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EVERYTHING IS STORIES AND NOTHING HURTS

This week has been all about stories for me.

It started with a post about storytelling told in the form of a story. I was shocked at how much attention that post received, and found the requirement to solicit at least five comments on a post completed before I’d had time to process how I was even going to meet that criteria. Humbling to say the least, and it only served to make me want to bring my absolute best to this class. I got a few deeply insightful comments that helped me to expand further on what I’d written initially.

Regarding the notion of storytelling itself, I’d say my ideas about the overall concept haven’t changed if only because they’ve never solidified. I try not to become too attached to definitions since most of life takes place in the gray area anyway, and the same goes for “storytelling.” I want my ideas of what a story is to be challenged, rearranged, and expanded. No place better than through digital media, right? I will say that I’m becoming increasingly interested in ways to create outside the traditional storytelling box, how to experiment and play with the idea of a story to encompass all kinds of media and expression. The opportunities for cool new stuff happening are vast, and I’m stoked to continue exploring.

Viewing other student’s story-shapes and creating my own helped me to sort out a few more thoughts I’d had on storytelling, and especially how we as the audience participate in creating stories with the author. My story-shape-poobitz ended up looking like this:

IT'S HERO TIME

… but it was another student’s story-shape based on The Hunger Games that really got me thinking about stories as participatory experiences. I’d read the book too, and thought I would have labeled some of the points differently on Kurt Vonnegut’s scale. Was it possible that her story-shape wasn’t really an accurate representation of Katniss’ feelings throughout the book, as she’d said, but a depiction of her own emotional reactions to what Katniss went through? In the end, I think I have to conclude that because there cannot be a story told in a vacuum (even the stories we tell ourselves are influenced by other people, and often by what other people might think of them) a story must be participatory, and the way we as the audience experience a story is a part of that story’s creation, and continuous re-creation. In that sense, we’re not readers or audience members at all: we’re interpreters.

Funnily enough, that’s exactly what we’re asking people to do with the five card Flickr story. Because there’s nothing explicitly stated with these stories, the viewer has to fill in the blanks themselves. Essentially, although we choose the images that the viewer sees, they are the ones creating the story in their own heads. We can attempt to give them a framework to fill in and nudge them towards a general sense of what we’ve tried to create, but in this activity the viewer has to be as much of a creative force as the person who chose the photos.

The same even goes for many of the Daily Creates I did this week. Most of them were photos, and could be viewed as self-contained stories waiting to be created by whoever comes along and views them. Check it out and see if you agree:

CUE BLINDING RAGE

Emphasis on 'sidewalk'

Missing Stage

texture

Some are kind of stretching it (the texture photo especially) but because we’re creative creatures by nature, even with the assignment spelled out for us, even with a clear knowledge of what these images are supposed to be, I’d bet you a doughnut you’re thinking about other stuff, other stories, experiences you’ve had anyway. Heck, even my “Fight or Flight” video alludes to stories I’ve lived, and relies on one of the oldest stories EVER for a premise:

In conclusion: EVERYTHING IS STORIES. EVERYTHING. I am not majoring in English, I am majoring in EVERYTHING. TAKE THAT BUSINESS MAJOR JERKS!! YOU MIGHT HAVE MY MONEY BUT I HAVE YOUR SOULS!!!!!

…. okay. Ooookay, come on back. That got a bit out of hand for a second, but I’m okay now. Really. I promise.

But actually, yeah. Week 3. Insanity. Craziness. SO MUCH WORK. So much more work than I expected. I am doing more work for this class than for all my other courses combined. It’s way more than I bargained for, and it’s kinda wearing me out. Some of the stuff we had to do this week really isn’t working for me, like setting up Google reader. I HATE the Google reader format. HATE HATE HATE. For some reason it just doesn’t click with the way my brain organizes stuff. I’m sure that as I tinker with it and spend more time tailoring it to my needs (can I get somebody to pester me about this? Prof. Levine? Maybe?) I’ll discover that it’s actually an excellent resource that I’m just being stubborn about. That said, since my browser’s home page is set to the DS106 website and all our blog posts feed into there, I feel like I’ve already got a pretty good handle on keeping up with my classmate’s blog posts. The weekly summaries are also a bit of a drag in the same sense–it’s difficult for me to accumulate everything I’ve done during the week into a cohesive whole, and I’d rather have a little more freedom in the way I organize my work for the week. Even saying that, though, being forced to put it all into one place like this has helped me to come up with some pretty big ideas about the stuff I’ve been doing, so I guess in the end the weekly summaries are a good thing, even if I’m not a huge fan of putting them together. Like brussels sprouts and burpees, man–they suck while you do ’em but you’re better off for getting them done.

The disproportionate amount of participation for photo-focused Daily Creates is another thing I’m kinda iffy about. I understand why this is the case–it’s a million times easier to take a photo and upload it than to draw a picture, or create a tutorial, and the time it takes to upload YouTube videos is often prohibitive in and of itself. More than being annoying or a serious problem, it’s making me realize that we still have a long, loooooooooong way to go in making ALL aspects of digital media equally accessible. Particularly as it applies to the realm of education, which is where the coolest stuff is happening with digital media IMHO, we need to give some serious thought to what kinds of digital media are most readily available to the most people, how we can use those specific types of digital media to promote creativity, and how we can make other kinds more available to more people.

While I did mention that the amount of work for this class is wearing me out, I must also state for the record that holy CRAP this is the coolest thing I have ever done. Ever. Just. OH MY GOD I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS ABOUT THIS CLASS. I am learning so much, DOING so much, reconsidering everything I thought I knew about stories, about digital media, about blogging and accessibility and education and where my place is in all of that. I am so #4Life that I spent literally all of this weekend doing DS106 stuff, from engaging my older relatives in discussions about digital media to running around the Small Press Expo collecting interviews I might be able to use for an assignment next week.

Can I end this week with a story? Okay, here goes:

Once upon a time there was a girl who hated school. She basically sucked at everything school was, because it was all in this really rigid framework and there were all these rules and all she wanted to do was tell stories all the time, she went around all day with stories in her head and for her to have to sit down and do algebra was agonizing.

Then she got to college and discovered that all the stuff she did in her spare time, all the philosophizing and idea-sharing and story-making, all the hours she poured into the online world that was so receptive to her stories, that was a scholarly discipline. She started thinking about grad school, like maybe if she went in for digital media she could manage two more years. And then she enrolled in a class called Ds106.

This girl never ever wanted to be a teacher, even though everyone in her family and some of her friends and even her college adviser told her it was something she really ought to do. She didn’t want to be stuck in school forever and she didn’t feel confident in any of the specialties she’d explored, not confident enough to teach other people about them, anyway.

But she GOT DS106. And she started thinking about how it applied to education. And then she couldn’t stop thinking about digital media in education. And then she started getting really passionate about all that stuff. And she doesn’t know where the story is going to end up, but DS106 has already changed her life. And that is really, REALLY cool.

2 Comments

  1. “In that sense, we’re not readers or audience members at all: we’re interpreters.”

    YES. This is an epic post and you have utterly nailed what is at the heart of ds106. I expect great things from this blog. Everything is stories.

    We *are* the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.

    #4life

  2. I whole-heartedly agree with your argument that reading is a participatory experience. Everything that we read we help to shape, even if only for ourselves.

    Fantastic post. 🙂

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