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Week Two


What most struck you about Barbara Ganley’s presentation on combining images and verbal narration?  How do you see such techniques related to the emotional and interpersonal issues we discussed in relation to Listening Is an Act of Love?


Since this prompt is late getting up, given our revision of the blog-framework, it would be great if you could just respond to it in two to three paragraphs by the end of Friday, September 19th.







11 Responses to “9/19 Reading Reflections”

  1. Lindsay Patterson says:

    Barbara Ganley’s presentation brought to light the many options one has when using media to tell a story. Depending on the media form and technique employed, the creater has a lot of control over how a story is received by the audience. It is vital when choosing a media form to keep in mind how you want the viewer to enter and connect with the story. Our discussion on the power of music and its potential emotional impact on the viewer is important when we consider including it in storytelling. How the music affects one viewer may be significantly different from how it affects another viewer. Thus, it is important to evaluate whether the audio overpowers the visual, or if it intensifies the overall effect of the story.
    We can apply what we learned in the media lab directly to our projects in Starksboro. As creators of the digital stories, we need to remember that our first goal with our media is to appeal to the Starksboro people–by listening to their stories with genuine interest, and collaborating with people of the town, we will hopefully be able to find the most appropriate media form that will help us to most accurately retell their personal stories and depict the rich history of the town.
    Barbara Ganley’s presentation was extremely informative and insightful. I was excited by how many resources we have available to us as we begin our projects. I am encouraged that this collaborative assignment will prove to be extremely successful.

  2. Deborah Wakefield says:

    I thought it was really significant the way no narration is surprisingly very powerful. I expected the pieces from Kentucky to be lacking something, but soon realized that one could just get everything necessary from looking at the pictures. That said, I think narration is necessary in some cases. It is just something that has to be experimented with. For example if we wanted to do a day in the life of a Starksboro farmer then this might be a piece without any audio, but something about old school houses just can’t quite speak for itself in my opinion.
    Listening Is an Act of Love covered many different themes which can be best expressed through many media options. For example, one of the Hurricane Katrina pieces might go very well with silent video footage while the person read the story aloud. This could pull out some even stronger emotions. I think this would be especially true with something that most people don’t have too many mental images of like a pumping station. On the other hand I think some things are perfect left in print with no digital additions. One example of this would be the story about the man who died of complications from AIDS. I think that there are no images that can bring the emotions together as well as the words of his sister. We don’t need to see the hug at the end to experience its power.

  3. Tessa McClary says:

    What I liked most in Barbara Ganley’s presentation was that it was an introduction to the variety of possible ways to use images to tell a story. The session reminded me that images are illustrations, like those of a book…but online they have the capacity to take on some of the characteristics of film. I came away from the presentation not with a clear idea of how we are going to use images and text and audio, but rather with the idea that we can be immensely creative with simple tools, and that in undertaking the telling of a story, we have the opportunity to work on its visual side with just as much care as the authors of Listening is an Act of Love did in choosing their simple format for powerful stories, and in their careful editing of them to represent themselves best within that format.

  4. Luke Eastman says:

    In this day of PowerPoint presentations and YouTube, we find ourselves bombarded with more than enough images. I think that the majority of these images aren’t used in an artistic and thoughtful way, as Barbara Ganley would propose to do. Some storytellers may be hesitant to embrace the newer technologies such as Flickr, but I think we have to realize that all the technology that we have was once new, including books. How did those in the tradition of oral storytelling feel when the written word began to dominate?

    All of these traditions and technologies have merit, but we ought to embrace what is new. Digital images and overlaid audio can have a profound impact on the audience. The subtleties of the human voice capture the emotion of fireside storytelling. Add on top of that pictures, which appeal to our most keen sense, and we have a powerful medium. Mrs. Ganley’s recognition and utilization of this medium was, for me, a new perspective on storytelling.

    The combination of verbal narration and images, I think, would capture the stories of those in Listening is an Act of Love even more powerfully. The only thing missing from those stories was visual impact. A well chosen picture can amplify the meaning and tone of the speaker’s voice.

  5. Alena Giesche says:

    Barbara Ganley’s presentation was infectiously exciting. The various examples of documentary work, photography, blogging, and editing techniques certainly opened up my view on just how many ways media can be used to tell a story. For me, the important question is- how can we most effectively use media in Starksboro? At the same time, how difficult can we make this- are we able to take the right footage and still prints, can we compile everything, and edit- a very important and also time-consuming process? In order to actually get involved with the community in Starksboro- get to know the place and people- not becoming overwhelmed with digital work is going to be an important negotiation within our projects.
    Image and voice or text relate to two of our most accessible senses. Vision and sound are fairly easy to absorb, whereas touch, smell, and taste all require direct contact, which is a far more difficult way to tell a story to the world. Telling stories only gets better with more detail- more information- and bigger sensory experience. If image, sound, and text can evoke these details in a story, then the result will likely be more powerful. Still, even with all of our concentration on the digital and the media components… I find it important to remember that I’m not only focused on the result of my project and the artistic “bang” of the entire finale, but more on the honesty of the process and the people I will meet in Starksboro. In many ways, the technology to share the story with everyone else comes second to experiencing it firsthand. Hopefully the two will not be so far removed!

  6. Tucker Levy says:

    Personally, I think that we need to be extremely thoughtful about the media we employ to tell the stories of Starksboro. Listening as an Act of Love and Story Corps are so powerful because they are essentially raw personal stories, not somebody’s bastardized renditions. Bastardized may be too strong of a word, because it is certainly possible to retell a story well, but I don’t think it is appropriate for this project. The focus of our final product should be the voice recordings from the interviews. Recording, sifting through, editing, and reorganizing the interviews is our main task for this project. In order help the town with their planning process, we must portray the town as it actually is; our subjective interpretations should remain separate from these stories. I think that we can add photos, video, and music without biasing or romanticizing the town too much, but we must do so very carefully. Photos and video will be much easier than music because they will come directly from Starksboro, but music will be much more difficult. I think that if we use music that was recorded either by residents of Starksboro or some other similar Vermont town (or also some older songs from Philo Records, which were recorded in Ferrisburg) it could be quite effective. We could also talk to people about what music they listen to and use that, but I have doubts about choosing other music. The union of music and recorded voice is obviously quite powerful, but it can be used inappropriately. I think the website with looked at with Barbara Ganley is a good example of something we don’t want to do. Instead, I would suggest that people listen to Ghetto Life 101, which Aylie mentioned in a post. Instead of overlapping music and voice, it staggers them, which allows the music to help set the tone of the piece, but doesn’t give it too much power.

  7. Nathan Zucker says:

    Ganley’s presentation introduced me to a much more integrated way of recording and delivering the stories of everyday people. As a longtime newspaper writer and editor, I have always been exclusively focused on using the written word to communicate information. Although I have dabbled in the pleasures of landscape photography, combining media to tell a story has never been my point of expertise.

    I now see how multimedia projects, such as the ones described by Ganley, could be useful in our portrayal of Starksboro. Considering the course is focused on ecological change and preservation, photographs could serve as a valid means of documenting progress, degradation, and the passage of time in the town. Pictures of relevant individuals and important places throughout the town could reinforce a story, making it far more powerful as an act of conservation.

    In “Listening as an Act of Love,” the use of media was also crucial. Storycorps aired on NPR, meaning that people’s voices were heard directly on the radio. The power of the human voice, preserved through modern technology, was what made the project so successful. At the same time, this wise choice of media also had its obstacles. All of the interviews were edited for length, and editorial choices are rarely without controversy or difficulty. In our own project, we will also have to be careful about using the editor’s wand in a judicious manner. Such is the challenge of working with a variety of media.

  8. Chester Harvey says:

    Like Tucker, I approach the concept of ‘multimedia’ with caution. As an artistic medium, multimedia has become, at the very least, popular. The affordability and ease of use associated with computerized multimedia presentations make them very attractive, and it is true that beginners can now produce a very professional looking product. My trepidation lies in the potential for multimedia, and digital tools in general, to create an abundance of flashy looking products that don’t have as much thought behind them as an equivalent project may have required decades ago (when multimedia meant a production studio and some serious upfront capital). Let us please make sure that we don’t sideline simple methods of presentation, such as sound recordings, printed text, and hard-copy photographs, for multimedia just because we can. Modern and flashy methods don’t always communicate most effectively.
    While multimedia may be accessible to us as creators, in many cases it is far from accessible to potential audiences. My mother still prints things out, including emails, to take them seriously as a piece of literature. And, given her proofreading abilities, I would never want to alienate my mother as a potential audience. Older folks in our town, who are some of our best sources on local history, won’t go near a CD player let alone a minidisk or digital recorder. We gladly make a tapes of oral histories so they can listen to their own interviews and others using a technology that feels comfortable. If these folks had to use a computer to interact with their town’s history they would likely just give up. What a loss that would be.
    As with any project, we need to consider the technical requirements of both author and audience when choosing our medium. This may mean selecting one that does not have all the bells and whistles. But then again, do we really need the bells and whistles to convey our message? And if we do, are they worth the limitations they present? Words printed on paper are still the most accessible and powerful option we have.

  9. Robert McKay says:

    Sorry about the late post.

    I think Chester’s post cuts to the heart of my reservations about Ms. Ganley’s talk. The issues of time use, objectivity, and goals suggested in many of the posts are really summed up in Chester’s concrete consideration of the audience. My mother prints emails, too, and most older people I talk to are intimidated by computers. Often, I’m inclined to think that they, with their somewhat removed perspective on the contemporary scene, sense something amiss with digital media, though they sometimes can’t articulate it very well.

    But even more than older people’s discomfort with computers, the experience of viewing an interactive presentation alone at a computer is inherently different from other ways of hearing a story, such as reading or viewing images in a museum-like context, with others. I think something like this – a physical exhibit where people could congregate – might allow some of the promise of multimedia content to reach people in a less solitary and/or intimidating venue.

    Let me try to draw out more theoretically some of the reservations I have, some of which are suggested in others’ comments.
    I think Tessa’s mention of working with care in images deserves to be drawn out, in light of Ms. Ganley’s comment that we are likely to be underprepared to read images, though we are highly competent with text. That images even need to be read is an increasingly hard concept to grasp due to the very rapid succession of images in electronic media, which often tend to be used as “logos” or icons – immediately recognizable, their meanings totally fixed by unthinking consensus. The eye is meant to move over such images very fast: For instance, TV news illustrated 9/11 with the image of the exploding tower over and over again, until that image becomes a glyph, no longer really read but simply registered, the nuance of its moment and the narrative that stretches before and behind it both subsumed in its glyph-meaning: 9/11. I found that Ms. Ganley’s rapid succession of images (for me) simply activated this trained tendency to read images as immediately legible symbols of certain fixed ideas. I think that in our use of images in telling Starksboro stories, we should try to redirect this kind of looking, promoting lingering over the image and more open, slow readings of it.

    Also very well-taken is Alena’s note that digital production takes a great deal of time. As she put it, the newness of this technology, especially in the hands of an acolyte like Ms. Ganley, is “infectious.” It is important to remember, in the face of the digital world’s rhetoric of miraculous automation and time saving, that time spent in front of a digital device is always time not spent somewhere else. We need to make this choice very consciously, and with the awareness that media have a logic of their own, and can, if we is not careful, draw us into their technical requirements at the expense of our own agendas as storytellers. Related is the danger of getting too involved in the aesthetics of medium, as Alena also points out. We should be striving to make ourselves transparent in this process, letting people’s stories shine through with a minimum of interpretation. I am not accepting any kind of positivist subject-less ideal reportage here, but I would like to substitute for this kind of dubious “objectivity” some ideal based on listening. I would like help developing this thought.

  10. Maxwell Kanter says:

    Thursday’s presentation was challenging. This course is my first opportunity to compile stories in a journalistic style and present them using multimedia techniques. Although challenging, it is very exciting. Combining music, images, and text proved to be a very powerful combination. The multimedia stories from the hills of Kentucky made me aware of the array of choices available. Music, in this case, instantly set the tone and alluded to the creator’s perception of Kentucky mining communities. Everyone watching saw the towns as depressed places with the residents living in terrible poverty. Barbara then showed us different images from the same project without music. These images left everyone with a different feeling. By showing only the images, each communities seemed much more vibrant and lively. While still poor, the people in the photos didn’t seem hopeless. Barbara definitely made me aware of the opportunities we have to piece together the stories of Starksboro. Yes, we have an opportunity to create a professionally mastered project, but we can’t get carried away. How would Starksboro like to be portrayed? Should they choose the images? Should they choose the music? How much freedom do we as Middlebury student have? How do we ask the residents of Starksboro these questions? I feel it is appropriate to directly ask Starksboro how they would like to be involved in the shaping of the project. My prediction is that they will trust us with our judgement, and grant us more personal freedom than we expect. I am, however, glad that our group is extremely aware and sensitive to the fact that we have been invited by the town of Starksboro to utilize the colleges resources and create a multimedia compilation of intimate town histories. I think there is room for some personal initiative on our part, but Starksboro ultimately should have the final word on how the project should look, and what content is appropriate.
    The Story Corps project is simple. They record the stories, publish the abridged version, and include a picture of the storytellers. Although not extravagant, the simplicity adds to the power of the stories. It is important to note that every storyteller is on an even playing field, meaning that the presentation is uniform, which automatically excludes a hierarchy among the stories. The picture at the end of every story is crucial to the presentation. Because ever story has a face, the reader can easily humanize with each story. After reading each story I thought, “Wow, that happened to them!” It will be interesting to see how our project unfolds. Will we strive for simplicity, or will we use images, music, color schemes, text, and design to tell the stories of Starksboro? Right now I am leaning toward simplicity, but I remain open minded.

  11. Jeremy Cline says:

    My favorite place to look at news is the BBC-Online’s photo stories pages. These have stories with about ten or so photos depicting something from poverty in Bangladesh to people of Welsh counter-culture living off the land, each with a small portion of text complimenting each picture. These stories, even without sound, bring an aspect to to stories that is lost in regular journalism which based more on experience than on fact and information. The experience of looking at a photograph can change the viewer in a way that descriptive text often fails to do.

    Right now, there is more and more information accessible to us, more than we can possibly digest. There is something to be said for stories in prose, but what will be the most powerful and transformational will be the stories we write as poems. If we give attention to how we make these multi-media stories they will contain tremendous information, and information which is more digestible. A skillfully taken picture of an essential part of an interviewee’s life coupled with a short and eloquent quote will, in my opinion, relate aspects of life and stories powerfully. We are not trying to make Hollywood productions here, and I think that instead of viewing these tools as a way to spice up the interview we record, we should think of them as a way to present a window to town life more simply.

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