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Once upon a time…
How’s that for a beginning? All stories have to have them, of course. “Now a whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end,” says Aristotle of tragedy. But all stories, tragic or otherwise, start somewhere and end somewhere and, between those points, all kinds of things happen (or sometimes don’t). At this website, you will find a story about stories and about the telling of them. This is the tale of Digital Storytelling (ENGL 4837W) in Spring 2019.
This semester, eighteen fair young apprentices and their sage guide set out on a quest. The apprentices encountered difficult feats designed by their guide to prepare them for the ultimate test of their skill. These challenges required them to tell a tale that could be delivered as an MP3, to construct a narrative labyrinth using HTML code, and to convey a story using only a series of visual images. They faced these challenges with courage and creativity. They learned about how technologies – from written alphabets, to scrolls and manuscripts, to printing presses, to film, to computers – shape the stories we tell. They struggled through narratology and media theory, reading ancient (and not so ancient) academic scripture by the likes of Aristotle, Mieke Bal, Walter J. Ong, Roland Barthes, Katherine Hayles, and Marie-Laure Ryan.
They knew how to tell stories – they’ve read plenty and some had even written their own – but they needed to transform into digital storytellers and, like all transformations, there were hardships and heartaches along the way. They challenged themselves to tell the stories that mattered to them, sometimes facing dragons that can only be slain by the power of stories. They learned about affordances and, drawing upon their studies in media theory, the apprentices crafted interactive and immersive tales. Their mastery of design alchemy allowed them to configure procedurality and participation into interaction and agency. Their ability to create immersion by combining the spatial and encyclopedic elements is a testament to their mastery of digital affordances and constraints.
We’ve reached the end of our journey. The bright young students have met the challenges, have faced the demons, and have held each other up as they struggled through the quest. They present to you their magic – the stories they’ve worked for half a semester to produce. These stories are original creative pieces, oral history, and transmedia transformations of classic literature. They traverse a vast range of subject matter – everything from mental illness and disability, to travel in new lands, to bullying, to the nature of love.
Ultimately, this showcase website is about how the telling of stories is transformed, like the swan, that notorious shapeshifter of myth and legend and fairy tale, by the tools we humans create to record and archive and amplify and disseminate the tales we tell and how our tales are likewise transformed by those tools.
The sage (or was she the wicked witch?) can now stand back and let the Digital Storytellers shine in all their glory.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Andrew, Kerry. “Swan Folklore: Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” #FolkloreThursday. 2 Aug 2018. https://folklorethursday.com/folk-music/swan-folklore-hope-is-the-thing-with-feathers/
Aristotle. Poetics. The Internet Classics Archive. Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics. 2000. http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.1.1.html
Murray, Janet H. “Four Affordances.” Janet H. Muray: Humanistic Design for an Emerging Medium. https://inventingthemedium.com/four-affordances/