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Webcasting My Family’s Story, or, My Life on #ds106radio

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Some of you, our ever so loyal readers, may know that we here at thisevilempire have been involved with a remarkable project, an open digital storytelling course (DS106) taught (better, led, curated, stewarded, &c.) by our old friend Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. DS106 is both a traditional and an online course that UMW students can take it for credit and is also (this is the truly remarkable part) a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, in which anyone out there in wilds of the internet can participate, given the desire and motivation. DS106 has attracted participants from all over the world — from Canada, Japan, Indonesia, the UK, Australia, and from all parts of the US, even from a place called Strawberry, Arizona. I don’t know the exact number of people taking part, but it is somewhere around 275, if not more.

There are many inspiring and fascinating aspects of DS106 that I’ll likely get into in future posts, but my favorite at the moment is DS106 radio (listen here), a communal web radio station that was the brainchild of Jim and Grant Potter, who graciously takes care of the hosting and provides sagacious guidance to those of us who wish to rule the airwaves. DS106 students use the radio station to showcase their audio assignments but anyone interested is welcome to upload audio files that will stream on ds106radio. An ever-growing number of us have also been experimenting with live broadcasts, which are easy to do from a computer or a mobile device and, I must say, are a complete and total blast to do. Live programming on DS106 radio ranges from brief field reports (including, most notably, Scott Lo’s compelling status reports after the massive earthquake in Japan) to multi-participant networked guitar jam sessions to conference presentations to themed sets of songs interspersed with commentary to free-form radio mayhem. I can’t articulate right now why going live on the radio is so much fun, but it is and I am completely hooked. And so are my parents, and I am getting to that part.

While visiting my parents in Southern California this week, I decided to try a live broadcast with them after dinner. I’ve been meaning to start compiling an informal oral history  of my family’s experience of immigrating to the US from the former USSR for some time and this seemed a perfect occasion to start and a perfect medium to start in. Most of what I’ve done on DS106Radio has, one way or another been an occasion to go back to roots and an oral history seemed the next logical step. Following Alan’s amazing example, my parents and I went on the air live to talk about moving to Ventura, CA from Soviet Riga, Latvia in October of 1979. We ended up doing about 40 minutes of a trip back to the year of our arriving in the US replete with appropriate music and a lot of laughing. The sound quality is somewhat janky (I’m trying to figure out why — gets better in the second segment) but all in all it sounds pretty good. Take a listen. I’ll likely post more of these when I go back to CA in May. My mother and father, who have now caught the live radio bug, are eagerly looking forward to getting back on the air. Can’t blame them. Enjoy.

Live Broadcast 3-12-2011 with Mama and Papa

Frozen lake near Riga, Latvia, c. 1977

Shortly after immigrating to the U.S. in October, 1979.

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