#NetNarr: Writing with Sound(s)

Netnarr doodling

NetNarr Doodling for Doodleaday

This week, at Networked Narratives, the focus is on using sound for writing and writing for sound. There are a few suggested activities (including gathering sounds from your surroundings), but I figured I would dig back into some past posts where I did focus on sound, both as a writer and as a teacher encouraging my students to write with sound.

Here are some annotated links:

  • Sound Stories — for the past two years, during Digital Writing Month, I have been teaching my students how to use Garageband to create Sound Stories. Their task is to weave in sound effects into a short story, and then work on the recording and engineering and publishing of those stories. The results are always intriguing.
    Sound Stories under construction
  • The Rhizomatic Play — In DS106, a focus is often the creation and production of Radio Plays. We took that idea during a Rhizo online collaboration and created a very complex production, featuring participants (as writers and as voices) from all over the world.
  • No Words/Only Sounds: I also tinkered with a sound story, but tried to use no words at all, and let the sound effects tell the tale. It was an intriguing compositional process, let me tell you. But worth it.
  • Musical Conversations: In CLMOOC, a friend and I worked on converting language to music, and then creating a collaborative musical composition of our “conversation.” Another interesting use of sound.
  • Image Conversion into Sound: There is this program called AudioPaint (for PC only) that will take an image and convert the bitmap into audio. It’s strange and odd, and makes you think about the relationship of digital work across media. Here, I wrote a poem, which I made into an image, and then re-crafted it into sound.

What will you make with sound?

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 15): The Odds and Ends of a Blizzardy Day

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Since it was a day of the Blizzard of 2017, I figured a slice of many pieces might be a better indication of the day behind us now.

Blizzard Window

First, the snow arrived, and came down hard, and we were out shoveling quite a bit. Yes, I was not happy to see snow in March. But sitting by the window with my book during a respite of shoveling, I could not help but notice how beautiful the snowflakes were, stuck to our large window. On a plus side, we never lost our power, which was a worry all day long.

Earlier in the morning, I had spent some time finishing up a collaborative project for Networked Narratives with my friend, Wendy, using an app. We had invited three other collaborative friends, but the complexity of the app, and the strange barriers to collaboration in collaboration mode (or so it seemed to us) had us throwing our hands up, and finishing the piece on our own. It would have been more powerful with more voices, though. What we were trying for was a piece of quilted parts, told as a network of folks, in a single screen, so that all of our parts would be woven together. The app didn’t quite live up to the vision.

Doodled clmooc

Have any of you been doing the DoodleaDay Challenge? It’s, well, a doodle shared every day, via Twitter with the #doodleaday hashtag. I’ve been popping in and out of it, but the prompt yesterday was to use images to make letters, and I could not resist a CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) icon.

As I mentioned, I spent part of the day, reading. The book I had started and finished was the new one by Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology. Like most Gaiman, it is excellent. Although it is strange to have both Gaiman and Rick Riordan exploring the same mythological terrain (Riordan with the Magnus Chase series), it was also an intriguing companion piece. And well, Norse mythology has some pretty wacky and strange stuff going on, and that is right up Gaiman’s alley.

Brackets

Finally, the day off from school gave the boys and I, and our dog, a chance to fill out our NCAA men’s brackets. Our dog’s (Duke is his name) bracket gets filled out by pushing his nose into one hand or the other of our son, who hides kibble and asks “this team” or “that team”? It’s pretty amusing. He chose Florida to win it all. It might happen. You never know.

This morning, my back aches a bit, but I know I have at least one more shoveling job to do before the sun comes out, and makes ice from the snow in the Blizzard ’17 aftermath.

Peace (and warmth),
Kevin

 

#NetNarr: Using StepWorks to Make a StoryPoem

NetNarr StepWorks

This is all rather early in my exploration of an interesting storytelling site called Stepworks (which Alan Levine tweeted out about and which I then followed and became intrigued). I spent some time diving into it yesterday (and got some help from the kind developer of the site via email), and during the day, I made a little something for the Networked Narratives course.

Go ahead .. read my story/poem about Networked Narratives.

Erik Loyer, the site developer, did put together a video tutorial that is worth watching and using as a learning tool. He walks the viewer through each step. I watched it carefully. It was very helpful.

But I figured I would learn and remember better if I made a tutorial of my own for others in NetNarr to follow, if they wanted. It might help anyone who wanted to make their own (and maybe, collaborate later on together? Anyone?). Diving into something new for storytelling … that’s NetNarr, right?

My own next step is to remix some of Erik’s scripts for sounds and see if I can’t add the audio element to my story/poem. Erik says a video is coming down the road about how to do that, but he suggested I look at some of existing files and see what I could do on my own. He’s got that NetNarr spirit!

Here, then, are the steps, which I followed after watching Erik (and emailing for some help):

StepWorks1

Stepworks2

StepWorks3

Stepworks4

Stepworks5

StepWorks6

Stepworks7

Stepworks8

Be sure to share your story with us! Use the #NetNarr hashtag on Twitter.

Peace (in steps of the story),
Kevin

Interactive Fiction Invitation: Come Play Some Stories

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

The other day, I wrote about my sixth graders planning out and learning about Interactive Fiction. They are in the midst of creating their own stories, using Google Slides and Hyperlinks as the backbone technology for composition and publishing. A few students are nearing the end of their projects, so I figured I would share out a few for you to play, if you want.

So strange to say that — Playing the Story — but I do it all the time with my students in this writing unit, to enforce the mindset of a different kind of narrative writing and reading. It makes the story a game, of sorts, and puts them in a different kind of position as writers of the story.

Peace (follow every path),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Eight): Designing Interactive Fiction Story Trees

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last week, I wrote about my students reading and mapping out Interactive Fiction novels (Make-Your-Own-Ending is another term for the books), and now they have flipped and are becoming the writers of Interactive Fiction. We use Google Sites and the power of Hyperlinks to move the reader through the story. In fact, I did an entire mini-lesson yesterday about the innovative power of Hyperlinks, which are the digital architecture of the Internet.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

First, though, is task of the creating of Story Trees and Decision Branches where choices will become part of the story. Yesterday, many students were finishing their Story Trees up, and talking about what is going to happen at different branches.

The project is called A Mystery of Ruins, and the theme of the stories are about an archeological dig or an explorer coming across the remains of a lost civilization or culture. They have to write in second person narrative point of view, use good descriptive writing, have at least five to seven branch points and three different endings, and no violence or death.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

What I love seeing in the development of the Story Trees is the thinking out loud, and the connecting of story points, and how the narrative will be weaving this way and that way, and how a writer plans for the reader to be in charge of the story.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

This is a very different kind of writing for my students, and many are deeply involved in their narratives, and are eager to get writing as soon as class starts each day. That is always a good thing.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

Peace (branches here and there),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Five): On the Possibilities of Collaboration

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

One of my hesitations in jumping into Slice of Life is my participation in something known as Networked Narratives, a ‘course’ being run at Kean University by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine (remotely) which has an open online invitational component, which I am part of. So, this Slice of Life sort of converges with Networked Narratives. That’s a good thing.

My good friend, Wendy, from Australia, has been tinkering with the app Acapella as a way to foster more narrative collaborations with the NetNarr folks, mostly those of us out here in the wide open spaces. The students in the actual course seem a bit more restrained and follow the course’s activity guidelines pretty closely. Out here, we just do what we wanna do. We’re not getting graded, of course.

Anyhoo … Wendy and I have been trying to navigate the potential of the Acapella app, which has strange quirks around collaboration yet has some potential that we find intriguing enough to stay with it. We’ve messaging back and forth, working through the kinks and frustrations.

This is one of our impromptu collaborations.

Next up is an invite to a few more friends (Sandy and Terry) and plan out something a little more creative and focused.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

PS — this is one acapella mix I made myself long ago, when I first tried out the app.

Television Review: Abstract (The Art of Design)

I only watched the first episode of this new series on Netflix, called Abstract, which is focused on design across the fields of art. I was curious to see how it might connect to some of the elements we have been talking about in Networked Narratives.

And I was intrigued by the first episode, which is about artist Christoph Niemann, whose name I didn’t recognize but whose art I certainly did, as he often does the covers for New Yorker magazine, and his views of the world — where technology and art intersect with humanity — often catch my eye. And I remembered the cover that is the focus of this documentary, too — the one which began an Augmented Reality cover, in which the viewer is immersed in the artistic New York of Niemann’s imagination.

What’s interesting here is the approach the filmmakers use to showcase Niemann’s fertile artistic mind, bringing us into the cartoony world and using “meta discussions” to show how hard it is to understand what makes an artist tick, and in fact, by trying to show the process, you ruin the artistic inspiration. Time and again, Neimann resists the filmmaker’s urge for “reality” and instead, Niemann calls for more “abstractness” and the collision of these two is often funny, entertaining, insightful.

I was most interested in the moments where Niemann talks about the creative process and his realization that working hard — doodling, sketching, trying new ideas — is the way to pave the way for inspiration to hit, but if you just sit and wait around for the “big idea” you will likely be disappointed.

I am reminded of some of what Howard Rheingold told NetNarr during his “studio visit” about how artists pave the way for possibilities, even if you are not certain yet what those possibilities are. You follow your interests, and make art because you have to make art, not because it is required. Even though Niemann works as a design artist for a living, he still tinkers with the unexpected, such as this interesting Instagram series called Abstract Sundays, where he meshes found objects with drawing and painting … just for the fun of it.

In other words, an artist has to keep working, even when the art is not. You have to have faith in the creative sparks, and Niemann’s keen observations of the world are what fuels his work, but he notes that he has to withdraw from the world in order to create his abstract versions of the world. He also talks about the “editor mind” and the “artist mind” that often comes into conflict with each other as he works independently.

The Abstract documentary is a fascinating look at the mind of an artist, and while we see him talking about and struggling with the design of the Augmented Reality cover of a paper magazine — indeed, he often wonders whether the two ideas will ever be in sync with each other — I wanted to see more of the technical aspects of how they built the cover to actually work for the reader/viewer. There’s less of that, and more of Niemann as artist, with brush and pen. Which is great, too.

I have not yet seen other episodes in the Abstract series, but I aim to.

Peace (make art),
Kevin

#NetNarr Astronaut: Roaming the Underside of YouTube

from Wired Magazine

 

When you go to YouTube, you are often pulled into the homepage of videos that others have watched. You’re drawn by the activity of others, because the underlying algorithm suggests that the more eyeballs, the more interesting. Maybe. But what about on the other end of the spectrum? What about the videos that people post which gain no views or only a scattered few? The site Astronaut takes that idea and provides a way in, by showing you the videos with almost no views and with obscure video titles.

This is what it says on the homepage of Astronaut:

Today, you are an Astronaut. You are floating in inner space 100 miles above the surface of Earth. You peer through your window and this is what you see. You are people watching. These are fleeting moments.

I was drawn to that idea, of being the sole viewer of scattered videos, and such an interesting collection they were, too. Yes, there were puppy videos.

Always puppy videos:

But was also this tender video of a grandmother reading Knuffle Bunny to some faraway grandchild, using video to shorten the distance between family.

There this short shot of a machine, likely in some museum somewhere. The marble is up to something there.

And there was this beautiful musical performance to what seems to be a small audience, but whose audience now includes us:

What you quickly understand is the way that people all over the world, in all sorts of languages and visuals, are documenting their world, even when there is no real audience there for them to see. This is a view into the global humanity that you don’t see anywhere else, and it harkens back to the very first YouTube video of an elephant in a zoo (if I remember correctly).

In fact, this use of video for every documentary is the argument for YouTube as a human experience — it’s not that we expect polished productions or expertly edited videos. We still understand that the raw parts of life might be visible, and connect my life to yours, and our life to ours.

Using Astronaut is like flipping YouTube upside down, and seeing how average people are viewing the world through their lens, often through their mobile phones. Put on your helmet and float in.

Peace (upside down and inside out),
Kevin

 

#NetNarr: Observing the Rheingold(s) Effect

Creative Chaos Theory ... follow your heart

The other day, in one of the Networked Narratives studio visits, the guests were Howard Rheingold and his daughter, Mamie. It was a crowded Hangout and we ran out of time before talking about what was going to be one of the main topics: connecting the dream-state to the art of storytelling. I’m afraid my questions about civic discourse in the age we’re in, and Howard’s long work with the Internet as Public Sphere, sidetracked us.

You can come listen in and annotate the video over at Vialogues. The conversation keeps flowing …

Netnarr GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(A Howard gif/meme from NetNarr activity box)

Here are some observations from the gathering:

  • Howard talked about his own background, noting that the structure of school stifled him as a child to the point that he was labeled as a “troublemaker” and often got send to the art room, which was run by his mom. There, he was free to create, invent, explore. He wonders why more classrooms aren’t like his mom’s art room. Partially, I blame standardized testing, and its emphasis on right/wrong dichotomies, not open-ended problem solving and thinking.
  • Mamie worked for nine years at Google, and she talked about the culture there, and how it moved through different phases. She focused on the early “creative chaos” in which people were encouraged to follow passions, and “bump” into other’s work, as serendipity moments. That sounds a lot like some of the Connected Learning spaces where I enjoy hanging out.
  • There was a bit of pushback, or questioning, from one of Mia’s students in NetNarr, observing that the openness of the course felt a little strange, and that more structure might have eased some of that anxiety. The comment reminded me of my first grad course like this, too, and how I kept wondering, am I doing this right? I realize now, years later, how instructive that course was to my thinking and my teaching.
  • The issue of “silos” that we find ourselves in, and how to reach out beyond our comfort zone to better understand others of different political stripes. I mentioned that it feels a bit as if the promise of connected ideals has not brought us closer to together — not nurtured more compassion and understanding of the “other” — but seems to have divided us even more, creating pockets where we write and learn with those who have our same frame of mind. I wonder if the same tools that brought us here, into our echo chambers, can also help us crawl back out? Or do we need a new way forward?
  • Howard talks about “trusting your intuitive process” as we moved into the idea of tapping the inner artist, and finding ways to free yourself to create. “It’s about messing with things and seeing what happens.” — Howard. He talked about his passion for making spiderweb art years ago and now, he finding ways to use circuitry and programming to revamp that earlier art into something new. This points to being open to possibilities and going with your passions.

Thanks to the Rheingolds for spending time with NetNarr.

Peace (reaches out),
Kevin

 

Entering the Realm of Minecraft: A #NetNarr Adventure

I can’t say I am utterly unknowledgeable about Minecraft, but my basic understanding comes from the excited chatter over the years of my sixth grade students, particularly during our video game design unit, and my youngest son. It’s often confusing chatter to an outsider like me, with a vocabulary and a flow all of its own.

Whenever I have tried to jump into Minecraft, I have quickly gotten lost and felt aimless. I could always see the potential in collaborative World-building — and there are amazing examples of how educators are using Minecraft to connect with learning — but now I realized that what I needed were: goals with a interesting hook, a knowledgeable guide to keep me alive and a crew to hang out with.

My Networked Narratives colleague, Keegan (ie Crazyirishman7, there in the corner of the video), provided all three, by setting up a Minecraft Realm server space and inviting NetNarr folks into an exploration of a new world. I joined in, along with Terry G. (“the Annihilator”), and we spent about 90 minutes watching the sun rise and set at an alarming rate, as we began to build a home before the zombies came, with a bed to regenerate ourselves; a garden for food that Terry farmed with gusto; and a mineshaft where Keegan and I began to seek out ore and then diamonds.

Keegan, an educational technologist at the university level, clearly knew what he was doing. Terry and I clearly did not, as I scrambled to learn how to swim and walk and run and turn, and I kept a little command cheat sheet that he had sent us right at my fingertips. I’ve never been more grateful for fake torchlights and lanterns than I was yesterday.

But that’s how expert-novice relationships work, and that’s how the Connected Learning theory comes into action with immersive experiences like this. We dove in, made mistakes, died a few times, re-spawned, and had a steady hand following Keegan, who was generous and patient with us. I know a whole heck of a lot about Minecraft now than I did 24 hours ago, even with lots of reading about it. I even ended up with a Diamond Pickaxe, after using the crafting device that Keegan set up. Apparently, that’s a good thing to have.

Keegan also set up a livestream of our adventures in his Twitch Channel (a new experience for me) to share our experiences with the larger NetNarr community (more Connected Learning in action) and we used an app called Discord to be able to “talk live” amongst ourselves as we explored Minecraft. Keegan has since migrated the Twitch video to YouTube (where you can see me as Meatballlol5, which is my son’s avatar all suited up like Deadpool, since I borrowed his account to play with my NetNarr friends, much to his amusement. He even dropped a Minecraft Hacking book at my side while playing, as if that would help me. Thanks, kid.)

Keegan also cut up the video into themed pieces at his blog, and that is probably the best way to get a sense of what we were talking about and doing.

Since the Networked Narratives course is centered on a concept of Digital Alchemy, Keegan’s plan for the Minecraft World space is to move into “magic potions” and crafting of “elements,” as a way to explore the notions of Alchemy in a Worldbuilding Space. I find that intriguing, and watched as he wrote out our “goals” on the walls of the house we are building. He gave me a sign to play with, too.

Our next step is to find a common time to go back to our world, and maybe invite a few more folks to come along with us (I’d say, connect with Keegan on Twitter and let him know). I’m intrigued by the possibilities of us building a world of magic, and then thinking about how storytelling might evolve from the mix and flow of immersive open-ended gaming experiences like this.

Peace (until the sun goes down),
Kevin