Archive for the ‘iraq’ Category

Early Mechanics of a Digital Story

Monday, October 18th, 2010

After Jim Groom briefly mentioned our multi-week digital storytelling assignment during the first night of class, I spent my 20 minute drive home brainstorming a very rough plan for my project. We’d each just shared 30 second stories about how we spent our summer, and although I can’t remember the exact quote, a comment Groom made in response to my brief story inspired my large idea. I told the class I spent my summer as an intern with a nonprofit that provides support and entertainment services to U.S. military personnel. Groom made a remark regarding the stories people choose to share and withhold concerning their experiences with war, and his observation got me thinking about the angles from which I saw the media covering the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon arriving at my house, I grabbed the first sheets of paper I could find and sat at my table to transfer my thoughts from my head to a notepad-who would I talk with? What was my goal? How would we (the reporter and the source) tell these stories? These points became much more coherent when I wrote my project proposal. I also sketched a quick outline, at right, of how I envisioned the appearance of the story on the web: a magazine theme, with subject headings at the top of the page and a featured posts slideshow linking to different content: a text story, an audio slideshow, perhaps a video.

In the weeks leading up to our proposal due date, I began amassing all off my resources in one corner of my desk, at left. My background research about the wars-news articles, maps, images-went into a binder. I posted my original project notes, penned on the obnoxious celebratory stationary, on a bulletin board with other related memos. The lime post it note, “Subdomain” includes five points I’ve been considering for the website: Name, Theme, Stories, Audio and Images. While I’m still brainstorming names and browsing through magazine style themes (I’ll be blogging separately about these topics), I have been thinking about the story’s presentation.

Text, audio and images are three methods of storytelling I am certain I want to use, tools I think will have a significant impact in different ways on the audience of readers, listeners and viewers. My source, (I know that term is rather impersonal; I’ll be doing an introductory post about her soon) is not only willing to share anecdotes about her experiences with a family member deployed to Afghanistan, she’s also a very engaging, open, storyteller.

I’m a fan of “slice of life” feature articles, stories that depict exactly that: “slices,” or moments, of a person’s life, often in relation to a larger trend or idea. I’ll also be writing reconstruction pieces, documenting her family’s previous experiences with military life and deployments through writing. These are moments I didn’t observe, but can learn about by asking questions and looking at pictures, among other methods.

After being introduced to Audacity this semester, I’d like to incorporate audio into this project, most likely as one or two audio slideshows. The New York Times has some of my favorite examples of audio slideshows in their “One in 8 Million-New York Characters in Sound and Images” collection. As I mentioned before, I’m discovering how a story has the potential to become much more powerful and interesting when the element of the subject’s voice is part of the presentation. It creates a relationship between the subject and the audience that reading words on a page might not necessarily do to the same extent.

As I mentioned above, I’ll be blogging about the initial stages of my subdomain (name and theme) and introducing my source in a post later this week and into early next week.

Project Proposal

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Wordle created using text from CNN'S Afghanistan Crossroads Blog

Study the front-page headlines or skim the World section of a newspaper and several words are likely inked on the day’s edition: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, troops, convoy, military.

Perform a Google News search using the term “Afghanistan” and several of the 26,900 obtainable headlines link to hard news stories offering information on current events in the Middle East: US military deaths in Afghanistan at 1207. NATO sees Afghan city of Heart ready for transition.

The ongoing war in Afghanistan and recently (combat) concluded war in Iraq has dominated mainstream news coverage for nearly a decade.

Many of the news stories I’ve read or viewed thrive around politics or operational details about the wars’ progression.

My digital story aims to shift away from this trend by writing “slice of life” and “reconstruction” feature stories depicting people’s current and past “day to day” experiences with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Fredericksburg area’s proximity to Quantico Marine Corps Base, Fort Belvoir, Naval Support Facility Dahlgren and Fort A.P. Hill situate the region as an “armed forces melting pot,” and I am intrigued by how two large-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been felt locally by people in and from the Fredericksburg region.

To begin with, I plan to speak with one source, learn about her experiences as someone with a family member deployed to Afghanistan, and share her story in installments through writing, audio, images and video.

As the semester progresses, I hope to consider incorporating additional sources if they are willing to participate. I predict my digital story will primarily entail writing slice of life and reconstruction feature stories and shooting images, audio and video related to my topic.

Ideally, I would like to create a subdomain on my website and build/showcase my project separately there. I envision this separately because I think part of a digital story, especially journalistic in nature, is in its full presentation. I want to use a separate WordPress theme, layout and plugins specifically to enhance and reflect my project content/theme. I would still use my blog.MediaMegan.com subdomain to blog about my process of creating/building the “separate” site, writing and using different tools to tell a story (similar to my past posts/tutorials, from journalistic writing techniques to a “technical” standpoint).