Book Review: Design is Storytelling

I never really thought all that much of how designing a physical space or a physical object is really about the invisible art of telling a story. In Design is Storytelling, by Ellen Lupton, that fact comes to the surface — that the decisions we make in creating tangible objects or immersive experiences can have a narrative arc to it.

This book was a bit uneven for me, but I suspect I am not its target audience, either. (That seems to be museum geeks, designers and business thinkers). Lupton is a senior curator of Contemporary Design at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (I didn’t even know that existed) and she brings a real museum-layout-theme thinking to this book. The prose felt a bit stiff to me, but many of the illustrations in here are helpful. (I guess, design IS story.)

She focuses her chapters on overarching ideas of Action, Emotion, and Sensation, and within there, she explores such things as Design Fiction and Narrative Arc of objects and space; creating fictional personas as you plan the design of something, particularly when a problem needs to be solved; and how multi-sensory design might inform the way something evolves over time. She explores building design, and app design, and business layout decisions (such as considering the concept of the Hero’s Journey within a typical IKEA store.) Colors, perceptions, interactions, touch … all these and more are explored here within the frame of experiencing stories.

 

I’m thinking more now of how museums work to consider layout of rooms and doors, and of the use of media in museums (sound, color, image, signs) that help a visitor navigate the “story” the curators are hoping to tell. I wonder about architects a bit different now, and the way that their work informs our interactions with buildings and space, and what narrative those design choices surface (or hide).

And I am thinking of a new 3D Printer Maker Club we have started at our school with our sixth graders. How can we get them to think beyond “making an object” to making objects as part of “telling a story” somehow? It seems to me, and it clearly visible is to Lupton here, that we can and probably should think of story as deeper and richer interactions with the designed world, and it all starts with narrative intentions.

Peace (designed to last for love),
Kevin

#NetNarr Twitter Analysis: Where, When, How and …. Why?

NetNarr Network Play

I followed a link to a Twitter Analysis tool via Networked Narratives as part of an examination of our digital lives in the spheres of social media. This all connects nicely to the Digital Audit of this month’s CLMOOC. Convergence is nice.

The Twitter Analysis tool provides a useful visual glimpse of a single user’s interactions in Twitter. Mine is no surprise. I do a lot of sharing and writing and working in the early morning hours (like, eh, right now), and I will often use various devices and platforms throughout the day.

NetNarr Twitter Analysis1You can see the time period earlier this month where I took a step back from Twitter — and I wrote about my weeding out of Twitter followers and folks I have been following — and then NetNarr brought me right back again.

The NetNarr folks — Alan Levine and Mia Zamora — also shared out a larger networking analysis tool, which CLMOOC has used before, to show various interactions. The TAGs Explorer for NetNarr is here and open to check out. I am one of the open participants, but both Alan and Mia have university students in classroom experiences as part of NetNarr.

NetNarr Twitter Analysis2

All this analysis of our Twitter activities remind us the where we tweet, and when we tweet, and how we tweet, and hopefully leads to discussions or reflections on why we tweet.

For me, it’s simple. I am a better teacher and a better writer, and a more thorough digital explorer, thanks to my connections and interactions on Twitter. Despite all of its messiness and despite the concerns over privacy and harassment, I still find Twitter to be one of the many places where my tribe hangs out on a regular basis, and shares, collaborates, makes, and reflects together.

That remains a powerful draw.

Peace (analyze it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Collaboration with the Kid

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

The other day, my 13-year-old son says, Dad, do you want to make a song with me?

You bet I do, kid.

We used a online music collaboration site that I like, called Soundtrap, and he put down the foundation of the song while I added some of the melodic elements on top. He’s been teaching himself all about loop compositions, and he’s also been mysteriously writing lyrics to hiphop songs at night (for some possible collaborative recording effort with a friend from school, we think. He’s been pretty mum on the whole thing.)

When we were done with the collaboration, I took the audio file and used an online site to create the video, to make the presentation a little more impressive (mostly, for him).

Anytime your 13 year old asks, Do you want to … — the answer should almost always be Yes.

🙂

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

 

At Middleweb: Close Read the World with Digital Annotation

My latest post at Middleweb for my Working Draft column is all about digital annotation tools, and how they open up a text to the world for conversation. In particular, I reference the Marginal Syllabus/Educator Innovator’s Writing Our Civic Futures project, which is underway now with its January text.

See you in the margins.

Read Using Crowd Annotation to Close Read the World

Peace (read closely, with others),
Kevin

1000 Books and Reading

Goodreads Tally 2017

The other week, I noticed I had passed a milestone of sorts on Goodreads. I had tracked 1000 books , read and done. Now, of course, I have read many more than 1000 books in my lifetime, but I’ve been pretty diligent about keeping tabs on books I am reading with my Goodreads account (and thus, I felt more than a bit strange about it once Amazon took it over, but I have not yet noticed too much of an Amazon intrusion).

Goodreads also spits out data from the year behind (particularly if you take part in their reading challenge. I do the challenge, usually aiming for 100 books in a year). The graphic above is from my 2017 reading, which I find interesting and amusing.

One hundred thirty five books in a year and one thousand books since joining the site itself (I don’t remember how many years ago now) are pretty cool milestones, but nothing stands still so I’m off to read my next 1000 books or so. Don’t wait around. It’ll take me some time to do that.

Peace (in the pages),
Kevin

Transmedia Digital Storytelling Course: Final Thoughts

Transmedia Storytelling Narrative Universe

I recently finished a free online course through FutureLearn entitled “Transmedia Storytelling.” I wasn’t all that impressed, but perhaps that is due more to covering ground I’ve already covered on my own in the past than the course itself, which is a mix of videos, articles and a comment strand. (Look: the course was free. I’m not really complaining. But FutureLearn ain’t no NetNarr!)

What I really wanted to see was some transmedia digital story projects showcased as exemplars for how digital stories can jump from platform to platform, creating an overarching arc of story while still maintaining independence on the platforms. Unless I missed them, I didn’t see nearly enough of those kinds of projects.

Transmedia Storytelling Branches

There was quite a bit of information about what transmedia is, and why it is an interesting new twist on the age-old elements of storytelling (which began with oral tradition, moved into print tradition, and now seems to be coming back to oral tradition with digital media, according to the course instructor.)

Transmedia Storytelling Media Works Together

I had the vague sense that the course was aimed more at business folks, who are learning how best to market in the digital age through digital immersion of content. That was never said outright, but that was my inferential take on some of the material presented.

Transmedia Storytelling No Barriers

Perhaps as Networked Narratives explores digital stories more deeply, I will try my hand at another transmedia composition. I’ve done a few before, and always felt like they pushed me to think differently as a writer. Writing across platforms and spaces, with threads to tie all the pieces together as a whole, requires deep thinking and extensive planning.

Transmedia Storytelling Platforms

When transmedia works, it’s magic.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: The Time Museum

Time travel is surely a familiar and sometimes overused plot device with science fiction writers and many graphic novelists. I don’t mind the use of time this way, as long as the story doesn’t get so folded in on itself that you lose your balance. In The Time Museum, writer/illustrator Matthew Loux utilizes the time travel concept, too, but he does so with humor, focus, and a keen eye for character development.

The story revolves around protagonist Delia Bean, an outcast of sorts in her school. She finds adventure and self-confidence when she stumbles into her uncle’s Time Museum, a sort of bastion of science and discovery of artifacts from the past and the future that is built on the concepts of time travel itself.

Delia emerges as a leader of a small band of other youthful time travelers (in training), and along with some fantastic adventures (set as ‘trials’), Delia and her companions meet and then must confront a mysterious traveler in time who seems bent on some nefarious project, and the kids must work together to save a future London from disaster.

There’s a manga-look to the artwork here by Loux — with big emotional eyes to characters to express emotions — and the pace of story is swift, and fun. There’s a lot of light-hearted humor in this graphic novel, and I suspect it would appeal nicely to middle school readers.

Peace (in time),
Kevin

Why I Follow Those Whom I Follow (and Why I Unfollow Those Whom I Once Followed)


Twitter flickr photo by clasesdeperiodismo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The other day, I wrote about my week of semi-digital hibernation, as part of a Digital Audit activity with CLMOOC. I mentioned that I weeded out a lot of folks from my Twitter stream. That got me thinking a bit more deeply: why do I follow those I follow? And what makes me unfollow them?

I follow:

  • Anyone who seems to have an affiliation with the National Writing Project. I am a sucker for friends and colleagues in the NWP network spaces, and have a NWP Twitter list going with nearly 800 people. Even though I clearly don’t “know” them all, I feel affinity for their work and ideas. A follow makes me feel connected to the larger network.
  • If you write that you are a sixth grade teacher, I’m going to likely follow you. I may want to steal some of your ideas, or celebrate you and your students, or just glance over your shoulder. I am always looking to learn about teaching.
  • If you are someone who dabbles in digital media, through the lens of learning and experimentation, I am likely to follow you, particularly if you are sharing out your creative process and interesting art. I like artists and teachers who push the boundaries, and are not afraid to write about success and failure, and the next project on the horizon.
  • If I am in an open course, like NetNarr, I will likely follow other folks in that network. But I might unfollow you later. It depends on how strong the connection is that we make.

Why might I unfollow someone?

  • If it is clear you are merely using me to buff up your Twitter list, most likely for marketing of some service, I will unfollow you. I don’t want to be part of anyone’s marketing campaign or part of someone’s Legitimacy Reputation. (ie, Look who follows me? I must be legit.)
  • If you have nothing written in your bio on Twitter, I am probably going to stop following you (if I followed you in the first place). Using a few words to stake your claim to a space is important. Link me to a webpage or blog. That said, if the words don’t resonate with me? Probably unfollow.
  • If you only retweet, and barely ever share your own writing or learning, or never engage in conversations or discussions, then I am unlikely to follow you. Life’s too short for too many silent interactions. But, I usually give some time for you to get acclimated to Twitter before making that decision. I know new folks have be immersed first.
  • Most companies and organizations, even educational ones, don’t stand a chance with my follow button. But if they do, they best be clear about the work they are doing to advance student learning or digital writing, without a public on eye on “selling” their services. I know that goes against the grain of why companies are on Twitter. Too bad. Find another way.
  • I’ll follow some bots, if they are interesting and creative. What I hate is when I follow a bot for a time, and then suddenly, that bot starts pushing inappropriate content out through “retweeting.” Unfollow. Block.

There are probably more reasons why I stop following people. These are the ones that stood out as I continue my work on scaling down my Twitter followers and following streams.

How about you? Why do you follow or unfollow? Have you even ever thought about it? (I hadn’t really, until recently. I found myself just clicking follow all the time, it seems, without any thoughts about why I was following someone.)

I am reminded of my CLMOOC friend, Algot, who has mostly shifted to writing in the Mastodon social networking space. There, just about every time someone follows Algot, he writes a personal and individualized note of thanks and welcome to that person, explaining his hope that he will be up to the task of engaging them in interesting thinking and conversations. How cool is that?

Peace (following it),
Kevin

Comic: Every Day is a Storm

Comic: So Long 2017

I used a rage comic maker to create this comic on New Year’s Eve, and then I sort of forgot about it until now. It’s not too late to hope for a quieter and calmer year, is it? It may be a fantasy, given the political tides, but still …

Peace (to ya),
Kevin

Clicking the ReStart Button on Networked Narratives

Another iteration of Networked Narratives is coming around the bend and I’m back on board to fall into adventure. You can read more about what Networked Narratives is here with the post by Alan Levine, and also follow the link to get yourself started, if you want. Alan and Mia Zamora are the main guides.

Here is a video intro from Mia and Alan.

Alan recently shared this interesting thinking document about the course’s intentions and direction (albeit with his warning that all is still in development).

Via Alan Levine

 

Essentially, Networked Narratives is an exploration of digital writing and composition and connections, with elements of an open learning community (me and others) and a college class course offering(s). What I like is the expansive invitation to explore what digital writing is and what digital spaces can be, and more.

At the end of the last iteration, last May, I created this small digital piece, which Mark Corbett Wilson kindly re-shared out on Twitter the other day (I’m glad he did, since I forgot all about it):

Peace (and invitations),
Kevin