A look back at Week 1

Our professor, Alan Levine, wasn’t kidding when he warned that the GMU Digital Audio/Video Design weekly assignments needed a lot of attention throughout the week. For a low-tech, late adopter, the litany of instructions, assignments and links was overwhelming and caused a slight moment of panic. The panic has now decreased to a low humming in the back of my head – not quite pressure, not quite stress, just a presence. I’m still catching up, but as expressed in my Welcome message, after establishing my bearings and gaining some traction, I have really enjoyed the learning process through the various video clips and assignments – finding the nuggets.

As you can probably surmise, the technology has been my challenge. The first step in getting plugged into this class was to create a blog through WordPress.com. What a task for the first assignment! It was an experiment of trial and error, but this process was encouraged and I can appreciate that.

Once I had some success with designing my blog (“designing” used very loosely here), I was on rewarded by the series of online articles demonstrating the possibility and innovations of digital storytelling – just amazing – that the second assignment required. Immediately, I was intrigued and wanted to know how to do that and by “that”, I mean the creative use of navigation, photography, audio, zoom features and other engaging widgets and functionalities embedded in these articles that grabbed my attention from my first click. But first, I had fun listening to Kurt Vonnegut’s explanation of his mapping of stories. I took The Princess Bride movie and mapped it according to his graph.

I couldn’t wait to jump to the next assignment that provided two perspectives from Ira Glass from NPR’s This American Life and Andrew Stanton, Pixar filmmaker of Toy Story and Wall-E, on their experiences and construction of stories. Incredibly insightful and just fun to listen to these two expert storytellers. (Andrew Stanton’s opening story is hilarious – warning it does have an expletive in the first few minutes (1:08), so this is fair warning to watch at your own risk in public spaces.)

These led to the next question of “what is story?” When posed with this question, a flood of images and flashbacks from my childhood came to mind. All positive ones. When the word “digital” was introduced as a follow up to this question, I felt overwhelmed as described above, but also hopeful this time. I think that’s a good sign.

So, what’s next? Well, Week 1 concluded with the challenging task of identifying something to “storify” (insert jazz hands). To be continued…

One of the last things I need to do for Week 1 is to assign myself a grade for the week’s work. I would say that I would come in as a solid “8” out of 10. For the skeptics out there, let me break it down to this: I heeded the professor and tried to break out of the paradigm of working for the grade and focused more on letting myself explore, fail, try, engage and begin understanding “story”. What do you think?



and the search begins… STORIFY!

I feel the need to throw up jazz hands when saying “storify” (in an emphatic, but breathy Broadway-esque voice). Myriad of ideas come to mind when I try to hone in a qualified topic to storify per the final assignment for Week 1. What mundane, possibly overly complicated and perhaps uninteresting topic can I “storify” and bring to life through media? Some are (in no particular order):

1) How to change the oil in my car

2) Bipartisan-ism

3) Water hammer (a problem, I will have to inevitably address)

4) Stocks/Finance

5) Differential calculus

6) Financial aid – how to apply for it and the right ones

7) How to make sausage

This IS difficult! Well, this is a start. To be continued…

What is story… storytelling…?

I love this question and the license to associat freely (thank you!). The first image that rushes to my mind is my after-school public t.v. line up, which is kind of ironic since I associate stories and storytelling with books and not television shows. But, apparently, I do.

1) Unknown title and can’t find it on the interwebs. The format of the show was a storyteller whom you never saw only heard his voice and an artist with vivid, flourescent chalk work that drew the scenes of the story as it was narrated. It was wonderful and I remember being so enthralled and engaged and disappointed when it was over. It reminds me of modern day graphic facilitation like the UPS commercial.

2) Reading Rainbow. Levar Burton! One of the best shows ev-er.

3) My sixth grade teacher. She read to the class on rainy days when we couldn’t go out for recess. I remember her reading us some mystery adolescent novel (one that I would have never read on my own) and how she drew me into the story with her intonation, change in voices for different characters, her way of building suspense. I didn’t want it to end and looked forward to rainy days.

This American Life, NPR , also comes to mind. I’m so amazed at these modern-day storytellers.  To me, a story is about engagement into the reality or fictional account of someone else.

By adding “digital” to storytelling, I become inundated and somewhat overwhelmed in both a positive and negative way.

Positive because I look at the explosion and impact of TED talks and the platform that opens to the world. Wow!

Positive because of the amazing and innovative media formats for conveying news like Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.


Negative because I’m not there yet. How do they do that? Where do I begin?

Well, Andrew Stanton helped me understand that you have to start from the “punch line” and know every line leading up to it and most importantly, answering the plea of “make me care”. So, how do you do this? Well, in Stanton’s Ted Talk (7:38), he talks about the “invisible application”, meaning you lead the audience to put two and two together, but you don’t give them the answer.