Archive for the ‘digital storytelling’ Category

ds106 Mad Men (or women!)

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Image by D'Arcy Norman

nobody blogs like the bava. nobody!

So, if D’Arcy Norman isn’t already doing sick mashups featuring yours truly as the “Mad Men” poster–which is brilliant!—then Tom Woodward is laying down assignment after assignment already on his bionic blog—and I quote:

The Shining Animated Gif
Make an animated gif from your favorite/least favorite movie capturing the essence of a key scene. Make sure the movement is minimal but essential.

All I can say is—are you kidding me? I know who my masters are, and I’m ready to bow down before them already—how sick is this digital storytelling course going to be? Every minute I just get more and more fired up, this is truly what I’ve needed for a while, and now it’s coming together.

What’s more, Dave Cormier, George Siemens, Bonnie Stewart, and Alexander McAuley have produced some really compelling and succinct video explanations about what a MOOC is, what to expect, and how you can be a successful part of one. The later video really helps frame my thinking for the whole thing—and gives the course some essential guidelines to start designing around. I can’t thank them all enough. Again, Canadian edtech crew FTW! When is someone gonna give me a job in Canada? Preferably Vancouver ;)

And let me add to the title of my post the following qualification:

A ds106 wish list

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Image credit: Bionic Teaching's Michael Chasen sits on edupunk Santa's lap and hopes not to suck so much this Xmas
Image credit:Bionicteaching’s “Michael Chasen sits on edupunk Santa’s lap and hopes not to suck so much this Xmas

As I mentioned in my last post, a number of folks have offered to help with the design and execution of ds106. In fact a few have already publicly pledged their undying loyalty—and that’s a party right there! I’m eternally grateful, and the only way to show true gratitude is to actually give folks some more work for no pay—the neo-liberal way! So below is a quick Santa Claus Wish List, very much in the spirit of the season. You give, I take. That said, I plan on adding to this list regularly, and please feel free to do the same via your own blog or the comments.

  • The syndication and republishing of comments represents a particular issue, part of which is solved. All posts tagged ds106 from the contributing blogs will republish on the site using FeedWordPress. And as Cogdog notes here, we can use FeedWordPress and the way it turns tags into categories as a way to come up with a more structured tag taxonomy for each assignment so we can represent all the different projects/assignments visually and contextually using tags and categories Given that, each post will be syndicated and categorized, but the permalink and “leave comment” link will both point back to the original post so people can comment on the source.

    Image of Lego Death StarWhat we need is a way to represent the number of comments on the actual blog on the syndicated post showing up in Moreover, we need a way to feed out comments from all the different blogs to a recent comments widget (or something like it) in the sidebar. So, in short, the same old issue of syndicating and aggregating comments like we do posts. This is kinda like getting the Lego Death Star for Xmas, probably not gonna happen, but why not dream big. or at least let folks tackle one aspect of this problem—like maybe Slave 1?

  • I would love to see some idea around integrating Wikipedia into this course effectively. My initial idea was to open up discussing the Wikipedia article on Digital storytelling, which I have each time I started this class, and for the first week try and generate so ideas around making the article better. Or at least dealing with some of the issue Wikipedians have pointed out exist. There are a lot of missing sources and citations. Can we come up with some? Can we read through the article and tighten it up as a way to get a sense on how one of the most powerful sites on the internet works—all the while highlighting that we make it so. So, in short, a little help on editing Wikipedia, Jon Beasley-Murray and Brian Lamb taught us this years ago, and I would love to see some resources, citations, sources etc (and I need to get on this) so that we can keep this as a distributed, ongoing project over the course of the semester. And it can obviously branch out. The other idea I had was everyone take one an article, or adopt one and just track the process of editing Wikipedia. In every Wikipedia article their is a cultural story, and no one has made this clearer than Jon Udell in his Heavy Metal Umlaut screencast.
  • Image of Boba Fett InvoiceIdeas for assignments of all kinds. What comes to my mind immediately is the need for a graphic design assignment. I talked abut the Megashark infographic and the Boba Fett invoice during this semester, are more than a few students bemoaned the fact we didn;t play more with graphic design in the space between images/photography and audio. I think we could do that this time around, and I would love ideas/assignments. Tom Woodward introduced me to the Superpunch blog, and I think this might need be the “text” for this section of the course ;) You are required to follow that blog regularly all week —all 400 weekly posts!
  • Tutorials for setting up a web hosting service, a WordPress blog, subdomains, etc. I have some of this already, but I am thinking that perhaps turning the into a more comprehensive space to document the process of setting up your own web host, mapping your domain, and generally managing and manipulating the options in CPanel might serve many an educator, student, and everyday web citizen well in the future. And while I don;t want to reinvent the wheel, I think such documentation is something I will be working on anyway for those coming on with no experience in these matters, and I would love to work with others on this. I am one of the odd people that really enjoys writing support documentation, and of you other nuts out there?
  • Image of Tom WoodwardSome recommendations for plugins and ways to make the site more user friendly and perhaps a plugin I can use to send registered members of that blog email updates using a specific category or tag only. Like announcement. Also, what sucks about the site, how would you do it different? Ideas for using the wiki more powerfully? Some general ideas, thoughts, visions I am not seeing? The syllabus is up and kinda raw, it’s from my last two semesters, and hasn’t changed much. Any ideas for that—feel free to edit it, just register on the log and you can edit away? I put < a href="">6 or 7 assignments up, which were voted the best from this past semester, any ideas, thoughts, or recommendations for those? Better ideas to replace them? Tom Woodward mentioned the idea of having folks submit assignments at a given time and let people choose what they want to do, a kind of real life choose your own assignment/adventure based upon the particular theme we ar covering, i.e. video, audio, images, design, fan fiction, etc. How would this work? What would allow for this to be integrated into the experience?

That’s all I got for now, but I know there is much, much more. And if you wanna help there is no better time than now. Whadya got? ;)

Scientific Proof ds106 Rocks

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

During the course of this semester I met with all the ds106 internauts individually at least three times to gauge their progress and generally carve out sometime to make sure everything we are doing makes sense—a way to make up for my complete disorganization. So during my final meeting with Karen Strat this afternoon she actually surprised me by bringing in an experiment for our final meting and “evaluation.” The experiment played off of her obsession with sports science (though she claimed she wasn’t obsessed with anything—which proved falsch). Now I’m not sure what this particular experiment has to do with sports, but I do know it scientifically proves ds106 rocks!

Navigating Google Maps

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Let me begin by saying I have not looked up instructions or tips on how to create a Google Map, so like many tutorials on my blog, there may be map-making techniques that make more sense than what I detail below. I just jumped in, and with a little trial and error, this is my process and my in-progress results.

After logging into your Google account, go to Google Maps and click on My Maps in the left corner. You’ll be able to create a title and description for your project. For now, I titled mine Digital Storytelling and left the description blank. This will change when I think of a fitting title and description. I checked unlisted for now because it’s not complete. I’ll embed it on my project site over the weekend once it is finished.

Initially, I was zooming in on the map with my cursor and dropping placemarks on locations. Then I realized adding a blue placemark is as easy as typing the location in the map search bar above the map, clicking on the red placemark, and selecting “Save to my Maps.”

Once I added my locations, I wanted to experiment with the information displayed with each locality. I clicked on my maps, returned to my Digital Storytelling project map and saw something very familiar…

A rich text editor similar to WordPress’ Visual editor! It’s very easy to add and format text and embed images, which seem to be the two major Google Map characteristics.

When adding a picture, it asks for the URL to an image. Unless I missed a tool, Google Maps doesn’t let you upload an image from your desktop. I added images related to my project to my wp-admin Media Library and used the resulting file URL.

The result:

Locations on a Google Map may also be accompanied with text:

I’m using Google Maps because although it’s built off of information that’s relayed in my articles, I think it offers audiences another interesting, interactive way to explore the story digitally. I reference the locations the Swopes have lived and/or served in my articles, and I think to also see these places reflected on a map and be able to read brief anecdotes or see images from the larger story as part of that map offers a compelling perspective that compliments the longer pieces of my project.

ds106 needs mo’ better design

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I absolutely love spacesick‘s homage to various movies by making them into old school books with fascinating, minimalistic design that somehow captures the essence of the films. The series is called “I can read movies”, and the whole thing really appeals to my sene of design. Plus, the idea of movies like Highlander and Dawn of the Dead being turned into novels is its own brilliant  idea all together. I ran across this set while searching for examples of fan art for class tonight, and I have to say this whole idea of framing a series of assignments around various elements of design next semester, say like minimalist movie posters, is definitely gonna have to make its way into ds106.

I mean, how cool is the cover for Dawn of the Dead?
Something my granddaddy used to tell us... You know Macumba? Voodoo. Granddad was a priest in Trinidad. Used to tell us "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth."

Or Highlander?
We're the Princes of the Universe

Or Blade Runner? I mean the whole reading I have of this film is apparent from this cover, it’s so amazing how much a graphic can communicate. Not only that, but how much more viscerally it can communicate it—you just know it when you see it.
I'm not in the business... I *am* the business.

And here is the whole set:

And then the actual minimalist movie posters, like backstothewall‘s The Shining poster. Wow!
The Shining

I mean there has to be another two or three weeks built into ds106 for design assignments experimenting with posters, impossible novelization cover designs, and maybe even a fake Criterion DVD cover design.

Got to play with this, which may push me to get better at photoshop and/or illustrator. Or perhaps Gimp so I can actually do it with the class. And that Empire DVD cover reminds me of the brilliant Star Wars travel posters….

Man, the generative creativity of all of us made apparent and accessible by the internet seemingly has no end—it’s really such a source of inspiration and faith for me. Why the hell do I have to continue to deal with the completely debilitating sterility and blindness of the world of education in the face of this unimaginable and seemingly infinite treasure we have at our fingertips.

Il Mashup: some ds106 productions

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I was unbelievably impressed with the mashups the internauts in ds106 came up with for our 9th assignment. I took a pretty different approach to video this semester, I stuck with it intensively for about 3 or 4 weeks. Andy Rush came in and blessed us with his new media prowess, particular all things digital video . That set the stage beautifully for the coming assignments which were very much geared towards the fast, cheap, and under control mentality. We were showing student how to mash the web with free resources fro downloading, decoding, re-compressing, and even basic editing for nothing. What’s more, we played only with the video editing systems they had on their machine. This sucked for Moviemaker folks, but it got done nonetheless. What’s more, it as remarkable to me how much can be accomplished with a few weeks of assignments and thinking about the grammar of video. I really believe this part of ds106 needs to be extrapolated to its own 15 week course that Andy Rush and I should team teach. It would be a blast, allow folks to stretch out time wise. And, what’s more, get schooled by Andy Rush about the intricacies of digital video. It’s both an art and a craft, and their is so much to know. We came far this semester, but we could have gone further had we the time.

That said, the fruit of the dss106 video labor is to me more than apparent, and they set the bar high for excellent work in this regard. In fact none of the mashups were bad, they were all very solid, but I’ll limit it to ten below to both filter and celebrate some remarkable work.

Notorious VS Marie Antoinette

To start off, Linday Wlaker’s idea to mash up Notorious (as in B.I.G.) and Marie Antoinette seemed insane at first. But when you realize how much hip hop culture and the 18th century French aristocracy had in common it is rather remarkable. The heart of the mashup, try and marry two unlike things and make them anew.

Louis & Marie Meet B.I.G. from Lindsay Walker on Vimeo.

Shutter Island VS Harry Potter
Morrgan’s recut of the Harry Potter by way of the audio from the Shutter Island trailer is well done. What is apparent through this video is just how much Morrgan is getting the grove of editing down. Understanding what shots make an effect, and the final shot really brings this to the fore. The process of reediting a film (or films) she loves also gives her a sense of how that film makes meaning though cuts and edits. It is awesome to see an acute sense of the pace of editing emerge so quickly.

Andrew Ryan VS Walt Disney (A Bioshock mashup)
I really enjoyed Garrett Bush’s simple and very powerful idea of taking an extended monlogue from Bioshock’s Andrew Rya and mapping it onto a film of Walt Disney explaining the concept of the Magic Kingdom. The effects are rather chilling, give Ryan’s ultra-conservative vision of an Ayn Rand reality for the future. One we are very much a part of right now.

Andrew Disney Mash-up from Thomas Hobbes on Vimeo.

The Expendable VS The Power Rangers
Kevin Chernawski’s posts about his work are always as good as the work itself, and that is saying a lot. He always takes a moment to frame why he did what he did, and what drove him. It is usually short and to the point, but the impetus of nostalgia for including The Power Rangers in this piece informs for me so much of what drives us in this medium: nostalgia. And we are never too young to be nostalgic. This is extremely important to remember, but all too easy to forget.

Anchorman: the Legend of an American Psycho
Chris’s mashup is at once the funniest and darkest. it is remarkable how much Anchorman and American Psycho have in common. This is also solid through to the end, keeps a pacing with a hard conceit to keep going.

Sick Jams: Kid in basement VS Michael Jordan
I really liked the Sick Jams video by Wesley which mashes up a kid playing basketball in his basement alongside some of the sickest jams of Michael Jordan’s remarkable career. Unfortunately the audio soundtrack was tagged for copyright, so that has been rendering ineffectual for the moment. Additionally, quality of video clips could and should be higher, despite conversion.

Terminator Salvation VS Modern Warfare
I like the way Ed Martinez illustrates how similar film and video games aesthetics in general plot line are running these days. And while the audio editing needs work, I think this mashup is so interesting because it points in the direction movies and video games have been headed for years. And it does with a sense of common let’s move as well as an idea of being able to depart from some parts of the past.

Yosemite “Scarface” Sam
Kevin Hernandez’s Yosemite Scarface has some real potential to kinda blow up. It’s always great to see a Loony Tunes character, and Yosemite would make a very mean and intriguing Scarface. Fact is, Kevin had the idea, and with a few more clips with Yosemite Sam and some further audio and video editing this would have phenomenal.

Yosemite Scarface from Kevin Hernandez on Vimeo.

New Moon Mash
Gretchen Houser’s mashup of Ten Ways to Lose a Guy and Twilight works in yet a third element, the New Moon trailer that mocks the original Twilight . So, what you have going here is three narrative simultaneously. And while Gretchen remarks about her dearth of creativeness, I think how quickly she picked up the process and started really dealing on three levels with a rather sophisticated re-cut was impressive. Particularly the first 1:28 so compelling is well worth a shout out here.

And last, but certainly not least, is Stephanie’s art mashup. She asked if she could just do an image mashup, I didn’t want to seem to biased towards video—even though I am— so I agreed. And I am glad I did, I love the way Stephanie frames this conceptual art piece for us in her post framing the piece.

I did it after seeing a video on an artist who did a piece with a sunken ship on a pile of ‘defect’ sculptures from a workshop.  He pointed out that they were almost all images of icons, and if you looked at each one they still looked perfect but were considered not good enough for sale.  He picked one of them out of the pile and put it on a shelf in his studio and suddenly instead of being one sculpture out of many, it became an icon again.

I love the way the icon can only really remain powerful when it is severed from any relationship of the other objects. Makes me think about the idea of iconography that much more deeply. How do we use these icons to embody an idea, something that can only happen in some kind of vacuum. I love the way the visual helps you read and see in ways we simply can’t capture with text alone.

OK, that’s all for my feature now, my next post if I get the time is to talk about the totally online and open version of ds106 I’m thinking about for this coming Spring. I have officially been given a second section of the course at UMW to do totally online, which pushes me to redesign the pieces and customize it to make a open version simply an amplification. Hopefully I can make sense of what I am thinking on that front soon.

DS106 Plays Caption This

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

It all started with this Retweet by Melanie McBride this morning:

It just so happens that I caught this in the stream and my interrest was piqued when I saw Google Street View mentioned because right now the ds106 internauts are using Google Street View to create a narrative about their childhood home, a particular trip, etc. using Google Street View. And when I saw this link to the “seedy side” of Google Street View I couldn’t resist. Jon Rafman’s Tumblr blog that collects all these images is extremely provocative, and whether or not all the images are real—that aquarium seems like a hard sell as Garrett Bush mentioned in class tonight—a vision of the seemingly invisible realities of the police state, prostitution, public sex, and other random acts of craziness is fascinating.

All this to say I spent part of tonight’s class talking about this site, and sharing the examples. And what quickly became apparent to me is that everyone of these images is a prompt for a story. We all were taken in by them, but also we were let with a million questions, and the idea of stitching the story back together became an almost natural urge. I’d love to do a forensic/detective narrative using Google Street View, or a scavenger hunt on Google Earth, but that will have to wait until I actually have a plan. What did happen tonight, however, was kinda fun nonetheless. After looking at the images, I spontaneously asked the class broke up into groups and tasked them with captioning as many of these crazy pictures as possible in the time left of class. And they did. Not only that, what they did was very, very fun. I really can’t defend the “learning objective” (vomit) of this in-class assignment though, I had no other reason for making them do it other than I had an idea it might be fun, and oh was it ever. Look at the fruits of their sardonic joy.

You can’t see me… I am a Ninja!

Modern Day Abbey Road!

Hulk Smash!

Slippery when wet

“Is this how the squirrels do it?”

“Jinkeys, looks like Scooby found the Fire Sauce.”

“I better get out of here before her husband catches me.”

The Pink Portal to the Great Beyond

Welcome to STARK industries…..building the future!

Rock'n the "manddals"

Father time was not nice to you, Skeletor!

Pluto you've got you lay off the acid

Coming soon…..Google Inception!

Service Worker's Revenge

Lemonade: $1 per hour.

Dog Park Rejects

Hazards of Narcolepsy

Even heroes have the right to dream.

"Mom! There's a spaceship outside!"

Flowers do not equal happiness.

Flipper Five!!!!

I told you not to text and walk at the same time!

Police Officer “This is how you make the Y! Again from the top!”

“Onward, to Camelot!”

Hey Maverick, lets go play volleyball

Hey, HEY WAIT! I’ll take another box of the Thin Mints!

"Take me! I'm one of you!"

ultimate walk of shame


Juliet, hey, JULIET!


Image of The Birds

THE BIRDS!!!!!!!!!

Whoa. What happened to the pool?!

United States of Google America

Chucky meets ds106

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I’ve been knee-deep in film commentaries, homemade Halloween movies, and mashups for the last three weeks in ds106, and it has been awesome. I’m on the verge of finally finishing my mashup, but in the meantime, here is a short video made by Wesley FrankKyle Nero and K “Money” Hernandez titled “Kyle Nero’s Halloween.” This totally appeals to my kitsch/b-movie sensibility, and the fact the Chucky from Child’s Play figures so prominently into this short film makes all the more alluring. I particularly enjoyed Kyle’s deadpan acting s well as Aubrey Elliot. What’s more, Wesley’s writing and direction were a lot of fun, and his establishing a sense of shot order is pretty impressive. Enjoy more ds106 internaut greatness.

Digital Storytelling Tools Breakdown

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

With Aisle 2 Bin 36 in the works, here’s a current breakdown of how I plan to share the Swope family’s story digitally:


Because this is a web-based project, I want to tailor my article length for an online audience. That means briefer stories, so I’ll likely have multiple articles, each on its own page, rather than one long piece on a single page.

Before I begin writing, I want to meet with Andy a few more times, so while I haven’t started writing any articles yet, I’ve been thinking about them quite a bit based on our two get-togethers in October.

I’ve also been considering my writing process. Unless it’s a very foreign topic to me, I’m not the type of writer who outlines an article or paper. Typically, when I sit down with my computer, I find the detail or part of an anecdote in my notes that interests me the most and start from that point, adding the remaining facts above and below it until the story feels complete. I’ll probably stick with this technique for this project, as everything usually “falls into place” with this method for me.


I’ve referenced The New York Time’s “One in 8 Million” series before. It’s a collection that profiles several New York City characters, from the “rookie detective”  and “uncertain gang member” to the “adoptive mother” and “type A teenager.” As an example, here’s the “grandfather.” The series has shown me how powerful coupling images with an audio narrative can be. Many stories included in “One and 8 Million” are very simple, but told in this method are quite engaging.

I want to use an audio slideshow as part of my project. At first I thought of doing just one. Then I discovered this digital story. In this section, the stories of 9 people are shared, each with it’s own image(s), text description and audio (for a single example, click here). My intent is a little different…and I’m still fleshing this out and may go with it, alter this plan, or completely kill it…but I’m thinking about doing something similar with a set of images on the site. After viewing the above mentioned story, I asked myself “Why limit myself to just one audio slideshow?” Now, I’m thinking I can have one overarching audio story showcased on the site. With other photos, I can caption them with text but also have brief audio snippets of Andy. I like this idea because it gives the audience something a newspaper can’t, the opportunity to literally hear the voice of the subject being profiled.

Map and/or Timeline

I’m interested in using Google Maps (or a similar map tool) as a way to share the family’s story, highlighting the different places they’ve lived and served. I’m not very familiar with the tool and need to do a bit more research, but from some of the better examples I’ve seen, I’m thinking I could incorporate photos and text captions for each point on the map, personalizing it to the story. As an alternative (or additional storytelling method), I’m also toying with the idea of a timeline. I’m not sold on any of the free tools I’ve found on the web to create one, so I need to look into this more.


These are the main digital storytelling methods on my mind right now. I’m continuing to research and ask myself the best ways to creatively share this story digitally, so I hope to think of more techniques as the project grows.

The Shining Commentary

Friday, October 29th, 2010

So I just wrapped up my commentary on Kubrick’s The Shining. One of my top 3 films of all time, and it feels good because I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. And luckily I gave my digital storytelling class an assignment that provided the opportunity. I’ve pretty much been eating my own dog food all semester, which has been important for the evolution of this class this semester, and taught me a ton.

The actual assignment was simple in concept: provide a commentary track on a scene (or series of scenes) from a favorite film. This assignment was aimed towards getting the students to consider and get familiar with working through digital video, using Andy Rush‘s awesome Digital Video site as a resource. I was hoping this assignment would encompass everything from ripping DVDs to downloading YouTube videos to compressing and converting codecs to editing video and laying down a voice over track. One thing is for sure, those students with Macs in the class probably have a bit of an advantage when it comes to digital video because Moviemaker only imports WMV files, and that is pretty much a huge dead end for web video.

And despite that two semesters running now this has been the most difficult section of the course to teach, I do love setting them loose on digital video even though I know it will be a humbling experience for both them and me. I constantly get my ass kicked in this department, but I still think having a strong sense of how to rip, access, and remix video is important enough that I’m willing to take the time and energy to work through it with them all. That said, getting digital video right is hard. It takes patience, a meticulous sensibility, and some pretty extensive knowledge and understanding of how the proprietary codec market works. I’m somewhat a novice at digital video, but I always have fun with it which is not often enough. But I do think it is vital for some idea of literacy moving forward, and using video to comment on our culture and mashup various clips and resources (our next video project) is becoming the lingua franca of the web and giving them the opportunity to work on it and take it seriously is important, especially using a series of free and/or cheap tools.

What’s interesting is that this course has 27 people, and less than 12 got their video project in on time? Slackers will be tolerated with digital video, I knew it was coming, I even warned them, but nonetheless video beat most of them into submission.