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Digital Storytelling: Week 4

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

For Tuesday, 2/2, everyone read and responded to Tim O’Reilly’s seminal essay “What is Web 2.0?” (1995). I figured this would be a nice, concrete frame for much of what we were talking about more abstractly and technically thus far, and I was pleasantly surprised to see most of the responses to O’Reilly’s essay were some of the most thoughtful and engaged yet. I’ll talk about a few of the responses, but one which immediately but their reactions to Web 2.0 in a fascinating frame was Erin Longbottom’s post “Living in Web 2.0 and Beyond” wherein she notes:

The second thing I liked about this article, is not that it explained something I didn’t know, but it documented and legitimized something I already knew, I’d just never discussed it in those terms. The article gave me a title, Web 2.0, for something I simply didn’t know needed a title. While I remember a time before Wikipedia, I remember it only vaguely, simply because I wasn’t using the internet much until about 10 or 11, right about when Web 2.0 was coming to the forefront. That doesn’t mean however that a site like Youtube didn’t seem exciting and fresh to me. I just never really considered that there was ever a division of the web being user driven versus not user driven.

What is wild about this quote is that for the vast majority students in this course, as well as most of the students at UMW and beyond, Web 2.0 is simply the web they have inhabited since they’ve gotten online. There is no Web 1.0 for most of them, and rather than acting as the framing of a new phenomenon on the web, this simply itemized the web they’ve always known in some detail, long with some useful technical background. Our students can’t remember a web that wasn’t user-drive, how about that?

Building on that, Victoria Pacher’s post about Web 2.0 framed the emergence around the idea of community, and I particularly like the way she frames the pwoer of P2P technologies like bitTorrent as premised upon community.

An excellent point brought up by O’Reilly is the shift in P2P services. I don’t know much about P2P architecture, but it seems that in the heyday of services like Kazaa or WinMX, the infrastructure was heavily centralized and inefficient. With the advent of torrenting, as O’Reilly says, “every client is also a server.” This means that the success of a particular torrent is dependent upon not only how many users have it, but how many are willing to share. The more sharers (seeders), the faster you can get what you want. As a measure of good etiquette, each user is encouraged to turn around and share, fostering a sense of community (notice how it keeps coming back to that?).

And when you think about it, bitTorrent remains the single example in O’Reilly’s essay (Skype was not yet on the radar) of a new wave of P2P applications. And what’s remarkable about bitTorrent as a P2P as an architecture (rather than P2P as a meme) is that it is the only technology in that essay that remains criminalized because it is premised on sharing outside of the established venues created for us, like iTunes and the like. BitTorrent is premised upon circumventing the the idea of centralized services (whether Web 2.0 or not) and is premised on the increasingly politicized act of sharing. Which made a link fromthe list of Victoria’s drawbacks of Web 2.0 all the more interesting: “more primary options (especially mobile) mean a more divided internet (read about the Splinternet).” And I would tweak this about to suggest that more proprietary mobile gateway devices and TV-inspired web browsers are subverting open standards and designed and pushed as an antidote and solution to the “dangers of bitTorrent.” The “Splinternet” article she links to is fascinating, but ultimately leads the discussion to an “end of the open web” argument that is irreversible, but I would argue this is exactly where we can both realize and struggle with the emergence of the real “Web 3.0″: a move away from open standards, open platforms, and open access. Which I think reinforces her last drawback of Web 2.0: “If you’re on the internet, you’re on the internet // Continuing debates about Net Neutrality and corporate regulated access, shielded behind the euphemism of community.” What is happening with the iPad, iPhone, Web TV, etc. is a total bane for the corporate regulated web, how many of you fanboys and girls can bitTorrent from your mobile devices? Or even your Verizon’s Fios controlled internet? Fact is, the question of these emerging proprietary devices and the opponents of Net Neutrality are concomitant in their development, and ultimately are changing the logic of the web of the future for the worse. What’s more, is that we are having this argument at the level of the device, iPads are good or bad, rather than at the level of discourse—what exactly does the increasing move towards fragmented standards, closed applications in the service of more draconian copyright laws (read ACTA) mean for our visions of open access to the web more generally? This is a not a discussion about the possibilities of single device, but our current cultural and political climate which is currently eviscerating the idea of an open web.

And that is just two of the almost 30 remarkable posts about O’Relly’s essay that dominated the discussion of Tuesdays class.

On Thursday we looked at some examples of digital storytelling that students found online. I have to say that Brittany Killian’s example of digital storytelling was pretty amazing. If you haven’t seen this video titled “Stop Motion with Wolf and Pig” I strongly recommend it:

Students were also asked to start playing a bit with the craft of digital storytelling, and as an ice breaker, they were asked to create story in five images, much like the “Tell a Story in 5 Frames” group on flickr. I really like the restrictions fo this assignment, and it immediately brought us into the issues of visual iconography, and juxtapositions and choices as a kind of grammar of the visual. Here are a few examples:

I really enjoyed Paul Longerbeam’s first digital story:

Erik Bailey’s five frame story features the fall of Cookie Monster (never knew he free-based Cookie Dough)

I also love that Emily Roberts provided the epilogue to Cookie Monster’s fall:
Image of Cookie Monsters head on a stick

I also liked Olivia Newman’s story about Hunter S. Thompson receiving a bad review:

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And then there are the examples people created not from found images, but those of their own making. Check out Caitlin Murphy’s “Death of a Sister”:

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 http://modernselkie.files.wordpress.com/…

Or Damian Allen’s “The Contenders:”

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And the list goes on and on, it has been a pretty eventful first four weeks, and these posts really help me put it together in my mind so that we can move forward with the digital storytelling. next week it is Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine talking about their Web 2.0 Storytelling essay (I am planning on capturing this for posterity), and we’ll be raiding the 50 Ways to Tell a Digital Story treasure trove as well for them to start their personal narratives in earnest.

Avanti!