The R/Evolution in Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling isn’t just a practice or an idea, it’s a continuously evolving revolution. It’s not just about one person’s story, but how the story of one can become the story of many. It’s also about how a story can resonate  and create change. This week’s reading had me puzzled at first as to why we were reading the tale of a single person and his achievements in the digital storytelling age. Quickly, I began to realize that there was more to it than that.

In “A Road Traveled: The Evolution of the Digital Storytelling Practice,” one man details his journey from small-time justice activist and theater leader to founder of the San Francisco Digital Media Center with a global focus on education, health, and human services. Along the way he discovered the heart and soul of hat it means to be a digital storyteller. The biggest take-away I discovered from reading his life’s work came when I read the following passsage:

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Storytelling is a profound part of all of our lives. Given the opportunity to tell our unique stories, empowers us to feel like we are bringing meaning to the world around us. It elevates our status when we feel that we are helping others through the telling of our own journeys. When we are oppressed from telling our stories or are unsure of how to get our stories heard, the lack of significance to inspire change can kill our spirits. This may have been the most profound realization in my own journey to learn more about storytelling. I have seen the importance in giving others the opportunity to storytell, and I have seen the science behind why it engages people, but now I really understand the heart and soul of why we must communicate our tales.

The reading was also quite insightful in helping to see the transition from story readings to live performance to digital media. Another section that stood out to me said the following:

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As digital media began enhancing storytelling, the presentation of stories became less about the perfect and well-honed Hollywood presentations and more about the informal, conversational stories of the common person. Closing this gap between performer and audience again served to uplift the everyday person and again bring out the heart and soul of storytelling.

After seeing all of the different places storytelling has been leading up to the digital age, I am left wondering about what is next in this continuing evolution of practice. What comes after digital storytelling? What is the next step in telling the story of the next generations to come?

 

Deliver Me to Hell

What do you get when you cross zombies with youtube and pizza? An interactive movie adventure where you call the shots. Deliver Me to Hell is a digital story like none other that you may have experienced before. At first glance, you may think you are just watching a hilarious, four minute remix of Shaun of the Dead. In this version, the ridiculous adventure continues with a brave act to deliver a pizza to a girl stranded and surrounded by zombies. Then the 3:44 mark hits, the screen freezes, and an ominous voice comes forth saying, “Make your decision!” At once, you are presented with two decisions and are forced to only choose one. No matter your choice, the click of a button sends you on to your chosen fate where the adventure either moves forward or it ends and you die. Make the right choices, and you may just be successful in delivering the most epic pizza order ever requested.

Trait Description Critique
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This production was quite original in its theme of pizza delivery in a zombie apocalypse. I have yet to see another story that incorporates both of these topics in the same plot. Since these two topics don’t normally coexist together, I really appreciated that the authors did not try to make this a serious affair. This fresh perspective paired well with the jokes, puns, jabs, and humor that were woven consistently and successfully throughout the production. It was also quite original in its use of YouTube as its medium. The interactive design was incorporated through the use of the annotations feature (normally used to redirect viewers to related content or videos). Through the annotations, viewers were invited to make choices and continue the story based on their decisions. 10/10
Presentation and performance How effective was the student’s actual presentation or performance? This includes burning a DVD, posting the story on the Web site effectively, performing it before an audience, or whatever the assignment required. Posting the story on YouTube was a new and unique way to create an interactive zombie experience. However, the medium itself can be distracting to viewers. The comment section, recommended video links, and other advertisements can detract from the immersion of the experience. When viewed in full-screen, these distractions disappear, but clicking on a choice then redirects you to a new video which takes you out of full-screen and back to the distractions of the YouTube side panels. The format of the performance leaves something to be desired in this way. 6/10
Story How well did the story work? This trait can address structure, engagement, character transformation or any of the other qualities of story discussed in Part II. In fact, an entire rubric can be devoted to evaluating the quality Throughout the story, the plot tended to jump around from place to place, person to person, and could seem chaotic in the chosen plot devices. Had this been a serious production, the story would have fallen flat. However, much like in the film Shaun of the Dead, the quick, inconsistent, and ridiculous plot changes proved to be an enhancement to the hilarity of this film. The main characters had little character development throughout this story, but their personalities were allowed to shine. The juxtaposition of two opposite characters (one bright, the other not so much) also successfully added to the humor of this production. 9/10

Overall this story was a fun break from the ones I’ve reviewed previously. The humor and ridiculousness of it all made for a fun viewing experience and the interactive portions helped to engage the viewer and make them feel a part of the story. The use of YouTube annotations, while clever, could be distracting at times. It would be interesting to see how the viewing of this story might shift if it were done in another application with less distractions. Then again, maybe this was the right platform for this particular production. In order to be a fun story, it couldn’t take itself too seriously, so maybe using a less formal media tool was the right call in keeping the mood light. What do you think?

Can You See What I See?

“We fear death so profoundly, not because it means the end of our body, but because it means the end of our consciousness – better to be a spirit in Heaven than a zombie on Earth.”
– Alison Gopnik (professor of psychology and philosophy at UC Berkeley)


Special Features:

Why?: Despite being an artist, I must admit that Photoshop has never been my strong-suit. I’ve largely avoided using it due to how much time and effort it takes to learn all of the ins and outs of the program. However, when I started reading through some of the visual assignments on the DS106 assignment bank, the “Can you see what I see?” project stood out to me. In looking at the submissions of others’ eyes with shopped in reflections, I saw a lot of cool images but none that really connected the context of the two images being overlayed. Since it’s Halloween and I am the author of a zombie blog, I decided to take on this challenge and give it the zombie treatment.

How?: I used Google to search for a zombified eye and a first person perspective of a zombie. I settled on two images that I really liked and that I thought worked really well together (see photos below).

I then used a video tutorial (see video below) and Photoshop to help me merge the two together in to create a reflection of zombie arms following a horde.

The resulting image was a subtle change from the original, but the reflection helped to bring context to the eye and create a new story behind the image.zombie-eye-shopped

 

Mid-Point Gallery Walk

This blog post is a thank you to all of my peers and Lori for providing me with opportunities to collaborate, create, and, most importantly, rediscover my passions again through storytelling. My mid-point gallery walk can be viewed on Adobe Spark (a free online digital story creation application), and is dedicated to the peers that I reviewed as well as the rest of our amazing crew from this class that helped me learn something new.

Click on the link to view my digital story learning journey title, “Finding My Way.”

Triumph of the Walking Dead

For the last several weeks, I have chosen to focus on scholarly articles that speak broadly to the term “digital storytelling.” This week I am trying something new on for size – examining the success behind some of pop culture’s cult zombie digital stories. Triumph of the Walking Dead edited by James Lowder is a compilation of professional reviews examining why zombie stories like “The Walking Dead” have risen to fame and stayed in the spotlight for so long. In order to pull off these reviews, the authors rely on comparing the show to movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Survival of the Dead,” and a plethora of others. The reviews held enlightening comparisons that showcased elements of good storytelling, but what I didn’t expect to find were the themes that have shown up over and over again in my DS106 assignments and previous articles prescribed by this course.

The first movies to portray zombies as the walking, flesh eating nightmares that we know today were created by George Romero in the late 60’s Before that time, zombies were nothing more than people enslaved by voodoo curses to do others’ bidding. Romero took a more docile version of the walking dead and made them into a terrifying phenomena that has set the standard for all other movies thereafter. As one author notes in the this book, “Zombies in the Romero style are precisely what Robert Kirkman delivered when he kicked off the comic book series…The first few issues tread other rather familiar patches of storytelling ground, too. The opening…has been criticized as being derivative of the film 28 Days Later…Both Kirkman and Boyle were tapping into a long tradition in postapocalyptic fiction of hospitalized [protagonists].” In these few sentences, the author is describing the use of inspiration and “remixing” for the sake of creating something new and exciting. In a previous blog post, I talk at length about how remixes – using another’s work to inspire your own; to turn it around to make something new yet reminiscent of another’s style – have been around for a long time and has led to successful digital story creations. Here in this review, we see the very evidence of a professional creator using inspiration to remix a new version of the zombie apocalypse and “move beyond [its] inspirations.” Previously, I noted that remixes are a great way for students to find more easy access into creating their own digital stories. However, its not just at the amateur level that success can be found in remixes, but we can even see here that at a professional level remixing can lead to success in digital story creation as well. After realizing this connection, I thought to myself, “what a cool thing to share with students when introducing them to digital storytelling,” and “what a great perspective to give students who find themselves struggling with remixes as ‘not quite their own,’ or ‘unoriginal.'”

Though remixing is a large theme throughout many of the reviews in this piece of literature, another theme also prevails in explaining the success behind “The Walking Dead” and its predecessors. One of Jason Ohler’s assessment traits for evaluating digital stories is a sense of audience. In other words, “how well does a story respect the needs of the audience?” In a world where audience exposure to death, gore, and other gruesome horrors has created a numbness to these visuals, viewers are in need of a different way to connect with digital stories meant to inspire fear. One author addresses this in his thoughts. “If you believe the characters in a story, you will believe most anything. It’s the key to making a good fantasy work. Make all the day-to-day details, the lives and interests of the characters, real, and we’ll accept those zombies…The Walking Dead is full of real characters. The good, the bad, the ugly, and mostly, the complex: that’s what keeps pulling us back. We want to see how things turn out for these folks.” Seeing professionals openly recognize the validity behind knowing a story’s audience was another cool eye-opener for me in revealing successful traits behind digital stories. But it’s not just the acknowledgement of this trait that makes it interesting, it’s the way that they help us understand how the story is connecting to the audience psychologically and physically. When the audience cares for the characters (for better or worse), the horror that gets bestowed upon them manifests actual physical symptoms in the viewer. “Audiences must deal with the unpleasant physical reactions themselves” which ties them closer to the story.

All in all this book provided some great insights into how the things I am learning about in abstract articles and assignments from this course really are the cornerstones in the professional world of digital storytelling. Sharing the ideas with students as isolated traits to incorporate into their own storytelling is powerful in helping them to realize what makes a strong story, but if we are to truly empower our students to make their own strong stories, sharing examples and understanding of these traits (such as those found in this reading) can be even more powerful in the long-run.

“I REMEMBER!”

A black screen. A simple text fades into view, “The first symptom is the memory loss.” As the words disappear, the silence is broken by the sound of chimes and the sight of a swarming zombie horde.The camera view glides down and around the feet of the undead masses and zooms through a ragged hole in a wall where a man sits tensely in a yellow chair, gun pressed firmly against his temple, blood oozing from a wound on his forearm. The tension of the scene is interrupted briefly by the calm voice of a narrator – the internal monologue of a doomed man. Immediately we understand his situation. Five minutes is all it takes to start to forget pieces of your memory. Five minutes is all it takes to begin the turn into a brain-dead, flesh eating zombie.

Many of the zombie digital stories I’ve reviewed in this blog have belonged to one of two camps: movies or short clips to watch or games and interactive material to play. Five Minutes doesn’t completely fall into either of those categories. It’s more of a hybrid between film and game; a blending between watching and doing. Each time the main character forces himself to remember, the viewer is forced to take swift action to help him remember by swiping patterns on the screen in time with the film. Every time he is thrown into action, the viewer also must take action to save his life.

Due to the unique hybridization of this story, I have used a variety of types of traits from Jason Ohler’s assessment bank that can speak to each category that this story fits under

Title Description Critique
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? The urgency and frantic feelings of not knowing if or when someone is going to turn into an undead monster were conveyed extremely well in this digital story. Each time the viewer had to draw a pattern or quickly click on parts of the screen to save the man’s memory/life, it became a race against the clock to do so which created the necessary tension. When the viewer was not directly interacting, each movie scene was filled with nervousness as to when the next interaction would occur. These uneasy feelings are crucial to any zombie story, and this film nailed it in all aspects of communicating them. 10/10
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? Solid planning is evident in this story in many ways. The story was well laid out, and the interactive elements appeared at appropriate and well-timed areas to keep the story moving along. The parts that weren’t as well thought through were the dying scenes. If the viewer did not click or swipe in the correct spot fast enough, words appeared on the screen indicating that you had died. In comparison to the actual story, this seemed very anticlimactic. 7/10
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This production at first glance looks like a rehashing of the same old story of a survivor getting bit and their loved one having to contend with it and the aftermath. However, some unique twists have been added to keep this story interesting for the viewer. Firstly, the focus of memory loss as a symptom provided a new lens through which to tell this story. With the main character so focused on remembering his past, it not only provides a good reason to show flashbacks, but also to provide a fresh perspective on how the zombie virus works. Secondly, the interactive swipes and clicks help the viewer to become more involved with this “same old story” to actually feel the tension of this moment. Lastly, the conclusion of the story deviates from the norm in that we don’t actually see the main character turn into a zombie after being infected. Though there is a twisted moment of memory for the main character, the resolution of the story shows the 5 minute timer going off with no signs of zombification. However, the happy moment turns sour when the viewer realizes the character’s memory has been wrong all along, yet we never get to see if he changes or not. This type of cliffhanger is unique to this old school zombie story. 9/10

If there was anything I would change about this particular digital story it would have to be the death scenes. So much tension, anxiety, and frantic energy in the film and interactive portions made me wish that when I did die there were death scenes tailored to the spots where I died to heighten these feelings further. Instead, I was only ever met with text that would tell me when I had died – very anticlimactic. It was incredible how much of a mood killer it was to see those words. Even if the death scene had to be the same for each scenario (maybe a scene showing his brain waves turning off and the zombie virus taking over), I would have still been satisfied because it would have at least provided a visual to keep the original worrisome feelings of the rest of the film.

 

 

Spooky Shenanigans

As I crossed the threshold, I felt my reality begin to split. My once friendly and familiar front porch began to transform into a nightmare filled with spooks and ghoulish creatures. It was as if I had stepped into an alternate reality – one filled with violence and hatred. My eyes began to conjure visions of death. Not once, not twice, but thrice I saw my own brutal demise. Before my mind could comprehend this dire situation, the prophecies began to come true…one….by one…..by one.

Special Features:

Why?: This photo comes to your from the DS106 daily create titled “Go ahead, panorama clone yourself.” I am a huge Halloween enthusiast and lover of all things scary (if you couldn’t tell by my unconditional love for zombie horror). After decorating my front porch for the holiday season, I was in the mood to document it with some pictures. I thought to myself, “what better way to take pictures of my porch, than to turn it into a daily create!” and so I went about creating this panorama.

How?: This photograph was created using my Nexus 5x phone’s panorama feature on the camera. No additional editing was needed to create this effect.

#INTE5340 #DS106 #DS106dc

Zombies! Run!

“Run in the real world. Become a hero in another.” This is the tag line for the popular app, “Zombies, Run!” The app is a way for couch potatoes and advanced runners alike to get out and get active through running activities. You may be asking yourself, “how does a running app have anything to do with digital storytelling?” The surprising answer is that it has everything to do with digital storytelling. This app is not just another step tracker or fitness tracker, it’s actually a fully immersive zombie apocalypse simulator. As you run in the real world, the story plays out in your ears. Not only do you listen to the story, but you also participate in it while you run. Periodically in the story, you, the runner, are called upon to complete missions in real time while avoiding zombies on your GPS tracker. The further you run, the more the story goes on, and the more that you level up in the game.

This week’s critique requires a different kind of analysis as it is a story focused on real world immersion. For that reason, I have chosen  traits from Jason Ohler’s list that are more applicable to audience experience.

Title Description Succeeds
Sense of audience How well did the story respect the needs of the audience? For the hardcore enthusiasts of the zombie genre who have always wanted the chance to experience an apocalypse first-hand, this app has everything going for it. It has a solid and realistic story, it gives the audience the ability to participate and change the plot, and the chance to do all of this in real time and real life. Simultaneously, it also provides a great way for a variety of people (runners and non-runners) with a way to get out and get healthy through its fitness components. People who have previously struggled with staying active and healthy are now given opportunities to stay committed to a fitness routine through the use of storytelling. This story also provides the ability for the user to input their own running music into the background of the story, which helps to cater to all of the people who prefer to have inspiring music for which to exercise.  10/10
Media application Was the use of media appropriate, supportive of the story, balanced and well considered? Produced as an app and controlled through the use of a smartphone app was the best media application for this story. People on the go can easily enjoy the story anywhere, because once it’s downloaded it does not require data to run. Users of the app don’t have to be outside runners. The producers of the app took into consideration people who are more frequent users of gyms than the outside world and have provided users with the feature to use this on and off a treadmill. Regardless of where you use the app, story features still work well and keep the runner immersed in the story. 10/10
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? An incredible amount of planning went into the creation of this story and app. Evidence can be found firstly on their website where they have an infographic displayed showcasing the many features of the app. Other solid pieces of evidence are in the interface of the app. Most game features are neatly laid out and easy to find and use. The audio does a great job balancing explaining what to do while committing to telling a mostly realistic sounding story through sound effects and conversations. The GPS and step trackers are also well programmed as they capture the movements of the user well. Though you can level up and achieve more story elements in this game, there is no way to see your running progress from previous runs. More planning needs to happen to take showing a user’s full journey into consideration. 8/10

Overall, this story is an incredibly immersive experience into the zombie genre. If you are one of the many people who struggles to find enjoyment in exercise, this app will quickly provide you with an attitude shift through its remarkable storytelling features. With 200 different stories, app users are guaranteed not to run out of motivation to workout consistently. A lot of the storytelling is very linear in nature, and provides users with missions that build upon each other. Some choice is given to the runner in how the story proceeds, but for the most part they are pre-crafted stories that you venture through. More choice in where the story goes would be a great way to make this even more of an immersive experience.

 

 

Learning as Social Practice

Education is not about filling up a bucket, but rather about lighting a fire. In this digital day and age, all of the information anyone could ever want is at the touch of their fingertips. Say, “Okay Google,” or “Siri,” and a voice-over will even read you the answers to your desired questions. For that reason, confining learning to the old principals of teaching information for the sake of acquisition makes little to no sense. Learning has become more of an organic process through the use of social spaces and social interaction. This is a belief that I have had for a very long time as a learner and more recently as the result of being an expeditionary learning teacher. So when I started to read the article titled, “Social learning, ‘push’ and ‘pull’, and building platforms for collaborative learning,” I felt right at home with the message of “embed[ing] learning in activity and make[ing] deliberate use of the social and physical context [for learning.]” If you are new to this idea, the premise is that in order to make learning meaningful and transform students into life-long adaptive learners, teaching needs to move away from teaching abstract ideas with no context to providing students with authentic experiences in which to enhance the material being learned and which also provide students with opportunities to develop 21st century social and digital skills. How does this actually look in a classroom setting? It depends. To give you an idea of how this can look in my classroom setting, I will draw upon my own experiences teaching math in an expeditionary way. This past spring, I transformed my unit of functions, sequences, and series to include an artistic and a historical component. I taught students how to make beadwork using ancient and modern South African styles. While students were beading, they were also actively participating in the concepts of inputs, outputs, counting, finding and making patterns, and discovering the difference between algebraic, geometric, and exponential growth. On a weekly basis, I also brought in art historians to bead with us and tell stories about where the math behind the artworks comes from. It was a total social immersion for my students. They learned early and often that they could not work in isolation if they were to be successful in their work. They were provided real chances to fail, flail, and help each other find success at their own levels of learning. Students also learned to be adaptive in their thinking as they found ways to make their beadwork even more complex yet still follow the mathematics. Meaning making spiked for my students and in that their levels of understanding the math concepts also peaked higher than I’d ever seen previously teaching this unit with word problems and examples alone. This is an example of what expeditionary learning can look like, but also in many ways it is the kind of social learning that this article talks about.

An important thing to note about social systems of learning is that its not just about being around other people and engaging in activities together. It’s about being able to take on an identity within the system of social learning. Creating spaces where students can assume multiple roles and access the work through multiple modalities plays a crucial part in creating a successful social system. The article touches on this by stating, “It is difficult to understand your place and role within a system without the opportunity to take on an identity and engage in activity within the system. Nowadays the most important title a student can assume is that of an “expert novice” – an expert at continually learning anew and in depth. As the article states, being an expert novice requires “deep learning,” the kind that “can generate ‘real understanding, the ability to apply one’s knowledge and even to transform that knowledge for innovation.” This changing world requires adaptive learners and thinkers and social learning spaces is a way to get this to happen naturally.

Something that I really respected about this article that few articles are willing to admit is that while there is an incredible amount of potential for Web 2.0 platforms and services to create social learning, “it is important also to consider examples that are primarily face to face, local, and may presuppose little or no internet access whatsoever. These, after all, are the original spaces of social learning.” Social learning can be a digital adventure or a face to face. Either will be effective in creating the learning environment conducive to encouraging students to be adaptive thinkers and learners.

My Gift & My Curse

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been blessed with an incredibly sharp memory. This has come in handy for many things throughout my life, but the most surprising way that it shows up is in my ability to memorize music lyrics. This isn’t a very odd gift when you consider that most people you encounter can rattle off the lyrics to their favorite song pretty easily. However, for me it’s not just my favorite songs that I know, it’s every song I’ve ever heard – literally. After hearing a song two times, I have found that I usually have about 90% of the lyrics down. By the third time I’ever heard it, I can recall 100% of the lyrics and even recall every intonation and emotional aspect in the words of the song. Many people call this my secret superpower, and I do, too. But I also consider it a curse when it comes to songs I don’t like, because I unintentionally memorize those, too. After browsing through pages and pages of this week’s DS106 Video assignments and not really seeing any that struck my fancy, I finally encountered  a lip-sync one that was right down my alley. Behold! My gift and my curse. The password is singingsia. To view the original music video, click here.

Special Features:

How?: This video of me singing was created through the use of Screencastify Lite which is a Google Chrome extension that uses your computer webcam to record video. The video was shot in webm formatting, so I used Video Grabber, an online video converter, to format it as an mp4. Then, I uploaded both my video and the song separately to an online video tool called WeVideo. After perfectly aligning the song to my lips, I compressed and downloaded the video file and uploaded it to Vimeo for all to enjoy.

Why?: This has been a really hard week for me emotionally. Many things in my job and my relationship came to a head simultaneously thus preventing me from being in a good place to complete my assignments on time this week. I chose Sia’s song Chandelier specifically because the raw emotional sound of the song communicates exactly how I’ve felt all week. It also happens to be one of my favorite songs. Sia is also a marvelous storyteller in her music videos and I highly encourage you to check out more of her material.