Why I compose with digital tools

This is the last post in my series of “Why I …” (I’m tempted to add the word ‘oughta’ and say it as a podcast in the voice of Ralph Kramden) reflections that were not really all that planned. I wrote about why I blog, and then why I read, and then why I write songs.

Today, I am thinking about why I work with digital tools for multimedia compositions. I like to think of myself as someone who is an explorer, and when a new digital tool comes along, I often wonder if an existing piece of writing can fit with it (using something old within the structure of new affordances) or if the new tool sparks a new way of looking at writing/composing on the digital canvas.

This world of technology — this expanding canvas of possibilities — is something that really does excite me. I love how all elements of media — image, voice, video, and more – are converging in so many different ways and opening up the doors for interesting possibilities.

One of the first digital compositions I did was a poem that I wrote called “Blink Blink Blink” with three video shots running at once, and with NWP friends helping me out with it, saying the words “blink blink blink” many times. It was also my first use with a Flip video camera. However, I just noticed that my Googlepages platform where I kept the composition is not quite right — the video placements are all off and there are some missing media elements to the page (I think Google has ended Pages in lieu of Sites) so now, I need to migrate my work to something else (Glogster? Might work). I remember having this vision for using the three video pieces and got really caught up in how to plan it out — how to make it a real experience that really used digital tools in a way that I could never have done on paper. And I wanted viewers to lose themselves in the experience, so that even with all three videos running at once, you would find yourself experiencing them together as one composition.

One of the multimedia pieces that I am most proud of is called Capturing Myself in Hyperlink. It is a series of poems that link in and out of each other, with matching themes and words. Again, this piece would not have been the same if I had just typed out the poems. The associative links between the poems are important and the path is purposely non-linear, moving the reader in different directions.

I also have another set of poems called Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams over at Hypertextopia. My aim was to write quickfiction and then organize them around themes that I saw emerging, linking some stories together. I added podcasts for my voice, and choose images for some stories. I was working to create a mood for the stories, and also, to bring them under one larger digital umbrella.

In most of these adventures, I submerge myself into the tool as both a composer (I like the term better than writer) and also as a teacher. I am exploring possibilities for myself and my students. The hyperlink poem project, for example, led to a project with my students where they created their own linked poetry (they used powerpoint). I’ve done short fiction with my students and published as a webpage. I have not yet done work like Blink with them, but why not? They can learn moviemaker and by now, most either have or have used a Flip camera.

And then there are all the new Web 2.o tools emerging. It’s an incredible time to be a creator of content. There are more and more possibilities for making things new or recasting old thoughts, and all it takes is some courage to explore and try and not be roped in by what the developers think a site or a software platform should be used for.

So, here is where I am at: I spent much of last year writing a fairly large poem/story about the life of this one character, and I have about 14 new songs that are part of the story. I envision this as a multimedia production of some sort. But what sort? An interactive timeline? A modified Prezi? An idea that came to last night — why not post the entire poem, one part at a time, from the end of the story first to the first of the story last (like that movie where time moves backwards — Momento) on a blog, so that this man’s life goes in reverse (like Benjamin Button). Wouldn’t that be fascinating? And then, repost the entire production on an entirely other platform — like a timeline of his life.

See? I am getting jazzed up just thinking about it because I can see how the elements of each of those technologies might play a role in the unfolding of the story. It’s an amazing creative experience. And those possibilities keep me going as a writer. I compose with digital tools because I am, first and foremost, a writer.

Peace (why I need it),

One Comment
  1. As someone who has fallen in love with digital composing, I seem to be comfortable to let you, Kevin find the new tools, try them out and then share them with the rest of us. Maybe if I were still teaching full time, I’d been more excited about trying out new tools for my learners. As it is, I love to share what’s new with the teachers in our writing project and get them to experiment in their classrooms. Our tech team is a great place to throw out what’s new and exciting. They are hungry. For the mainstream TC’s in our SI and larger community, slowly engaging them in the more tried and true tools seems to work best for now.
    And me, I’m in love with creating media pieces with my mac. I am taking full advantage of Apple’s new Personal Projects offering- for around $100.00 a year Apple owners can sign up for unlimited classes with Apple experts. One-to-one has been around for a few years- a hour session-once a week learning Apple software. Now they added 3 hour sessions where you and others work on our own projects and an Apple expert rotates around the table working with you as you need him. Over time, I have worked closely with a few Apple guys and now committed to really learning Motion, I am getting the hang of it and a way to really add more to my movies.
    What I love best about the web, is its collaborative and public aspect of communicating and publishing. I just created a small, sweet piece yesterday. I easily created a version for the web, and sent it off to Vimeo(thanks Kevin) and in a few hours(I’m not a paying member) it was ready to be linked and embedded on my blog, on Facebook and to friends via email. In a few minutes I had viewers and comments.
    Wow is all I can say. Bring on more. I just started reading Googled, another new tech book, on my Kindle, by Ken Auletta, focusing on where we are now and what we can look forward to in the digital world. I am loving it all and still can’t believe that I’m really in this community of explorers.
    Thanks for offering this chance to write and reflect Kevin,

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