This post isn’t  related to my final project, but I thought I’d share.  I will be graduating in a few weeks, and have spent the past few months on a long and arduous job hunt.  One job application, for a 9-month digital residency offered by the Library of Congress, requires applicants to include a “creative video” along with their materials.  The website states:

“The video requirement in the application process will help the selection panel identify which candidates are truly passionate about digital preservation.”

After looking through dozens of applications, this is the only one I’ve found which required a video submission.  Seeing as it is a 9-month stewardship involving digital archiving, asking for a creative video doesn’t seem unreasonable: not only does it allow ‘the selection panel to identify which candidates are truly passionate about digital preservation’ but also measures an applicant’s video production skills.  

Since we discussed video essays for weeks, and even made our own, I would feel  competent and actually comfortable making the creative video.  But what about other applicants?  Should video essays be mandatory for a job?  I feel very grateful that I took this class.  I’ve done digital archiving and video production for years, and know the technical aspects of video production… but it was the ‘creative’ part that always scared me.  After working independently on my own project and benefitting from collaborating with others (not to mention our impromptu class assignments), I’ve learned to think much more creatively about making videos in all forms.  In the past a video requirement would have made me think twice about applying for a job, but after taking our VRM class I feel like I have a definite advantage.  

It’ll be interesting to see if mandatory video essays become more common on job applications…

A collaboration between Elaine, Jung-Hsien, and myself

In Brian Massumi’s article entitled, “On the Superiority of the Analog,” he provides several instances of how the digital space cannot function without analog functions. One specific point we wanted to elaborate one was his

“Both quantification and qualitative transformation, or analog series formation, involve a de-actualization… The actual occurs at the point of intersection of the possible, the potential, and the virtual… There is another de-actualization process in addition to quantification and qualification: codification. The digital is a numerically based form of codification (zeroes and ones).”

“Digital technologies have a connection to the potential and the virtual only though the analog.”

One illustration of this is MIT’s program which was developed to focus on invisible motion in video. The project utilizes a set code, placed over a video, which digitally represents physical aspects of the human body: such as pulse and blood flow. The code relies on digital language (seen being scripted in the video), which transforms a regular video or photograph into a more detailed representation of a person’s bodily functions. The concept, however, involves an analog series of formation. This creates a topographical map, which goes beyond the surface layer. This software has potential and ability to help us actualize digital formats into a more actualization of the visual if applied to virtual space, such as the internet. It has the ability to bridge the gap in our experiences between the actual and the virtual.

Just as the phrase ‘digital humanities’ proved to be difficult to define, digital storytelling is similar in its breadth and scope.  Simply, it could be called an amalgamation of multimedia arranged together to make a narrative.  This could include any combination of text, image, video, audio, etc.  It can be interactive, allowing the user to choose their own path in the story, or it could be a personal account of an event in someone’s life.  

Knut Lundby’s book Digital Storytelling provides the reader with multiple definitions and examples of this new form of narration.  It seems to be primarily based on a user’s connectivity to the Web 2.0 space, and how a storyteller can easily combine media using various programs and software.  

In Kirsten Drotner’s Chapter 4: Boundaries and Bridges, I came across an example of digital storytelling that had been brought up in an earlier article we read for class – the game Second Life.  Drotner calls it a MMORPG or Massively Multi-User Online Role Playing Game.   I’ve never been much of a gamer, but I used to play The Sims, a computer game where you create and customize your own families, and build their homes, give them lives, children, jobs, and such. Second Life is similiar, although existing on a more mature level – as well as a more interactive one.  Upon entering the site, each user is asked to choose a customizable avatar, then begin performing tasks and interacting with others.

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I hadn’t necessarily thought of gaming as a form of digital storytelling – but Second Life is just that.  The game is played through a series of interactions with strangers (other people’s avatars) using video, audio, animation, and user customizations to characters.  The entire game is dependent on user participation and interaction with other players.  Although I did create an avatar, I didn’t delve too deeply into Second Life because A) my laptop is 5 years old and I can’t upgrade my operating system to play the game, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY  B) When I was 11 or 12 I used to sit and play The Sims for hours, and would get so obsessively perfectionistic about my character’s lives that I would completely disregard my own.  Even now, as a student with little free time and a tendency to get too wrapped up in technology… I decided that my foray into Second Life would be on an introductory level, and nothing more.  

As a whole, I think digital storytelling is something that our class has been doing all along.  Our video essays and documentaries were perfect examples of us using video, audio, music, photographs, and narration to communicate thoughts and ideas.  Our projects have been collaborative as well as personal.  I’m still considering a few different topics to write about for our final papers, but on the bright side ‘digital storytelling’ seems to exist in many varieties and formats, so there will be no shortage of elements to discuss.

 

Elaine, Jung-Hsen, and I took a look at the art of cosplaying, or costume playing. While there are many types of cosplay, we had noticed an increasing amount of ‘crossplay’ in which a person dresses outside their race or gender boundaries. We decided to call this an ethnographic documentary. It provides a general introduction of cosplaying for those not familiar, and launches into cosplayers own experiences and opinions with crossplay.

We decided to take a step back from the material, and not include ourselves in the doc. While we all had attended cons in the past and done casual cosplay, we acknowledged the fact that we were not ‘insiders’ to the degree of many people that we interviewed. Many cosplayers we saw at WonderCon had taken hundreds of hours preparing and making their costumes from scratch.

But, in one sense, we were ‘insiders.’ There is an amazing unspoken rapport between con-goers. It’s a public space where it’s very easy to talk or relate to complete strangers based on what they’re wearing. Professional photographers are everywhere at cons, and many cosplayers get their picture taken hundreds of times in one day. They go to cons in costume knowing this, and ready for their interaction with strangers. Every person we asked to be in our documentary was so enthusiastic about doing this project with us. Several of our interviewees told me after we filmed that they were excited we were doing this specific project: to bring light to issues and reasons for cosplaying.

Documentary ethics were something we had to keep in mind, since we were filming the thoughts and opinions of real people. It was easy finding cosplayers who were willing to open up to us. I don’t think anyone refused an interview. After being interviewed, one cosplayer asked if he could bring his friends over for us to film as well.

I think, in my roughly 20 years of being a student, that this was by far the best group project I’ve done. It was great to be able to blend my academic side with my inner nerd, while working with people who get just as excited as I do. We were at WonderCon every hour it was open – for 3 days (including a 14 hour day on Saturday!). We filmed cosplayers but also went to panels, discussions, bought comics, met people, walked around the exhibition floor, etc. We maximized our con experience, and took filming breaks when we saw a person in a great costume we wanted to interview.

We did have some minor technical difficulties with video format conversions… mostly arising from the fact that we were editing on both Mac and PC. For the final version, we used iMovie.

On the first day of WonderCon – Elaine, Jung-Hsien, and I all decided that we wanted to cosplay. We decided to pick our favorite characters, and “go with it” so to speak. Once we got to the con, we realized that we were all actually crossplaying. Elaine and I dressed outside our gender boundaries, and ended up picking male characters that we liked, and Jung-Hsien picked a character outside her race. We didn’t talk about it in advance, or plan to do it that way. I think that just illustrates the growing popularity of crossplay. People cosplay for many reasons, as our doc illustrates, but the genre of crossplay is becoming ‘canon’ at cons.

 

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The Doctor, Resident Evil, Colonel Tigh from Battlestar Galactica

Mark’s Lincoln Interview

Kelly’s Lincoln Interview

Mark and I decided to interview each other on our “expertise” on Abraham Lincoln.  We were exploring the idea of what constitutes an “expert” and who is qualified to speak on a certain topic.  As graduate history students we believed we could use our status to mislead our audience about what we were saying.  As the interviewer we asked each other questions beyond what we would commonly know, thus demanding the subject/interviewee to deliberately create a fictitious persona.

In the course of doing so, we found it difficult to create a false representative identity; to be serious.  As individual subjects, aware of our own false representation as ‘experts’ we had a hard time keeping a straight face.  We were constantly reflecting on our own representation, and realizing our dual nature as creator and subject made the situation seem ridiculous.

But we’re graduate students, believe us.