Storytelling

Storytelling has always been something that I’ve taken great interest in not only because I’m a writer, a Media Studies Major, or an environmentalist, but because I believe its purely innate and instinctual for us to want to share our experiences, perspectives, beliefs, and overall stories with each other. I think that when we create dialogue and conversation with others, we are ultimately creating mini stories within a larger framework. Even though I’ve explored the many different ways in which stories can be told and created, both through words, audio, and visuals, I wasn’t fully aware of how many ways one could tell a story in today’s world, especially with all of the technology and platforms that are available to us.

After taking my Digital Media Production class, I realized that the digital media sphere is highly complex within itself in the ways in which stories are shared and presented to greater audiences all around the world. I think the most important place to start is to ask yourself “What is a story?” and “What is storytelling?”. This class helped me dive into these questions and to understand what constitutes a story and how one can go about telling/sharing one.

What this class made me see is that a story can be anything. It can be a short promo, a documentary, a slideshow of pictures with a narrative, a blog, or a status on Facebook or Twitter. I see a story as the end product to what storytelling is. Storytelling is more of the process of creating that story and then sharing it to an audience. I think that we have evolved the way in which stories can be created and we need to be more open about how we share our thoughts, ideas, and experiences in the ways that we see fit.

[Interesting piece on the different types of storytelling and what it meant then and what it means now: http://newmedia.yeditepe.edu.tr/pdfs/isimd_06/24.pdf]

After having guest lecturer Robert Kershaw, the Canadian Projects Director for the Center for Digital Storytelling, speak to our class, I noticed the difference in what storytelling means across different generations. We viewed a short promo about the struggle that many African communities face to get clean water, and even though there was a narrative and bold images that were in the promo, Robert believed that this wasn’t a story because it was trying to sell something and it wasn’t telling a specific story that was personal to an individual. Yes, I believe that it would have been more touching if the promo included a story from one of the persons who is personally affected by lack of clean water on a daily basis, but to be all inclusive, the promo wanted to give an overall image of the community as a whole to show that they are just 1 in many that face this problem.

[Click here to find out more about the Center for Digital Storytelling]

After learning about storytelling, seeing different examples of it, and reading about its forms, it was very important that as a class, we were able to explore and tell our own stories, particularly through digital media. The process that we took was full and advantageous, since we came up with a few ideas and discussed it in groups to see what idea had the best/most material to share. We then came up with a narrative, collected images and/or video, and pieced it together to produce a slideshow video of our stories. We also promoted it through social media platforms such as Twitter, shared it on YouTube, and had an event at school to share our projects with not only our class, but other members of the USF community.

 

I think the development of a story is the key to its success, and that no matter how great we think it is at first, there is always room for improvement. For example, I created a story about my time that I spent working on a farm in Ireland in the spring of 2013. I gathered many images for my story, but had to keep re-editing my slideshow to fit certain pictures into my narrative. I used specific pictures at certain talking points, while others were generic and could be placed almost anywhere. I also had to edit my narrative several times to make sure that it was precise and to the point, without being too wordy, but allowing the consumer to understand where I was, what I went through, and what I learned because of it. In the end, I think it was successful, even though we could have spent about a week or so less on the project because I was already familiar with storytelling and using these different platforms and the editing software.

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“And there he was.  In all his glory.  Tall yet gentle, loud yet peaceful.” — from my storytelling project called Finding Skerries

I think storytelling will be something that I will continue to do because it allows me to create connections with other human beings. The digital media realm allows me to meet people that I wouldn’t necessarily find on a day-to-day basis, and it gives me the chance to connect with a greater audience and to relate and share my ideas and experiences with them. I think that it is important to discover and explore the many different ways in which a story can be told so that one can find the different platforms that suit the different types of stories they share. For example, my final project for this class was on apocalyptic landscapes, so I used different platforms to explore this concept. I used Exposure.so to focus on the visuals of my project, in which I edited and posted the best photos that I took on Treasure Island along with short captions about the island and what this landscape and these buildings meant. To expand further on my idea, I created a blog to create discussion around what the apocalypse means and how we are creating our own apocalypse today. I also used Flickr to post all of the photos that I took at the 2 locations I visited, so people could see more of what I was trying to convey, and I also used Storify to post links to outside sources that inspired me, such as articles, photos, art, videos, etc., and to incorporate my own content into this greater concept.

Processes

After working on my storytelling project for my class, I really began to understand the importance of the process of working and creating original content. I think that oftentimes, we tend to work alone and critique our own work as we see fit, but it is really important that we get outside perspectives and suggestions from people that are both familiar and unfamiliar with you and your work. I think that we produce the best content when we work together, even if we are creating individual pieces. For example, for our final projects, even though we spent a lot of time working individually on bringing our ideas and concepts to life, it was great that we were first able to bounce ideas off with smaller groups on what to talk about, and it was even better that we had a mid-check in to see what digital platforms we would be using for this project and how we would convey our ideas and stories through these different mediums. I really enjoyed the mixture of group and individual work, since I had a chaotic schedule this semester and had to do a lot of work on my own, but it was nice that we still all got together to evaluate each other’s work and give each other ideas about how we could further our projects.

I think as a consumer, it would have been nice if we saw more of the process of what we did in our final projects, since we spent a lot of time with our first projects. For example, we should have mapped out what we wanted to show or convey on each platform, and get suggestions and critiques from other members of the class about what they thought about our ideas or where we could take it instead.

I knew what I wanted to do for my final project, since I had an initial obsession with the apocalypse and was taking a class on what the apocalypse means in terms of the environment and our society, but it would have been nice to have help with what would be the best platforms to use for my idea and what I could tell on these different platforms. For example, I used Storify as one of my platforms and even though I really enjoy it as a way to put together things that inspire me and outline a whole concept, I had trouble with pitching exactly what I wanted to share on this platform and whether or not I should incorporate both my own and outside content on this platform.

My Storify for my Final Project:

General: Social Media and Technology

I think that this class strengthened my understanding and perspective on how relevant social media is to us today and how technology is shaping the way in which we communicate, whether it is through simple dialogue, storytelling, film, music, blogging, and so on. Even though I believe technology is inhibiting us in many ways, I believe that if we embrace it, we can shape it for ourselves and make it so that it is benefitting us and the greater world instead of us benefitting it. We need to make social media and technology ours and create it to be used in ways that help bring humanity to the best that it can be and to help protect smaller communities, generate news, save the environment, and create international awareness of the issues that are most important to the well being of us and the Earth.

Social media and technology have become a great cultural force in our world today and have become the face of what communication is, how we communicate, and the content that is communicated between millions of users and consumers. For example, when we went on our field trip to Scoop.It in San Francisco, a social media company that focuses on the content than its users, it was cool to see a company that was so invested in generating content that was ‘smart’, rather than single image posts or quotes that platforms such as Tumblr quite often do. It was a way of creatively generating and spreading news to different audiences. Scoop.It is the type of social media that I like because it prioritizes certain content over others and focuses on the greater issues than the specific individual. I think we have become so obsessed with marketing ourselves and gaining the most amount of followers, likes, re-tweets, re-blogs, etc. that we dilute the content we create and make it more about us instead of them.

 

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[Me using Scoop.It!]

Online Platforms/Venues

I think that since we have a great variety of digital media platforms, we have this sort of unlimited access to the different ways in which we can tell and share our stories. It’s important that we continue evolving the digital media sphere and creating different ways and venues in which we can share and express our stories because certain venues are better than others in telling different types of stories.

For example, YouTube is best used to share stories that need both a visual and audio component to them. For example, if you want to record your own cooking show, it is best for the audience to visually see you and what you are creating, and to listen to what you have to say about the process of what you are making and why you do what you do in the first place. YouTube would also be another great place to share documentaries and the personal stories that they tell, interviews, image slideshows with narratives, travel experiences, and so on.

Storytelling Project that a classmate did on YouTube called From One Washington to Another:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it2k6hubjoY&list=PLNi-KOcVrruhwUP9nNswnQ77OCm3Fzxf-

Other platforms to use to tell your story in more of a visual manner would be Exposure or Flickr, since they are image focused and want your photos to tell the story instead of your words. Exposure is great because you can upload photos and create captions and small paragraphs so that your reader can understand the context of your story and use the visuals to show your experience instead of telling it.

[My Exposure and Flickr Links: https://mlforbes.exposure.co/tapping-the-apocalypse AND https://www.flickr.com/photos/122033885@N05/sets/72157643752731404/]

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[Tapping the Apocalypse: Exploring Treasure Island and its Abandoned Past]

I think that if you are writer-focused and relate mostly to words to understand a story, then it is important to use platforms like Medium, Cowbird, WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr. Some of these platforms can use both a mixture of video, images, and text to create a full story, but a lot of them can be used to submit your stories in words and to create discussion and dialogue around your writing pieces.

My Blog for my final project about the apocalypse: http://tappingtheapocalypse.blogspot.com/

Because there are so many different platforms that can be used to tell stories, there are so many opportunities for you to express a single story or multiple stories across different venues. The only difficulties with telling stories online is that you don’t get to meet the majority of your audience in person, therefore losing those face-to-face connections and creating a disassociation between you, your audience, and your story. Even if they can relate to your story and understand your perspective or experience, they don’t know who you really are, since they can’t fully be in your presence and see the kind of person you are in relation to your story.

I think as both a consumer and producer of content, it is important that I continue to use different online platforms to discover the millions of stories out there and to find ways to better my own stories by discovering others. Sometimes, I wish it was easier to collectively put all of my work in one place (as a producer), but most of the time it is cool that there are so many outlets and possibilities for one to publish their work.

Mobile (phone-based)

With our ever-evolving technology, mobile apps and platforms and using one’s mobile device to tell stories is shaping the way in how we produce content and what content we produce. I think that phone-based content and story production is really interesting because it is one of the easiest and most accessible ways for people to share their content. Personally, I like to use my phone to tell stories about myself, my friends, or my life because it is quick and easy and I don’t need to elaborate on the story I’m trying to convey. For example, I post a lot of photos on my Instagram about what I’m eating or the restaurants I go to, and I like to share them because they tell mini pieces about who I am and what I like do to, eat, and go in my free time, and they show the overall food-lover that I am. For one post, I posted a photo that I went to Sol Food in Marin, this Puerto Rican restaurant that has some amazing and unique dishes. This photo showed that I like to venture out, in this case across the Golden Gate bridge, eat different types of cultural cuisines, and that I like to share my food experiences with friends. It’s amazing how one image can tell and show a lot about one’s self.

I think that mobile multimedia storytelling apps are more popular than ever, but they do inhibit the quality of our content greatly. I like using mobile apps such as Videolicious, VSCO Cam, Square Ready, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and Twitter to share quick stories, usually about myself or what I’m experiencing, and to allow to connect me to my audience on a day to day basis. We have this obsession with what is going on in everybody’s lives and every moment and these are great ways to communicate with your friends and the greater world about your experiences and adventures as a regular person in this great world.

Conclusions

Let me just say this: After evaluating the many different digital media platforms today, producing and consuming my own content with them, writing about them, discussing them with others, and choosing for myself which ones I prefer to work with over others, I have come to the conclusion that digital media might just be the best way in which we communicate nowadays and its one of the main ways in which our voices can be heard.  Unfortunately, we have created a huge disconnect between each other and the way in which we communicate on a face-to-face level.  Since digital media has become the new cultural force for communication, there are ways that we can use it to be positive, progressive, and helpful to all types of people and communities and to spread all types of issues, topics, themes, and create discussions that are of utmost importance to us as human beings.  As a consumer, I realize that there are endless amounts of content that I can discover and it isn’t even that hard to find it.  All I have to do is type in a word or phrase, look up hashtags, find what is trending, and look at my Twitter news feed to find what interests me and what dicussion is being created around these interests.  As a producer, there are also endless possibilities to creating content on the many different platforms that exist in the digital world.  I have the option to share a single story in different ways across multiple platforms, or different stories that are tailored by the platforms I use.  I feel grateful that I am able to share my stories to a larger audience and hopeful that the content that we produce becomes more ‘smart’ than diluted, since we tend to focus on things such as celebrities, fashion, diets, etc.  instead of what is going on in our government, how our actions are affecting the environment, women’s rights, and so on.

I think that when we are producing content, we really think about what we are putting out there and what we are putting our name on.  Yes, I can simply post an image of a hairstyle that inspires me, a picture that objectifies me, or a quote that I like, but I choose not too.  Even though I have a Tumblr that I use for more aesthetic purposes and artsy/visual inspiration, I have been more interested on creating content that creates a purpose and really generates an affect and dialogue around why our society is the way it is and how humanity functions within it.  I think that if we focus on this ‘smart’ content, it can not only impact us as individuals and communities, but it can change the world and shape a better future for not us, but for future generations to come.

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