Kevin Creating Every Day

To review, my I290 Viz Narrative final project will attempt to tell the collective story of my current and ongoing side project, {Create every day.}  The premise is simple, create something every day (while being very flexible on the something.)  The philosophy and significance of the project comes from a desire to demonstrate how with discipline we can recognize that we are never too busy to pause and engage in a personal, creative activity each day.  Through my final project, I hope to “tell the story” of not just my creations but also the evolution of my creative self/approach over the course of the semester’s 90 or so days.

For today’s prescribed assignment, I took a crack at displaying my first 25 creations in a digital medium and making careful choices (some may seem simple, but I think they can have a powerful effect) for the format/medium based on topics we’ve discussed in class.  You can view the current gallery at .  I feel like I have the luxury (?) of continually developing my new content each day and the challenge of framing past content into the same story as creations that will be made towards the project deadline.  I won’t be able to fully decide on the types of images I take and then create all of my content according to specification, rather my work will show a natural progression of my ideas (and maybe even skills gained in class!)

The Steiner article brought up two concepts that registered with me.  First, was the notion of double ordering, how in a narrative there is a combination of the sequence of plot events and the times of the presentation of those events.  I feel I face two challenges with relating this to my project, the narrative of each creation (some do use multiple pictures in an order to show how I did something, which I wasn’t able to incorporate into the current medium–a flaw) and the overall narrative of the entire project.  With regards to this concept, I think it’s incredibly important to force a viewer to move through the creations linearly from 1 to n (hence the current format).  Steiner also discusses the repetition of characters and how they can create a narrative from unspecific events.  This lends itself to how I compose/document my creations.  I’ve started to include some repetition of certain tools (such as cardboard cutouts of myself) to characterize how these ideas are coming from a single person, me.  Also, I think there might be something with the consistency of environments (such as a back drop) or where pictures are taken that could be used to reinforce my story.

MacDougall comments on the physical presence of the maker in the piece (he’s talking about film).  But in my work, I have up until now I have (mostly) avoided including my face in the creations (though my hands are included from time to time).  My goal is to infuse my presence into the work without a campy direct illustration of me.  Macdougall distinguishes between how images can allow for this immediate connection with the creator unlike text and also mentions knowledge by acquaintance vs. knowledge by description, which has some applications to whether or not to include captions with my work.  So far, I am opting to exclude direct captions to focus on an interaction with the product over a forced (though potentially witty) account of what is present.

Finally, in Sturken’s piece, the topic of Representation comes up early and the distinction between reflecting meaning and producing meaning through images.  The example of still life with food is given and how the illustrations of food are constructed in a way to represent more of the “world of the food.”  This has me thinking about what aspects I might want to better represent during each one of my compositions.  For instance, one of my creations was a hollowed out book.  Thinking back, I may have been able to better represent some other qualities such as the stickiness of the glue, the jagged imperfections of each individually cut page, and the long late night required to make it happen.

My project is a continual work in progress (literally), and taking forward some of these concepts (and further relating to other readings) will be a valuable exercise to help stir some thoughts that will aid me tonight and future nights while I’m creating.

Bryan’s Final Project Exploration

[1] Nanook of the North

[2] Cross-Cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Videos

[3] Pink, Interdisciplinary Agendas in Visual Research: Re-situating visual Anthropology

These streets will make you feel brand new, Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York New York New York. I’m sure all of you have heard the lyric—felt the sensation as they talk about this great city(that I have never been to). I’ll be heading there 11 days from now to film my own version of that sensation. What started off as a small project of collecting pictures and videos that I would’ve taken on the trip is turning into a very detailed guide on how and when to shoot. I am putting considerable thought into the preproduction of the trip so that when I come back I know that I will have all the content that I need to finish the course project. This is very different from my typical approach of the documenting of some event. Usually it consists of a simple two step process: bring camera, shoot camera.

In this planning stage I need to develop at least a general idea of the type of documentary I will be shooting. This is a documentary of my trip, so reflexive was the obvious choice. In Barbash and Talyor [2] they describe this style as “the process of representation itself and foregrounds the relationship between the filmmaker and the spectators as well as between the filmmaker and the subjects.” I am the filmmaker and my subject, that will be the journey to New York and all the people and things that come with it. Like Flahery’s Nanook of the North[1][3], I will make no attempt to capture the trueness of the events that transpire on my trip (after all can such a thing be done? context upon context upon context), but instead take a reconstructivist approach. Just like Flaherty produced his film in collaboration with the Inuits, I will be producing my short in collaboration with the environment and people on the trip[1][3]. This is not to say that I will be staging events though. The scenes that I will be filming will all be impromptu captures of a reality that exists for people that know they are being filmed. I might even take a participatory role at some point. I figured I should just “recognize the ambiguity of visual meaning” and reconstruct the clips to capture the my sentiments as best as possible[3].

In this plan of mine there are a great deal of clips that I will be filming in environments that I have never filmed before. Places where you might not really see a camera guy floating around: Bars, clubs, early mornings in the hostels. I knew if I wanted to get this right when it mattered I would need to get some practice being the camera man in these types of settings. A perfect opportunity to practice presented itself last weekend at Kevin’s Bday celebration. Big camera in hand, I walked  over to the fun filled bar. Everyone is telling talking really loudly, telling fantastic stories of love, war, survival…

I think the point is clear now, these are all examples of reconstructed clips of the events that happened that day. The reality was twisted a bit in each of the clips, but I think that the sensation of being there was captured in all of them.

Qwiki – Assessing Automated Storytelling

For the competitive analysis phase of our final project we have been collecting ideas from platforms that operate in the same realm as our project. One project, Qwiki, at first seemed to have a very similar goal: “Qwiki is working to deliver information in a format that’s quintessentially human – via storytelling instead of search”.

I’ve been looking at one specific narrative, because Neuroscience has been the topic we chose for our paper prototype. Qwiki takes different types of media (text, images, links) from the web and stitches them together to a multi medial narrative. The claimed strength of the system, delivering “quintessentially human” information turns out to be quite the opposite.

Freedberg writes that creators of images have to consider the “effectiveness, efficacy and vitality of images”. When Qwiki takes pictures from the web, not only is the original purpose for taking the picture removed from the picture, there is no instance of a creator that makes sure the image is efficient and vital. Qwiki is essentially an algorithm, and because it operates on so many cognitive and cultural assumptions, the efficiency of images is arguably one of the most difficult tasks to automate.

This is probably one of the reasons the Qwiki narrative seems random, and hardly more compelling than the audio would be on its own. The images don’t add to the understanding, yet they occupy most screen real estate.

We can learn two things for our project: One, we should let the author of a narrative freely choose the source and type of media she uses for her narratives. And two, the design of the authoring tool could nudge authors towards using images and other media effectively.

Evaluating a multimedia narrative

As part of our project group’s attempt to evaluate existing narrative frameworks and/ or multimedia narratives, I am evaluating a graduate student project called “A seed is forever“. This is a multimedia narrative on youth and agriculture in Sierra Leonne. I have chosen this work because I feel that it highlights several ideas that Ryan discussed, and specially those in relation to a hypertext narrative.

This narrative employs several types of media such as images, video, sound, textual narration, written essays and maps. The different pieces are connected by “chunking-linking” but are much more linearly presented than traditional hypertext. I see a good balance of controlled linearity and supported interactivity by this narrative. The author definitely provides direction and a path to the reader and controls, to an extent, the links that a reader can click on. At the same time, the reader can go over the different pieces (in that section of the narrative) in many orders.

Ryan mentioned that certain subjects lend themselves particularly well to the free browsing of hypertext and this one seems to fit well here. The narrative aims to shed light on different aspects of the youth farming movement in Sierra Leonne. This is not a dramatic story with a climax but rather an “episodic narrative” as Ryan describes, “made of many self-sufficient units that can be read in many orders”. Steiner describes a narrative as a representation of discrete events in a time sequence that are cohesively connected. While it is not clear in this narrative how the different units are connected temporally, there is a definite cohesion as they are all related by the same theme – of the farming movement in a very specific locality and at a specific time. As the reader has been made aware that the different media pieces are about roughly the same time period, it makes it easier to fill in the logical gaps between fragments (that Ryan mentions) and that seems to provide a sense of continuity in the narrative.

I am divided about the use of sound in this piece. It provided me with some sense of being in another place having been juxtaposed with an image – however, very soon, it acted as a distraction as I found it difficult to focus on reading the text. The sound does stop after a while in the narrative.

Project: dialogical semiotics in digital stories

First, some background info and explanation of the audio clip:

I am a GSR for Glynda Hull’s Kidnet project, which examines how youth communicate and construct global/local identities through a closed social networking site ( — it’s very similar to Facebook, with each student having a profile, “friending” capabilities, wall posts, instant chatting, media uploading, etc.). There are research sites in Norway, India, South Africa, Australia, NYC, and Oakland, and the students at these sites create digital stories, video “tours,” still images, artwork, etc. to share online. My site is the newest Oakland site, Oakland Military Institute (if you ever have a chance to visit, you should – it’s a great school with amazing digital resources). My co-instructor and I have now met with our group of 12 high schoolers four times, and they are gearing up to create their own digital stories to post on the site. Their assignment for this upcoming Saturday is to shoot footage for their own digital stories, and in preparation for this assignment, students watched videos from each site. Because we’re interested in our students’ critical thinking processes and their responses to their peers’ media artifacts, Jones (my co-instructor) and I decided to engage them in a K-W-L (What do you already know/What do you want to know/What did you learn) exercise as we watched videos. The audio clip I’m including here is of 2 minutes from our discussion before we viewed a “My Life” digital story from India.

How this relates to my project:

This audio clip illustrates the beginning of the OMI students’ digital story process: viewing examples, generating ideas before and after viewing, and understanding their audience. To be honest, I wish I could fast-forward to Saturday so that I had a clip of my students’ video footage and their director’s cuts (I plan on asking them to explain what they shot and why), because my project really focuses on if/how their videos reveal dialogical engagement with their space2cre8 peers’ videos, and how they (OMI students) construct meaning through these multimodal compositions. For my theoretical framework, I’ll be turning to Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia and social semiotics (the van Leeuwen and Jewitt chapter we read provides an overview of social semiotic analysis, and I’ll also refer to some of their other work and Kress’; additionally, Murch and Wingstedt et al. will aid my discussion of semiotic affordances of sound/image in the examined digital stories). Ideally, I would like to offer an overview of OMI students’ composition practices (do they consider other videos when they create their own digital stories? what do they choose to include/omit and why? are their videos explicit responses to others? if so, how is a dialogical relationship made evident?) and offer a semiotic analysis of one of my students’ digital stories.


P.S. I used Audacity to edit this clip, but I’ll be using Final Cut Express in the future. I notice how loud some of the background noises are — any pointers/tips on how to decrease those would be appreciated!

Sound at Club Silencio

I meant to post this clip from Mulholland Drive last week when we were talking about sound:

The Wingstedt reading mentioned the use of audio to heighten immersion and modality, which reminded me of it, since the audience/viewer at ‘Club Silencio’ is constantly reminded that the music is an illusion, but becomes immersed in it anyway.  When the illusion that a woman is singing ‘Llorando’ live is abruptly withdrawn, we’re surprised and disoriented.  Heightens modality, maybe, and reduces immersion — or maybe just aims for a different kind of immersion?

Media narratives–what makes a story?

I am looking at the tool Projeqt–a self-described storytelling platform –in light of Steiner and Ryan’s discussion of narrative using different media. In particular, I am looking at a sample Projeqt called Ubuntu.

This Projeqt, titled Ubuntu, describes a project by the same name, in which a photographer and a filmmaker capture images of South African children enrolled in a program called Room 13 and then exhibit the photos in New York. The Projeqt is made up of photos, text, video, and links that a viewer progresses through in a linear order. Here is what it includes:

  • Title
  • Definition of the term Ubuntu
  • Project description (artists traveled to SA to teach Project 13 students about photography)
  • Photos of Room 13 participants, some with name and age captions
  • Quote from someone about the photo collection
  • Video of exhibition opening of the photo collection
  • Video about Masilo, a participant in Room 13
  • Bio of photographer
  • Bio of filmmaker
  • Link to Ubuntu Facebook page
  • Explanation of Room 13

Although the third slide tells us that the artists went to teach a photography class to Room 13, this is not depicted in the Projeqt. Instead the materials jump between the artifacts of the trip (photos, a video) and the reaction to the photos when exhibited in New York. Only at the end of the Projeqt do we learn what the organization Room 13 is about, which explains that it is a charity that helps students create art. This makes me wonder if this Projeqt actually is a story, or if it just a collection of related materials.

Steiner and Ryan each offer different definitions of what makes up a narrative. Steiner focuses on a progression of time and a repetition of a subject. Steiner indicates that “story wholeness” requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. Ryan defines a narrative as having a setting, character, and events.

The Ubuntu project certainly has a time sequence, even though it is not told in a chronological order. Steiner does not require a narrative to have a fixed order of telling, so Ubuntu falls in the narrative under this definition. It does have repetition of repeated subjects; the photographer, the filmmaker, and the participants in Room 13 are repeated throughout (often the Room 13 participants are present through their photographs rather than as present characters). Furthermore, it has settings–South Africa and New York (where the exhibition was held), and events (such as a interaction with the Room 13 participants and viewing the photos at an exhibit).

Yet this Projeqt seems somewhat different than a true narrative to me. While it fulfills many of the qualities of a narrative, it feels as though the sequence of the elements is not essential. In fact, a different ordering might have made it clearer what Room 13 was. Certainly there are plenty of narratives that save key information until a final reveal, but this seems unintentional here. This Projeqt seems more similar to the hypertext scenario that Ryan discusses, despite its linear progression: “collections of little stories…lend themselves well to the relatively free browsing of hypertext because the story of a life or of a community is not a dramatic narrative aimed at a climax but an episodic narrative made of many self-sufficient units that can be read in many orders.”  Perhaps topics like this one are better suited to a hypertext scenario because the segments do not build on one another. Still, I am undecided whether I consider this a narrative.