“Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures”

“Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures”

 “….Because I have autism, I live by concrete rules instead of abstract beliefs.  And because I have autism, I think in pictures and sounds…Here’s how my brain works:  It’s like the search engine Google for images.  If you say the word “love” to me, I’ll surf the Internet inside my brain.  Then, a series of images pop into my head.  What I’ll see is a picture of a mother horse with a foal; or I think of ‘Herbie, the Love Bug’; scenes from the movie Love Story; or the Beatles song “Love, love, all you need is love….Some people think if I could snap my fingers I’d choose to be ‘normal.’ But, I wouldn’t want to give up my ability to see in beautiful, precise pictures.  I believe in them” (pp. 87-88)

This excerpt is taken from the book This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.  The book is a compilation of the personal stories of thousands of individuals who were given the task of writing a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide their life, something like a personal credo.  The excerpt above, “Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures,” is from the personal story of Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University.  The story itself is intriguing because it illuminates a world with which many of us are unfamiliar: the autistic mind.  It draws us into the author’s personal life, his personal thoughts, and compels us to linger on his words momentarily only to turn the page with a sympathetic sigh.    

Now, imagine the words as spoken through the calm and warm voice of the author, his narration accompanied by a tender piano melody faintly playing in the background.  Photographs of him as a young boy watching his parents kissing, petting a big, fluffy dog, and smiling from inside Herbie the Love Bug fade in and out revealing to us what love looks and feels like to a young boy with autism.  Our investment is now emotional and perhaps permanent because the images of this happy, young boy experiencing love and living his life through “beautiful, precise pictures” ask us to think beyond the words on the page, beyond the word autism, to the person living with it.    

Digital storytelling is a communicative tool for those who have powerful stories to tell and the limitless possibilities of digital media to help bring them to life.  The best stories take only moments to come to life and through the use of photography, video-making techniques, hand-drawn images, vocal inflection, musical accompaniment, sound and special effects can transport the viewer to a particular time and place as seen through the storyteller’s eyes.  Collectively, digital stories create sort of a cultural landscape that presents itself to us in unexpected ways; ways that encourage us to reexamine the world around us and pay more attention to the “beautiful, precise pictures” that surround us.

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2 Responses
  1. rfachner says:

    What a great definition of digital storytelling! The one small thing I would point out is that Temple Grandin is a woman. She’s actually incredibly interesting, I’ve read a few interviews with her and she has such a unique way of seeing the world. I think the quote is very thought provoking, and while she is trying to describe her own experience, its a fascinating way to think about digital storytelling. Digital storytelling does encourage us to think about the world in a more visual way, which is really important for historians to think about bringing history to life.

  2. jlapple says:

    Thank you for your comment. I am a bit embarrassed about the error. I was so excited to refer to this book and that story (which stood out to me from quite some time ago) that I neglected to look beyond the opening quote. Also, my entire definition of digital storytelling revolves around looking beyond the “idea” to the person, in this case with autism..and ironically, I fell short of doing that in this statement. I learned a very meaningful lesson here. Thanks for drawing attention to this.
    Also, I agree that digital storytelling does bring an important visual and even tangible element to the physical and emotional distance that often separates us from history.