Thinking About the Visuals of Storytelling

I don’t think I have a great deal of experience with photography.  Growing up, my parents would sometimes provide me with disposable cameras when we were on vacation.  The results were often blurry with poor lighting, or worse, covered by my fingers.  Now that I have an iphone, the majority of my photos are taken on the go.  While there are a lot of great photo features on smartphones, I don’t take advantage of most of them (filters, etc.).  Interestingly, I don’t take that many selfies.  I generally prefer taking photos somewhat spontaneously when on outings with friends.  Essentially I try to capture the moment.  Of course, this is mixed with a fair amount of posed pictures as well.  Overall, I’m interested in taking photos as essentially a means of documentation.  My goal is that reflecting on these photos later will bring back pleasant memories of the day in question.

After examining these articles and resources, I think I could definitely learn to pay better attention to lighting (as of now I generally ignore it unless there’s an obvious problem).  I could also start to incorporate different perspectives to help make my photos more dynamic (which can also help better covey the narrative I want to communicate).  And of course, I can always improve my observation skills to better scan activities for particularly photogenic moments.  Ultimately I think one of the foremost ways I can improve my own photography is through better cognizance of the narrative I wish to tell.  Doing so will begin to naturally improve the quality of the photos I take, by simply increasing my own awareness and effort.

Week 2 Summary

I felt that this week had a great deal of variety.  We first had the opportunity to reflect on how storytelling is adapted or changed when used digitally.  I will say that with this aspect of our coursework, Hypothesis was acting oddly.  Sometimes I would go to add a new annotation and it would start editing an old annotation, thus continuously interrupting my work flow (even with using Google Chrome).  However, I was able to rangle Hypothesis and see how the “digital” in digital storytelling provides us with more flexibility and avenues for creativity.  In a similar manner, we also were able to see how future technology was anticipated, and how to successfully write-up a ds106 assignment post.  This particular reading was extremely helpful as a reference when writing up assignments (I had to keep reminding myself to be creative with titles).

Speaking of assignments, I really love the flexibility of ds106.  The few requirements present ensure that we achieve a certain amount of depth over the course of the week, while also ensuring that we have a diversity of experience.  I loved the creativity behind the trolling assignment.  The project essentially focused on finding common character tropes, and allowed me to better analyze some of my favorite characters.  I also loved that I finally know how to use the Wayback Machine!  That’s been a goal of mine for a long while, and it turned out to be much easier to use than I thought it would be.  I also really enjoyed learning how to work with the effects room in my video-editing software.  Working with subtitles is a pain, but it was well worth the satisfaction that came with completing the final product: a silent film version of Wonder Woman.

I also enjoyed the concept of the Daily Create.  They’re very quick, but make you think critically, oftentimes creatively, and ultimately encourage you to share your work with the wider ds106 community.

I also felt that customizing my blog went well.  I had the Akismet and Jetpack plugins already established, so I focused on changing my theme and added some more widgets, while beefing up my about page.  My one qualm is that my pages don’t necessarily have the titles displayed when you click on them (besides in the navigation menu).  As such, I’ll probably keep tinkering as the semester continues.

Finally, I also appreciate the emphasis on interacting with the work of others.  This can of course help inspire your own creativity by exposing you to new ideas, while also allowing you to draw comparisons between your work and the work of others.  This week, I especially enjoyed seeing that we have our very own ds106 flag!  In addition to this, Jim Groom, who introduced me to video-editing over four years ago, must have found some of my ds106 stuff and now follows me on Twitter!

Wonder Woman ca. 1918

I was intrigued by the idea of aging a movie trailer to make it appear to be from the silent era.  It essentially admits that silent films are a separate art in and of themselves, with unique pros and cons (while of course also providing the opportunity for a humorous editing project).  As such I immediately began to rack my brain for recent movie trailers… Then I hit upon the new trailer for Wonder Woman.  Not only is it a beautiful example of a modern movie trailer, but the setting of the film is WWI.  I could essentially edit the trailer to match the time-period of the film itself!  As such, I realized that it would be the perfect candidate to return to the silent era.

This video assignment posed a unique challenge, in that I have a great deal of experience with editing video, but haven’t had much need to use effects.  So I began playing around with different options in the effect room of Cyberlink PowerDirector (my video-editing software), and found an effect called “Old Movie” that seemed to fit my needs.  However, I adjusted the background color, as the original seemed to filter with a strange sort of mustard yellow that just seemed odd.  I also realized that my video still seemed too smooth.  It now was black and white with aged lines, but the actual playback wasn’t jumpy.  I ultimately decided to combat this by adjusting the playback speed.  I’ve actually been searching for a way to edit speed for a while now, and now had real motivation to properly investigate.  Combing through the designer options yielded nothing, nor the effects room.  I ultimately opted to try a Google search, and voila!  The answer turned out to be in the Power Tools section of my software.  I then sped up my footage to make it jerkier.

After adjusting the playback speed, I began to work with title cards (specifically this one), stretching my selected card to fully fit the 16:9 aspect ratio.  I opted to use subtitles to insert the dialogue.  This was a bit of a pain, as it was difficult to center the dialogue, and timeline adjustments usually meant adjusting the placement of all the following subtitles.  I also used Incompetech to select my silent film music, ultimately choosing a bouncier intro piece and a more dramatic distressed piece for the latter half of the trailer.  After making small adjustments here till the video met my satisfaction, I published the final product on YouTube.

The final product looks relatively well aged.  Personally, I most enjoy the mashup of WWI battle scenes with this silent film style.  The two mash together quite well, and helped affirm my trailer selection.

A Logic Named Joe Response

In reading this article, one of the first things that struck me was that I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this sci-fi short or author before.  The fact that Leinster was able to so accurately predict future technology is incredible, and I couldn’t understand why it appears to be obscure.  It’s notoriously difficult to predict the advances of the future.  “All we know is all there is”, and therefore it is quite hard to foresee that which does not currently exist.  This makes Leinster’s accuracy particularly amazing.  However, perhaps his genius was in the simplicity of his premise.  He appears to have recognized a trend within the developing technology of the time.  Information was being shared quicker.  Through phones, radios, and early televisions, communicating ideas and finding solutions was becoming much easier.  So perhaps the logical extension would be, what if information could be found almost instantaneously?  And what if some of that information wasn’t necessarily good?

Perhaps what intrigues me most is that Leinster anticipates that the tool itself is morally neutral.  It can be used for good or for bad.  Too often we see technology portrayed as a villain in media.  But this simply doesn’t mimic real life.  We don’t see technology rising against us like the depictions of dystopian novels.  But we do see it being misused for nefarious purposes.  It is this understanding of future technology that I find to be particularly impressive.  Essentially he portrays these future advancements as a tool, and cautions us to use it wisely.  This is consistent with how I view the modern-day internet, and it is this fundamental agreement that I am most pleasantly surprised by.

Wayback When UMW’s Website Was Young…

I was first drawn to this assignment simply by reading the title.  I had heard of the Wayback machine, but had never used it myself.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so!

The first thing to do was select a website to examine.  Originally I considered Wikipedia, but then the idea of examining the school website struck me.  This seemed like a great way to make the assignment especially engaging to other UMW students by using a website that is relevant to them.

In terms of assignment completion, please note that I opted to use the snipping tool to grab my screenshots, as I haven’t yet totally figured out how to use my screenshot option (I’ve used it in the past but forgotten how to use it, as the process isn’t very intuitive on this laptop).

My earliest screenshot was from 2004, and I immediately note the immense amount of white space…

may-20-2004
May 20, 2004

In continuing my search, I kept finding that the website links were covering the background with the school title.  At first I assumed this must be a mistake in the loading of the Wayback Machine.  But this mistake was consistent until late 2010…  Also note Professor Giancarlo!

oct-2-2008
Oct 2, 2008

Over time, the link coverage was corrected, and much more color was added, in addition to more dynamic features, such as shifting images (This made it a bit harder to grab screenshots.  At one point I accidentally grabbed one mid-fade!).

may-27-2013
May 27, 2013
aug-31-2016
Aug 31, 2016

Ultimately I think I prefer the modern design to the previous options (though that may simply be because the current site is most familiar to me).  I think its also interesting to note the changing color patterns over time.  Now, excess white space is generally discouraged on most website (a problem of the 2004 version of the site, which was later corrected).  Some color pairings are now considered a bit off (the 2008 grey and orangeish-yellow seems an odd combination to me, and apparently the UMW web designers agreed and thus adjusted in latter versions).  And now more dynamic sites are popular (as seen in the image-shifting 2013 and 2016 versions).  In addition, one can see the new dashboard of the 2016 version, which includes icons as opposed to simple links (again emphasizing the importance of visual richness).  Ultimately I think these changes are consistent with the advice we currently receive regarding keeping websites engaging and user-friendly.

Wonder Eowyn: Warrior Princess

I loved the humorous example I saw while browsing this assignment.  The idea of mixing an image, quote, and signature to trick unwary viewers seemed intriguing.  I wanted to try my hand at finding similar characters and see how one could mash them into essentially one super-character.  But on a more serious note, the assignment immediately reminded me of the various quotes that pop up on Facebook.  Many of them have an image of either a celebrity, or a particularly emotionally-compelling image with some form of quote.  Oftentimes in the comments I will see astute observers pointing out that either the quote is misattributed or completely false.  So while this certainly was a fun exercise, I felt that it also reinforced the need for skepticism while browsing information on the Internet.

For the actual creation process, I first had to decide on the characters I wanted to include in the piece.  Xena and Wonder Woman immediately came to mind, followed by Eowyn as another popular female warrior.  But then came the question of which aspects of each to include.  At first I considered using Xena’s famous quote of “I have many skills”.  But it then became apparent that such a choice would mean I would have to use an image of Wonder Woman with the signature of Eowyn, which I felt might be more easily spotted as a fake (as the two are fairly distinctive).  I then considered that many fans reacted to Gal Gadot’s first promo image as Wonder Woman by comparing it visually to Xena.  As such, perhaps Wonder Woman and Xena would be more likely to be confused with each other.  This led me to use Eowyn’s quote of “I am no man,” (especially fitting since all of the chosen characters are female) paired with that particular promo image and Xena’s signature.

To create this image, I opened the promo image in paint, and cropped out extraneous space on the righthand side.  I then changed the word coloring to white (to better contrast with the darker background), and experimented with various fonts for the quote itself.  I ultimately opted for Papyrus, which had a more ancient/timeless feel to it (especially fitting since Xena and Wonder Woman have Greek backgrounds).  After fiddling with font sizes, I saved the work, and voila!
wonder-woman-eowyn-xena-mashup

I felt that the final product looked quite convincing, but was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of my parents.  My dad’s reaction was, “Did Xena really say that?” apparently missing that the image was of Wonder Woman.  But better yet, my mom didn’t notice anything odd at all about the picture, which cemented in my mind that the image appears perfectly plausible to a casual viewer!

Web 2.0 Storytelling Reflection

Essentially I think the digital in “digital storytelling” simply provides a certain flexibility of structure.  The nature of stories remains the same.  It requires characters, a plot structure, themes, events, etc.  But it is the way in which these stories can be presented that has changed.  Writers can encourage their audience to not only comment on, but directly interact and participate in the story itself.  Content can be limited to 140 characters to encourage creativity.  First person narratives can be encouraged by blogs with their diary-like format, encouraging the formation of more character-centric stories.  It is these approaches that are new, not necessarily the art of storytelling (which is as old as history itself).  However, this is not to downplay the importance of the digital in “digital storytelling”.  The flexibility associated with these advancements allows for newfound avenues of creativity.  Perhaps those who otherwise might not have participated in the storytelling process are now being drawn to it.  New platforms with their unique limitations helps push authors to adapt creatively.  This ultimately adds another layer of richness to the type of content that is available to us.

Week 1 Summary

I was very lucky in that I already had my domain set-up, which made preparing a site for ds106 much easier.  I will say I wasn’t entirely sure whether to consider my digital studies blog a fully devoted ds106 blog or not, but was able to successfully link to the ds106 course feed (which is what matters!).  I enjoyed setting up some new social media accounts, and was particularly impressed by how smart Twitter was.  As I was choosing accounts to follow, Twitter immediately began suggesting sites related to interests I’m particularly passionate about.  While I found this exceedingly cool, perhaps I should be a bit more perturbed that Twitter seems to have access to my Internet searches…

I really enjoyed the introductions!  It was a quick way to experiment some with all of these different platforms.  I also thought Austin Kleon’s post was pretty thought-provoking.  I believe the Internet has evolved to a point where creator-fan interactions are increasingly being facilitated, and this ultimately should be embraced and leveraged by the creator.  On a technical note, my usage of hypothesis went well.  I’m a little undecided as to whether I should just annotate or also highlight (I ultimately decided the more the merrier).  All of the tagging also took a little bit of getting used to, but was ultimately successful.  In regards to our Internet post, I appreciated its philosophical nature.  The Internet has profound implications, but we often overlook these due to its omnipresence in our everyday lives.  I also welcomed the opportunity to pick and choose an article that particularly interested us.  Generally I feel that more options makes assignments more easily embraced as opposed to being viewed as a chore.

Overall it seems pretty clear that working on these assignments in small doses over the course of the week is key!  ds106 seems like it will require a lot of effort, but luckily many of the topics seem to be ones I’m passionate about (so hopefully I won’t really view those assignments as work).

Below are my media creations for the week!

 

ds106 Introduction

The Internet

Reading Response

The idea of the Internet being a way to harness our collective IQ is incredible, and has been discussed in varying ways for a long period of time.  I’ve often heard a similar principle described as the ability to harness the collective knowledge of humanity on an iphone.  But the author argues that ultimately that quantity of information lacks meaning without quality interactions.  It doesn’t really matter if information exists unless you are able to successfully find and access it.  She takes this argument further by positing that we should be able to preview and skim this information more effectively.  Essentially by improving Internet navigation and document interaction, information can be absorbed more efficiently.  This can ultimately open up the Internet in order to bring more quality interaction to the masses, which can help successfully realize the goal of leveraging our collective IQ.  This sort of democratization immediately made me think of Wikipedia, which allows users to contribute their knowledge and expertise to a larger whole, while easily allowing readers to jump to related articles.  The author specifically mentioned Hypothesis as a successful tool for tagging documents for better efficiency and allowing for group annotations (which is certainly another reason to encourage us to take advantage of Hypothesis). Read More

Show Your Work

The post really seemed to focus an an intriguing premise, namely that documenting the creative process has a certain innate value that is often overlooked.  This makes a great deal of sense, as sharing this information is beneficial for everyone (as long as you adhere to certain courtesy guidelines).  It can serve as a motivator and fan-base builder for the creator, and can satisfy the curiosity of fans while facilitating their own learning.  It essentially makes your work more accessible.  Within my own realm of video-editing, you often see YouTube channels posting tutorials or how-to posts that can help guide fans into becoming creators themselves.  So the act of sharing the process also serves to disseminate knowledge, an awesome act in and of itself.  Honestly documenting one’s process can almost serve as a sort of creative democratization.  The creative process becomes more of a dialogue between the creator and fans, potentially allowing for more fan interaction and input that can also positively influence the development of a project.  Ultimately I felt that it was this emphasis on the process as opposed to the product that was the most important take-away from this post.

Using Hypothesis was a positive experience.  I’ve had the opportunity to experiment with it some last semester, and it seems like a good way to essentially digest a text online as a group.  Everyone can add their input without fear of being talked over or overlooked, and the annotations can be completed whenever your schedule permits (within the designated timeline of course).  That sort of flexibility should hopefully allow more people to participate than they otherwise would have if the format was simply a verbal discussion of the text.