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Silent Voices

Digital Story Title:    Silent Voices: Mothers & Victims of Argentina’s “Dirty War”

Brief description: The story’s overall theme (perhaps, even, message) centers on how silence can serve as the most effective form of protest. The mothers of over 30,000 Argentines that became victims of the ruling junta’s persecution of political enemies began their protest amid a state of national euphoria in 1979. The goal of these mothers and grandmothers was to bring to the international community’s attention the atrocities perpetrated by the ruling junta. The celebratory tone of the nation’s first World Cup hosting, and victory, became a significant concern for the Madres & Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, many of whom were concerned by how easily the nation could become distracted from the more serious issues at hand. The fact that these mothers (and now grandmothers) continue to protest every Thursday, for 30 years, is a powerful testimony to the enduring memory of “los desaparecidos” in the collective conscious.

Main goal(s): To produce a documentary DST project that can serve as an introduction to many Americans unaware of this sad chapter in modern American history. Another goal is to create a helpful video contribution to the already expansive efforts aimed at bringing renewed attention to these HROs (Human Rights Organizations). A last goal is to create an educational tool for lessons on: Latin American history (specifically Argentina), civil disobedience, human rights abuse and genocide, and the socio-political relevance of cultural agents like soccer.

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

  • College and high school educators are the prime audience; specifically, teachers of elective courses, world history, Spanish, and related collegiate courses.
  • Secondary audiences include: aficionados of Latin American History and of soccer, as well as those interested in protecting human rights and supporting HROs like the Madres & Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo (which are two distinct groups)

Because the themes are heavy, the video will be housed in a more academic online forum where viewers can be cautioned about the explicit imagery found in dealing with issues of state-sponsored terrorism and political repression.

Category: Final Summary  Comments off
Images & Voice

As we wind up (or down?) our projects I found two things some of you might find helpful: one is that for PC folks, there are some quality voice-changer software that’s free (as a Mac user, I was bummed). Not that you need to change your voice to Darth Vader or Marge Simpson, but sometimes a tweak or two can improve the narration quality.

The other was courtesy of George Oberlie (PhD student of History, who also works with the Library)–our GMU Library Online Databases contains a database called AP Images, which we have access to use freely for educational purposes. It was a godsend! Made finding images so much easier. The link will shoot you to the exact page and just scroll down.

Category: Tech questions, W12: Final Project Progress  Comments off
Where does it all end?

I’m not sure if my allergies or reading about copyrights has given me a migraine this morning. Copyrights, based on the charts posted for this week (and others explored in Clio 1), are in some ways pretty straightforward. Then a comic book arrived to clarify things, and I think wound up muddying the view. Page 30 of the comic book, particularly Munch’s Scream, pretty much summed up my feelings reading it. Now mind you, I grew up on comic books, so I appreciated the forum. But the authors presented the pros and cons of copyright in a manner that left me with more questions, and not less. At one point I felt fine about using a 30 second clip in the DST assignment, the next minute I’m worried that some French TV company will want to sue me for 4 1/2 seconds of their footage, and on a graduate salary I can’t face a $10,000 litigation cost and pray I get a judge who will make the French pay the court costs.

The problem, it seems, is that copyright laws are in constant flux. And there’s a good chance that 10 or 15 years from now, what holds true today will not look very similar. But, at the cost of sounding like some pessimist, I do believe that creators should be protected and allowed to produce ground-breaking work and copyright laws protect them. Even if the cost of such freedom is an evil Bart Simpson, Mickey Mouse, or Big Bird ready to pounce on it. I am reminded of such freedoms in our modern political discourse. Yes, I can hardly stomach some of the vitriol that you see at tea party rallies, talk radio, and on either side of the political spectrum. But, the protection of free speech is worth it.

In the end, Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig really put forth some practical reminders and a sage advice:

“…copyright law, like history, is subject to conflicting interpretations as well as sharp contention between advocates of the rights of the owners of intellectual property and those seeking to enlarge the public domain…In large and small ways, the web has reconfigured the legal landscape for historians.”

So what should I do? Here is their advice:

“We believe that a more aggressive assertion of the rights and claims of that commons, when followed sensibly, does not entail excessive risk…Even if the rights holder later shows up, most reasonable people won’t sue you if you offer at that point to remove the material or pay them a fee.”

So, it may just best be served to be aware of copyright laws, use discretion, and be willing to remove material on the off-chance some French TV company comes knocking on your door.

Update on project

So far, DST seems frightful. The technical aspects do not intimidate me, in fact, they are a nice outlet for my creative juices. But my personality is so geared to being a team player, to delegate tasks when I have been in roles of leadership, that I would rather be the quiet one working hard behind the scenes. DST forces you forward to an uncomfortable degree. I have debated whether I want someone else’s voice narrating; but in the end, it is still my name on the project. I often hear of a director’s worst moments occurring during the test-screening of their film, and their best moment is when that film received a rousing ovation.

So, as I approach the film, my best bet is to not focus on the credits at the end of the film, or the film’s screening, but rather the message of the film: that the quietest voices can often be heard the most. That human oppression appears in many ways, can target any group, and can take place anywhere.

Finding images is not too terribly difficult, video footage is a bit trickier. If there is any part of my project I regret (at this point) not giving as much attention to…it is the research. Hopefully the next few weeks will allow me to increase my research, and begin the creation process in full earnest. Perhaps the storm that awaits will keep my fears at bay.

storytelling 2.0

I really enjoyed reading the articles this week, and even more so the responses they produced. It’s really interesting to see how people understand “storytelling” and how they understand what “2.o” represents. I don’t pretend to understand all of it myself, but I think back to Lev Manovich’s ideas of modularity (I apologize if any Clio 1′ers from last semester shuddered at hearing Manovich). If we are able to take digital components, and break them down into their modular components…by nature anyone can pick up these components and re-arrange them in order to create a different product-either slightly altered or radically different. BUT, if you take modular components from disparate sources to create a new product, then the possibilities are endless.

A mashup I saw last semester came to mind:

the mother of all funk chords

OK, if you didn’t bother to click the link above, and hear an amazingly “fun”ky mashup, my next comment doesn’t make sense. If you look at this mashup, replace the 1-3 second “sound-bite” with a phrase-each one pulled in from separate sources of storytelling.

So you could conceivably construct a fictional story where the main character…let’s say Jesus… is sharing a long-lost pearl of wisdom with Luke, based on a lost book of Luke that was found by US soldiers in northern Iraq in 2008. In his warning to Luke, we’ll construct Jesus’ words using mash-up cuts from Star Wars to produce this dialogue: (Jesus) “Patience isn’t too big, it’s enough. You know it to be true. ” (Luke) “But, Father, I am a boy. I get excited…it isn’t quite enough to search for patience.” This fictional piece of dialogue comes from Star Wars lines such as Darth Vader saying “Luke, I am your father…search your feelings, you know it to be true”, Yoda saying “the boy has no patience” “…and well you should not” Luke saying “but it’s too big”, Leia saying “being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.” and ” I am not a committee.”

Ok, a screenwriter I am not. But storytelling 2.0 opens the possibilities of taking various tales, told by numerous characters, and re-arranging specific dialogue to create an original story. Suddenly, users can use modular dialogue and re-fashion them in a way they were not originally intended. In storytelling 1.0 and 2.0, the audience is a participant, is a creator (especially when the story is passed down to another generation). But what we can now achieve is a modular disassemble and re-assemble that can produce limitless results–with open and discoverable resources, open and transparent licensing, open and remixable formats needed. The question though, still comes back to the point we have discussed all along: is there a story worth telling?

Final Project Topic: a shift in direction

Thinking that our final project ideas was supposed to be blogged last week, I briefly posted my final project before realizing that it was not due until this week. I then, thankfully, removed it (ahh, the power of the digital medium: you can take your words back). Here was my original idea for the final project:

“I’m shooting for the stars here, but I wanted to make a 5 minute concise history of Latin American History that can serve as a ‘previewing’ activity for teachers before they formally introduce it in class…Breakdown: 1 min. Intro, 5 minute video (with a 30 second intermission), and a 30 second conclusion for a total of 7 minutes…The heart of the project would be the 5 minute history of Latin America…I will also talk very fast as the pace will be in the frenetic style, as we saw in our first class with the video by Doug Walls (minus the sarcasm, but with occasional humor). The reason for this style is that I counted at least 62 topics (that’s about 5 seconds per topic).”

So why change it? In our in-class peer conversation, Andrea and Susan brought up 2 excellent points.

  • One, movies work better when you diversify the length of each section. In order for me to pull off the entire history of Latin America, each section would have flashed by too quickly without too many chances for reflection.
  • Two, although the idea was to produce a useful tool for educators, the sheer effort at trying to cover too much might end up producing a video that says too little? What’s the story? What is the emotional punch? Isn’t it simply a lecture?

That last question made me realize that my original idea embodies all that is wrong in the typical approach of high school and undergrad-survey History instructors: covering too much! Our history curriculum is typically a mile-wide and an inch thick, but efforts at producing a a more-focused curriculum 100 yards wide and 10 feet thick yields a more engaged learning environment and better evidence of meaningful results. So, here is my revised final project idea… more…

Category: W6: Final Project Topic  Tags: , ,  Comments off
Not to beat a dead horse with a stick…

I wanted to use some different photos from the ones I used for the 5 pics, but…snow, Valentine’s and family sickness all made time precious this last week. Everyone probably feels that their submissions were somewhat thrown together quickly, that even with a simple tool like Animoto we probably haven’t even touched the surface of what we could do.

I previously developed a photographic exercise with 9th grade world history students in Chapel Hill, NC-where I asked them to imagine themselves as traveling to India and writing a journal. I would speak as their tour guide, offering facts and no opinions. For 90-100 minutes, they “traveled” and we then broke into group discussion as they “de-briefed” and shared their insight. This Animoto video asks questions that either I asked as an instructor, or students asked each other. In the end, the point of the exercise was to gain a better sense of personal identity through a glimpse into a foreign, perhaps exotic, culture.

Animoto video: How do you see yourself?

Category: W5: Animoto  One Comment
Schama ponders the role of a historian

Much has been said already on the blog about two particular topics: the insertion of Schama into the story and the merits of the documentary.

On Schama as a character in the novel: already we’ve seen some (if not most) in class dislike the level of insertion the author used to place himself in the story. It strikes me as mostly a matter of taste, or perhaps (deservedly) a push back against his ego. But, is there an academic merit behind such an inclusion? Or should we reject such a style of writing as a distraction from his argument? It’s interesting that we debate such a style when, in academic texts, historians are often guilty of the same type of insertion when they take time to explain why certain topics were ignored, or why certain sources were left aside, or defend controversial choices.

On the benefits of the documentary: I find myself in the growing minority of those who preferred the book over the documentary (which was well done). Why? I was actually surprised at this since I am much more of a visual learner. But, the book presented questions I didn’t think about during the documentary. Reading print gave me time to reflect on the blurring of history and fiction that Schama employs, it gave me time to think about what we do as historians, and whether Schama is at least being blunt about the “hypothesizing” that scholars often use to fill in holes.

So, should we consider Schama’s work history or fiction? I think that was his point. The more I read about Dead Certainties and reactions from diverse people, the more I am inclined to believe that Schama intended to shake things up and make people question our discipline. We should be critically asking “What is history?” We should be questioning the methods, traditions, and ingrained perceptions academic historians before us have long accepted as the norm.

Schama created controversy; he also created discussion which, if structured well, could be a healthy re-assessment of history as a field. He states that all history work is like grasping at straws , bungling and fumbling your way around. When historians today are still producing new insights into figures like Napoleon and Lincoln, it shows that one interpretation of the past is simply that: an interpretation. Historians by trait expect us to follow them along as they present their case. Our gender, race, economic background, nationality, training…are all part of what lie beneath our methodologies and approach. So why should Schama’s approach be less valid? Because he doesn’t follow conventions? Are we so tied to conventions that we can’t accept alternate approaches?

I am not sure of the answers to these questions myself. But I do agree with Eric Strange when he asks: “But where is that line [between history and fiction], exactly? And more to the point, does it ever serve the purposes of historical inquiry to blur it–perhaps even to cross it altogether? Can it ever be both? I hope more can follow Schama’s lead and blur the lines of academic history. It may lead to a vindication of tried-and-true methods, or it may lead to an exciting new approach to history, but the conversations to be had will be the richest of results.

Category: W4: Murder at Harvard  Comments off

The final product in digital storytelling is a tale where the imagination, that listeners previously employed through oral traditions, is now visualized through digital medium. At its heart, it should have a compelling tale and/or whimsical story, and fully engage audiences. On the surface, then, DST simply seems like oral stories with elements unique to a digital format (sounds, video, photos, computer effects).

Digging deeper, DST also contains elements that can be exciting and depressing at the same time.

One of the more exciting possibilities that DST opens up is the democratization of story-telling. You no longer need a fine arts degree/background to produce your story. In this vein, it is similar to what digital cameras did for photography…now everyone thinks they are an Amsel Adams or an Annie Liebovitz (see: the near-extinction of Photo labs and stores.) Count me as one-and I actually can take some nice pictures on an old Kodak with 4 megapixels-but I am not a Liebovitz. Still, exciting and groundbreaking digital storytelling will eventually surface as word spreads, separating the wheat from the chaff (and that’s worth the chaff!) One depressing aspect of all this is that I see imagination suffering. When I listened to old tales as a kid, I used to let my mind roam free. I didn’t want to see images or movies from a book I wanted to read. Can you blame me? Although it’s hard not to picture Ian MacKellan as Gandalf, I am glad I had the chance to read Lord of the Rings before the movies (ditto for reading Casino Royale). Digital Stories, however, are inherently someone else’s story and message that I am simply to absorb.

So, moving forward, I hope to see DST as a way to get inside the mind of a creator, perhaps an artist. Like Hollywood storyboards, or comic books, the editing process and evolution is just as exciting to experience as seeing the final product.

Good clip on how Spielberg approaches his visual framework: spielberg on storyboards

Pilgrimage to the Ganges

Category: W3: 5 Photos  3 Comments