Digital Storytelling (AMST 2699)

Slack: (private: for enrolled students only)

Instructor: Jim McGrath, PhD

Course Meeting Times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30pm-4pm

Location: Seminar Room, John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage (357 Benefit St.; 2nd floor, entrance in rear of building)

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-2pm (or by appointment); my office is on the same floor as the Seminar Room in the JNBC


Official Course Description

This course surveys the current state of digital storytelling, examining topics ranging from digital curation to data journalism to social media activism (and beyond). We will consider the narrative conventions, multimodal dimensions, and mechanics of a wide range of digital stories, carefully examining both the tools available to creators and the theoretical perspectives that motivate their authors. Students will determine best practices for digital storytelling projects through their engagement with course readings, their participation in in-class workshop sessions where we experiment with particular tools and publishing platforms, and their implementation of a digital storytelling project.

“Digital Storytelling” is a broad topic to cover, so I’ve decided to focus on three particular kinds of digital storytelling: Iterative and Interactive Storytelling, Audio Storytelling, and Data-Oriented Storytelling. As the course develops, we’ll talk more about these lenses and where they intersect.

Learning Goals

Over the course of the semester, students will:

-learn more about the long history of digital storytelling by reviewing particular projects, tools, methodologies, and reception histories

-view digital storytelling within longer and larger conversations about aesthetics, audience, curation, materiality, and public humanities

-consider the relationship between best practices in digital storytelling and their own professional, personal, and creative aims and interests

-demonstrate their understanding of best practices through the creation and publication of digital storytelling projects

Course Requirements

Over 15 weeks, students will spend three hours per week in class (45 hours total). Engagement with course readings and research related to digital tools and projects will take approximately 4 1/2 hours per week (68 hours total). Completion of major course assignments is estimated to take 67 hours total (spread across the semester). In total, time estimated to complete activities related to this class should take 180 hours to complete over the course of the semester (on average, 12 hours per week). These estimates are in line with time estimates for typical Brown University courses. Please be in touch ASAP if you have questions about course completion expectations.

We may leave the classroom on a few occasions to complete course-related field research or workshopping: in those instances, you will receive sufficient advance notice and we’ll utilize our regular meeting time for these activities (in the event that you have other commitments before or after our course, we’ll talk and figure that out). If there are events or programming that seem of interest to the course but fall outside our regular meeting times, I will let you know about them, but your attendance is not required.

Brown University is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours. For more information, please contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office.

Reliable web access: Given the nature of this course, it’s essential that you be able to get on the web on a regular basis. Please see me if you have any questions about this requirement or if you’d like to talk about resources here at Brown.

Classroom technology: There may be days when we will require the use of laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones to view and complete course work. There may be particular days when a laptop is preferable to a tablet, given the need to work with a particular tool. I will let you know in advance should these needs arise if you require additional resources. You are not required to purchase or own laptops, tablets, and/or smart phones for this course (though you may find that bringing one or more of these devices to class is useful). Bringing a Wifi-enabled device you’re comfortable reading and writing on in class is recommended but not required.

Slack: The class will use Slack to share links related to our themes and readings and to check in on progress on major assignments. Slack also offers a chat feature allowing users to privately message one another, a feature that should be used for course-related conversations. Slack is free and accessible via a web address or the Slack application. We’ll discuss how we’re using Slack this semester during our first class. Please contact me ASAP if you have questions or concerns about use of Slack or particular messages you’ve seen or received on Slack.

Course Materials and Readings

Course reading are outlined in the semester calendar. Readings will generally be accessed in two ways: by direct links found on the course site (in some cases, you may need to be logged in to your Brown account to access materials under copyright) or via a private Dropbox folder. I’ll email you a link to the Dropbox folder after the first day of classes.

If you have trouble accessing a particular reading, or if you have questions or comments about the amount of reading for a particular day or week, please be in touch! I am also happy to talk about additional readings on a particular topic of your interest.

Course Policies

I expect that students will regularly attend class sessions, keep up with readings, and submit graded work on time. I also assume that students will participate in class discussions and be respectful of their peers in said discussions. Excessive absences or missing assignments / contributions to Slack can negatively impact your grade.

If you have concerns about your ability to meet particular course requirements or assignment due dates, please email me or talk to me after class.