Final Project: Digital Storytelling

            The third and final project to do for this class was to analyze an object of digital storytelling, and to do so in the form of an academic paper. This final project was certainly a challenge initially in trying to locate specific digital stories that had to do with a subject I wanted to focus on, which ended up being youths who experience gang violence and are willing to talk about their experiences in the digital form. I did end up locating three similar yet different digital stories that demonstrate youths taking up the issue of gang violence, its stereotypes, and the impacts the violence has on their lives and in their communities. Such stories were very personal, such as Matt’s Story, eliciting extremely sympathetic responses from viewers. However, the other two stories were less sympathetic-minded, but still just as personal as the youths who produced the stories revealed their individual thoughts and experiences.

            This final project is currently situated on its own blog site as it seemed too big of a piece of writing to just place on my own blog where it could get lost with all of my other posts. This project seemed to need its own space in which to exist and hopefully open  up the minds of any who visit it because it is solely dedicated to the topic of youths who experience violence, particularly gang violence and the stereotypes that come along with these associations. 

            It was quite the challenging experience to transfer what would be a traditionally academic paper to an online format, and it became more than just adding in pictures here and there to illustrate my words. By creating the project its own blog site I could split up the paper into segmented posts that are short, but packed with information so that readers can understand this issue. Also, being able to include images from the digital stories, as well as the entire digital stories themselves proved to be important additions that just would not be entirely possible were this paper not published in a digital form. It was certainly a very interesting project to undertake and I am glad I did. My final project was truly a labor of love and can now be found at https://youthviolencedigitalstorytelling.wordpress.com/.

Advertisements

Digital Storytelling and Digital Humanities–Social Media’s Place within One Student’s Life

Two weekends ago I attended a workshop that taught participants how to use social media for advocacy and/or academic uses or reasons. My time with social media is extremely limited. Being entirely upfront and honest, I only just created a Facebook page last week and have yet to return to it to do anymore than make my name public (and even my name is a sort of pseudonym) because I just don’t trust social media. The question has come to mind though, that perhaps if I can’t trust social media for personal reasons, then what about at least trusting it for academic and social justice reasons. Surely, using social media, such as this blog as an assignment for one of my academic classes, isn’t so bad and in fact I find myself enjoying the community I am a part of with my other classmates’ blogs and the other academic blogs I have wondered onto. I appreciate reading other academics’ blogs and being kept aware of social issues through such sites on various social media. Yet, I still remain hesitant to include it more exclusively in my own life, even academic one.

To me, using social media always seemed to be a more personal practice that I quite frankly didn’t want to waste my time on (yes, my oh so precious time). However, looking at social media through the lens of digital humanities I am forced to step back, and as the workshop taught me, to see that social media is being used for much more formative purposes than telling all of your followers what your favorite foods are. Instead, social media provides a constantly changing space where ideas are shared and critiqued right away. This fact was all too clear in Bethany Nowviskie’s writing “What Do Girls Dig?” (part of the Debates in the Digital Humanities) in which she was able to spark an entire academic conversation using Twitter about why there were not more women included as conference speakers at a particular conference on Digging into Data. Nowviskie demonstrates the academic power of Twitter, a site I have never been persuaded to see merit in for my own purposes. But yet again, my non-social media world has been rocked and I am forced to consider whether or not social media has a place in an academic life, even if not in a personal one.

Though I have yet to actually do anything with my newly formed Facebook page, and I probably don’t visit my own blog as often as I should, I can see the future and the fact that social media can make the academy and its projects move quicker than it already does. So, while I don’t want to spend so much time attached to my computer, constantly checking social media sites, doing this is certainly makes collaborating on such academic projects easier than making telephone calls or waiting to meet in person. (Though as a former History major I have always loved the old-fashioned.)

Digital Storytelling Exploration

This week’s readings were all about digital storytelling. Before this I had never actually heard of the term digital storytelling, though from what I have read and seen on several different sites digital storytelling is in fact something that most people engage in some way or form without realizing that a specific term, such as digital storytelling, has been attached to it. Within the several chapters I read from Knut Lundby’s book “Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories” (2008) several different social media sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube were mentioned as sites that allow regular everyday people to share their lives and stories and do so by using digital tools. Essentially, these social media sites, in their own ways, allow for people to engage in digital storytelling. And to think I have spent the last few years of my life fearing such social media because it seems so invasive and really nixes any type of privacy. However, after reading from Lundby’s book I have come to realize that perhaps such sites as social media ones, as well as other specific digital storytelling sites that have emerged are less about putting a person’s entire life online, and more about finding ways in which to share personal stories so that others may benefit and learn from them too. I have to say, I was truly inspired by the several stories I watched and listened to that were from the Center for Digital Storytelling’s website www.storycenter.org.

The Center for Digital Storytelling is one site introduced in the reading from Lundby’s book, and it is quite the site.  When I first entered the URL and the site came up the most recent video posted was one entitle “Like Father Like Son – by Shaun Anderson.” In this short four minute video the maker, Shaun Anderson, provides viewer with a tribute to his father, whom he presents as his hero. Anderson focuses on the last few years and days of his father’s life, explaining his father’s importance to his own life in few, but very impactful words. This video seemed to be a very traditional example of digital storytelling, as it is an everyday person deciding to share a personal story about his or her life and doing so by making what could be termed a video essay.  In fact, many of the stories on the Center for Digital Storytelling’s website are videos presenting people’s personal stories through images, film, and narration. I found it quite interesting then when I set out to search for digital storytelling sites on my own and found some that were very similar to the Center for Digital Storytelling site and others that were different.

One site that I found through my own internet search for digital storytelling sites is one that is connected with a specific educational institution. The first site I found is one that was specifically created for a Fall 2008 college course at the University of Minnesota. The site is called Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/afroam/storytelling/. This site is one in which the students of this particular class post responses to class assignments, essentially helping to keep a class-wide blog, and also post their class assignments and videos of their own in which they engaged with other people. This site is really interesting because you get the feeling of how students are learning to deal with digital tools, such as making videos, as well as how they can use those skills to explore communities besides their own. In fact, the students’ final projects, which are posted on the site, all have to do with seeking out different communities of different people of color and showcasing how these communities feel about certain events, such as the presidential election, identity struggles, activism, and much more. This site is also an interesting one because it is connected with a specific educational institution, so while the students are learning practical skills and new ways to relay information and interact with other communities, their work is actually being published in a way, which allows it to be shared with people beyond the University of Minnesota community. Much like the Center for Digital Storytelling website allows others to access everyday people’s personal stories and journeys by posting and sharing their videos, the Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color website does the same.

As much as I appreciate the ways in which the Center for Digital Storytelling and Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color allow people to learn to use digital tools to create videos of their personal stories, I was really surprised during my search to find other digital storytelling sites that are firmly entrenched in creating fiction stories. One site that I found is called Myths and Legends, http://myths.e2bn.org/index.php. This site is really amazing because it lets users who register, and possibly pay, to use the site’s story creator to make animated digital fiction storybooks. The site really promotes its use in elementary school classrooms and by teachers as ways to allow younger students to write and animate stories. And as the name of the site suggests the stories all have to do with creating lore about different myths and legends, such as the one story that I looked at was about a mummy and its supernatural presence within a small town. This site is certainly focused on British schools, but it is accessible to anyone who finds it on the internet and so allows users to share their stories beyond their own communities just like the other two sites previously mentioned do as well. Now, Myths and Legends may not be people sharing their personal stories in impactful ways, but I think this site has many of the same goals that other digital storytelling sites have, which means this site is considered to be digital storytelling, even if just fictional digital storytelling. Fictional digital storytelling though, certainly has an appeal for younger children, and is a way to make sure these younger children learn to use digital tools as well.

Whether the stories being told are fiction or non-fiction, digital storytelling is still a useful tool for many different people, and one that many people do not need specialized equipment or programs in order to participate in. And I think that is a wonderful thing.

Documentary

This documentary project at times seemed to be less of a lesson in filmmaking and more a lesson in collaboration. Trying to pull five people’s ideas together into one three to five minute documentary film seemed to be a rather difficult task at first, especially when we started with about twenty-seven minutes of film. However, the process proved to be enlightening as having four other people to discuss and edit with proved to be an invaluable experience that I believe only created a better video in the end.

Initially the idea was for each group member to essentially go out and film something of their choosing, an interview with a professor, talking with a family member, a protest, and bring all of these clips together in hopes of creating a multi-view of feminism and how different people interact with it due to their differences. However, the film changed from its original form when the other group members and I decided to add ourselves into the film. It was quite a strange experience to be filmed and then to see myself on film. Some parts of the documentary seem more natural and relaxed, while others certainly seem a little staged. Altogether though, the different types of film clips and different people in the documentary come together to create, what I think is, a good overview of what can lead people to identify as feminists or with feminism, and how that identification can happen through struggle.

The final version of my group’s documentary, entitled “Reflections on the Intersections of Feminism,” encompasses many viewpoints, the various group members as students and even two others, all of whom provide differing viewpoints on feminism and the ways they may or may not interact with it. I believe that in the documentary it was important to include more than just our viewpoints as students and the makers of the film, such as including a stepfather’s and an Economics professor’s viewpoints because they too have to deal with feminism in certain ways within their lives due to the world and people that surround them. With clips of both the filming students’ discussing their experiences with feminism as well as the two others’ reflections on feminism the documentary had a more rounded feeling to it, meaning it was not just a purely feminism within academics film. The final version of the group’s documentary is included below.

Beyond Observational Cinema

In David MacDougall’s article “Beyond Observational Cinema” he regards observational cinema by stating “The filmmaker limits himself to that which occurs naturally and spontaneously in front of his camera.” However, MacDougall explains that ethnographic film has changed to include at times participatory cinema. He says “By revealing his role, the filmmaker enhances the values of his material as evidence. By entering actively into the world of his subjects, he can provoke a greater flow of information about them.” This participation can be seen in a clip of Jean Rouch and His Camera in the Heart of Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Revelation on Video

In class today my filming partner Pablo and I worked on a project trying capture the self-revelation process on video.Our method was self-revelation through ethnography.

Monica:  As the person doing the filming and asking the questions I was testing the boundaries of trust as I asked him about his experience coming out.

Pablo: I felt I was starting to build a trust with Monica as the person being interviewed and self-disclosing. We both discovered that the process of self revelation begins before and after the video was filmed.

 

Feminist Documentary and Possible Documentary Topic

For this week’s class period I watched a documentary entitled One Way or Another by Sara Gomez, and it was a film that combined documentary with fiction narrative in order to tell the story of social change in Cuba post colonialism. Then, while sitting in on Professor Juhasz’s Feminist Documentary class, presided over this week by Professor Ruti Talmor, I watched a film done by Alice Walker entitled Warrior Marks. Though Walker’s film does not employ both documentary and fiction in order to tell its story about female genital mutilation, particularly focusing on the practice in Africa, the films still have interesting similarities.

I noticed that during the film Warrior Marks it was mentioned several times by women activists fighting against female genital mutilation that it is a terrible situation in which the women who should actually be defending female children from this practice are instead the ones often performing the mutilation procedure, or at the very least they are the ones accepting the practice as simply part of their culture that every girl must go through. This idea of the women being the mutilators rather than the defenders against the practice reminded me of Gomez’s film, in particular two of her main characters that were part of the fictive story. Part of Gomez’s film is to tell the story of social change as personified by the main male character named Mario who goes through his own change as he tries to rise above the machismo nature he has lived for so long and be more socially progressive. In fact, towards the beginning of the film Mario’s friend Humberto tells him that he is going to take off work for a few days to go and “shack up” with a girl he’s met, but Humberto has told the work council that he is going to visit his sick mother. Mario keeps his friend’s secret, but towards the end of the film finally decides to speak up and tell the work council the truth about Humberto’s whereabouts. Even after doing what most people might consider the right thing by telling the truth and “supporting the revolution” Mario feels as if he did wrong by outing his friend, he even says that he broke the “guy code.” Therefore, in the same way that Mario felt he should have been loyal to his male friend, rather than his work collective at large, female activists expect that women should be loyal to other women and young girls, thereby protecting them from mutilation rather than being the ones to perform the act. Both documentary films in their own ways discuss the need to challenge the patriarchal structure of one’s society, whether it is by subverting the machismo culture or a practice that is meant to allow men’s control of women’s sexuality. This is just one similarity that I gleaned from watching the two films.

In class though, the major idea that was discussed was that of intersectionality. Professor Talmor explained that this term came out of black feminism, Alice Walker’s Womanism, and postcolonial/third world feminism. Intersectionality includes basically looking at the ways in which people experience oppression due to the intersection of race, class, and gender. Both Gomez’s and Walker’s films played with the fact that the different characters and people interviewed even if they were from the same nationality and/or race, such as being Cuban or African, it was the differences in people’s class and gender that still separated them and shaped their experiences to be different from others. In Gomez’s film the main characters Mario and Yolanda, whose relationship was being followed, were both Cuban, but they differed as he was born and raised in the ghetto while she was from a middle-class family that allowed her to get an education. Walker’s film also showed differences as even though Walker, an African-American was in Africa, her higher class and educated person could not understand why a tribal woman with no education would choose to circumcise (do the actual cutting) young females in her community. In this respect Walker could not understand the African women, even if they all were of similar races. However, Walker could relate to the women who had gone through genital mutilation because she too had suffered a visual wound, by the hands of her brother when the two were children, both experiences she classifies as “patriarchal wounds.” In this case, as in Gomez’s film, just because two people or characters had similar races/nationalities does not mean that the two held the same beliefs and values. Rather, it was their differing experiences that were shaped by them also being either women or men, educated or not that lead them to holding different beliefs and valuing different practices.

The whole idea that even people from the same race or gender, or even class have similar and differing experiences that shape their experiences, in particular those experiences of oppression, is not a new one to me, but nonetheless still intriguing. In fact, it was after attending this class that I think I would like to further look at intersectionality and perhaps how it affects people’s views of feminism for a documentary project. Feminism can be a confusing term, as some people might correlate it with women hating men, fighting for women’s equality, or even working towards gender equality. It became evident in a discussion in my other class Gender and Education that of the fifteen people in that class there was no single belief of what feminism was or is. So, through the lens of a documentary I think it would be interesting to explore what intersectionalities, what experiences of a person due to their race, class, or gender shapes his or her views on feminism.