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Week 3: What Mean Ye Digital Story?

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cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by gogoloopie

Storytelling… it’s part of the title this course, and you likely have some idea what it means from your own childhood. This week we will explore storytelling in the framing of what you will be doing for the next 13 weeks in ds106. You will hone your own understanding of what the Digital part adds, and try your hand at a few creative exercises. As always, there are daily creates to be done this week. And this is where we will ramp up what is expected to be an active participant in this course (commenting on the work of others and engaging in discussions via Twitter).

You have all graduated from Boot Camp, so you know the drill here, which means we outline all of the things we expect you to be working on this week, which is due, as always, Sunday night at midnight, with a link to your weekly summary posted in our Canvas course area. There will be a Tuesday ds106 show with some guest experts on storytelling (this is recorded) and a Thursday open lab session for demos of this week’s tasks.

Are you ready to create stories? This is the launch point for the rest of the journey.

First, What is Storytelling?

What do you associate with the word storytelling? Before you do anything this week, use this as an opportunity to put down in words what your current concept is. There is no right or wrong answer here- this is to set up your current concept of what story means.

Do not go look anything up online — I am looking for your ideas. Just write a blog post to represent a starting point what storytelling means to you. What comes to mind visually when you think of the word? Think about what the word brings to mind: images, places, people, sounds. How would you describe it to someone else?

Then, expand on what it might mean to introduce the word “digital”? What changes, is different, or is the same? What do you see or think of when we say “digital storytelling”?

Organize this as a post in your “Thoughts and Ideas” category (or something equivalent).

Kurt Vonnegut and the Shape of Stories

Next, review the video below from author Kurt Vonnegut where he describes the structure of stories. It’s a great overview about the shape of stories, and we want you to apply those ideas to a story you know.

After watching this video, write a new blog post and explain a story that you’re familiar with in terms of Vonnegut’s approach. You can pick a movie, TV show, book, song, etc. The idea is to describe the shape of that story in the post. I want you to use some kind of media to do this, make it drawing or video or whatever you like. Be creative!

Here’s a bonus infographic where graphic designer Maya Eilam applied Vonnegut’s ideas to a number of familiar stories.

In addition, find an example of something you have seen recently on the internet or elsewhere that you might describe as a digital story. It need not be just be a video. If you are not sure what to use, you might check out the new ds106 subreddit that classmate Nancy B is urging us to try using In your post about the shape of stories include a description of what you selected and why you would call it a digital story (do not forget to link and/or embed).

See also this explanation of how the arc relates to brain chemistry:

Appreciating Past DS106 Stories

Part of what makes ds106 special is that you’re part of large, ongoing community of digital storytellers: both from UMW and beyond. You get the added benefit of being able to look at the past work of participants in the class as a way to better understand what digital storytelling can be. To that end, review the submissions on the in[SPIRE] site, a community-created collection of the best work of ds106 from past semesters and the work from last semester’s students identified as their “best” work. Pick one story from each and blog about it. Why do you like it? What makes it special? What makes it a digital story? Is there an arc to the story? Might they be part of a larger story?

Daily Creates

We’ll be ramping up our Daily Create activity this week. You must complete three daily creates this week. As always blog about them in your weekly summary- either embed the media (for photos and video) or link to them for Writing Daily Creates. You do not have to do individual blog posts for Daily creates, you can write one summary post at the end of the week. Just be sure to organize it in a category on your blog.

Telling Stories with Photos

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Gilmoth

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kevin dooley

Look at the above photos – what story might they tell? What story might you tell with them? We think of stories often as complex narratives, but a photo can be told in a single photo or a photo with text. And the same photo might tell multiple stories.

To get some practice with telling stories with photos, select a storytelling activities below that leverage the photo sharing capability on flickr to construct your own digital story that uses photos as the primary medium. Do ONE of the photo story activities from the ones listed below, share your story, and your reflection on the process.

  • Tell a Story in Five Frames is a group in flickr that you can join to add a story that consists of only a title and 5 photos, no text. You can share it with the group as described, or just construct it in your own blog post. See an example done by Alan
  • Five Card Flickr Stories is similar in approach, of challenging you to tell a story in photos, but the photos you get are randomly chosen (based on tags in flickr). You can play with a general pool of photos tagged fivecardflickr or a new one we added that just uses photos added to the Daily Create. When you save your story on the site, it will provide you a direct link to it as well as cut and paste HTML you can use to put it in your blog (You will need to switch your wordpress editor from Visual mode to TEXT, buttons in top right to paste in the code)
  • Write a Story Based on Someone Else’s Daily Create Photos Find two photos from the Daily Create Photography assignments, embed them into a blog post, and write a story that connects what happens in the first photo to the second one, make it like a story sandwich. Use your writing to connect the images.

Comment Groups + Twitter = Participation

Now that you are familiar with publishing in your own digital space, it is time to broaden your scope of class participating by giving feedback to each other. You have all gotten comments and will get more, from your instructor, but its important as a community to comment on your classmates work. And as a result you will get input yourself.

Because reading 24 other blogs is a lot to ask, you are going to put in smaller groups of 4-5 students, set up in Canvas, so you have a smaller number of blogs to review this week. Your task is to give every member in your Comment Group at least two constructive comments, on any of their blog posts so far.

You will have to figure out either how to find the blog addresses of your group. You have at your disposal:

Now a constructive comment is more than “Nice work” or “I like that”. It should be a few sentences, and ought to include useful feedback or ideas for improvement. Think about giving the kind of feedback you’d hope to receive.

And when you get comments, reply if it merits a response. Think of this as a conversation (one side conversations are not interesting, right?)

Your credit for this week is not based on counting the number of comments you made – but how you are able to summarize your comment activity. Include in your weekly summary:

  • A summary of what you saw interesting or maybe influential in the blogs you looked at. Did you get ideas you could use by looking at someone else’s post? How did your work compare or differ from theirs?
  • A summary of the feedback you got -what was useful? Would it change your thinking? What was helpful?

As new comments come into your blog, you will sometimes need to “Approve” them in order for them to show up on your site. You should be getting emails whenever a new comments is submitted and/or needs approval. Please be sure to moderate these comments! The conversation can’t happen if it is never published! If you’re not sure if you have comments awaiting approval, you can always check by going to the “Comments” item in your WP backend menu.

In addition, it is critical that you learn how to both listen and participate in the ds106 community on twitter. This is how we often communicate helpful tips, and frankly, is the best way to get help. Some of you have already figured this out. Some tips for being part of the twitter gang in ds106:

  • Make sure you are following other students in class. Find them at
  • Share your blog posts in twitter. If you got the Jetpack plugin set up, you should be able to set it up ao automatically tweet every time you publish a new blog post. Or you cna just choose blog posts to tweet. You can have it add the #ds106 hashtag if you also active the twitter tools hash tag plugin (We offer some extra credit this week to anyone that write up a tutorial on how to do this)
  • Choose other people to follow – a starting point is the other students in our class or just look at people’s profiles in the #ds106 search results (see below) Messages from people you follow are what you see on the main screen of your twitter home screen.
  • Check on the search for #ds106!/search/%23ds106. This is the “tag” people use to share ideas, questions with others in the class. The next time you have a question about class, try asking it in twitter with that same hash tag.
  • Lastly, to get someone’s attention, include the @ sign before their twitter name- like send a message that includes “@cogdog” so I will see it. Make sure you are checking to see people that are mentioning you by clicking the “connect” button at the top of twitter, or

Weekly Summary Checklist

Write up a summary of activities for the week by midnight on Sunday (February 3) in a summary blog post (and then submit that URL to Canvas). Here’s a run-down of what you must include in this week’s summary:

  • Link to blog post on “First, What is Storytelling?” what did you learn this week about your notion of storytelling? Where might it apply to your interests or studies?
  • Link to your blog post of analyzing a movie or a book based on Kurt Vonnegut’s Shape of Stories; this should include an graphic representing your own drawing of the arc. Did this make sense to you as a way to analyze stories? Include as well a summary of the digital storytelling example you chose.
  • Link to your blog post where you reviewed one student project from the in{SPIRE] site and ne from the collection of previous student’s self identified best work. Did these stories give you any insight into what a digital story is?
  • Embed or link to a post that describe the Daily Creates you did this week. How is this activity working for you>
  • Link to your blog post with your example of Telling a Story in Photos and your reflection on that activity.
  • A summary of your Comment Group activity- including the items listed above.
    • A summary of what you saw interesting or maybe influential in the blogs you looked at. Did you get ideas you could use by looking at someone else’s post? How did your work compare or differ from theirs?
    • A summary of the feedback you got -what was useful? Would it change your thinking? What was helpful?
  • Talk about week three in general: How is your experience of ds106 going? Are you feeling more comfortable with your blog? What do you need help with?

Bonus Media

Since a number of you were interested in the graphic style of the Steven Johnson video last week, you might enjoy the narrative approach of these videos. We will get a chance to explore visual note taking in the Design week of this course.


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