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Digital Story Title:

Still untitled but used “Fort Devens: A History of Diversity, Courage and Dreams.”

Brief description:

This film is about Fort Devens in Massachusetts.  It was a base in the center of a primarily white, agrarian community.  When the base was built in 1917, it brought diversity to the area.  During World War II, civil rights and POWs brought diversity to the area.  The Army based closed in 1996 but it is being converted to a residential and business community.

Main goal(s):

Show diversity of the base.
Opened doors for African American women.

Planted seeds of change in the African American community and with German POWs.

Allowed people to begin to realize their dreams.

Who is your intended audience? (e.g., colleagues, historians, art historians, the general public, high school history students, middle school music students, art students. . . )

I was originally making this to use as a pitching tool and to send the PhD programs but I did not think I can properly do what I want to do in ten minutes.  So it is a start to that project.  The larger project is intended for the people of Massachusetts, to teach them about their history.  I am also looking to document the base so its history is not lost.

Category: Uncategorized  Comments off
Free webspace

Can someone please tell me the two websites we mentioned in class that has free webspace?

Copyright

Davis Guggenheim- What happens when some can pay and others can’t?

Davis Guggenheim made copyright sound scary and complicated.  And after the readings this week, yikes!  As the readings this week suggest, copyright is both a good and a bad thing.  I would not want someone to make money off of my work unfairly but at the same time, I would no mind sharing some things for the sake of art and definitely for educational purposes.  It seems like there are so many loopholes to the law.  But it is good to see that judges are starting to be fair and reasonable in judgments.  Does Fox really need another $10,000 because of someone’s documentary on New York.  I think that is a little greedy.  It seems like there are so many variations on the rule that is could be hard to keep it all straight.

The short video Army of One was an interesting digital story in itself, as it told two stories with one image.  Film is such a long, long process.  I feel for this guy that he started his film in 2002 and he is still dealing with copyright stuff.  As Guggenheim said, great things end up getting cut which is really too bad.  Here is this filmmaker, making a piece of current importance and he is stuck in the bureaucracy of it all.  Kind of takes the fun out of the art and research.

My story is not going to be copyright friendly, something I was aiming for.  At least I can get the concept of it down and change out images later if I need to.  The good news is if I make it big, a high school friend of mine is an entertainment lawyer out in LA.  Maybe he will take pity on the little guy.  I also have someone willing to right music for my films for free.  It is all frustrating and I feel for the artists out there.

Project Update

I am adding a new project update as I wanted to after the filming and the interview.  The interview went really well.  He had me and my friend with tears in our eyes twice.  Those were the defining moments of the interview. He provided me with some information I knew and a lot of background information on African Americans in the military.  I knew much of this but not all of it.  I did not know that the barracks in Devens in 1942 were segregated and that southern officers served the black units at Devens.  It was really cool to hear the perspective of the civil rights movement from a man who believes his generation really got the movement rolling.  I was happy with myself and how I conducted the interview.  Only once did I feel like my question was a little lame but it didn’t last long.  There were definitely things I could improve on.  Two cameras would have been nice.    He was so expressive with his hands and  did nto know this until we started interviewing.  I missed a lot of that because I was more focused on his head.  But had I pulled the shot back to include his hands then I would have had to contend with the window in the hallway that would have thrown the exposure off.  Also, the light switch behind his head was a little annoying.  At one point he received a phone call and I had to adjust the camera because he moved a bit too far over.  And he slowly leaned more to one side in the course of the interview.  I have not played back the interview yet so I am not sure of the quality.  My friend was in charge of making sure audio was going through the lavalier.  She said it was and I trust her!

The guy who helps me with camera work at Devens could not come help so I was on my own.  It should be interested!  I threw the lav on myself and talked about the sites and my thoughts as I was shooting, not so much to include in the film but more for my thoughts while I was shooting.  I took some old photographs with me to try to get some before and after shots.  I used the film camera instead of a traditional still camera for these shots on the camera was out and the tape was already paid for.  Oh, this is funny.  I thought I would shoot some interview footage of myself just to see how it would come out.  So I set the camera on the picnic table and hoped my head made it in the shot.  It did!  But I had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction that I noticed when I went back to see if my head was in the shot.  haha.  That will remain in the archives.  I know need to go to the star lab and transfer the tape.

Category: W12: Final Project Progress  Comments off
Project update

My project.  It is frustrating and I feel like so much gets taken out of the story that I have to rewrite it.  I have all my photos organized and about 40 minutes of video to pick through.  I am in Massachusetts interviewing a guy tomorrow who served on Fort Devens during World War II.  He is an African American man and he said to me, “There is a lot I remember, there is a lot I don’t remember and there is a lot I don’t want to remember.”  I am very excited and nervous about interviewing him.  I am also shooting at Devens on Saturday.  All my pictures are organized.  I just need it all to come together.  I don’t know how to change it at this point but I am confident that it will work out fine.

I know this is a short post but I don’t know what to say at this point.  I have talked to so many of you in class about my script and have gotten so much helpful advice.  It is not going to be the assignment I originally started out to do.

Category: W12: Final Project Progress  Comments off
Interactivity

The readings this week show how diverse an interactive environment can be.  The approach does not have to be necessarily linear, such as the projects on Vectors.  I looked at project about rug weaving that I did not find particularly effective, as it seemed to lose directness by having to weave a thread to get information.  It can be incredibly creative like the book project with the LOC.  This is traditional story telling format using a new environment to draw on an old project.  The Inauguration Day project showed the day with pictures, articles and a map.  This, as well as the rug project on Vectors, used a no-linear format of viewing.  Comparing the projects, it seems that non-linear approaches in a educational environment seem to work best with a simple story like the Inauguration Day as opposed to the social complexities of the rug weavers.

There are websites that do offer more organization like the 9/11 website.  Not only does this use more formal ways of website creating, with categories and links that are easy to find and follow, but it also invites the user to share their stories of an important day in American history.  It shares the properties of formal archival information while using new media and internet social networking to create a richer history for generations to come.

I think the digital environment can make academic writing and argument more interesting.  It can make writing more precise (academic books can sometimes be a bit redundant and contain unnecessary info).  All along we have been asking how digital storytelling will change academic arguments but perhaps we need to change digital storytelling to accommodate the academic argument.  Fusing the old with the new seems to be an innovative move that our creative and intellectual minds can benefit from.

Final Project Idea

            I started a project two years ago about a decommissioned army base in Massachusetts.  I want to make a documentary film about it and decided to use this project to create a pitch tool to try to get funding.  So this project will be a teaser and include a bit of everything.  That will be the most difficult part for me as I have so much information.

            Dr. Schrum suggested I use my personal story in the piece.  When I was telling her about it she said she felt ghosts all over the place.  And that is how I feel when I am there.  Not in a creepy or bad way but there are so many clues, feelings and things left over from the base that exude this feeling of a bustling life that is no longer there.  It does have business and some residential dwellings now but it is not what it was before.

            I have about an hour of film footage and tons of photographs.  I do not have any interviews, although I would like to.  I have a guy in MA who agreed to an interview but I am not sure I have the funding to go.  I will probably have to make do with that I have.

            The project centers on how the base brought diversity to a primarily white community.  I focus on the years 1917-WWII as that was the most interesting time of the base.  As I did research, it also became a story about civil rights for African Americans and women.  Here is a breakdown of what I can present:

WWI:

Immigrants living in Boston help build the base

Immigrants serve in the Army

African Americans

German POWs

Between War Years:

A powerful Congresswoman in the 1930s turns the base into a permanent fixture and fights for women to serve in the armed forces.

WWII:

African American men

African American women (including en “experiment” that paved the way for African American nurses to take care of white soldiers and also a court-martial)

German and a few Italian POWs (this is a big part of the story) Fort Devens was one of the largest non-Nazi POW camps in the U.S.

Project Paperclip which brought over German scientists to the U.S.

            My personal story is I worked as a bartender on a course in Devens.  One day I was the beverage cart driver and I saw a bunch of buildings in disarray.  I drove the cart down there and start thinking about the life that used to be there.  I thought it would make a great story.  Obviously I have more details about the base but that is how I thought of the idea.  Everywhere you look there are remnants of the base, from buildings to small plaques or downed utility wires.

            I located some film footage at the Archives.  I need to find out if this is something I can get a copy of.  Since I will be showing this to potential grantors, I need to be careful about copyright. I have a bunch of images and shots in my head already.  I thought about showing before and after pictures but in an interesting context.  My biggest drawback is not having an interview.  If I can get some old film footage I think that will help but still a problem.  I could hit some VFW’s or whatever they have around here to see if anyone served at Devens around that time.  Might be a long shot but it might be worth it.  Skype will be a tough option as the man is in his 80s and legally blind.  And I just feel I should be there for something that personal. 

          My group pointed out my biggest dilemma is going for breadth or depth.  If I go for breath, I will highlight one main story from each category of people or time period.  If I go for depth, I will do the German POW camp as it is the lesser known story.

Realizing Dreams

I was originally going to make a digital story in response to Wesch’s “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” but I have not mastered the art of telling a complex story in a simple way. I am glad I decided not to because after doing the Animoto story I realized it would not have worked well. First lesson, know your technology before deciding to use it to write your story. I also wanted to try to weave my personal story with a bit of information about speedskating, as I will try to weave my personal story into the final project. I agree with others posting that they found Animoto limiting but I think it was a great lesson in composition, storytelling and technology. It gives an appreciation for storyboarding.

Our readings this week discussed much about the personal on the internet. It can create a place for positive efforts. But it worries me that more people spend time with s computer and video camera and not with actual people. Communication is difficult as it is and I wonder how all this internet stuff will affect people’s ability to communicate.

Another lesson that I learned from this exercise is the power of the written word when accompanied by a photograph. It is really hard to tell a compelling story with just photographs. It is possible but it takes a lot of time and planning. I think this fits in with our readings in that, even though education is moving towards the digital, writing skills are still extremely important. Perhaps some traditional forms of education are important to integrate in new teaching methods.

The most interesting thing to me about this project (not necessarily the most important thing) was how I made sure to include all my speedskating FB friends so I could share my video with them. Facebook had an effect on my art! I would have liked to teach more about speedskating but given the limitations of Animoto and my personal story background, it just did not fit in. I wanted to show people that dreams matter, it is not too late to achieve them and even if you do not get exactly your dream (being in the Olympics) you can have your dream in a different way (skating and coaching at the local level).

One other thing, I experiemented with repeating an image in my story. I had commented on the use of repeated images in the digital story I posted about Palestine. I think it can work but I wasn’t sure about it. In this weeks readings, cognition vs. recongnition was discussed. Since most people have no clue who my speedskating idol is, I thought repeating his picture at the end would remind people why he was important and complete the story nicely.

http://animoto.com/play/LbPWyD3dGpJvP9j56X10JQ

Category: W5: Animoto  8 Comments
Murder at Harvard

I liked the documentary Murder at Harvard.  I didn’t love it but it was entertaining.  I am not a huge fan of the reenactment.  I think it works sometimes but in this case I think it did take away from the seriousness of history.  It made it a bit hokey.  I am not a big fan of the type of conjecture that is presented in this documentary.  When Schama wonders the type of face he made when he was outside his door is ridiculous and really not important. 

The book has more info on the backgrounds of the individuals and other information.  This is not unusual when books are turned into film.  The book was a bit hard to read.  I have read a number of books about court cases and it seems to work best when the facts are presented in a way that does not bring up conjecture.  The author does tend to have his ideas about who the guilty party is but it is usually followed up by hard evidence.  But even books leave out facts in a case that

She may find not important but you do.

Two things seem to happen when history is presented in a less traditional format.  People who are more versed in academic history tend to protest against it.  They question its validity.  They ask what knowledge or education the author/presenter of the story has and how that affects the validity of the subject.  They question his sources to see if the sources are valid.  This is their job.  But history presented in les traditional formats does not mean it is bad history.

Less traditional formats tend to be more interesting for the mass culture.  The mass culture does not generally have the interest or knowledge to hear about history at the level of academia.  It comes off as boring and bland and sometimes it really is!  But this less traditional format makes the mass culture more interested.  In the interview with the makers of Murder at Harvard said that it would be great if their documentary caused people to become interested in history and went to the library.  The key is to keep historical integrity while making history interesting to mass culture.

Digital Storytelling

Already my view of what a digital story is has changed since beginning this course.  I originally viewed it as a way to represent a story to the masses.  And while I still have this view, the view has also broadened.  I never thought of a digital story as something that would have links to other places in it, as I always viewed it as sort of a documentary on the computer.  And I never thought of it as something as simple as a slide show or a story with graphics like we saw explaining the controversy of merit system in teaching based on tests. 

Perhaps it is simply a tool.  And the user gets to define that tool.  The educator will use it to teach his class something. The executive can use it to show her new initiatives to her employees.  The artist can use it as an outlet of creativity.  The historian can use it to tell about their research.  As I am writing this, I am thinking about Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and what he used in telling that story.  He narrated his issue in front of an audience, showed excerpts of his life and how he got to that point and he uses a huge screen to show his data.  Yes it is a documentary film but the method could easily be used in a digital story very effectively. 

To me, it will always be first a way to convey a person’s story and the creativity behind it, to me, is art. And art should not be confined.  But digital story telling is more than that as people try to define it, analyze it and produce it.