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

One Little Word for 2018: Compose

The One Little Word project is a yearly endeavor to think about a guiding word for the year ahead. I’ve used words like reflect, and remembering, and pause, and last year: filter. I had trouble coming up with my word this year, but decided upon “compose” for a variety of reasons.

First, my One Little Word for 2018 — Compose — captures how I see the shift in the way people write with media. We’re back to the word “composition” in my mind, using video and images and audio and words as a sort of stew of ideas. We compose when we write on digital platforms.

Second, the word is a remember to me to keep my anger fueled by national politics, yet also to keep it under control. Don’t get all riled up by every headline and every act. Keep focused on the task at hand: removing the GOP from power and kicking Trump to the curb (while not handing the reins to Pence). Stay composed.

So, that’s my word for 2018. I usually put it on my desktop as a little file in the corner of the screen, as a reminder. Time to archive “filter” and add “compose.”

What’s your word?

Peace (more than a word),
Kevin

Transmedia Digital Storytelling: Week One Reflections


Storyworlds flickr photo by ZenFilms shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I’m taking a free online course through FutureLearn about Transmedia Storytelling. I aim to reflect every now and then on some of what I am learning or thinking about.

This is not the first time I have been exploring this concept of Transmedia — of how different media platforms might be used collectively to tell a story, and how each platform (think: from blog to  social media to image to audio to video, etc.) might be utilized for its own attributes to help a ‘reader’ experience the story in different media and different mediums.

Here are some quotes from the first week’s segments that stood out for me:

Transmedia Cultural Production

This is a key concept: the idea that a writer views multiple media and multiple platforms one of of the same, and not as separate parts, in a composition (although some suggest that the parts of Transmedia should be able to stand on their own, too, separate from the whole. I’m not sure about that.)

I imagine this concept as a painter with a canvas, and the painter is using not just paint, but other materials. The canvas is the composition, but the materials are the different elements that will bring the larger vision to reality. With Transmedia, the ‘composer’ views all of the platforms as possible places to thread a story. The story itself is the canvas. The platforms, and how we compose there, is our ink and paint.

Transmedia Writer Reader

Transmedia has the possibilities of collaboration — between writer but also between writer and reader, narrowing that gap between who creates and who responds to the creation. The course notes that shifts in technology have allowed more of this to happen, particularly as more mobile technology has emerged. Many apps blend experiences, opening the door for potentially interesting interactions.

This is also how many companies are now marketing products to consumers, leveraging our attention into cool storytelling techniques with product placement and immersive commercials. We, the reader, have to be aware of how our storytelling senses can be manipulated by corporations in this way.

Transmedia Novice VeteranThis concept of Transmedia is rather new (although forms of it have its roots in earlier designs — such as the Magic School Bus series of picture books that became a television show that became video games, etc.) and the technology possibilities are becoming more and more available to more and more creators. But having examples – mentor texts — is a key element here, and we are learning from each other how to do this, and why one might do this.

In one year’s Digital Writing Month (the site is now offline, alas), I tried my hand at a Transmedia piece. Want to see it? Follow the leaf.

Leaf in Motion

Peace (shifting spaces),
Kevin

Story hint: Literally, follow the leaf with a mouse click and clues to where to go next will emerge  … some of the platform may not work well on mobile devices .. sorry …

 

Hanging Out in the Margins: Print Text vs Digital Text

Annotation: Print vs Digital

I saw this piece via CNN that explores print text vs. digital text with learners and I thought it would be worth giving it a closer read, given my own interest in digital writing (whatever that is) and digital reading. I am using Hypothesis — an add-on that allows for collaborative annotation of digital text — to annotate the article. The nice thing about Hypothesis is you don’t have to annotate alone. Come join me.

Go to https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/06/health/print-education/index.html and hang out in the margins with me. You will need a Hypothesis account, but it is worth having, for sure.

I also put the piece, even though it more about reading than writing, into my occasionally curated Flipboard Magazine: Along the Edges of Digital Writing, which you are welcome to read and subscribe to, if it interests you.

Peace (print it),
Kevin

4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing: The Fertile Ground of CLMOOC

Promo: 4T Virtual Conference

I have been asked to do a session at the upcoming 4t Virtual Conference on Digital Writing on Monday October 16 at 6:30 p.m. EST (registration is free, sessions are online, and everything gets archived) with a CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) theme, and I thought it would be interesting to parse through the concept of how projects, collaborations and ideas seem to regularly bubble up from the CLMOOC soil.

I will be exploring the concept of “emergence” in social spaces, through a CLMOOCish lens. This theme of emergence has been part of a thread in past workshops around CLMOOC, as folks from the National Writing Project who began CLMOOC (Christina Cantrill, etc.) noticed from the first year how the unexpected happened, and how to expect the unexpected with CLMOOC folks. I aim to dive in a little deeper, to think about how it all seems to work.

If you are curious about CLMOOC and about the whole emergence idea, please consider joining me in this free workshop. Also, check out the entire conference, which is all free, and get some ideas for the classroom and for yourself. I will also be helping facilitate a final discussion about digital writing and teaching.

Go to 4T Virtual Conference site for registration information and see program agenda for October 15 (where I notice my CLMOOC friend Karen Labonte is doing a session on rhetoric and digital writing) and October 16

Peace (emerge and be seen),
Kevin

Book Review: Wasting Time on the Internet

I just finished an interesting examination of digital media, technology, the Internet, and writing by Kenneth Goldsmith. The book has the evocative title of Wasting Time on the Internet, and his premise is that what seems like “wasted time” is often not wasted time after all. In fact, he argues that a whole new way of looking at writing and reading is emerging from our online interactions and creating efforts.

I’ve grabbed some quotes from the book that I think are intriguing, as a way to think about Goldsmith’s ideas (the book stems from a college course he taught by the same name).

Goldsmith Quote1 citystoryI found this concept of the cityscape as a compositional canvas interesting, particularly when we do think of how our devices give off so much of our data. That ‘story’ is rather invisible to the naked eye, but not to the companies that track us. Isn’t that a narrative shaped by data? The question is, who controls that story?


Goldsmith Quote2 browsermemoirThis examination of our web browser as personal memoir stunned me, for all the right reasons. For surely, it is, right? Or at least, it becomes a memoir of our online lives. Can we curate that? Should we curate that? Do we even wonder why our browsers track our history and what becomes of those trails? I wonder, is there a way to shape our browser history into a story or narrative? What would that look like and how would you approach it?


Goldsmith Quote3 ArchivingBack to the question of curation. To stem the onslaught of information and data, we have to find better ways of making sense of it all (signal to noise and back again). The “larger vision” is the story we tell of ourselves, now, and how we will remember the story of us, then.


Goldsmith Quote4 gifsWe had just explored animated GIFs in CLMOOC so this section in which Goldsmith dives into the GIF world was interesting. His observation of GIFs as small silent movies, telling a story with gaps in the narrative, set into a looping pattern, expresses much of what we in CLMOOC were exploring, too. How to move the GIF from just funny visual meme into something larger? That’s a worth exploration.


Goldsmith Quote5 mememachineYeah. Imagine that. A recent conversation about using Mastodon, where I join others in writing small texts on a regular basis, centered on this “writer as meme machine” because we talked about the disappearing texts. Not as something to mourn but as something to perhaps celebrate for the way they come and go and remain in memory, if not on the page. As a writer of this “short form” writing, every word and every sentence has to have some resonance. There is no wasted space.


Goldsmith Quote6 shortformAnd this, too. Nothing new is happening here. Just a new platform. Good to remember.


Goldsmith Quote7 mediauseGoldsmith ends his book with a reminder that what seems to be inattention or what seems to be zombie-like connection to the screen may, in fact, be something more, something deeper than appears at first glance. I agree, yet fall back into the “get off that screen” when I see my kids hunched over their iPod or phone.


Finally, for the very last chapter of the book, Goldsmith includes a list of 101 Ways to Waste Your Time on the Internet, via a crowdsourcing endeavor with his college students. I pulled some that I thought were worth remembering (I am curating!) and decided to dump them into an app that animates text. Notice how all of the words got mashed together. The app couldn’t handle the flow. The smashing of words was not planned but amusing just the same.

Wasting Time

Peace (time),
Kevin

 

Checking out SLAM School


Slam flickr photo by delete08 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

SLAM School?

Well, it’s an “assembly” of the National Council of Teachers of English, and SLAM means the ‘Studies in Literacies and Multimedia.’ The “school” (wow, lots of quotes here already) is a series of periodic hangout videos in which folks in education and technology investigate the intersections of writing, multimedia, political action and more.

Check out this sample.

You can follow the SLAM School at the blog and also on YouTube, and the videos are about 30 minutes long, and lots of guests are sharing knowledge about video, social media, advocacy and more.

Peace (slammin’),
Kevin

Visual Literacies and the Emergence of “Picting”


visualliteracy flickr photo by alisonkeller shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

The term “picting” is new to me but it makes sense. In a recent piece at The Journal by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway entitled Picting, Not Wriing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth, the question of whether the visual nature of literacy in the (literal) hands of youth — mostly via cameras on mobile devices — has overtaken the written literacies.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I look at my own teenage sons, and my own adolescent students, and I pay attention to the ways they use Snapchat and YouTube and who knows what other apps to document their world, but are they telling stories? It’s more like the visual elements of their mobile lives are connector points, or documentation hubs of their identity (or projected identities), than telling whatever we want to call a story. Read the comments at the article, and you’ll see a discussion about “story” unfolding along this query.

The authors cite research that does back up, however, how young people are more apt to “compose” with images  – and use writing only as secondary literacy points — than the other way around. Unless they are in school. Then, the equation flip flops. In school, writing is the key literacy skill and visuals are often add-ons.

I think that is generally true (that we value textual writing over visual composition), and while more of a balance would make sense, I still think the teaching of writing and of composition and of “composing” with media is a key anchor of learning in our schools. Whether young people are taking and sharing images with intentional design and composition strategies can probably be debated.

I believe that young people still need to learn and to use those more traditional skills (ie, writing with text) to inform the way they interact and write into the world, whether that writing be visual or not. Note the image I used at the top of the post. The elements of design are becoming more and more important for all of us, so teaching and learning visual literacy makes sense.

I was reminded of the work that Nick Sousanis is doing around the visual narrative. You can read his piece from Digital Writing Month, in which he explores elements of visual narrative with a unique insight.

from Nick Sousanis: Spin Weave and Cut

 

And I was reminded, too, of the way my friend Kim Douillard, a writing project colleague, sees the world through her camera, and shares out visual themes for others to try across many social media streams, every single week. Kim views what she sees through her camera as narrative points, and understands how a picture can be composed. I try to learn from her.

Image by Kim Douillard

 

Not everything we write is story, although a common definition of ‘story’ is often debated in writing and teaching circles. Still, the idea that narrative does run beneath all that writers do is an interesting concept, for sure. See Minds Made for Stories by Thomas Newkirk for more on this.

I wrote this as a comment response at The Journal’s piece:

Writing with text is important. So is visual literacy. Also, add in the ability to speak and listen. Explaining something with video? Yep. That, too. The best approach for us educators is always to find ways to fuse these elements together when working with young “composers” of media. We should teach students how each (writing, visual, audio) on its own transforms a message (if not tells a story) and how each can work in tandem with the other to make a more powerful statement on the world. It is intriguing how visual the world of young people has become and there are many ways to tap into that (graphic novels, comics, infographics, etc). I still maintain, along with others, that the art of writing is still at the center of all these literacies.

What do you think?

Peace (looks like),
Kevin

 

Transliteracies: Reading and Writing Across Mediums

This post has been sitting in my blog draft bin for some time. I remember thinking, this is a useful slideshow presentation from Bobbie Newman for considering the ways we write and read across various media and mediums. I guess I never brought it out during Digital Writing Month. The show’s a few years old now, but it is still relevant on its focus on storytelling across a wide range of concepts, including the way humans interact with narrative.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

 

Characters Talk (Writers Listen)


Shadow flickr photo by I.Gouss shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I had a visitor to my imagination the other day, and it sort of startled me. She was a character from a story I wrote (or tried to write) many years ago. The story collapsed under its own weight. Yet she apparently kept going.

I wrote this on Mastodon (I will write about that another day), under the auspices of #smallstories

A character I created years ago, in a short story I only now vaguely remember, came back to haunt me this week. Isn’t that funny? She skirted on the outside of my imagination. I welcomed her, of course, and wondered why she had returned. She had not aged. She was still that erratic, lovable, curious shadow from the page. We didn’t talk about where she had been. We haven’t talked about where she’s going to be, either. But we will.

She wouldn’t leave my head after that, as if mentioning her was an invitation to stay. Not that I wanted her to leave. But still … so I wrote about her again, breathing something like life back into a character from a story best forgotten (for now, anyway).

I wrote the story — What We Remember is Not What We Forget —  over at Notegraphy. You are invited to read it. I’ll just be tinkering with words and hoping you’ll wander back …. here’s the opening few lines:

What We Remember Is Not What We Forget
Conversations with a Character
Kevin Hodgson

“Do you remember me?”
She twirled her hair with her long finger. I noticed she still stood on one foot, using the toe on the other as a sort of balancing fulcrum point. One slight push and down she would go. Or perhaps she would begin dancing on a moment’s noticing, balancing on air.
“Of course.”
It was true. I remembered her clearly, just as I had created her. She looked the same. Wavy auburn hair. Faded blue eyes. A nose slightly twisted at the end. A smile bordering on sinister.
“Are you sure? You look … doubtful.”
“I’m sure. I’m just remembering. That’s all. It’s been a long time.”

more at Notegraphy

I wasn’t done. I still felt her voice in my head. She wasn’t content to remain on the page, digital or otherwise. She was restless.

So I wandered over to Google’s Story Builder, and removed all of the exposition, using only the dialogue between her, my character, and myself, the writer. Strangely, as my friend Lisa N. noted when I shared it with her, the character seems more alive here, in this version.

What do you think? Do you have character rattling around in your head? Do you listen to them?

Peace (in stories),
Kevin