Info 290

Digital Narratives: Do-It-Yourself Texts and Other Kinds of Digital Storytelling

3 units

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This course is not currently offered.

Course Description

Current developments in multimedia technology are leading to increased use of a variety of media for representation for communication. These include still images, video, animation and audio as well as text. A number of existing applications make it increasingly easy for people to develop their own multimodal "texts" without special expertise. The question is: How are people using these resources? How can they be effectively used? And how can these resources be better designed to support these efforts?

We will look at two common applications areas to investigate these questions:

  1. Do It Yourself: construction and use of multimodal resources for showing, teaching, and learning in the field of do-it-yourself (crafts, building, repair, and related activities without professional help); and
  2. Digital story-telling, for personal/collective history but for other purposes as well.

Who this course is for

Graduate students interested in exploring the confluence of emerging technologies and narratives of various kinds. Could include students from the School of Information, Computer Science, Education, Art Practice, Architecture, Archeology, Film Studies, New Media…a wide variety of areas. Grad students only unless and undergrad manages to convince us otherwise.

More about this course

Our reasons for choosing these two areas: there's considerable interest, activity, and user-generated content in each. This interest is likely to continue and grow (they aren't current fads).

These areas share some similarities: they can benefit from both pre-existing and specially-constructed visual, audio, and textual resources. Both are of considerable interest among non-professionals, as leisure activities. Both have a narrative element to them, whether it's the story of an event, or how to do something from beginning to end. The audiences for both are more or less peers.

They differ in their goals, and the kinds of stories that they tell and information resources use and create.

Interestingly, these areas often overlap, as apprentices learn techniques and stories from their predecessors and mentors. In this way, traditions and practices continue and evolve.

Both can benefit from using technology to tell stories and track revisions. And both are likely to be intertextual, linking to and drawing on existing resources.

This is not a technology design course; we do not expect students to build new technologies, although we will explore the space of potential designs to address emerging creative needs and directions. We will, as far as possible, rely on existing technologies. However, these will be treated as prototypes; we will ask how these (or similar) technologies could be better designed to suit the understandings that emerge from this course.

Students don't necessarily need to be interested in either of these application areas. We'll treat these areas as examples. Students may well bring to the course other areas of interest that share some of these key elements.

Reading areas may include:

  • Visual studies: what it is; what it says about the role of visual media in general, and contemporary developments. The relationships among still images, video, and audio.
  • Visual epistemology: the relationship between the visual and text
  • "Visual psychology" (for lack of a better term) – deciding when and how visual media are most effective for different communicative needs/desires
  • Multimodality
  • Narrative and storytelling
  • Objects as carriers of content and symbolic meaning
  • Issues of publicness and media – e.g., images are both more fraught and more evocative than text
  • Procedural teaching and learning


As noted, this is not a technology design course. We will, as far as possible, rely on existing technologies. However, existing technologies will be treated as prototypes; one issue will be how these (or similar) technologies could be better designed to suit the understandings that emerge from this course.

These will likely include:

  • Flickr and other photo (and video) sharing sites
  • YouTube and other video sharing sites
  • MemoryMiner or similar – software for constructing personal/family histories

Student requirements

  • Committed participation: reading and engaging with the course materials and topics
  • Some sort of major product: probably a paper applying the concepts of he course to some area of interest. One product could be a technology design: a prototype, or at least design requirements.

Last updated:

January 10, 2017