#NetNarr: Can Data Help Us Tell a Story?

Data Storytelling

Terry Elliott shared this Ted Talk out, via Vialogues for annotation, and I really appreciated the ways that Ben Wellington uses storytelling as the frame for using data in meaningful ways. I am following Terry into an online course about data storytelling for journalism (he is in there, to learn more about teaching his university students and I am in there … because I am curious about data as the means for crafting stories), in hopes it might dovetail into the concurrent open course around Networked Narratives.

I have no idea how those two ideas will merge together, and yet, it seems like there might a fit for finding ways to use information around us in the real world to craft stories about or in the digital world, with all of the nooks and crannies of collaboration and creativity that #NetNarr might provide (it’s hard to say, since the course has only just sort of started).

One of the central tasks in the first post for #NetNarr is to define storytelling, since #NetNarr is hovering over the concept of Digital Storytelling, in the vein of DS106. My initial, non-Google-it, response is that storytelling is the act of making sense of the known and unknown world through layered compositional practices (talking, writing, using media, etc.) That sounds awfully academic to my ears as I read it quietly. Or, how about this: A good story entertains while also informs the reader/listener/player about the larger workings of the world.

Still working it out. Meanwhile, check out Ben Wellington.

Here is Terry’s Vialogue version, and he invites you to join in an annotated conversation about this juxtaposition of data collection and storytelling as a means to make sense of the world. Daniel Bassill, Wendy Taleo, others and I have already jumped in with Terry. You come, too.

Peace (make sense of it),

#NetNarr: Neil Stephenson’s Illustrated Primer of Interactive Wonder

I admit, I can’t quite remember where I came across a recent reference to A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer: a Propædeutic Enchiridion, the imaginary book at the center of Neil Stephenson’s novel, The Diamond Age. But I found myself diving into Wikipedia to refresh my memory because it seems like the book might connect somehow to the Networked Narratives digital storytelling course about to start up with Mia Zamora and Alan Levine (see his open invite here).

from https://hughsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/hugh-reviews-diamond-age-by-neal-stephenson/

Hugh’s Reviews — https://hughsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/hugh-reviews-diamond-age-by-neal-stephenson/


The Illustrated Primer is one of Stephenson’s vision of the future of books and texts that adapt to the reader, changing to meet the needs of the life of the reader in a society of stratus, status and privilege. It has been years since I read The Diamond Age, so I don’t rightly remember all of the plot or the role of the primer itself.

Still (I did the bold of text here):

The Primer is intended to steer its reader intellectually toward a more interesting life, as defined by “Equity Lord” Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw, and growing up to be an effective member of society. The most important quality to achieving an “interesting life” is deemed to be a subversive attitude towards the status quo. The Primer is designed to react to its owners’ environment and teach them what they need to know to survive and develop.Wikipedia

It occurs to me that one of the themes that Mia has talked about when designing the NetNarr course has been the idea of our “civic imagination,” which I intend to dive into more thoroughly in the coming weeks. As I understand it, the concept of civic imagination is meant to provide us with a way to transform our stories into action.

In The Diamond Age, this theme also seems to run through the story, but in a darker way.

Although The Diamond Age explores the role of technology and personal relationships in child development, its deeper and darker themes also probe the relative values of cultures (which Stephenson explores in his other novels as well) and the shortcomings in communication between them. — from Steampunk Wiki

I suspect the course itself — open to anyone, although there is a university component that will be playing/learning along — will explore the ways in which literature and interactive fiction is both the source of agency for us, as writers and readers, and a source of concern of the loss of agency, via technology advancements. Someone is bound to go down the dark path of exploration, I hope, and not leave the course to all of the techno-evangelists (as I often am) viewing the world through rosy glasses.

Peace (it’s written in my primer),


#NetNarr: An Interactive WordWorld of Associative Ideas

The other day, I shared out a word cloud world from the Narrative Networks website that I had cobbled into place with an online word cloud generator. But Alan pointed out that the links to the active cloud pointed to a merchandise sale site. Not what I intended! (I had never even clicked on the animated words … I was happy enough to have words animated, I guess).

But that mistake got me thinking: maybe I could (should) create my own version of the Word Cloud World where links take you to associative ideas, sort of like a curated word cloud world.

ThingLink came to mind. Here it is. I will probably keep adding content as we move forward (the ‘course‘ hasn’t even started yet, officially but its ‘spine‘ is taking place).

Peace (linked with intent),

Building a NetNarr (Word) Cloud World

I found myself immersed in the Tagul word cloud generator, using the entire Networked Narrative website as my canvas, tinkering with word choices and frequencies … all in a move to paint a visual world with words and I ideas.

I like how it came out.

NOTE: Alan clicked on the animation and it brought him to a sale site. What the heck! That was not my intention. Don’t bother going to animated word cloud. Sorry about that.

(I tried to embed the animated cloud here, which allows you to roll-over words to enlarge them, sort of like exploring the world from above, but, alas .. the embed didn’t work. Go here to check out the animated version.) 


 Peace (turning slowly on our axis),

NetNarr: Exploring the Notions of Digital Alchemy

I am diving into the unknown terrain of Networked Narratives, an adventure set to unfold in 2017 across multiple platforms. Facilitated by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine, two people I always enjoy playing around with on the Web, NetNarr officially launches next month as a university course and an open education invitation. In other words, you don’t need to take Mia’s course to engage in the work.

I’m still figuring out what it is (but am intrigued by the concept of “civic imagination’ and wondering how the ‘world building’ will unfold), and where and how I can engage (I am pretty certain I already am engaged in it with these words). It all starts somewhere … so how about a loop song that merges a myriad of sounds together, pulled into a multimedia file that mixes visuals with sound?

I am trying to explore the notion of Digital Alchemist as maker and writer and creator with digital compositional tools. More on this topic later, I am sure ..

Consider it an invitation.

NOTE: If this Zeega doesn’t play as an embed, it might be because Chrome or your browser doesn’t recognize the scripts. You can change that in your browser url bar. This is because Terry Elliott hosts this version of Zeega, and it’s a bit wonky at times. You can also go directly to the file.

Peace (in here),