Archive for the ‘text’ Category

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.

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.