Another Week

This week listened to a Radio Lab post. I was able to identify several audio methods and techniques such as sound effects, music, narrative, ambient sounds, and even recordings on the recording. 

I also explored a little girl’s adventure in doctoring her parents in an adorable story outlined in a Cheerios commercial. 

This was the first week of reviewing other students’ work on the blog. It was interesting to see how others designed and titled their blogs. I liked seeing other examples of stories and how, even though they were all different, had such obvious similarities such as main characters and challenges. In reading the blogs, I can see how hyperlinks and connections to other posts can help tie everything together and provide clarification on topics readers may not be familiar with.

I have received some great encouragement on the blog so far which has only helped me feel more comfortable in sharing my stories (pun intended) with the virtual world. I realize that there really is no wrong answer when sharing your experiences, only new ways/media by which you can do so. 

Finally, this week I explored the storifying of the use of Pinterest. There are a ton of ideas for stories of how Pinterest could be used to complement various life activities from planning a bridal shower to developing a school lesson, and pulling these into a stories could convince even the most skeptical that there is a place for Pinterest in their life. 

As I grow more comfortable in using the blog to write posts, I hope to gain some familiarity in incorporating more media directly onto my blog. I had some trouble with it this week but know that practice makes perfect! 

The Story of My Party

While at a party recently, someone was explaining how they had tried a new recipe on Pinterest and how they were so happy with the result. Someone else chimed in that they did not really understand how to use Pinterest or what the point of it was other than to get trapped in images for hours. As an avid Pinterest user, I immediately began to list off all the uses of Pinterest in my head. I didn’t share those during the party, but in looking back on that conversation with my DS106 hat on, I thought it would be an interesting topic to storify. One example of how I can do this would be walking through the remodel of a room from start to finish through the use of Pinterest baords for planning. Another would be telling the story of planning a party collaboratively with others from across the country. Perhaps by seeing a practical beginning to end story of successful pinning, the woman at the party and others like her can see the value that using Pinterest can bring. 

Heart Healthy

For the review of a commercial as a short film story, I chose the heart warming commercial about a girl who just wants everyone to be healthy.

When looking at the shape of the story from the perspective of the daughter in the commercial, I suppose it starts off low as she is worried about her dad’s health, but then quickly moves up as she discovers a solution in pouring the Cheerios over her father’s heart. One could argue that the story ends on a happy note as she believes she has healed her father’s heart. On the other hand, the father probably didn’t see the ending as happily ever after as he likely had to clean up the mess that was made.

There is a very clear storyline in this commercial. Once upon a time there was a little girl. Every day, she was worried for her father’s heart health. One day she realized that Cheerios could be the solution to her father’s health issues. Because of that, she asks her mother if Cheerios can really help the heart. Because of that, her mother reads the health benefits of Cheerios. Until finally we find the father awaking from a nap with a pile of Cheerios on his chest.

The element of surprise comes from the fact that we assumed the daughter would be serving her father Cheerios to eat, not pouring them on his heart! As the viewer, we empathize with the daughter as we all want our loved ones heart healthy. I was left with a feeling of admiration for the daughter as she was determined to keep her father healthy.

When looking at the story in 5 second increments, we see how the story plays out, and can get a closer glimpse into the mind of the daughter.

  1. (0:00 – 0:05) A woman is working at her kitchen counter. The camera angle shifts to show a young girl with curly hair bringing a box of cheerios and placing them on the table where her mom is sitting. She says “Mom?” and her mom replies “Yes honey” and looks up from her writing.
  2. (0:06 – 0:10) The daughter explains “Dad told me that cheerios are good for your heart, is that true?” The camera shifts back and forth between the mom and girl. The girl looks confused and concerned. The mom replies “It says here…” while looking at the Cheerios box.
  3. (0:11 – 0:15) The mom then proceeds to read the nutritional information from the box. The girl lifts the box from the table and smiles at her mom.
  4. (0:16 – 0:20) The girl then runs out of the kitchen while the camera shifts back and forth from her running, to her mom looking confused.
  5. (0:21 – 0:25) The scene then moves to the dad on a couch in the living room asleep. He has a huge pile of Cheerios on his chest. He is startled awake and as he raises up, the Cheerios slowly fall to the ground and he appears confused.
  6. (0:26 – 0:30) The screen then shifts to a yellow screen with the word “Love” displayed in the classic Cheerios font. Cheerios fall across the screen. We hear the dad calling out “Jen!” as the Cheerios jingle plays as the commercial ends.

 

The Radio Star’s Not Dead

This week I was introduced to a variety of audio editing and producing methods, the first of which being sound layering.

It was great to see how, as in the Joanne Rosser story, audio layers can effectively pull a story from what could otherwise be construed as a boring interview. We joined Joanne on the journey of creating paper cards starting from the moment of walking in the door and up the stairs to her workshop. The differences between active tape, stationary interview, and ambient sounds were especially fascinating. Hearing her describe her personal story over the sounds of the metaphor helped to pull the picture together. Each element of sound served a purpose. The active tape helped us walk through her process of creating paper, while the stationary interview helped demonstrate the deeper level of meaning in why she creates paper in this particular town. The sounds of the blender and other ambient sounds on their own serve as paragraph indents, starting off a new section of the story.

Another interesting audio technique explored was the absence of audio completely. In the case of the TED Radio Hour clip the background music stopping signified a surprise, or unexpected change in the story. It brought to mind a scene from The Office in which the director included nearly 30 seconds of silence between two characters.

In this case it brings the audience to empathize with the tension and awkwardness between the characters. Similar to the TED Radio Hour clip mentioned above, when the music stops and there is silence, we feel uncomfortable, like we’re not sure if it was supposed to happen that way.

In listening to the Radio Lab audio A Very Lucky Wind, I noticed a great amount of audio techniques. The hosts used sound effects, music fit for the mood of each piece of the story, and narrative layered over the story being told to help bring home the points they wanted to make. It was clear that the interviews, narrative, and sound effects were not all from one sit down interview, but rather elements layered on one another. This method is even used on the singular voice of the narrator to build tempo and anticipation.

I think the audio did a really good job of incorporating the right type of music for each piece of the clip. When discussing the “spookiness” of the coincidences, we heard spooky music and a fade our repetition. When discussing the future, we heard futuristic music. My favorite effect was the sound used as the narrators described zooming in and out of the country as they discussed specific areas of the country. With this effect, I really could picture zooming to the various locations they mentioned.

The Last Day of Winter

I have to admit, my journey in DS106 has been a bit intimidating. Having a background in digital media and a fairly comfortable presence online, I was not expecting to be quite so overwhelmed. I personally attribute this feeling to seeing things I’ve done already, or have been exposed to, in a whole new light. Hearing the structure behind some of the most heartwarming stories I’ve heard and watched is exciting, but it also is a bit like lifting the curtain off of Oz. On the other hand, it’s been able to demonstrate that anyone has the ability to create such effective stories through the use of their personal experiences and observations by appealing to their audience.

The process started when I created my blog April Showers May Flower inspired by spring and this season of optimism and new adventures. Although it is a work in progress, I have customized it to my liking by changing the theme, uploading some pictures, and updating the “About Me” section. I even added my first blog post!

I then used Vonnegut’s approach to the shape of stories, along with the 22 Pixar Rules and Story Spine format to explore the story of the 2006 George Mason men’s basketball team identifying the shape of their story as an underdog all the way to the Final Four.

This week I also providing some insight into what storytelling means to me. I spoke of my Grandfather, whom I always associate with storytelling. The movement to “digital” storytelling seems to me to be an obvious one. We live our lives, communicate, and even work completely online, why wouldn’t we tell our stories the same way we live? Ira Glass and Andrew Stanton reinforced my initial thoughts on storytelling describing it as a shared experience the author has with the audience. Stanton shared that the best thing you can do for your audience is create a sense of wonder derived from personal experiences.

Finally, I thought about what I could tackle as part of my final project for the course. What element of my life needed “storifying?” I immediately thought about a presentation I am putting together for my church on 4 different individuals and their decision to join our church. I will be exploring the idea in more detail and brainstorming some additional projects for consideration.

I am very excited for this course. I love the idea of exploring the latest and most interesting media for use in storytelling and in looking at some of the example projects, know I will have a lot of fun learning these techniques and implementing them in my own storytelling.

To Sell or To Connect?

An example I have of something that could be “storified” is a presentation I was tasked to pull together for the volunteering I do at my church. Four people have decided to join our church and will be baptized in two weeks. We wanted to pull together a presentation about them to share with the congregation. This was just going to be a slide or two on each of them and the decision they made to join the church, but I think that similar to the Google Nexus commercial, adding elements of their journeys and decision making process would be so much more powerful than a few slides on where they live and what they do for a living. I’m not sure this will work given that I don’t know too much about their stories now, or if they would be open to participating in something deeper than the original PowerPoint, but I will continue to look into the option as I think on other examples that may work.

From Grandpa’s Living Room to the Blog

Storytelling to me brings to mind my grandfather. He loves to tell stories about history, his own life, a great book he’s read, pretty much anything. Storytelling to me, therefore, is sharing an experience, whether personally or indirectly, that has had a lasting impression on you. Sometimes it’s a funny story meant purely for entertainment, other times there is a moral lesson involved.

I suppose storytelling currently has a place in my life on client site as a consultant. We’re always thinking in the structure of stories as we look for ways to improve efficiencies in the struggles our clients currently face, and look to help them find their “happy ending” and resolution.

I personally think I can always learn from a story I hear, especially as someone who always tries to learn from the mistakes/successes of others. Stories are a way to share in the growth and experience of the storyteller without necessarily having to feel the pain or heartbreak that they experienced firsthand.

Digital storytelling seems to me to be a change in method, not in content. Instead of hearing my Grandfather tell his story in his living room, I can see his story through his use of social media, the pictures he takes and puts into a digital album, the blog post he writes about a recent experience or thought he had. These are more figurative examples than literal, but the point is that digital storytelling is changing the way in which we tell stories, and the number of people we can reach with our stories, rather than the type of content we include in our stories.

Ira Glass seemed to follow this same idea in his discussion of the anecdote as a building block of storytelling. From the audience’s perspective it’s about sharing an experience with the character. A feeling of suspense, or excitement, or disappointment.  The moment of reflection is the moment the character decides what to do with the experience s/he just had. Glass describes the combination of these two elements as the makings of a great story, that when they are accurately aligned, they become larger than the sum of their parts. I suppose this is usually the punchline in my grandfather’s joke, or the takeaway he wants us to learn from that story.

Andrew Stanton describes great story telling as making a promise to the audience that the story will lead somewhere that’s worth your time. If the audience believes this promise, they will be patient and “work for their meal.” In other words they will be willing to give you the freedom to break storytelling “rules” as was the case in Toy Story. On the other hand, if things become too static in the story, it will die and you will lose the audience quickly. Stanton brought it back to the heart of my grandfather’s stories when he described wonder as the greatest gift you can give your audience. One thing’s for sure, my grandfather always speaks to what is in his core and to a captive audience of me, has never broken his key promise of leading me through a story worth my time.

A Cinderella of a Different Sort

When asked to think about a story I’m familiar with, I thought through various movies, plays and books I’ve read but none seemed to quite hit the mark in the way I envisioned. Since the theme of my blog is spring (despite the snow outside) I thought about what was happening during springtime that could be reflected in the types of stories Mr. Vonnegut spoke of. March Madness has seemed to overtake our household, so I began to think about all of the “Cinderella Stories” we hear about when it comes to college basketball. It reminded me of all of the teams that were expected to be knocked out in the first round and have succeeded, as underdogs, over their competitors. This led me to remember a time in 2006 when our very own Mason Patriots had their own Cinderella story and made it to the Final Four.

The diagram below illustrates this very story in a shape as described by Vonnegut.

A Story of Patriots

 

Not surprisingly, it has a similar shape to the original “Cinderella Story” although because Mason didn’t win the championship, and has yet to make it that far in the tournament again, the team did not find eternal bliss. However, other than that, the team did find a unique opportunity in making the tournament, step by step continued to progress until they historically reached the Final Four, but were eventually defeated. Although they have yet to see that kind of success again, the university reaped the benefits of being a known university to young applicants, and the coach eventually got offered a position in sunny Miami. To create the shape of the story above, I used PowerPoint insert shape and text tools and pulled the Mason logo from the University website.

When reading the 22 Rules of Storytelling Pixar Uses to Create Compelling Stories, the first one really stood out as a characteristic of this story. “#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.” In this case, the character is the George Mason basketball team who surpassed all expectations. Despite not making it to the championship, or winning the tournament overall, the team came back to a supportive campus and loyal fans who saw that the accomplishment of the team far exceeded what was anticipated and found that fact to be worthy of support and admiration.

This is more fully realized in the story spine format below.

  • Once upon a time the Patriots were an average NCAA team in the CAA.
  • Every day since 1997, head coach Jim Larranaga led them in practice and games without much expectation.
  • But one day although the team lost to Hofstra during the CAA tournament, George Mason was still able to grab an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.
  • Because of that the at-large selection of teams from mid-major conferences (which included George Mason) to the tournament was criticized by media personalities.
  • Because of that the Patriots were dubbed the underdogs when they entered the tournament as an 11th seed and defeated the 6th seeded Michigan State Spartans. They continued to find success beating team after team.
  • Because of that success, the Patriots were the first team out of the CAA to reach the Final Four.
  • Until finally George Mason’s Cinderella story ended in Indianapolis, when the eventual National Champion Florida Gators defeated them 73–58 on April 1, 2006.
  • And ever since then, despite their loss, many sports analysts considered their performance in the 2006 tourney to be the best run by a mid-major in tournament history. Coach Larranaga received many awards for that year and went on to be offered a coaching job in Miami.

This story is a great illustration of the methods we watched and read about this week. It is a story of perseverance and accomplishment against all odds.

 

I Know It’s Snowing But It’s Really Spring

As the start of Spring is finally here, I decided to theme my site around this wonderful season. I currently use WordPress to manage a website so working with the site wasn’t brand new to me, but I have never set up a site from scratch. It’s a lot of fun to work with the themes and colors to center around the main idea of the page. One thing I do on the other site I manage, is coincide colors along with series we have going on. It’s a great way to tie everything together and present a cohesive brand.

I took the picture below (also used as my icon and gravatar) at a get-away a couple years back. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment spent outside that really represents everything I love about Spring and served as inspiration for the theme of the blog.

Happy reading!

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