Tailgate: Considering Un-Narrated Media

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It's Monday after an excellent Media Commons Tailgate, and it's time to contemplate any insights I've had.

Where we are in the Story

My first thought is that the Media Commons staff and faculty have come a long way in terms of understanding building media assignments. There are lots of great examples of video projects in the classrooms, and good resources for free media and thoughtful ways to use and expand learning spaces.

Another high note was the keynote from Chris Long which did justice to the notion how a new media evolves. I particularly liked Plato's term pharmakon (φάρμακον) because it has a host of rich meanings implying danger as well as opportunity. Our job is to present the opportunities, but it's always good to watch for the dangers.

Narrated vs. Un-Narrated Media

So on that note...I am wondering if we are focusing so much on developing narration, we are forgetting the possibilities of media without a narration. It is a good educational practice that students are exposed to the process of creating a video short like a PSA or a documentary, because I think many of them will be asked to think of transmitting ideas in various media. But the truth is that this type of assignment doesn't match with every learning objective.

There are times when the objective is to collect and analyze loosely related artifacts and maybe (or maybe not) construct a analytic narrative around them. Consider the anatomical movement analysis project done by Renee Borromeo's kinesiology class. This assignment, unlike others requires only that students shoot a video of a movement in a certain way.

I think there are immediate applications to disciplines not at the Tailgate such as the sciences, but there are just as many applications even in the social sciences and history. Consider a historical problem such as the identity of Jack the Ripper. An exercise like this requires a student to study contemporary news articles, police reports, photos and forensics in light of what was then known and what we can interpolate now. Based on this a student may be able to build a partial narrative, but it's unlikely one will be fully developed, unless it truly becomes a piece of fiction.

This weekend, I was reminded that transmedia is a perfect tool for this kind of analytic assignment. Instead of constructing a narrative beforehand, we can use it to compile our artifacts and represent it in ways that could help a student understand the context. The timeline approach to the collapse of Arthur Anderson is a perfect example of that.

I think the use of video and transmedia to construct a new way of telling a story is exciting, but I believe I am intrigued by the possibility it can allow students to really understand what "narrative" means.

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