Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stories, stories everywhere

Even though we're only about two weeks into this semester, I'm already beginning to see that this class is unlike any other that I've ever been a part of. In the past, I've thought  about most of my other classes only a handful of times each week: the day class meets, and whenever I settle down to do homework. I also think about class within in a certain framework-- a selected classroom, and then my laptop and perhaps a textbook, as the location for the out-of-class work. This course is a different beast entirely, and I like it.

I think about classwork whenever I'm on Twitter and am excited to see the daily digital alchemy (#dda), which I look forward to as a fun challenge-- and I'm not just saying that. I appreciate that digital storytelling includes a large amount of creativity and the use of various mediums. In the past week, I've participated in four DDAs, which I will share at the end of this post. I think about homework when I've read the blog and know to be on the lookout for photo opportunities over the course of the week. This week, it was the elements:

I wouldn't have stopped to think about these elements as being connected to stories, but the framework of the class has given me a different perspective. I wouldn't have ever connected the idea of the four elements with storytelling, except for the idea of "digital alchemy." I was skeptical at first, but I'm starting to understand.

I appreciate the community of learners that surrounds this class. Last week's twitterchat was an incredible experience in seeing a bunch of people from all over come together and have a conversation, regardless of the many miles between us. I've also noticed this in watching the first studio visit with Professor Flores. The world is a very different place than it once was, and it seems only right that the classroom keeps up.

If the first studio visit is any indicator of the rest of the semester, I'm very excited to travel beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. It is endlessly amazing to me that we have the ability to be one handheld device away from not only communicating with, but actually seeing and talking to a person so far away, in live time. Thirty years ago, computers were just being introduced into businesses. Twenty years ago, email was a new and exciting way of communicating. Now, we call someone and can look into their face as we speak. People joke around saying "What's next? Holograms?" but I pose the question to you in sincerity-- what's next? Holograms? 

I can't begin to imagine how bizarre this world is to those who are older, and I feel blessed to have grown up when I did. Being computer-literate is almost like knowing a second language, and I'm glad that it has come naturally to me. That being said, I found it interesting when Professor Flores expressed that although millennials have an advantage with technology, we tend to think of it as existing for entertainment purposes. He said that when we think of serious study, we think of paper-and-ink books, and perhaps this suggests that we are not as digital as we think we are. I think this is a good point, although I think that it may change as more millennials become teachers and find the technologies that will tie us even closer to the digital world. The internet has unlimited potential for researchers and learners of all kinds, we just need guidance. 

There is so much power in the digital world. I'm learning this more and more every day, both through this class and through my studies in the digital humanities. I have been fascinated by science fiction for a while now, and it's so cool to live in a world where we're closer to the ideas of science fiction than ever before. The technology we have at our fingertips has reached surreal levels and continues to increase each day.

In addition to technology increasing, our world has grown much smaller. I mentioned this fact earlier in this post, but there is a fascinating community of learners at our fingertips, many only a tweet away. This ties into the whole concept of #connectedlearning, which was discussed in the studio visit, as well as in class. People can work together in ways that were once unheard of. Once upon a time, being a state away could mean that you'd never meet. Today, some of the people in our class got to "visit" Puerto Rico. Brave new world!

I'm excited to have watched this studio visit, and I look forward to future visits. After all, we have this great technology, it's exciting to use it to explore "new worlds!"

Earth, Air, Water, and Fire

There are a few ways I could intro this post, but the first thing that popped into my head was the opening sequence to a truly epic (and yes, I mean epic) Nikelodeon show of the mid-2000s, Avatar the Last Airbender.

So epic, in fact, I think I need another gif...

Earth, air, water, fire. Truthfully, I've never taken much time to think about the elements but, as you can see, people certainly have. The creators of Avatar the Last Airbender based an entire world around people wielding the elements as both tools and weapons. From the elements, come stories. From everything, come stories. 

Now that the nostalgia is running at peak levels, this week our assignment was to capture the four elements existing in both literal and metaphorical senses. I  enjoyed this assignment because it caused me to stop and consider the artistic side of life which is, unfortunately, something that gets lost in the busyness of day-to-day living. Stopping to think about and photograph the four elements led me to consider how much they impact every single moment of life. Each time I came up with a new photograph, the simple concept-- an element-- drew a memory in connection with the element/object that I was photographing. This closely links to what we have discussed in class, re: the comparisons between alchemy and storytelling-- little moments turning into something much bigger than themselves. We've talked about alchemy being the refining of base elements into something greater. The typical example is lead being turned into gold. In a very similar way, the reference point of the elements turned into stories that came flooding back to mind. I'll share a few, in the course of this blog.

First, for my literal representations of the elements:


The remaining flowers from a surprise bouquet, starting to die, but still beautiful. In this photo you can see death around the edges of each petal, corresponding in real life with the sickly sweet smell of decaying flowers, a sure sign that the roses are reaching the end of their brief lives. Lovely until the end.


I took this photograph from the window of my office one afternoon when the sky looked particularly breathtaking. The clouds were racing through the sky and seemed low enough to touch the tops of the buildings.


My favorite candle, and one of the few scents I'm allowed to burn while living at home with my parents. My mom is very sensitive to smells and, unfortunately, I love candles, so this candle is our compromise. The scent is a rare moment of compromise between the two of us, and I've already burned through quite a few. I took this picture right after I lit the candle, so the flames were in the midst of leaping up, attempting to attain equilibrium.


This photo might look familiar, as it's a different view of the roses above. I thought everything about the flowers was so beautiful that I took pictures from several different angles. This is the base of the vase, the water that kept the dying flowers thriving for just long enough. Even despite the water, a leaf has already fallen and shriveled. 

And now for the metaphorical representations! I have to say, this part was difficult but I liked it because it made me stop and consider the way I looked at the world, and how things are represented. 

First up, Earth

When I think of earth in a metaphorical sense, I think of recycling and protecting the environment. I had the thought to photograph the recycling symbol in some way, but it took me a while to come up with this shot. I was drinking my Starbucks tea when I looked down, and it hit me-- "Because we care about our planet," with the recycling bin in the background. Earth!


Wind chimes. Although these chimes dance infrequently, only exposed to air when I open a window, their faint tinkling music is a beautiful reminder of the air flowing around me. 


Above, I mentioned my love of candles. I also love old lightbulbs, and this is one of many Edison-style bulbs that I have around my home. The spark within the bulb is clear and bright, like a confined flame. 


This is a mixture of items from my personal beach collection. Ever since I was a little girl, I have collected sea glass from the beach in Maine, where I have vacationed almost every summer of my life. The items on top are other beach finds that I picked up on the shore of Lake Erie, when visiting my boyfriend's family at their vacation house. I love to think about how for unknown years, the ocean housed and, in a way, created these treasures. 

This week's reflection was more difficult than I thought it would be! The literal representations were pretty straightforward, but the metaphorical elements provided a challenge. I especially struggled to find metaphorical representations of fire and air, before settling on my lightbulb and windchime photographs. That being said, it was a fun exercise and it helped me to connect the elements to stories and memories, which is what we have been discussing in conjunction with digital alchemy. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

What is digital storytelling?

For as long as I can remember I've had an interest in the medieval time period, so the concept of digital alchemy piqued my interest. It's exciting to see how an ancient art can be revived to play a part in our ever-changing digital society. At first I didn't understand alchemy in the terms we discussed in class, it seemed like an amorphous concept but, after reading around, I think I have more of a grasp on things. If traditional alchemy is a mixture of components to form something greater than itself (Wikipedia talks about transforming base metals into noble metals), than isn't every component of our lives just one small base that can be transformed, with help, into a larger story? If we break down a whole story, we find ourselves looking at a bunch of different components, woven together to form something much greater. That's so cool!

I find it fascinating that the digital age has put so much information and opportunity at our fingertips, in many cases, free of charge. I love to learn, I am passionate about doing research and jamming my all-too-forgetful mind full of information about the past, present, and future. I love using research to draw connections and find parallels between areas of study.

Going in another direction, I think it's also fascinating that technology has allowed humanity to find another way to tell stories. I believe that stories are one of the cornerstones of humanity. Since the dawn of time, we've told stories. Stop and think about the epic poem Beowulf, one of the oldest recorded works in all of English literature. Beowulf was just a story, with many different iterations, passed on from generation to generation before a written language was developed or widely understood. Everyone knew the same general story but added their own contributions along the line. The reason we have it today is because someone, somewhere along the line, decided that it was important enough to be recorded. The version we have today is the one that the recorder knew, the only version that was rescued from the sands of time.

Before we have history, we have stories.

Let's bring it back to today and think about the digital age. Dialing it all back a bit from Beowulf, one of the most popular websites is the blogging site Tumblr. On Tumblr, users generate their own content and post it. Once posted, other users have the ability to reblog and add comments. One post, one story, is released into a world where anyone take the work in whichever direction they choose, and the version you see is dependent on the person who reblogged it, who they reblogged it from, who commented, and what they said. I might see the same original post reblogged with different comments than the person sitting next to me. The skeleton is the same, but the feature change, and it's all due to the way in which is was recorded. Do you see the similarities with the famous epic?

Getting away from history a bit, digital storytelling is different in the way that nothing is ever lost, nothing goes away forever. Even if you can't find a post, it exists and someone will be able to locate it. This can be both helpful and dangerous, as society is learning as we live through the digital age. Scandals appear based on digital papertrails that someone thought would never be found. Feelings can be bruised upon finding traces of a loved one's past life, and no one can ever truly disappear forever.

The biggest example of digital storytelling that I can think of is vlogging, largely popularized by the video hosting website, YouTube. There are individuals on YouTube who have decided to document every day of their lives in video form. These people are "video bloggers" or "vloggers," and the man who holds a Guinness Record for the longest consecutive span of days vlogged is Charles Trippy of ctfXc who, as of 1/23/17, has vlogged for 2,824 days straight. His first vlog, posted on 5/1/09, can be found here (also posted below). The vlogs have followed Trippy through his daily life, including his travels around the world, a marriage proposal, a wedding, life in a band, a brain tumor, a divorce, and a second marriage proposal. Many major events of his life have been documented and discussed by millions of people around the world-- one might say his life is an open book.

Trippy is not alone, accounts such as SHAYTARDS, BFvsGF, Joey Graceffa, and Danisnotonfire are all examples of people who have built their lives on vlogging, on telling the stories that make up their lives. This platform has allowed anyone with a camera and a story to be heard and recorded for all of time. The same world that has always loved stories now has an unlimited supply to be watched and re-watched to our heart's content. No matter the time, human beings love a good story.

Although I have chosen to let my mind wander to different areas, and ultimately focus on vlogging, I must end this piece by saying that digital storytelling is, quite un-simply, everything. Every Facebook post, every Tweet, ever Tumblr post, every Vine, every YouTube video- it's all part of each individual's story in the Digital Age, and it all contributes to the wider narrative of life in the 21st century. Get reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Digital Adventure Begins!

Welcome to my blog for ENG5085, otherwise known as Digital Storytelling. This post is here so that I'll be able to link my blog to the host site, so that all posts will be magically transported to one feed-- how's that for magic? I'll be posting fairly regularly in response to class prompts and questions, all surrounding the idea of storytelling in our brave new [digital] world.
Welcome to the story!