As part of the previous fortnight’s festivities, we had to make several short films that tested our editing ability to their limits. While I exceeded expectations with the efforts brought to the table in the last fourteen days, it wasn’t without the usual round of controversy, as my YouTube account received a copyright strike when I tried to turn in my “Classical-Modern Mashup;” ironically, it was the music video that would serve as the smoking gun of the piece, and not the song itself. Even then, everything still paid off, and the stories I told were mesmerizing from the first view.
“Ten-Second Cinema” was my opening act, in which I created not one, but two additions to the “Five-Second Movies” canon, with Kimagure Orange Road, and Stay Tuned. With KOR, I summed up how far Kyosuke would go to protect his loved ones from harm as he uses his psychic powers to tear down a concrete wall that he was tied to! Then again, Stay Tunedcan be summed up in Pam Dawber’s infamous realization: “Dynamite? He’s going to hit me with a train, and blow me up?!” As it happens, I had fun making these two short films, and I think they’ll get audiences interested in seeing each of these properties for themselves.
My second assignment, “Bittersweet Symphony,” was the one that resulted in my copyright strike. The mashup consisted of the video for “Uma Thurman,” by Fall Out Boy, and the finale to the “William Tell Overture,” which is better known as the anthem of hectic montages everywhere. Suffice it to say, the song and footage fit so well, that I even let the song play again during the closing sequence, “sudden start” and all. The timing couldn’t have been more right when making this video, even with the copyright hiccup.
After that, we went back on the road again for an early “birthday” present. Just in time for his in-canon birthday on Sunday, I created a character description video of Kyosuke Kasuga himself, done to a performance of “Superstar,” from Jesus Christ Superstar, by the finalists from ITV’s Superstar; yes, all of this exists, and no, there aren’t any regrets to be had from this experience. This was one of my more ambitious works to date, and everything felt right, from the choice of clips, to the song providing the right mood for the situations Kyosuke went through in the series, as a sort of training montage for when he finally starts using his esper powers for self-defense during the show’s two-part finale. I actually enjoyed seeing the pieces fall into place the way they did, immaculate or intentional.
To prove that I was still far from the last ride in terms of creativity, my fourth assignment was a “selfie story,” which showcased my ride to and from school in these last few weeks of the semester. I even let my teacher get involved with one of the shots. This was actually rather interesting for me, as it shows that even things we take for granted, to the point that some of us think they’re mundane – myself, included – still hold a lot of storytelling potential; “a picture is worth a thousand words,” to say the least.
This brings us to “Cut, Print…Moving On,” a supercut of every time the title character’s introduction was used or lampooned in Episodes 31-60 of Darkwing Duck. In all seriousness, this was my endurance test; having to sift through thirty episodes, of one of the lynchpins of The Disney Afternoon, for every variation and subversion of the sequence, was among the more demanding acts I pulled as part of DS106. Once everything was counted, though, the final product was worth its weight in comedic gold, and then some.
This week was definitely one of the more interesting ones I’ve had in quite some time, but the fun isn’t over just yet! Tomorrow, I lock up the video vault, once and for all, with my most daring duty to date.
After somehow managing to get everything else completed on my checklist within the first week, I now had to take part in the “Wacky History” podcast itself. For this assignment, we decided to make Tori Lear our captain, and quickly named our group, “Wacky History,” because, for lack of a better term, there was nothing else available at the time. As for the subjects, everyone on my team decided, almost from the get-go, to make wedding rings and dentures our specialty subjects for this episode; we split up into groups of three, with Tori, Ben and Maryna focusing on wedding rings and Chantel, Rachel, and myself focusing on dentures. Unfortunately, I did all of the heavy work for the wrong team, because the decision for sub-teams was made before I had a say.
I planned on “Wacky History” to be a send-up of “edutainment,” since anything and everything can have a bizarre backstory to it. This was the inspiration for my bumper, modeled after the opening seconds to “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and my variation of a 1960s “brought to you by” commercial, narrated by my Donald Trump impersonation.
Research-wise, I found a fashion house full of skeletons on both of our subjects, as well as a third one, ice cream. Things went great for my teammates and I, since we got most of our potential commercials and bumpers completed ahead of schedule; one of them did admit to some computer troubles of their own, though, costing us his ad.
…I honestly felt like my effort was for nothing when I was told to do all of this again, on a completely different subject, and all before Sunday’s deadline. The next day, I went through the same process of sampling, making sure to choose sound effects and background noise attached with the “Creative Commons 0 License,” ultimately creating a minimalist segment on dentures, since my teammates split up the rest of the information, fifty-fifty. I used the interior of the DC Metro for the background noise, tying back to George Washington’s presidency, and the comparison between train rides and visits to the dentist. I did another take on Audacity, with limited editing, and provided a more interesting result.
Unfortunately, even that was denied, since I didn’t have anything even remotely related to wacky history – or any kind of history, for that matter – regarding dentures in the 20th century. The closest I could find was an alternative to dentures, in dental implants. I made my newest entry as fast as I could – no edits, save for the beginning and ending, and no special effects or background noise of any kind. I wanted this to be done with as soon as possible. The end result wasn’t as good, but my only other option was “nothing at all,” so I had to turn this in, too.
The toughest thing I learned about teamwork is that you have to work on your team’s pace, not your own; it won’t matter if the recording process takes place long before the deadline. I put all of my effort into fulfilling the team’s goals on my terms, but you have to be totally committed to what your teammates want, even more so than what you want; if they’re not happy, you won’t be, either. Despite that, I believe the final product will do its job very nicely, and our target audience will like what they hear.
Overall, this hectic experience opened my eyes to the importance of having your say in a group dynamic. Chains are only as strong as their weakest links, after all, and against all odds, I stayed cool under pressure, even at my lowest point. I’ve transferred everything I completed onto my SoundCloud account, for further listening.
This assignment was a tough one, as I had to find enough material to cover three tips, from the book, TEN: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear, by David duChemin. My three nominations included the following:
Get pickier. Instead of using your camera like a rapid fire machine gun, spend more time pre-composing in your mind. As you get more practice, you can be more selective, and more deliberate.
Change my perspective by changing yours. Find different and unique points of view. Look down, up, lay down on the ground. Seek perspectives of lines. (This would be turned into a personal “fourth option” of sorts, given the fact that I was already working overtime to finish this, and two other assignments, before their due date.)
Look to the light. Probably the most key lesson- be aware of light that works and what does not. Knowing about shadows, directions, aiming for directions where light is strong (or not). Good light makes every photo. Learn how to sense when light is good (and when not, and you can skip lousy shots).
Put a great foreground in front of a great background. Pay attention to the near and far. A landscape scene is dull without something in foreground to give depth and scale. Learn to avoid clutter and distracting elements.
These tasks were fulfilled, in one form or another, during a visit to my local Food Lion on Saturday, September 26th.
The pictures were primarily taken at the floral section of the store, where the flowers were taken in fluorescent light, up-close, with an iPhone. Vibrant oranges and yellows popped out, the pinks were more delicate, and the blues automatically drew the eye to the center of the bouquet.
There were also shots of the interior and exterior of the place, the former resembling those crane shots you see in movies, while the latter resembles the usual introductory shot of a place like Cheers, or someone’s home, during an episode of a televised situation comedy.
Keeping this in mind, here are my best efforts to represent those three tips to being a better photographer.
For this assignment, I had to look up not one, but three videos about how storytelling works in audio form, from the perspectives of two well-praised experts on the medium: Ira Glass, and Jad Abumrad. Glass is best known as the producer and host of This American Life, a long-running radio program, premiering in 1995, that focuses on essays and short stories, and also briefly aired on Showtime in the late 2000s; Abumrad is the the co-host and producer of Radiolab, an investigative series on philosophy and science that he founded in May 2002.
According to Glass, “One of the things you don’t want to do” when telling stories for radio or television broadcasts “is you don’t want to think about it the way that you learned in high school,” with regards to topics and facts. Instead, all you have to remember are two things, namely anecdotes, which Glass described as “a story at its purest form” because its “one thing following another,” raising questions intended to be answered along the way, and reflections, which drive home the point of the performance, and help the audience figure out “why the hell” they are “listening to this story” for themselves.
This is because, to Glass, something that most digital storytellers get wrong nowadays is how to tell their audience something new with their respective projects. Either the build-up is interesting, but the pay-off is predictable, or vice versa, but in the end, “you’re going to need both” for the story to sell with viewers.
“The trick of the whole thing,” Glass said, “is to have the perseverance, that you’ve got an interesting anecdote, that you also can end up with an interesting moment of reflection that will support it, and then the two, together, interwoven [for] three minutes, or six minutes, or however long your story is, will make something that’s larger than the sum of its parts.”
There are two other things that Glass recommends newer storytellers avoid when they start out: talking “like people on TV” when talking like yourself makes the story more appealing, and showing a “horrible personality,” putting the focus on themselves instead of being interested in the minds of others, and the world around them. “Even if its a first-person story, documenting your life, what’s interesting isn’t just your take on things; it’s seeing you interact with other people, and seeing other people through your eyes,” he said.
In a similar vein, Abumrad believes that “the coolest thing about radio is what it lacks,” as radio takes away the visualizations necessary for most people to see what’s going on as a given story unfolds. “What that enables is … this deep act of co-authorship, and in that is some of the potential for empathy,” Abumrad said.
“Somehow, we’re doing it together, because we have to fill this gap of picturelessness together; we have to, somehow, be connected,” according to Abumrad. “I love the immediacy, and the connection that you can have, with another person, through radio.”
Both of these interviews show that just because you’re the narrator of a specific story, doesn’t automatically make you the star. It’s the job of the audience to ask the questions when the opportunity presents itself, and the narrator to answer them before the story can truly end.
It isn’t enough to simply say, or show, who you are, when telling a story. You also have to do so in a manner that listeners can relate to.
To quote Ms. Polack’s checklist for the week, one of my challenges was to:
Find two photos from the Daily Create Photography assignments, embed them into a blog post, and write a story that connects what happens in the first photo to the second one. Make it like a story sandwich, with your writing as the arc that connects the two images.
In this case, I went with a parody of Nash Bozard’s weekly round-up, of what he’s been known to call “the absolute best, of the absolute worst.” As it happens, this year marked the fifteenth anniversary of Nash’s weekly podcast, Radio Dead Air, first airing in the summer of 2000. The flagship segment of the show, and the reason people know of RDA to this day, is a recap of weird news segments from around the world, though a majority of the headlines take place in the United States.
As far as how this particular project was constructed, it all comes down to one phrase: “What you see is what you get.” This is a straightforward send-up of a typical news story found on one of Nash’s news hours. Given how many clichés have popped up over the course of the show’s run, it didn’t take long to create a story that fit Mr. Bozard’s particular brand of comedy.
The two photos I uploaded to the usual site, along with other pictures I added to the story for show, were from Daily Create challenges held earlier this year. One of them involved drawing and editing faces onto car photos, and the other simply requested that participants take their most horrid “selfie,” which is, essentially, a self-portrait made on a camera or smartphone. Since I’m not necessarily taking part in either of those challenges, you can tell that I’m not sending the photos over to either Daily Create site.
When all is said and done here, this was one of my favorite assignments of the semester. As I’ve stated before, I love writing, and tasks like these allow me to really let my creativity run wild. Getting the photos for this assignment was as easy as before, if not easier, and overall, I actually liked the finished product, as minimalistic as it was. It’s this kind of experience, and this justified sense of pride, that has made this class worthwhile, at least from my perspective.
Picking up where Gardner Campbell left off, Michael Wesch’s 2011 presentation, “Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able,” shows me that I shouldn’t be afraid to use social media and the Internet to show the world who I am, not what I was. This particular speech, shown in two parts on Vimeo, is about how the increasing use of technology in the classroom could allow students and faculty to, in Wesch’s own words:
“…think about, ‘How can I move (these students) from being knowledgeable – that is, knowing a bunch of stuff, and memorizing a bunch of stuff – to actually being knowledge-able – that is, actually able to sort, analyze, criticize and create new information and knowledge?'”
Unlike Campbell, who pushed for change from a technological standpoint, Wesch tried to promote a more social approach to getting students involved in their classes. Between fifteen and seventeen minutes into the first video, Wesch showed how the educational system’s current emphasis, on points, essays and tests, caused many students to just stop paying attention altogether. Mid-class research revealed that less than half of the readings assigned to students were actually read, and less than a quarter of the information given to them was considered relevant to their lives. In another case of DS106 foreshadowing, while the students did know the questions they were being asked, according to Wesch, they had no idea how they linked to the class itself, “but if you can somehow merge those two things, you’ve gone a long way.”
Another takeaway was that the desire for “interaction” differs as much between people, as it does between cultures. Whereas Americans mostly favor technology, like the Internet and social media, other cultures, like those in New Guinea, for example, prefer using face-to-face conversation in order to forge their identity. Given how I spent my youth putting education above almost everything else in my life, it’s safe to say that I was the exception to both rules growing up, instead of preaching to either proverbial choir.
This brings up an important piece of Wesch’s argument: Whenever new media appears in a community, does it influence the residents of said community into changing their ways, for better or worse, or vice versa? The thing to remember from all of this, to Wesch, is that “media are not just tools,” in that they can “mediate relationships,” changing the way we connect with each other. “When media change, our relationships change, and those can have quite a dramatic effect,” according to Wesch.
This really hits close to home, since I never cared for social media sites until recently, because they didn’t feel like they were worthy of my time. It’s also why I never really considered any of my elementary, middle, high school or community college classmates as friends, since I wouldn’t see them after class was over, anyway. If anything, I was more afraid of failing grades than failing friends when I was young. I didn’t change at all growing up, but the world around me did, en masse. Hopefully, this class is my first step in catching up, and turning things around for good.
All in all, the Internet’s a double-edged sword, encouraging participation or distraction in its users. Nowadays, most of us see it as a joke, rather than something of value. Even Wesch spoke of “social imagination,” defined by Maxine Greene as “the capacity to invent visions of what should be and could be in our deficient society.” In closing, we all wanted to live in a world of peace, love and understanding at one point in our lives. What’s so funny about that, besides the focus on theories over practice?
This speech shows me that taking risks, regardless of odds, is an important part of growing up in progressively technocratic times. If you’re not afraid to fail at something, you’re not ready to face the world, and its myriad of surprises. Ultimately, the Internet’s what we make of it, and DS106 will help make sure that my potential doesn’t go to waste.
Throughout the course of his 2009 editorial, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure,” and his speech from the same year, “No Digital Facelifts,” Gardner Campbell provides an argument about the importance of technology in modern times, especially in college campuses. The main argument he carries throughout both statements is that technology is constantly changing, and that for all of the progress put into its long-term effectiveness, humanity’s not yet begun to comprehend just how to see these consistent upgrades as anything but another trend of the moment. I say this because, as the opening minutes of Campbell’s speech pointed out:
“We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race. I think that’s true, except I think, probably, we’re at the beginning, and not the middle.”
To make a long story short, the most inconvenient problem we’ve yet to deal with, regarding the Internet’s current growth period, is all of the wasted potential that stems from it, and this is especially true in academic fields. The reasons why this is the case can range from the inability to provide new means of teaching important lessons where old methods fail, to the perception of the teachers feeling left out, should the class essentially take a self-taught approach to their education. The truth is that technology matters now more than ever, and those who want to avoid getting left behind need to have a basic knowledge of social media etiquette in order to make sense of the world around them. It’s something that I overlooked, more than once, before signing up for DS106 earlier this year. Even now, I’m still trying to get the hang of everything, knowing that I might end up failing at more things than succeeding. That’s why I’m taking Digital Storytelling this semester: If nothing else happens when this class lets out, I want to, at the very least, hold my head high, having proved myself wrong.
It’s in his editorial when Campbell takes his place as the “Father of Digital Storytelling.” I call him that because of how much of his worldview is reflected in how this class is run. According to Campbell, college students like me could use social media to narrate, curate, and share lessons with other students. The DS106 class of today has participants provide step-by-step instructions to each other, on how to create Vimeo and YouTube videos, audio footage for SoundCloud, and pictures for Flickr. They’re also given ample time to properly cultivate and organize their thoughts in a manner that suits them, individually, before publishing and, ultimately, sharing the final product with the Internet at large, hopefully providing some of their own useful advice to others along the way.
Overall, I can see why Gardner Campbell was so adamant about using technology to help the young adults of the world be more inclined to use it to better their lives, as well as those of others. Both the editorial and speech showcase his profound beliefs in a way that people like me, who are just starting to reap the fruits of our own virtual labor, are beginning to understand in full. Campbell’s words show me that I have the potential to do great things in my life, and inspire others to do the same. All I have to do is put my mind to it, and the latest technology ensures that it will be put to good use. In the end, while it is true that having an innate fear of the unknown is both a part of human nature, and a fact of life, the same thing can be said about curiosity. For all the opportunities that now exist thanks to social media and the Internet, the time has come for mankind to stop taking these advances for granted, and start mapping out the new frontiers that lie ahead of us. Campbell knew it then, I know it now, and I think the rest of the class can say the same.