twitter, took issue with this idea – tweeting out a scene from Hamlet, for example, by retweeting other Twitter users. Personally, I love the imagination and creativity that goes into thinking of something like this. Rather than just tweeting out the lines himself, the author found pre-existing tweets on the site and retweeted them, essentially bringing in other participants to his story. Rather than just repeating the scene of a classic story, I think the author’s retweeting experiment sort of shows one way in which the story of Hamlet lives on in modern culture. He also understands the medium – retweeting a line that was attached to a picture of Chik-fil-A as part of his retelling also served as a way to poke fun at one of the most stereotypical complaints people have about the medium – “why do I care what someone is eating for lunch today?” My classmate asserted that each medium should be used for its strengths – rather than tweeting out a classic novel or play in 140-character chunks – but I think that is precisely what each of these authors was doing. By understanding the medium and the role it plays in our culture, one was able to create an interesting, original story and kept it relevant by using the medium as people do today (tweeting excessively and about trivial things, using hashtags, etc.), and one was able to use the medium and put a modern spin on a classic. Frankly, this reminds me of the book vs. ebook debate. So often I hear people complaining about e-books and expressing their love for the feel and smell of paper books and how they could never switch to an e-reader. I love books too, and I hopefully will never stop reading and buying paper versions, but I will also not dismiss this new medium and refuse to acknowledge the strengths it may have and the way it can enhance stories and reading. In the same way, over the past few weeks I have come to really love oral storytelling – the traditions, the history, the way oral storytelling can add to a tale, the passion you can see in the storyteller – but I have also come to love digital storytelling and all the possible mediums that can be used to tell stories. I believe they can both exist on their own, but I also believe they have the ability to enhance one another greatly.

In one section of this week’s lesson storyteller Margaret Read McDonald was referenced, saying that storytelling is traditionally oral and once it enters another medium – a written medium – it becomes trapped in that one form. She goes on to say that the job of the storyteller is to retell the story in a new, unique way and in a way that relates personally to the storyteller somehow. I believe that while oral storytelling is an important tradition – and one I don’t think will disappear anytime soon – digital storytelling is now not only giving us endless ways to create new, modern stories but it also offers the tools to enhance the tradition of storytelling and to expand on classic tales, insert our own personal takes and commentary, infuse modern elements into classic narratives, and so on. Essentially, digital storytelling is giving us more tools and possibilities to insert our talents and personalities into stories.

 

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IST646 Midterm Video Project

For the midterm project I decided to challenge myself and work on a new story, rather than reusing audio from something I had already done for this class. This story was one I considered doing for my final project, but I think it worked much better as a shorter story.

Learning another new program was both fun and challenging. WeVideo was certainly more complicated and involved than Audacity, but I liked the final product much more than when we simply did audio recordings. I’ve made some videos before but nothing this involved or technical. Usually I’ll just make a video that cycles through still images and has some background music. It was really interesting – and challenging to get images, narration, music and videos clips to all sync up properly. Although, WeVideo felt really intuitive and easy to learn. I’m sure not all video editing software is that user-friendly.

For the story itself I decided to create a story about our dog’s health problems. Since the subject matter can be somewhat of a bummer  (for example, I left the part out of the story where the vets told us most people put down dogs with this condition and we should consider it too) I decided to tell the story from the dog’s perspective. I figured this way it would have a lighter feel overall and it would allow me a way to tell the story without having to get into all the technical details of his condition. The one thing I would try and improve upon if I was to work on this story again would be the script. It sounded alright after writing it, but after listening to it over and over in the editing process there are definitely some things I would change.

Hope you guys enjoy!

Cormac

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IST 646 Exercise 3 – Using Audacity

Joey by Shel Silverstein

Learning a new program for this assignment had its ups and downs. At first, I was excited because I knew making mistakes wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it was when we did the first exercise of recording a podcast in one take. I recorded several tries for that assignment where one word or sentence would trip me up and I would just start over completely. For this assignment, I really liked being able to cut and paste audio where I needed. 

However, I did experience some technical difficulties. For some reason I kept experiencing choppy playback as I was trying to edit. Some audio clips when added to the project would compromise the audio of the entire project. I also spent much more time than I thought I would searching for audio effects and music to add to my narration. I don’t know if I’m completely happy with the final result, but I am happy with what I accomplished in the time I had. Although, the first few times I practiced the story and estimated sound effects, the result was much longer. Somehow my final product ended up coming in at less than a minute and I didn’t realize it until I was finished.

I’m not sure if it’s because of my storytelling voice becoming more practiced and interesting, or because of the sound effects and music added in, but I definitely think this project is more interesting and fun to listen to than my first one. Overall, I enjoyed working on this project and I’m really glad to have some new skills under my belt.

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IST646 Exercise 2: Writing a Multimedia Blog Story

The Shape of My Story

It’s mid-March and I’m struggling to choose a summer class. After two long semesters of tackling two core classes at a time, and balancing a full schedule at work, I’m hoping to find an elective that will be fun and offer me the opportunity to learn new skills. I finally come across something called “Storytelling.”

Storytelling? That sounds kinda neat. I love listening to storytelling podcasts all the time. Wait – I wonder if storytelling is literally just a class on reading stories out loud, like to children at story hour. I don’t know if I would be interested in just that aspect. I should email the professor and ask her about it.

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Feeling more excited about the prospect of the course, I decide to register as soon as I can.


It’s mid-May and the first course module has just opened up for Storytelling, even though the class doesn’t start for another week. Along with some introductory tasks and readings, we’re being asked to think about an idea for our final project.

What?! Already? I have no idea what to choose. I don’t even like choosing what to pack for lunch the night before in case I change my mind the next day. How am I going to choose a final project idea weeks in advance? Maybe this class was a mistake. I don’t really feel comfortable doing this kind of stuff. It’s so much easier to just listen to someone else’s story.

I take up an entire week just thinking about the learning contract and journey report that needs to be filled out before class starts. I get frustrated more than once when I feel as though I have no interesting stories to tell. I finally come up with something and send the report in, feeling only half-committed to the idea, wondering if there’s something better I could choose. I also decide to introduce myself, via a tweet, but I let some of my apprehension show.

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It’s the first week of class and I’ve just finished recording my podcast. I’ve completed the first assignment for Storytelling and I feel surprisingly okay about it. Although, I practiced the story so many times and tested out so many recordings that I may hate the sound of my own voice now more than ever before. The final product though is something I’m satisfied with. I feel like I’ve accomplished something and learned some new skills, but I still want to improve.

Not too bad. Probably a decent first attempt. Ugh, work on your voice though. Why do you sound so bored? Were you even trying? 

I find myself thinking about my final project constantly during this first week. I have a vague idea for a story, but I keep struggling with what the purpose of my story is.

What’s the point of the story? Ok, so your mom took this cool trip when she was 17. You tell people the story all the time, usually when you’re trying to convey how awesome she is, but is there a struggle? Is there an obstacle to overcome? Or a goal of some kind? Does there need to be? …Should you even stick with this idea?

One of the videos included in the first week’s learning module for the class talks about story shapes. All of the shapes oscillate between good and bad fortune, and while I really enjoy it, it only worries me more about my story – specifically how it fails to follow these lines so far.


It’s the second week of class and I’m sitting at work, listening to The Moth while cataloging new books that have just come in. My final project is still in the back of my mind, as it has been most days since I started thinking about it. I thought I would feel better about it by now. It scares me that I’m still worried about it. Something in the story I’m listening to triggers a thought about my own story.

Wait! That could be a really good direction to take my story! It changes my perspective a lot and shifts the focus almost entirely off of my mother. Maybe I should email the professor and see what she thinks.

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I feel a little better about the project but some words and phrases are still nagging me, worrying me. “More challenging … complexity … still needs rising action … challenges to overcome. ” I feel as though I’ve changed the direction of my story, but I’m still back where I started, wondering what the point of telling my story is.

Alright, stop thinking about it so much. Your last epiphany came when you were distracted anyway. What you need to start thinking about is the second assignment. How are you going to come up with a blog post story that shows your journey as a storyteller so far? Have you even done anything worthy of writing about yet?

I think about the story shapes again picture those oscillating lines.

That’s sort of what this class has felt like so far.

I sit down at my laptop and start writing.

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May 31, 2014 · 10:18 pm

IST646 Exercise 1: Podcast

For this week’s assignment in IST646: Storytelling we had to record ourselves telling a story of some kind. I chose to tell a funny story of what happened when I did community service for one of my high school classes. I struggled for a while to decide what story to tell. I felt like I had no stories that could end with some big revelation or piece of wisdom. But then I realized those aren’t even the types of stories I like to hear that often. I love listening to storytelling podcasts. I listen to This American Life, Risk, The Moth, Death, Sex and Money, Snap Judgment, and so on. I love hearing people’s everyday stories and I especially love when they tell their own stories. For me, the funny and ridiculous stories people have of something outlandish happening are the most entertaining. These are the types of stories you would tell at parties or over a few drinks with friends. These are much more relatable to me than the types of stories people typically reserve for speeches or other formal settings.

This also played into the way I decided to record the story. I made a conscious decision to tell the story in a tone that would be similar to one I would use if I was just telling a friend what had happened. I wanted to sound a little conversational while recording, though I’m not sure if that was entirely achieved.

This was my first experience recording a story and there was definitely more work that went into it than I had anticipated. First I typed out the story and decided exactly how to tell it. After that – even though I wanted an informal voice for the story – I still practiced reciting it. I played around with the tone and pitch of my voice, with the pacing of the story, and so on. I recorded snippets so many times I was starting to get really tired of the sound of my own voice. I also had to learn to suppress my natural inculcation to use my hands when talking. The headset I used to record did not produce the sound quality I was hoping for and was really sensitive to noise and movement. When I tell a story in person I use my hands a lot, but this time I had to force myself to sit still and focus on the sound quality. I think my strength lies in writing out a story and producing the script for it. Maybe my journalism background comes in here. Things I should work on after this experience though would be my storytelling voice and figuring out how to produce better sound quality.

Overall, I’m pleased with the way the final result came out, though I know it’s probably not perfect. I had a lot of fun telling the story and I’m actually really glad I have this story recorded now. Hope you guys enjoy it too!

The Littering Grandmother

 

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Steve Jobs and Storytelling

After listening to Steve Jobs’ commencement speech, I realized other people would probably end up liking these stories more than I would. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy listening to the speech. I just don’t love the setting of the commencement speech. For some reason I feel like these speeches always have an air if insincerity to them.

That being said, I still enjoyed hearing the stories about his life. I think he’s a great public speaker and I think he delivered the stories and speech in a way that allowed him to express humor, seriousness, motivation, and more. Like others in the class have said, one of the things that sticks out about all three stories is that they’re everyday stories that could happen to anyone. They’re not unbelievable, extraordinary circumstances – dropping out of school, getting fired, being diagnosed with cancer. This is what makes the stories relatable and motivating. There are probably students in that crowd who have also been fired or dealt some other setback. However, by making his stories relatable and showing how he overcame his circumstances, the stories were likely very motivating to the students. Success seems within reach after listening to Jobs.

I think what stuck with me the most though was when Jobs talked about looking back on life and connecting the dots. We can’t always make sense of what is happening in our lives while it’s actually happening, and we may not be able to tell what will make a good story later. It’s only when we look back with fresh eyes and new perspective that we can see how the dots have been connected. This was actually really comforting for me. I have this tendency to believe nothing interesting or noteworthy ever happens to me. Instead, I just have to wait and see how things connect. I have to look back and figure out where the dots are connecting and then tell that story.

 

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Why libraries?

The portion of this week’s lecture that stuck out to me the most was the section discussing the economic stimulus libraries generate in their communities. It wasn’t something new to me – I’m obviously a huge proponent of libraries and part of that is because I’m aware of and believe in the benefits, including economic benefits, libraries have on their communities. However, it was nice to see the table and hear Professor Lankes discuss these benefits in concrete terms. In general, most libraries can generate several dollars worth of value or stimulus for every dollar taken in. This is why it kills me when people vote against increasing library funding, or when they take the budget axe to library funds. Obviously I’m a little bias here, but it strikes me as being ignorant of the larger picture.

Although libraries can help save members money by acting as a collective buying agent, they are able to stimulate the economy in other ways as well. This is seemingly ignored by people who argue against libraries and use the logic, “I can get everything I need online, why do I need a library?” The truth is, you can’t get everything online. At least not freely or easily. The example of expensive database subscriptions was brought up in the videos – the articles found in these databases that require paid subscriptions to access would be virtually impossible for the majority of people to access, without the help of the library.

But there’s still so much more you can’t get online but you can get from a library. As I was mulling over this idea, a recent guest speaker in our class came to mind – Betsy Kennedy from the Cazenovia Public Library. This example came to mind because Betsy is a great example of a librarian who is working with limited resources and producing benefits far greater than what she is taking in. Helping people develop literacy skills and working with adults to earn degrees they were unable to achieve on their own will have direct benefits for not only those people, but for the community as a whole as well. I am hard-pressed to think of many other institutions or programs that would assist people in these situations, would not charge for the service, would not make the people jump through bureaucratic hoops or hold them to complicated eligibility standards, and would go above and beyond to see these people succeed. (Betsy even talked about organizing carpooling for some members when they were lacking transportation!)

Again, I’m sure there are people who would still dismiss these benefits and continue to claim the library is not for them or benefitting them because they don’t need help in those areas. Ignoring the fact that the library is likely to be willing to help a member in any way possible – and I’m sure everyone has required some form of large or small assistance at some point in their lives – the fact still stands that helping some people, allowing them to empower themselves and improve their lives, will ultimately better the entire community as a whole. And doesn’t everyone benefit from this?

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October 15, 2013 · 5:16 pm