Digital Storytelling
CPSC 106
Martha Burtis
Chandler 202 from 10:15 – 12:15
Summer 2011 May Term

Email, Office Hours, and Location

Email: [email protected]
Office: DuPont 310
Office Hours: MW 9:00 – 10:00 or by appointment
Phone: 654-1355

Course Description

According to Wikipedia Digital Storytelling is defined as “using digital tools so that ordinary people can tell their own real-life stories.” It then goes on to elaborate as follows:

Digital Storytelling is an emerging term, one that arises from a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people tell their own ‘true stories’ in a compelling and emotionally engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.

The term can also be a broader journalistic reference to the variety of emergent new forms of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, fan art/fiction, and narrative computer games).

As an emerging area of creative work, the definition of digital storytelling is still the subject of much debate.

The above article is rather vague about the details surrounding this emerging genre of narrative, and it is our responsibility to interrogate the term digital storytelling within the cultural context of our moment. This means each of you will be experimenting with your own digital platform for storytelling, as well as placing yourself within a larger narrative of networked conversation within the course and on the internet at large.

This course will require you to both design and build an online identity (if you don’t have one already) and narrate your process throughout the five week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout the course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond as a necessary part of such a development.

In many ways this course will be part storytelling workshop, part technology training, and, most importantly, part critical interrogation of the digital landscape that is ever increasingly mediating how we communicate with one another.

Course Objectives

The primary goal of this course is to expose you to a range of ideas about digital storytelling as well as a range of tools and technologies that will push you to think more deeply about your own creative work in a networked world. Specifically, by the time this course is over I expect you to

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the concept of storytelling and the power of narrative;
  • Demonstrate proficiency at investigating technologies for the purpose of storytelling and meaning-making;
  • Develop an online presence that communicates your own intellectual progress through the ideas, theories, and technologies discussed in this class;
  • Participate in an ongoing and meaningful conversation with your classmates about the ideas, theories, and technologies discussed in this class;
  • Investigage and explore notions of fostering creativity and developing a “creative habit”; and
  • Publish online your own exploration of digital storytelling techniques and approaches.

Department of Computer Science Grading Scale

A 92-100% | A- 89- 91% | B+ 87-88% | B 82-86%| B- 79-81% | C+ 77-78%
C 72-76% | C- 69-71% | D+ 67-69% | D 60-66% | F 0-59%

Course Materials

  • The internet: There is no textbook for this class, however individual readings will be assigned and will all be available online.
  • A computer: This class does not take place in a computer lab.You will need to bring a laptop computer with you to class to participate in class activities and assignements.
  • A Web hosting account and domain name: You will be expected to purchase a domain name and a subscription to a commercial Web hosting service with a LAMP/cPanel Web environment. One option will be presented to you in class, but you may choose any hosting service you like, as long as it meets the basic LAMP/cPanel requirements.
    You will need to pay for this subscription for the duration of the class, but you may cancel it (and avoid further charges) at the end of the term.
  • This American Life USB Drive (Available at bookstore)
  • Radio, an Illustrated Guide (Available at bookstore)

Class Schedule

The following schedule lays out the basic structure of the class and the units and topics we’ll cover over the semester. A more detailed Course Calendar is available as well, but it is subject to change based on the progress of the course.

Week One:

  • Introduction to Digital Storytelling, Personal Cyberinfrastructure, and Web 2.0
  • Setting up and Configuring Your Personal Cyberinfrastructure
  • Setting up and Configuring Your Storytelling Toolkit
  • Introduction to Design and Visual Stories

Week Two:

  • Creating Stories Through Visual Design and Presentation
  • Introduction to Audio Storytelling

Week Three:

  • Using Audio to Tell Stories
  • Introduction to Video Storytelling

Week Four:

  • Using Video to Tell Stories
  • Introduction to Mashups and Fan Fiction

Week Five:

  • Mastering Mashups and Fan Fiction
  • Final Project Group Challenge
  • Class Wrap-Up

In addition to this schedule, I will be meeting with every student in the class during the second week and fourth weeks for 5-10 minutes. These meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss your progress, questions or problems you may have, and review your overall performance.

Grading Breakdown

Participation (20% of Grade)

This class will in many ways be anchored around your participation both in and outside of class through the various technologies you will be experimenting with. If you are not present both physically in-class, and virtually outside of class (asynchronously or synchronously) you will compromise the success of the class (as well as YOUR success in it) . I expect active and engaged participation, which for the purposes of this class means responding thoughtfully and critically to your classmates work. This will be accomplished in several ways, including the use of blogs and micro-blogging platforms (Twitter), and we will discuss them at length in class.

Course Blogging (30% of Grade)

Everyone will be expected to regularly contribute their reflections, course work, and projects to their personal blog. Some blog posts may be assigned by me, but, in addition, I expect you to regularly post about your reactions to readings, thoughts about ideas and examples discussed in class, and progress on your work.  The course blog must also host all of your digital storytelling assignments (see below).

For this class, you will also be required to purchase the This American Life USB drive, which contains 35 hours of TAL broadcasts. Every week, as a class, we will choose two episodes to listen to, discuss in class, and respond to on our blogs. These posts will be required on Tuesdays and Sundays, in preparation for disucssion in class on Wednesdays and Mondays.

We will discuss the specifics of blogging more thoroughly and throughout the term.

Digital Storytelling Assignments (30% of Grade)

Throughout the semester, I will assign a number of digital storytelling projects using a variety of tools, techniques, and technologies. You are expected to complete all of these assignments (and share them on your blog) on time. Late work will not be accepted.

Your grade on these will reflect both your success at completing these assignments as well as your commentary (on your blog) about the process you used and/or difficulties you encountered. In other words, if you have difficulty with an assignment I will always expect you to attempt it, but you can use your blog to share with me (and your classmates) insight into what you found challenging and how you negotiated the requirements. Generally speaking, as long as I see a commitment to completing an assignment creatively, you can expect to do well on it. If you don’t complete an assignment, you will receive a zero. If you complete an assignment, but you have failed to meet the requirements (and have not adequately explained to me why you did not meet them), you can expect to receive partial credit.

Final Project (10% of Final Grade)

During the final week of class, I will be giving the entire class a group storytelling challenge. Groups of 3-5 students will work on the challenge assignment and will have to complete it by the end of the week.


I expect you to attend every class. If, for some reason, you need to miss class I expect that you will contact me prior to class to let me know (or immediately afterwards in the case of an unforeseen emergency). If your attendance begins to represent a problem I will contact you directly. If this happens, it is your responsibility to follow-up with me and discuss your future in the class. Repeated absences will seriously jeopardize your final grade.

The success of this learning community and your success within this community rests on everyone’s shared commitment. Therefore, presence and participation in class is not optional.

The Honor Code

Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the Honor Code. Upon occasion, assignments for the class may require you to work in small groups. In these cases, group work/collaboration is entirely acceptable. If, when working on an individual assignment, you end up collaborating with another student or someone outside of the class this is entirely acceptable. However, I expect you to make that clear to me and the rest of the class.

Disability Service Statement

The Office of Disability Services has been designated by the University as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *