Author Archive

Final Summary

Digital Storytelling
CTCH 792/HIST 615

Summary Form
Due: April 1

Digital Story Title:

Understanding Sonata Form: A Case Study

Brief description:

Using musical excerpts, live performance, interactive components, and comedic dialogue, this video explores sonata form using the first movement of Dittersdorf’s “Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra in E Major” as a case study.

Main goal(s):

Encouraging active listening, interpretive imagination, and an understanding of sonata form, one of the most ubiquitous classical forms of the nineteenth and twentieth century.

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

My intended audience is uninitiated classical music listeners over the age of 14.

Category: Final Summary  Comments off
Copyright – (over)simplified

Since this is a digital story telling class, I thought I’d try my hand at a video post….

click here

Category: W13: Copyright  Comments off

In general, I am feeling good about the progress of my digital story. A couple of the significant challenges involve my technical abilities. I have found that as I get better using some of the image-editing software, the visual style of my story is changing. I am trying to maintain a consistent visual style throughout, but it is hard once I realize some cool things that I can do with simple programs like MS Paint. Still, I think I’ve come up with a visual style that I can live with.

I am also finding Windows Movie Maker frustrating at times. The program isn’t very flexible in terms of an editing platform. For example, it doesn’t allow blank spaces in the visual timeline. There are times when I know the image I would like to show at 1.22 sec and the image I would like to show at 1.45 seconds, but I have to have a placeholder image in the middle or else the timeline “collapses” into the empty space.

All things considered, I feel like I am “on track” with my project.


I’ve been thinking about the term “storytelling” and wondering if it is really the best term for the interactive potential of the digital “Web 2.0” environment. Implied in storyTELLING is a focus of the “teller” of the story and not the interaction with and participation in the story. The author is the active party (i.e. the teller) and the audience is the passive party (i.e. the story tellee). An audience may not even be necessary for storyTELLING at all. Although it reminds me of the old riddle “if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?,” storyTELLING implies that communication is not required for a story to be told. In other words, the term implies that if a story is told and no one hears, storyTELLING still took place. Might “interactive storyMAKING” better embrace the communal nature of web 2.0?

Simple, interactive stories have been around for a while. I recall enjoying “choose your own ending” books and “Encyclopedia Brown” mysteries which invite the reader to parse a story for clues and figure how the bad guy (usually a kid named Bugs Meanie) got caught. But in these instances, the narrative is still tightly controlled and a clear, delineated relationship between the author and the reader exists. Yes, this environment is interactive, but this is still storyTELLING in the sense that the author has created something for the reader. Video games like Myst that were mentioned in the readings are “high-tech” versions of the same paradigm.

A more interactive, open-ended model involves abandoning the notion of authorship altogether. At the risk of exposing my inner geek, my most powerful experience with truly interactive storytelling involves Dungeons and Dragons. I used to get together with a group of seven guys approximately one evening a month for about 5 hours to play. Over the course of 6 years, we developed a story arc to which everyone contributed. No single person could be considered the “author” or storyTELLER, yet there was most certainly an interactive compelling narrative which engaged all participants. Although I don’t have any personal experience with “The Sims” or “Second Life,” my understanding is that these games use technology to create a virtual environment to build the same kind of dynamic, interactive, communal storylines.

The digital environment has the potential to change some aspects of academic writing, but to the extent that academia rewards authorship as “contributions to the field,” I don’t see the paradigm of storyTELLING changing. Academics receive social, professional, and financial rewards for writing/creating in their own name (and the name of the institutions they represent), not engaging in anonymous communal experiences or repositories of information like Wikipedia. Our social structure is so intimately tied to notions of authorship, ownership, and property that the role of the storyTELLER (and the product he/she creates) is buttressed in innumerable ways.

Movie Pitch

Using storytelling as a metaphor, my digital story explains sonata form by combining AV elements with live performance. The musical selection used will be the first movement of Dittersdorf’s  double  bass concerto. I will use a computerized piano reduction and play the bass part live. Much of the presentation will be a dialogue between myself (acting as a stuffy professor) and a video character of myself (a much comedic, down-to-earth character). The audience will be encouraged to use their imagination and invent characters associated with the contrasting 1st and 2nd theme of the exposition. The development will represent some kind of drama involving the two characters and the recapitulation will be a sumation of the drama. A handout/worksheet will accompany the video presentation which will guide the audience through the program and allow them to make notes about their imaginary drama. The worksheet will help facilitate the learning process and will also provide me with some feedback about the efficacy of the performance/lesson. The video portion of the presentation will involve  still and moving images as I “interact” with my video doppelganger.

Animoto Video (Country Blues)

This was a lot of fun! Click here to see my blues video.

This video is a brief introduction to some of the major musical figures of the Country Blues. My initial conception was to do a biography of Robert Johnson, but  format does not allow for large amounts of written information, and I found this a real challenge so  I switched my subject to a general introduction to the Country Blues. I tried to capture the “feel” of the blues with the images I selected. Some were originally color pictures but I switched them to B&W to both unify the final project and to made the video seem older and grittier.

The format was fun to work with but it is hard to see it facilitating deep learning. I can definitely see something like this as a good “teaser” though, especially in educational environments where students have some choice in the subjects they will research.  A short animoto video could introduce them to the topic or research question and based upon the video they could select the project they would like to undertake.

Category: W5: Animoto  6 Comments
W4: Dead Certain Keys

Mark knew for a certainty what he would write for the week’s blog posting. He shared much with Simon Schama. Why write a boring old blog posting about a dusty, dry book when he could use his substantial intellectual gifts to infuse blog writing with new life and vigor. Of course he would have to invent a whole new approach to blog writing. He considered carefully the important elements: historians speculating about the motivations of important persons long since dead, the “myth” of historical certainty, and differences between the medium of documentary film and the written word.  Yes, this would indeed be a revolutionary undertaking. The only question was, which writing tool would he use to begin his writing – the computer,  the pencil, or the typewriter?

The invention of the future. That is what they called him for decades. He was the tool of choice for writers and serious journalists. But these newfangled “computers” were getting all the attention now. The unwashed masses were using these new, uncouth “PC” devices for their youtube and their facebook and God knows what else. Well, if the computer wanted to be the tool of lowly, common, Irish rogues, so be it. What really irked Typewriter is that this “Computer” was passing itself off as a genuine academic instrument. Bah! After he had lent his good name to the QWERTY keyboard system! He certainly wouldn’t be fooled and someday they would all see Computer for the charlatan he really was.

Sketching. That was what people thought about the function of pencils now,  and sketching ain’t get no good respect. Sure, folks would “sketch” their ideas with graphite and paper, but then they would write with their fancy keyboards which got all the glory. They thought Pencil was only good for a rough draft, not serious intellectual labor.

Pencil knew all about the writing process and when Typewriter showed up missing, pencil rolled off of the desk to examine the floor. There (gasp) he saw a grisly sight. Three typewriter keys lay jauntily askew. The keys “O,” “M,” and “G” lay at disturbingly odd angles as if screaming their shock and surprise to textmessagers everywhere.

“Ah Typewriter, I’m glad U R here” said Computer, slipping into the less formal written form to which he had become accustomed. “I realize that I promised to footnote you in my latest article, but I’m having a little trouble with my……………….wordprocessing program.”

“That is it!” exclaimed Typewriter. I will expose you for the Wikipedia-copying, Google searching, plagiarist that you are!”

“Please Typewriter, be KEWL ’bout this” stammered Computer but he knew it was no use. He could see only one way to save his public honor and it involved murder most foul!”

“What a great Blog entry I have written” thought Mark. “All this brouhaha with the murder is interesting, but I’m certain everyone wants to know more about how I came up with this wonderful, new approach to blog writing. You know, that would make a great movie..

Digital Story Telling (Definition)

Digital story telling is an artistic and communication medium that emerged in the 1990′s incorporating digital images displayed in series usually accompanied by narration, music, sound effects, and/or text. The typical length for digital stories is between three to five minutes, although longer and shorter digital stories are sometimes made. The first person perspective is usually employed and personal narratives dominate the genre. The form is often used in an educational context at the secondary level and beyond to teach principles of good storytelling, communication skills, and to explore issues of personal identity.

The increasing power, affordability, and ubiquity of personal computers as well as free, easy-to-use software allow amateur storytellers and documentarians to harness the power of visual images and sound to form a cohesive, dramatic statement. Since the form is overwhelmingly used by non-professionals for non-commercial purposes, digital stories carry an assumption of “authenticity” not usually afforded to commercial forms that incorporate visual images and sound like television and film.

Digital stories are typically distributed via the internet through web sites hosted by educational institutions and public media outlets as well as YouTube. Audiences typically view digital stories in private, which differs from other visual and dramatic forms like opera, theater, and film where audiences gather in communities.

Category: W3: What is Digital Storytelling?  Comments off
My Day with Avi

Category: W3: 5 Photos  Comments off
The Works of James Surls

I visited the University of Houston’s web site which has a large collection of digital stories. Digital stories are defined broadly on this site as “the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories.” I browsed the collection which was organized by topic and title. A single visual image accompanies each listing and I chose the story “The Works of James Surls” largely due to the icon of a fanciful wooden sculpture which was posted with this listing.

This story gave a summary view of Texas-based sculptor James Surls’ artistic output over a 20 year period of time. The artwork was visually captivating and the narrator provided background about the artist’s life and methodology. The voice-over was supported by ambient “New-Agey” music played by a synthesized harp and synthesized strings and the visual images consisted of pictures of the artist’s sketches and sculptures that were panned “Ken Burns” style. Although the narrator was occasionally bogged down by unnecessarily verbose “art-speak” (for example “a melange capable of reconciling utopian counterculturalism and the rigor of post-minimalist sculptural approach”), I did get a good sense of how Surls’ style is impacted by his background as a Texan.

A few missed opportunities were apparent to me in viewing this digital story. The narrator observed that Surl’s work is influenced by the same classic forms explored by Michelangelo and Rodin. This would have been a great moment to contrast some of the spiral forms used in Surls’ work with images of Michelangelo’s “Pietà” or Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Instead, the observation was left unsupported with visual images. The same could be said for the connection between Surls’ work and the breadth of the Texas landscape. A connection was remarked upon by the narrator but was not supported by specific visual images connecting an art object and a landscape photo.

Finally, the “P” sounds spoken by the narrator had a tendency to pop out on the voice-over. This was a minor annoyance at first, but since it happened several times, it became a distraction.