No Less Real or True: Where the Physical and the Digital Intersect, Overlap, and Re-imagine Each Other

We watched Catfish so that we could all begin thinking about the impermanent, ever-changing, and sometimes unreliable nature of digital identity, not as a mask, or a fake self, but rather as a series of interwoven bits and pieces of multiple selves, some physical, some psychic, some embodied, some digital. This, I think, echos something we’ve touched on all semester: digital media allows for intersections and engagements with narrative in ways that are often extensions or re-imaginings of the physical world, but are meaningfully changed in the shift into the digital.

All the characteristics of digital media we’ve studied: public, multimedia, hyper textual, nonlinear, collaborative, remixed, interactive, location-based: these are not discrete narrative forms, but overlapping and interwoven ways of engaging with narrative.

That’s what I want your final project to be: a digital media narrative that engages with multiple of these characteristics, whose goal is to present a multiple, intersecting, portrait of YOU (broadly interpreted and defined).

Your final project should be a digital artifact, but that can exist in any digital storytelling or multimedia format you find most creatively compelling. Your final project should grow out of (or even combine several) writing project(s) you began in this class, this semester, though its beginning may have been as one of your four graded exercises, as a blog post or idea, or even as a prompt in your creative kleptomaniac journal. Your final project must be both public and multimedia (that is, it cannot be merely a digitized text), but it should also embody at least three of the other characteristics of writing for digital media we’ve covered in this class:

  • Hyper textual
  • Nonlinear
  • Interactive
  • Collaborative
  • Remixed / Sampled
  • Location-Based

Whichever you choose, your implementation of these characteristics should be digital (that is, working with a group will not be enough to make this a truly digitally-collaborative narrative).

To brainstorm your digital final projects, I’ve asked you all to profile a handful of people whose digital identities you admire, to see the ways in which they make use of these characteristics, and to see the media,  technologies, and creative processes they use to bring their fragmented, multi-faceted identity to digital life. Ask yourself: what is the story I want to tell? Who is the self I want to shape? Allow your decisions about the form, structure, and media of your final project to follow naturally from those answers.

Clearly, this project is very broad and open-ended; this is because I want you to have full creative control, and because your final project should demonstrate to me your ability to make conscious choices about how best to use digital media in narrative construction.

Today in class, you will share your reflective profiles with each other, as an opportunity to begin brainstorming some of the possible forms your final project may take, and some of the stories you already have waiting to be told. Since you may choose to work on a group final project (three people maximum), you can also take this time to connect with people who may be interested. Then, I will collect these and use them to help you make decisions about your final project.

During next week’s classes, we will participate in a series of activities, including revision and brainstorming exercises, along with mini-conferences with me to discuss your project ideas. By Monday, you should all bring to class the following:

  • Printed, hard copies of two blog posts in which you discuss an idea for turning a journal prompt into a digital narrative.
  • One of your original four projects (a link or file will be fine).
  • A printed, hard copy of your answers to the following questions:
    • What’s the story you want to tell? What’s it about, but also, what kind of emotional response do you want it to create in your viewers?
    • What kind of personality do you want your project to have? What facets of your identity will be reflected in it — your likes or dislikes, passions, curiosities, concerns, struggles, hobbies, or ways of seeing the world? What kind of tone / language would you use to bring yourself to life digitally?
    • What forms of media (image, text, sound, movement, etc.) would you use to tell this story in a way that feels natural to your personality? What would each media add to the story? What would each teach us about you?
    • What design and visual choices would make sense for this piece? How would you characterize your visual style goals? What kinds of images or fonts or colors would you use?
    • What genre or style of writing do you imagine this story using? Is it fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction? Informative? Persuasive? Reflective?
    • What digital form or structure would this project most logically take? A video or podcast?  A website with networked or branching pages? An interactive text or game? A series of multimedia, or hyperlinked blog posts? A social media feed? Something else I can’t even imagine?
    • Besides the public and multimedia aspects, hat other characteristics of digital writing (listed above) would your project most likely and naturally possess? Why? That is, how would each characteristic be connected to a crucial element of the story or your personality?

We will spend the week discussing and refining and executing your final projects into early draft forms, and I will be there to offer feedback and direction. During the last week of classes, you will each present your final project-in-progress to your peers, along with a brief explanation of your vision, goals, and intentions. This will provide you will an opportunity to explain the progress you have made thus far, and to discuss any obstacles you may have encountered. You will also have the chance to dialogue with your audience about what problems you need help solving, or any feedback you’d like to get about how the story is working or could grow / improve. This presentation is worth 5% of your final grade, and it is designed to function as a draft workshop of your project, run by you: the more work you have done, and the more prepared you are with questions, the better your presentation will serve you.

You final project will be due by posting it to your website in whatever form makes the most sense, and then emailing Marissa a direct link, by Wednesday April 26th at 3pm. Your project should be accompanied by a 5+ paragraph critical essay (10%) that details your rationale, creative process, technology use, and digital characteristics. Basically, think of this as an extended artist’s statement that engages with all the questions you answered when planning your project, but also reflects on how your ideas developed as you went through the process of creation. This essay may be included as a blog post on your website, or you may email me a link to a Google doc of the essay, if you prefer not to post it. In either case, your essay itself should include at least five relevant hyperlinks, and two images, that help illustrate your vision, intention, process, or personality. 



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