EL 330 | Digital Storytelling

(January 2017)

Digital tools have made it possible for anyone at all to create and publish using not only text but also audio, images, video, and combinations of them all. A tween in Indianapolis with a wi-fi connection can almost instantly edit photos in ways that used to take so much time, money, equipment, and training as to be out of the reach of ordinary folks. This course explores the theory and practice of writing and storytelling in our emerging digital culture, looking closely at how digital tools radically expand the creative resources available to writers of all kinds. During this course, you will analyze multimodal, digital stories, and you will create digital texts of your own as you experiment with freely available tools for capturing, editing, and presenting audio, video, and text.
    We’ll be drawing on notions from comics, filmmaking, and visual design as we think about the fundamental visual, aural, and textual building blocks useful for composing stories, narratives, and other kinds of artful texts in the 21st century. Our overarching goals: Not to make you an expert in all things digital (which would be impossible to do in just three weeks) but to get you thinking about how to use non-text media in your storytelling, and to build your vocabulary for talking about multimodal storytelling, and to empower you to learn more about digital storytelling on your own.

Here's an archive of student projects from past courses.

Work to Anticipate/Breakdown of Scores

---- The Schedule ----

Note that I may add or alter links for reading and viewing as we go. Also, note that while I do a lot of work to keep links and linked documents up to date, the Internet is full of tricks and inconsistencies. If needed/required links are broken or documents are not available when you try to get to them, it's your responsibility to let me know that the links aren't working or the documents have disappeared. Send me an email right away if you have trouble getting to any assigned online text or document.

Day 1 (Week 1) (Tuesday, Jan. 3)
Introduction: Selection, Sequence, and 21st C. Literacy

Due by Midnight After Class: Sequenced photos. (Instructions in class.)

Tuesday Night (Tonight!): Required film screening, 6:30-9:30.

Before Class on Wednesday: Audio Snippet (Assignment at Day 1.2.)

  • In-Class/After-Class Groups: Mission 1: Two Visual Exercises
  • Shoot a series of images which can be rearranged to mean different things when viewed in different orders; make sure the images display a variety of angles, and be sure to use the rule of thirds more than once. Put those images into a PowerPoint (or Keynote) document, one image per slide, and create at least two different narratives by placing them in two different orders. Each group member should appear in some way. Use the "presenter notes" function in PowerPoint (or Keynote) to note--for me--how your photos put to work ideas about how to take good pictures that you read about or that we discussed in class.
  • Choose one or two images for a second exercise. Use your slideware app again to add meaning to the image using words. Do a few variations (at least three, with no upper limit). For at least one, add meaning to the image by adding a caption. For at least one, add meaning by inserting words on top of the image strategically. Use no more than one clichéd "Internet meme" caption.  
  • Both your narratives and your "words-added" images should be turned in using one slideware (PowerPoint or whatever) file. If the school email server won't let you send it, use a service like Hightail or MailBigFile.

Day 2 (Week 1) (Wednesday, Jan. 4)

Audio Storytelling

Due Before Class Today: Brief Audio File. (See Instructions Below.)

Due by Midnight (After Class): Group audio story. (Instructions in class.)

  • Do Before Class (and Submit Before Class)
  • Email me a brief MP3 file (45 seconds or less) recorded with Audacity, Garageband, or another program to which you have access. Recordings with clever content, sound effects, or evidence of mixing multiple tracks will earn the highest scores, though very basic audio snippets will do just fine, too. Use your voice, at least a little.
  • Read
  • "Podcasting as a Literary Form" (Phillip Bax) (BB/Handout)
  • Listen (from Last Night's "Screening" Gathering)
  • Ira Glass on Getting Started (2 min.)
    Ira Glass at the Gel Conference (2007) (30 min.)
    Ira Glass Storytelling (from Current TV) (17 min.)
    RadioLab: "Making the Hippo Dance" (30 min.)
    RadioLab: "War of the Worlds" (60 min.)
    This American Life: ("Music Lessons," as "Act Two.") Also here. (15 min.)

  • ** During Class **
  • Mission 2: Rules for Audio
    Mission 3: Two Track Audio Story

Day 3 (Week 1) (Thursday, Jan. 5)
Graphic Design for Amateurs

  • Read Ideas
  • The Non-Designer's Design Book, pp 10-84 (Intro through Chapter 5)
    Optional additional reading: pp 85-94 (Review Chapter)
    Scott McCloud's Six Transitions (Handout)

  • ** During Class **
  • Mission 4: "CRAP" Design Challenge
    Mission 5: Online Photo Manipulation Mission (Moved to Friday)

  • ** RELEVANT LINKS and POTPOURRI (Not Required Reading) **
  • More to Come
  • More links later...

Day 4 (Week 1) (Friday, Jan. 6)
CopyLeft and Sharing

Due at Class Time: Mock up of your Print Design project so far.

  • ** During Class ** 
  • Mission 5: Online Photo Manipulation Mission (Shifted from Thursday)

  • ** RELEVANT LINKS and POTPOURRI (Not Required Reading) **
  • More to Come
  • Links and potpourri later...

Day 5 (Start of Week 2) (Monday, Jan. 9)
Comics Intro

Due by End of Day TODAY: Print Project + Essay (Extensions Available)
Due at Class Time: Proposed ideas for Slideware and Digital Story Projects.

Due TOMORROW at Class Time: Proposed ideas for Slideware and Digital Story Projects.

  • Read Ideas
  • Understanding Comics (Scott McCloud, 1993) , Chapters 1-6 and 8
    (Apparently, it can be found online here.)
  • Watch
  • You Can Draw! (2015) (Graham Shaw, TEDxHull) (This link was posted LATE, and I won't be upset if you don't get to it. But it's good!)
  • Speculate
  • Don't worry about this bit until tomorrow! (Original there was a little assignment here. If you did it, you're ahead. If you didn't, focus on your design project and worry about this "speculate" thing Monday night.)

  • ** During Class **
  • Mission 6:  McCloud Transitions Story

Day 6 (Week 2) (Tuesday, Jan. 10)
Slideware 1

  • ** During Class **
  • Mission 7: Representing Time with Comics
    Mission 8: Really Bad PowerPoint

Day 7 (Week 2) (Wednesday, Jan. 11)
Slideware 2

Recommended: Begin seriously working up ideas for your Slideware Project!

  • Read
  • Presentation Zen, pp 45-209 (Chapters 3-7)

  • ** RELEVANT LINKS and POTPOURRI (Not Required Reading) **
  • More to Come

Day 8 (Week 2) (Thursday, Jan. 12)
Hypertext/Comics 1

Hey, are you working on the Slideware!? Dig into that thing!

  • Reading Hypertexts / Electronic Literature
  • Charmin' Cleary" (E. Falco) (Explore!)
    "Tailspin" (C Wilks) (Play!)
    "Deep Surface" (S. Moulthrop) (Spend 10 Min., Or More If You Want.)
    Chairlift, "Met Before" (Hypertext + Video?! --> Scroll Down To It)
    (Keep going!  The set of Comics readings below is homework,too!)
  • Homework Reading (Comics/from McSweeney's)
  • "Preface" (Ira Glass, 6-7)
    "Introduction" (Chris Ware, 8-12)
    "Charles Schultz's Preliminary Drawings" (C. Ware, 66-71)
    Artist Comics by Ivan Brunetti (13, 118, 264)
    Wild Palms Review (Milt Gross, 42)
    "We'll Sleep in My Old Room" (C. Ware, 72-75)
    "ctrl" (Richard McGuire, 186-91)
    "Portrait of My Father" (David Heatley, 259-63)
    Excerpts from Hotel and Farm (Ben Katchor, 171-85)

  • ** During Class **
  • Draw Your Neighbor!
    Ink Your Neighbor!

Day 9 (Week 2) (Friday, Jan. 13)
Hypertext/Comics 2

Due at Class Time: Basic plan/draft for slideware project.

  • Do
  • Prep some kind of rough draft of your Slideware (the visual/slide part). Having 10-15 draft slides ready in your slideware app would be one way to do this. You might also have enough drawings to show for your work that I can get a good sense of what you're up to. Either way, make sure you've got something to turn in that shows me your project is advancing thoughtfully and energetically. Please include, somewhere, a list of major (and possibly minor) chores you still need to do in order to get finished, and please include a a few sentences that tell me about what feels like it's working well so far and about what you expect your biggest challenges to be over the long weekend as you finish this project.
  • Read
  • "The Unbearable Tediousness of Being" (R. Crumb, 14-15)
    "Two Questions" (Lynda Barry, 60-65)
    "The Nightmare Studio" (Gary Panter, 100-4)
    "Strange Question" (Richard Sala, 121-26)
    "In the Shadow of No Towers" (Art Spiegleman, 129-35)
    from The Fixer (Joe Sacco, 142-50)
    "The Death of Thomas Scott" (Chester Brown, 154-70)
    Selections (Julie Doucet, 200-07)
    "The Dead of Winter" (Debbie Drechsler, 208-13)
    from Clyde Fans (Seth, 221-31)
  • Also
  • I'll have an additional electronic text for you to play with / view. Watch for an email about this.

Don't Come to Class Monday. It's MLK Day. And then:

Day 10 (Week 3) (Tuesday, Jan. 17)
Movies One

Slideware + Essay Due at Class Time (Extensions Available)

Required Screening TUESDAY NIGHT, 6:30-9:30: The Royal Tenenbaums

Day 11 (Week 3) (Wednesday, January 18)
Movies Two

Due at Class: Plan for Digital Story Project

Due at Midnight After Class: Short Genre Film (Group)

  • On Deck for Today...
  • - The main homework is/was our Tenenbaums screening.
    - We'll spend half of today talking about the film and half of today making short genre films.

Day 12 (Week 3) (Thursday, Jan. 19)
Hypertext/Comics 3

Due at Class Time: Film Term Definitions AND Genre Films

Day 13 (Week 3) (Friday, Jan. 20)
Online Journals / Online Art Workshop

Written Update on Digital Story Project Due Today

Also, a review of an online journal. Details TBA.

  • Do and Write
  • Due at Class Time: One paragraph reviews for two online journals or journal-like publications. Here's a list. For maximum benefit, spend some time wandering around several of these linked sites to get a feel for what's going on "out there" with online creative work.  Your reviews should consider what is well done (and what makes it good) in these journals/sites, and you should also reflect more generally on what it seems to take to make an online writing site work well.
  • Due During Class: Just a verbal update on the Digital Story Project.
  • Anticipate
  • Work Time in Class, and Again on Monday (Which Will Be ALL Work Time).

Day 14 (Start of Week 4) (Monday, January 23)
In Class Work Day

Days 15 and 16 (Tuesday and Wednesday, January 24-25)

Due TUESDAY at Classtime: Digital Story Project.

Due WEDNESDAY at 5:00 PM: Final Exam/Essays.

  • Tuesday: Work Time!
  • Wednesday: Screening of Projects + Final Exam/Essays Due at 5 PM

Page Designed and Maintained by Fred Johnson.
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