Sunday, March 17, 2013

Week 10: Writers and Writing

This week we’ll explore contemporary new media writing and examine how it might be different from
*traditional* print-only works. As Andy Campbell notes of his works: “textual narratives are approached by Dreaming Methods as a key part of the multimedia mix rather than as the absolute central backbone – purposely open-ended, ambiguous, short, fragmentary – and are often additionally considered to be a powerful visual element: blurred, obscured, transient, animated, mouse-responsive.”

Key ideas for this week:
•Ways to write and read rich media documents in a networked environment.
•Read the example books made with Sophie:
•“The interactive nature of the process makes it possible for individual memories to be linked in a creative shared experience; it fosters the development of on-line sound-driven narratives.”


  1. Q1.

    Walter Fischer would agree with Ronni Bennett, he proposed the Narrative Paradigm to communications theory ( Bennett’s quote echoes his theory - we are all storytellers. It is the oldest and most universal form of communication and essentially we experience and interpret life as a series of ongoing narratives.

    This weeks *readings* (Viewings? Multi-Sensory Experiences?) reinforce this. With each week of this course I am becoming considerably more “well read” on digital narratives :-) Besides having experienced many stories on the website, this week I also viewed Andy Bigelow’s portfolio on his website (, his latest is tagged as a true story and tells the tale of a suspicious death, it's very good.

    Some other examples include The Centre for Digital Story Telling which is a non-profit offering training, project development and research to help facilitate storytelling ( ) Stories are told by ordinary people and made public through the use of multimedia and hypermedia technology. Their clients include universities, governments and organizations from all over the world, notably Alberta Health Services and the University of Alberta, British Columbia and Calgary. Another example comes right from The City of Edmonton ( it was developed as a story telling platform for residents and visitors to Edmonton to address a gap in perception about the quality of life in Edmonton and attract new employees, families, tourists and students to Edmonton.

    All ads tell a story too, some with more clarity than others. One of my favorite TV ads ever for its brilliance, without the product ever leaving the screen, it demonstrates its speed, ease and functionality for the entire 30 seconds. It tells a lovely story, that always makes me quite emotional even after having shared this with numerous classes. This without a doubt was the cheapest superbowl commercial likely ever produced. Check it out:

    Tip: I couldn’t access the Sophie Project directly from a Google search or the provided URL but was able to from this site
    ( you will see a link in its resource list. I also checked it out from The Wayback Machine which offered some interesting examples of project works that are not on the site currently.

    1. Here is the direct link to The Sophie Project

  2. Q2. Find two examples of transmedia storytelling.

    Online News delivery is an example of old and new media colliding for the better. News from TV is a fleeting snippet told at a predetermined time of day and print news is often dated by the time you read it. Online news can be updated instantly and digested at the reader’s pace. News organizations now report widely using social media as well, both reporters and their organizations releasing stories and updates on Twitter often as they are happening. One example of transmedia reporting features the recent Fiscal Budget news story ( Ok, not the most exciting, but nevertheless important, and it demonstrates the value of the online medium. Their story provides both text and video options in a series of segments or separate but related stories. As the reader scrolls down there is an interactive option to view “winners and losers” by sectors, and another option to view a choice of nine different visual budget graphs. The reader navigates the data with a drop down menu and scroll bar. Global recognizes the complexity of the story, so provides separate related stories to focus on its various segments, again using videos and interviews with their Chief Political Correspondent. The online story provides far too much information and detail for traditional broadcast and print delivery mediums – video and interactive options converge with traditional text on their online site.

    Do you remember Blair Witch?( Released at The Sundance Film Festival back in 1999 it is the most profitable indie movie ever made. It cost $35,000 to create. Newsweek reported in 2005 it had earned $248.3 Million worldwide. The website is still up and being used for e-commerce ( They had no budget to promote so infamously built buzz around its website which reinforced the suspense and the realism of the story. The site effectively displays transmedia story telling by using video snippets, tapes, and snap shots with appropriate production quality and dialogue to add to the realism of the story whether it is interviews with distraught mothers, the police or a newscast update. Text, like the mythology timeline, and even background music add appropriate context. Other mediums spun out from this movie including three video games (, a book, a photo novel adaption, a series of books for teens, and comics. A sound track was also made. It is promoted as a mix tape made by ill-fated film student Joshua Leonard that was found in his car after his disappearance. Appropriately the tape is mostly goth rock and industrial tracks, several of the tracks feature dialogue from the movie as well. A sequel book was created but didn’t do well so the plan for a second movie has yet to materialize. This movie predates social media options and although I see no social media links on the site – there is a Blair Witch Twitter account that someone has created and I did notice use of the #Blairwitch hashtag. Fans do hang on to their passions don’t they?

  3. Q3. With digital writing most writers (and readers) have input into how the story appears. What is significant about this shift? What dialogues are opened up?

    When ever people are asked to be part of something, they are more engaged if they are involved in the planning rather than just being shown the final plan and asked to execute it or champion it. When you participate you become more interested in what is happening, you become personally invested. So, thinking about readers, writers and even publishers feedback in terms of how video, sound and text is experienced from different perspectives, it can improve the product and the experience. It is always interesting to talk to creatives about why they choose images, or words and execute their art the way they do, it is often not apparent until dialogue occurs. They also value the feedback from the viewer/reader, although it's an easier conversation when it is positive versus constructive :-)

    I remember hearing a CBC interview with the author of Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson, on the input from Steve Jobs on the photo cover. Jobs was furious about the original choice of cover and weighed in on the final image but interestingly passed on his right to read the book before it was published which is quite impressive for a self-proclaimed control freak. Can you imagine how hard it would be to resist a pre-read of your biography?

  4. I could not agree more with Ronni Bennett's statement. Each website, page, article, video, photograph, status update, and tweet are either stand-alone stories or a chapter of one. There is a relationship and dynamic between the sender and receiver, and the text and images communicate something.

    My favourite story from this week's readings (or "viewings", as Theresa said!), is Ximena Alarcon's Sounding Underground. I am fascinated by transit systems, and love London, Paris, and Montreal. The soundscapes bring me back to those cities - especially when we are able to hear local accents and snippets of conversations a few minutes into the audio track. I have nearly 50 audio clips on my iPhone from my year in Europe, and envision that they would be used for a personal video project one day (I'm not Flash literate).

    I also liked how Alarcon invited readers to engage in the story by sharing their memories. I'm not sure if the project is still active, but I posted a bite-size memory anyway. The "Listening and Remembering" section highlighted some user-submitted participatory literature.

    There are a lot of examples of online environments reflecting Bennett's view. Two interesting examples that I've been enjoying recently include:

    Cowbird (, a project by Jonathan Harris. This is a wonderful way to explore a diverse collection of stories and images submitted by storytellers. It is a simple and lovely ecosystem which aims to "build a public library of human experience." If you're interested, here is one of my recent favourites:

    Happy Birthday: A Story of Life and Death | By Slim

    Reddit ( is increasing in viewership so quickly, it's hard to keep up with the numbers. Last year, they had 400 million unique visitors and 37 billion page views. Just incredible. I'm just getting my toes wet on Reddit, but the content on this site goes far, deep, wide, and personal - it is completely driven by the community which makes it such an interesting study. Recently, an active reader sent this to me which I found fascinating - in a forum discussion where people usually post short commentary/opinions relating to a specific topic, someone responded with a short story. I'm not sure if this is participatory literature, but he had such good feedback from others that he's considering changing his major to writing. Amazing. It's a lengthy read, but given the context, short timeline, and voluntary nature, I was impressed.

    Askreddit thread: If you had a reset button for the last 10 years, would you press it? Why or why not?
    Response by StorytellerBob:


    1. Thanks for sharing Sylvia. Wow StoryTellerBob sure got into it! It really speaks to the point made by academics like Jenkin’s about how important the sharing and validation of the community is. My feeling on your question is that it is participatory literature in the sense that he wouldn’t have kept going with his story had he not been egged on in such a positive fashion by the reddit community. It is nice to see the positive, encouraging comments there as StoryTellerBob is obviously taking a bit of non typical approach in the forum. He's really putting it out there. A common criticism of the internet (think Andrew Keen) speaks of how the anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people. If this really was an epiphany moment in StoryTellerBob’s life all these people must feel pretty good as well for helping enable it.

      I enjoyed Ximena Alarcon's Sounding Underground project too. The whole project is a really interesting concept - right down to the details too - like the graphics being arranged like a metro map. Also the mix of international representation in the metros and the languages of the cultures. My Dad had a career with the CN and I have travelled the country by train many times, I love long train rides and the comforting chugging sound that I associate with it.