I will provide blogging prompts and/or exercises to help you think critically and creatively about the themes each week. Blog posts should be approximately 250-500 words , demonstrate a solid understanding of the readings/screenings and the ongoing themes in the course, be crafted as mini-essays with proper grammar and spelling and include relevant links, media inserts, “featured image” and metadata (tagging, categories).
As upper-level university students at a Tier 1 research institution, your writing proficiency should reflect that status. We will discuss what makes good blog writing throughout the course.
-posts are a proper and timely response to the week’s reading(s) and prompt
-posts are developed arguments with (if required) supporting evidence (quotes, embedded videos, images etc.)
-posts are around 250-500 words
-posts are formatted with a featured image, blockquotes, external links (where appropriate), categories, tags
-you make 5-10 comments on classmates’ (in your group) blog posts (during the semester)
B: significantly deficient in any one of the above areas
C: significantly deficient in any two of the above areas
D-F: significantly deficient in all 3 of the above areas
5 Story Summaries (5%)
Write 5 short-story summaries (100-300 words) within the 5 genre/styles from the list below. These will be projects you might like to pursue as digital stories in this class.
- A story in the the Classical Aristotelian 3-part structure
- A story in Kishōtenketsu 4-part structure
- A story in an episodic structure
- A story in a surrealist or fantastic mode
- A personal anecdote as a fictional story
Diagrammatic Narrative: 10%
This assignment is about exploring new ways that text can connect for the reader on the single page and from page to page. Graphic and web designers typically use difference in typography – contrast, proportion, white-space, font styles, color, shape – to create visual hierarchies so that the reader has clues about how to read. They also put graphics and type into diagrammatic arrangements. Repetition of design elements create structure and context. Think of link colors, background color, navigation tabs.
Digital artists/writers, inspired by the typographic and diagrammatic experiments of the 1920s avant-garde, also use difference and repetition of design elements, but with more of an interest in creating non-hierarchical structures; open forms that rely on associations made visually on the page (Drucker). But even a collage of language fragments can be semantically difficult to read without some rhythm in the visual arrangement of text. How can you make text fragments relate dynamically on the page (and from page-to-page) and still maintain narrative coherence?
Drawing on your story summaries as source material, construct a diagrammatic narrative using ideas/strategies from Drucker’s Diagrammatic Writing and any other typographic/diagrammatic work that inspires you. You may use Illustrator, Photoshop, even video. However, Google Slides is probably the best and easiest because of the ease of manipulating text blocks and presenting as a slide show on a blog post (the embed code would go into your post – just set the display of the post to text (html) and not visual display). There should be at least 3-4 panels or pages. Stories that have structures following the Western three-act plot or the Japanese four-act (kishotenketsu) plot will probably work the best. You may use color, various fonts and graphic elements (arrows, borders, basic shapes), but please do not use images. Let the text fragments, their arrangement and typography guide your composition of the story.
Visual Story: 10%
We have discussed many strategies/approaches to visual narration and how story time – events and incidents, actions and reactions – can be made visible and relational in pictorial space through…
- single frame composition
- scroll navigation
- nonlinear navigation
- panel-to-panel relationships
- cinematic sequence
- spatial (simultaneous) montage
In this assignment, you are to use images to tell a story. The images may include symbols, shapes, colors, drawings, graphics, photos and/or video. Your images may be accompanied by text (narration or dialogue), but images and their spatial relationships should drive the narrative, not the text. In other words, try not to make illustrations for a pre-written script. Instead, investigate new ways to organize images–on the single page and from page to page– in order to get across your particular visual story. Remember, the pictorial frame and the user’s navigation of the frame(s) are elements of visual storytelling.
Please don’t worry too much about the quality of images. Use your pencil, phone camera, AI image-generation, public domain image downloads. Play with Photoshop or Illustrator. Use Google Slides or just load the images and captions into a blog post. Remember that you can take any of these short assignments and complete them as your final project.
Ideas for the Visual Narrative assignment:
- an animated story
- a short comic
- a “collage” story book like the surrealist Max Ernst
- a photo story
Video/Audio Anecdote: 10%
For this project, you are to make a 30-60 second video using continuity and/or montage techniques. Edit together video clips, animation and/or still images, recorded audio, voice over and/ or sound effects to tell the story. It is up to you how you “narrate” the story – through just images with sound effects, your own voice-over, text on the screen or an interview with the subject. The images do not have to illustrate the spoken narration, but should relate and help reinforce the story. This project is about using multiple types of media to tell a time-based story.
- a personal story or an anecdote: You probably will need to use voice-over (or text-over image) and either images from your archive or shoot video that stands in for the past events. How might you add sound effects?
- a story about an object: Similar to the above, but the story or anecdote is about an object. Show the object in various angles/framings.
- a sound-driven story: Create a story with sound effects over video or still images. No language. Scary stories are good with this form.
- an episodic video essay: tell a series of mini-stories organized alphabetically.
Hypermedia Narrative: 10%
So far, we have been exploring more conventional, linear story forms using digital tools – text editors, remix methods and visual design tools. The class will now pivot towards more computational processes in the making and presentation of digital stories. Digital media reduces all forms of media to machine code so that the computer will know how to display an intended sign. Digital stories created by and for a computer environment can include non-linear navigation, direct access to data, stored data in databases, variables, conditionals, search, interface design, random and parallel processes, hyperlinks and other forms of user interaction or “agency”.
Digital storytelling using computational processes creates some complications for our conventional notions of story and narrative. Even though a website typically presents multiple links, giving the user a choice in navigation, that user is still following a single linear path – their own. The question and challenge for storytelling is how to design the user’s own path (navigation through media files) so that it will lead to the understanding of a story or “story world”.
“Hypermedia” refers to linked media. This can be a linear or directed path of links – for example, from text, to image to video – like pages in a book. A work of hypermedia can also present a network of links – branching or open – where repetition of story elements are part of the experience of navigation. Social media, blogs or microblog websites, can create networks of linked media while maintaining a linear, time-stamped path. A twitter story might develop episodically, with links out to media or webpages in each tweet. “Transmedia” refers to stories that relate story elements across different media. A transmedia story might chain a website, to a blog, to a video, to a comment, to a phone number, to a text message, to the geolocation of a physical place with live performers. Geo-coordinates, for example, might unlock a new chapter on a phone.
In this assignment, you or your group, will explore the possibilities of storytelling use any of the above computational processes. This is an exercise that might be the start or framework of a larger idea that can develop further as a final project.
Final Project: 30%
The final project is to be a digital story that incorporates at least two of the modules covered in this class: diagrammatic, visual, cinematic, hyperlinked/interactive, game-like storytelling. The work may be a significant reworking of a previous project or a new idea and direction.
The final project will have required stages and deadlines and each of these will be graded separately for a certain percentage of the final grade. It is important that you do not leave everything to the last minute. There should be progress each week until it is due. Our class time will be focused on building these stories so that you can help from me and your classmates.