My Journey as a Storyteller- The Story #ist646

When I first began this class, I was nervous. The idea of telling stories for an audience was exciting to me and also, a little nerve-wracking. When I thought of storytellers, I thought of TED Talks. People like Amanda Palmer with her talk, The Art of Asking came to mind. Inside, I wavered, ‘How could I ever be as good of a storyteller as her?’

Clickto view The Lake by Trudi Jade Antoine
Click to view The Lake by Trudi Jade Antoine

Interestingly enough, the art of learning how to tell stories is similar to reading a story. Step- by- step, the storytelling process builds upon itself. That is due to the help of a great support system, a great concept, and a great leader. I initially wanted to write a story about an arts institution where I was rediscovering my creativity. I went back and forth with the idea because I did not not know if I wanted to focus on the arts institution in a historical and educational context, or to tell a more personal story.

Through the use of story circles where my classmates and I practiced, shared ideas, and critiqued stories with each other, I learned that I wanted to write a more personal story. Still the story was very stubborn to come out. It felt like a flower trying to break through the concrete of my fear. I got closer and closer through the process of conversation. Speaking to my professor, Dr. Marilyn Arnone, really gave me the push to understand where I was trying to go, especially when I was asked to attempt to tell my story in real time.

While I was discovering what I wanted my final project to be about, I rediscovered skills which I had had some experience with prior like working with Audacity, or film-editing. The struggle came in choosing and editing stories to present to others. The moment of choosing what the story would be about was always filled with anxiety because in my mind, the immediate stories I thought about were of struggles I had had. I did choose to tell an African folktale called “The Tortoise and the Hunter” from the book, Tales of an Ashanti Father by Peggy Appiah,  and found a way to “lighter” stories like the story about my journal collection, and the first time I learned why protecting my stories was important.

I enjoyed the recording process and editing in Audacity immensely. There was something unique each time I discovered a new sound, a new way to edit my voice to make the transitions smoother. It was challenging and stimulating. Still, I had so much tension around choosing my stories. Choosing a story from my personal collection of stories always felt like exposing myself. I felt like I would be lying if I was not honest in what I chose to pursue.

As time went on, I realized I wanted to tell the story of when I started to experience panic attacks in my undergraduate days. I focused on Lake Michigan to ground my story because it had such a huge presence. It literally began to work its way through my subconscious and revealed itself as the symbol of this story. Many would not know this, but the struggles that I still face and am still learning to manage, first showed themselves when I went to Northwestern University. The story that I ended up writing is almost like a mirror of where I am now. There are so many similarities to that time and yet, the growth away from that time is evident. What was even more ironic is that I visited Chicago and Evanston where Northwestern University is located, during the time that I was working on this story, so this digital story was truly, and will always be, a marker of how far I’ve really come, and will always remind me of a very powerful experience in helping me to achieve a new perspective. It was really interesting to watch and experience this story unfolding before me, which is why I just had to go with the process and not force it to fit into a simple constraint.

Digital stories can be anything you want them to be – personal, academic, emotional, irreverent, funding-based and historical. It’s important to experiment and to not be afraid of wherever the process will take you. Funnily enough, they seem to have a way of starting off one way, and totally ending in a different way, so growing as your digital story grows is quite important. In creating digital stories, I’ve learned to trust the process.

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The Lake – IST 646 – Final Project

Click here to view video
Click photo to view The Lake by Trudi Jade Antoine

Do you have a personal story that you want to share? Do you have a story that tells your truth or helps you to relieve tension around a situation? Do you have a story that is just dying to come out?

These were the questions I took on for my final project in IST 646 – Storytelling for Information Professionals class. Throughout class, I saw many uses for digital storytelling. It could be an educational tool, used to teach children stories or concepts. It could be used to support advocacy or grant research. It could be used as a form of marketing to create a greater presence. Lastly, it can be therapeutic and help those struggling to find their voices.

I approached my digital story intuitively. It is always nice to know exactly what you will want to say or do, but sometimes, stories present themselves to you and you must follow. I wrote about a time of undue stress when I was an undergraduate student suffering with anxiety at Northwestern University. I love my alma mater and wanted to succeed, but how easy is it to succeed when you are plagued with emotional stressors? I thought many students have experienced this feeling where they feel like their working world should be solid and untouched by the emotional world around them. Yet, life is not so cut and dry and once emotions start to spill into the working life, lines start to blur.

Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling

I thought about Joe Lambert’s Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community and his Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling which are as follows:

Step 1: Owning Your Insights

Step 2: Owning Your Emotions

Step 3: Finding the Moment

Step 4: Seeing Your Story

Step 5: Hearing Your Story

Step 6: Assembling Your Story

Step 7: Sharing Your Story

While all steps are important, I honed in on step 3 and 4 which I wanted to build upon from my last story.

Lambert (2013) on Step 3: Finding the Moment

Lambert describes the moment as “Compelling stories reproduce the events in an immersive way. They prompt the audience to ask questions about their own experiences and look for larger truths. Compelling storytellers construct scenes to show how change happened, how they dealt with it, what they were like before the change, and what they are like after. A storyteller sharing their insight with a story says to the audience, “This is what has happened and this what has happened and this is what I have learned. By building a scene around the moment of change, the storyteller is “showing,” rather than telling.(Lambert, 2013, p. 60)

Lambert (2013) on Step 4: Seeing Your Story and the use of explicit imagery:

Would the audience be able to understand the story’s meaning without this image? (Lambert, 2013, p. 62)

Well-chosen images act as mediators between the narrative and the audience. As stated in earlier discussions, audiences enjoy stories that lead them to a metaphorical river of meaning and require them to “jump in” in order to make their own connections. Images can grab the hands of the audience and show them the river’s immensity. And images have the power to reveal something to the audience that words just can’t say.(Lambert, 2013, p. 63)

Editing Process

WeVideo Editing
WeVideo Editing

While this was a very emotionally challenging project to complete, I enjoyed the process of creating. I did not use a traditional storyboard to create. Storyboards can be useful in sharing/creating with other people and I hope to use them more in the future. I used a process that mimics the storyboarding process. It starts with brainstorming and free-writing until my message, writing and editing until I have the complete story, collecting the sounds from Freesounds.org, and editing in Audacity to create a .wav file, collecting images based on visual cues that I see as I am rereading or listening to the story, then finally taking the completed sound file and images to WeVideo (or other editing software) and editing until it feels right.

First Draft
First Draft

The audio track was actually the most difficult process for me this time. We had to create a 4-6 minute video and I realized that my audio kept coming under the 4 minutes. As I listened, I realized that there were some aspects of the story that would leave viewers with more questions. Making sure I answered what needed to be answered so listeners, wouldn’t feel as if they missed something is what lead me to create more audio. Restrictions can be useful because they push you to overcome your own restrictions in meeting the confines of the structure.

Sound Editing by Audacity
Sound Editing by Audacity

As I listened to my track, I wrote a list of terms that I felt would support my piece. I also noted that my piece had three major parts and I tried to identify the moods of each section and used sounds to support them.

Soundscape Brainstorm
Soundscape Brainstorm

Part of the challenge of making digital stories is to use the images that you have from the past in order to tell the story of today. I stuck with images that I had taken myself. This is another restriction of digital storytelling, which asks you to stay close to your original content which deepens the authenticity of the story. However, like Ken Burns suggested, never doubt that media manipulation can sometimes bring you closer to the truth than expected.

References

Lambert, J. (2013). Digital storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community. New York: Routledge.

The Origin of my Storytelling Interests (Deluxe) #ist646

I’m going to do something a little different this week. I am posting my story at the beginning of my post. You can watch first, formulate your own opinions and then read to see where I was coming from: My Beginning as a Storyteller.


This Week in IST 646

For my mid-term project for IST 646, I chose to rework the story of when I felt I first started to develop an interest in storytelling. I chose to focus on when I was given my first journal by my grandmother, who has had quite an influence on me. Once I received my first journal I did not start to write everyday or have a huge understanding of stories, but as time went on, journaling did give me access to stories or observations I was unaware I held until I wrote them down. It’s allowed me to dig deeper than usual and eventually, writing daily did become habitual. Therefore I felt it necessary to talk about this experience in connection to storytelling .

Journaling, or diaristic writing is a very flexible tool and can accommodate almost any need. You may start with basic observations, for example, and discover your writing has evolved to a phase where you’re incorporating conversations you’ve overheard, which leads to the first draft of a script, a research paper or a blog post. It’s a process that evolves you, with you.

Have you ever kept a journal? What was its purpose? For how long did you journal for? And what was your experience like?

Honest Difficulties

We were challenged to stay within 2:0o minutes of video time. Editing is the key word to this process. Your mind may think something sounds good and that you should elaborate, but a story that is easy to follow and easily digestible is enticing to viewers. Being able to get your story down to two minutes is a good framework to build upon if you do decide to expand your story.

One of the most enjoyable aspects about digital storytelling is to hear someone’s personality through their voice. For this project, I tried recording without reading a pre-written script and I found the process quite challenging. Imagining myself telling these stories to a larger audience always makes me a little tongue-tied, but I thought it was helpful for bringing out the natural tone of my voice.

I also found that the way I approached my audio track was more music-based this time, so I found it strange after many listens to hear sound effects, but I hope leaving them in empowered the track, otherwise.

New Tools

I also used a new video editing tool called WeVideo. Initially, it didn’t quite work on Google Chrome or Firefox. I restarted my computer and tried it on Internet Explorer,  and it was able to upload the .wav file that I could not get the other two sites to upload. To be fair, my computer may have been malfunctioning.

Once I was able to get onto the site and upload my track, it was easy to use. The site has a “Storyboard Mode” or “Timeline Mode” which allows broader, photo-based editing or more comprehensive, time-based editing, respectively, according to your  skill level.


That’s it for now. As always, this class continues to open my eyes to the techniques in which Library and Information Sciences continues to define and redefine itself. It’s a pretty interesting field.

Dreamscapes as an Exercise in Sound #ist646

This past week, we focused on using sounds to help paint our story landscape. In order to demonstrate my understanding of the material, I chose to use the “dreamscape” as my form for storytelling.

A dreamscape is really a combination of the words, “dream” and “landscape” suggesting that the dream is a terrain to be explored. In dreams, symbolism and metaphor are used to convey meaning similarly to the painting below.

the-interpretation-of-dreams-1927(1).jpg!Blog

The Interpretation of Dreams -Rene Margritte.

Sometimes, objects or persons in dreams have very obvious meanings. Other times, they are more complex and avoid an easy interpretation. According to Jungian philosophy, archetypes are the types of characters that we encounter in our daily lives, or that we act like ourselves. Dreams are notable for being helpful to resolve problems, or create self-understanding.

Dreams are also a good place to think about story structure. While possibly random and surreal, following how the dream is told and how elements are introduced can be clues to what information is most important. At step six of the “Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling, Joe Lambert (2013) describes how story structure affects the audience’s understanding.

“The process of telling stories and reading the audience’s reaction is critical to understanding story structure. It helps answer the question: What are the necessary parts of my story ? How will telling this part shape the story differently or take it in a different direction? (Lambert, 2013, p.66)

Dreams can also be helpful for looking at a situation in a new way, or gaining inspiration for stories. Several film makers can attest to the power of dreams. Most recently the movie, Inception, talked about the power of dreams and director Christopher Nolan committed to portraying the amorphous inconsistency of the dream space. Many popular films have started off as a persistent dream that with tenacity and commitment was turned into so much more.

The link to my story can be found here: Dreamscape – The Cube.  I portray a chilling tale of feeling trapped within a surreal world, and use sounds from Freesound.org to create the mood, environment and drama of the story.

Please comment below!!

References:
Lambert, J. (2013). Digital storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community. New York: Routledge.

IST 646: Tell your Story as a Budding Storyteller to Date

My grandmother gave me my first diary when I was nine years old in the summer of 1996. It had a light pink cover with an image of sheet music attached to the wall by a nail, with pink ballet slippers hanging from the nail, and a pink rose that remained suspended by resting on the ballet slippers. This delicate book became a safe place for me to go while my young, personal life was flooded with complex emotions.

Two years later, I realized how important it was to preserve my journal as a safe space when I took it to junior high school at IS 383 Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented in Brooklyn, NY. During an unsuspecting moment, one of my fellow students took the journal out of my hand and ran off with it. Out of sheer fear of embarrassment, I ran after her. I had just written an entry about a crush I had in school, the night before and if she had read that, my secret would be everywhere. Luckily, I caught up to her and got it back. Soon after, I made the decision that journals are still meant to be written in, but just not brought to school!

My First Ever Diary.
My First Ever Diary.

Using Journaling to Overcome Struggles

For many years, I engaged storytelling through journal writing. Journaling is a form of storytelling that asks the writer to come undone, unglue the self as Freud and other philosophers tried to express, and to mark their observations. Through observation, you’ll witness the passing of time and those that are active within it, building cities, writing history and defying definitions.

During my time as an undergraduate art student at Northwestern University, from 2005 – 2009, I also studied Art Theory and Practice as my major and Animate Arts, as my adjunct major. In these two majors, I learned about telling a story through materials, juxtaposition, sound, photography and intention. Journaling, poetry and visual arts came together as a way to define me, and as a realm to keep me afloat as I went through episodic mood shifts and depression due to Cyclothymia, which is a lower-grade form of bipolar disorder, which I was eventually diagnosed with after college.

One of the best ways I dealt with the challenge was to visit Lake Michigan which was accessible by campus. In a splotch of nature,  I went wild with pen and paper and just wrote freely. Often poems would come pouring out inspired by the lake, or maybe I wrote to resolve a situation, or I needed to throw some ideas around about a class project. Now that I look back, I realize my memories are stored and it’s like I have my own small archive. Through observation, I was able to see something picturesque and perfect even when things were far from it. Journaling helps to understand we all have our share of struggles and triumphs and that’s what unites us. It allows me to realize how far I’ve come and it’s helpful for maintaining perspective.

My journals: they start to add up.
My Journals Over the Years.

Hitting a Light Switch

When I came across the opportunity to take this class, it was almost like a light clicked. I am currently studying Library and Information Sciences at the iSchool at Syracuse University. I love communicating with people. I enjoy sharing with people about music, art, articles and institutions on my social media channels and to help others by letting them know about opportunities. I write and I create. Learning about digital storytelling has been an enlightening experience because it feels like a powerful representation of the intersection of the arts, technology, and the conversations that have been enabled by changing technologies.

What Can You Do with Digital Storytelling?

Digital storytelling has so many applications. It can support the preservation of history for institutions by making it accessible and keeping it current. It can be used to educate others about goals, or a different direction. It can be used to acknowledge how people feel about their own world and elevate the voices of those that regularly go unheard. It invites collaboration and sharing. It also supports remix culture and mash-ups by being open to revamping coexisting elements.

Life is a story, so by definition, we are storytellers.

Max Roach said “the artist is like a secretary, whether he is a writer, a musician or a painter: He keeps records of his time” (Powers, 2013). When stories are preserved, life is recorded which allows humanity to understand where it came from and where it is going. Storytelling offers me a way to understand how the world functions. It helps me to process my thoughts and it motivates me to stay creative through the midst of serious changes. Lastly, storytelling is applicable to many types of organizations and having a command of this skill will be beneficial to library, archival or arts organizations that I work with that need promotion, marketing or overall conceptualizing of what the story of their organization is.

References:

Powers, R., & Gates, H. L. (2013). Bartlett’s familiar Black quotations.

Trouble does not look for man…: Creating a Folktale Podcast for Podomatic #ist646

For Exercise One, we were tasked to create a podcast based around a folktale, family story, or personal story. I chose to do a folktale from one of my favorite books when I was in high school called Tales of an Ashanti Father by Peggy Appiah. The book features several stories, all from Ghana which often focus on the witty character, Kwaku Ananse the Spider.

After reviewing several of the stories within the book, I landed on the tale, ‘The Tortoise and the Hunter”, a moral story about a hunter who faces a consequential decision in the forest.

  • After reading the story, I understood it through the “Mountain Plot” story map, known for it’s craggy shape.
Mountain plot for The Hunter and the Tortoise.
Mountain plot for The Hunter and the Tortoise.

I used the following plot points to describe where the related actions fell along the map:

  • Introduction (Meeting new characters, entering a new locale)
  • Action (Progression of story)
  • Climax (Highest point of action; No reverse after this point)
  • Falling Action (Signified by a sloping line indicating a slow decline in action)
  • Denoument (Immediate resolution)
  • Resolution (Final resolution)

I rewrote the story to be told within a 3-minute time frame, trying to hold onto specific moments that further the plot. Finally, after warming up my voice to one of my favorite songs to make sure my voice was comfortable, and not scratchy, I recorded using my Easy Voice Recorder app for Android and the Podomatic website for formatting.

I’ve provided the link to my results. Enjoy.
http://jadejams.podomatic.com/entry/2015-05-24T20_15_15-07_00

My “Who I Am” Animoto video!

One of the first assignments that we had to do for IST 646 was a short video in Animoto.com, where we give life to our “multiple personalities” in a 30-second video clip.  It was hard to decide what parts were most important to keep in a 30-second video. Ultimately, time limits can be very helpful in the decision-making and editing process. I’m sure we have all seen that movie that would’ve been perfect if it ended 30-minutes earlier.

Dr. Arnone gave us an excerpt to read from Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community by Joe Lambert, which offered a compass for the direction our videos could go:

“The idea of digital storytelling has resonated with many people because it speaks to an undeniable need to constantly explain our identities to each other. Identity is changing . . . The only way to really know about someone is through story, and not one consistent story, but a number of little stories that can adjust to countless different contexts. As we improvise our ways through our multiple identities, any tool that extends our ability to communicate information about ourselves to others becomes invaluable “ (Lambert, 2009, p. 15).

It took several tries to find the right images, theme, wording and song to convey the many sides of myself. But behold! With effort comes results! Here is the finished product:

Who I Am in a 30-sec nutshell.”