#storyf17 semester-long investigative project

Project Overview

This assignment is going to provide you with the opportunity to complete an individual semester-long community-focused investigation centered around a person, organization, or space that will result in a transmediated digital story that brings together a selection of the following modes: alphabetic text, video, audio, photo, and a mode of your choice.  To complete the work, students will learn open-ended interview techniques, listening and looking techniques, and fieldnotes techniques, as well as build on and hone the audio, video, and photography skills learned in prior Communication Studies courses. Your final digital story will be presented on your web site.

The assignments leading up to your final piece are:

  • an investigation blog in which you will detail and reflect on each stage of your investigation process;
  • an investigation proposal emailed to Bill and once topic is approved, posted online;
  • a business card that describes you professionally;
  • two video interviews conducted in person and reflections on those interviews on your blog;
  • a blog post in which you describe your process of looking at spaces in new ways
  • academic research on subjects associated with your project along with reflections on some of the texts you find posted to your blog;
  • a collection of detailed fieldnotes that have been digitized and reflected upon in blog posts
  • rough and final drafts of your final online presentation of the investigation

Throughout the process of completing the above assignments, we will interact with members of the Twitter community who are interested in or in some way related to our areas of research. These connections will broaden our research potential, introduce us to new ideas, and provide us with people who we will be able to interview.

These steps will lead to the content you create for your story, which will include alphabetic text, video, audio, photos, a graphic, and a mode of your own choice. Each of those assignments will be explained in detail on their own page.

This assignment is informed by each of the 5 course objectives:

Objective 1: Storytelling
Students will understand the principles and practices of effective storytelling and be able to create media objects which effectively apply storytelling principles and techniques for desired rhetorical and communication goals.

Objective 2: Research
Students will understand the critical role of research in storytelling, including but not limited to texts and techniques associated with interviewing, observing, and photographing.

Objective 3: Communication Design
Students will be able to identify and employ a range of effective communication strategies to navigate audience, purpose, and context and will understand and apply human centered design approaches to communicating through digital media.

Objective 4: Risk-taking
Students will know what it feels like to step out of their comfort zones and take risks with their approaches to and understanding of investigation, design, and digital storytelling.

Objective 5: Reflection
Students will develop their understanding of the important role of reflection during the investigation, design, and communication process.

Choosing a Topic

The topic or focus of your research is up to you, though BW must approve it. To help ensure that approval, the subject or topic you choose must meet the following criteria:

  • The investigation topic must be new to you. That is, the subject cannot be anything that you have researched in the past. We do not want to approach the subject with pre-determined ideas.
  • It should not be SJU or family related. That is, the topic should not be connected to SJU or be a member of your family.
  • The investigation must be for a new series of communication modes; it cannot be something you’re already working on or have worked on.
  • The investigation topic must lead to research that is going to stretch and challenge you as a researcher and communicator. It should not be easy.
  • The investigation topic must lend itself to various modes of presentation (ie, alphabetic text, video, audio, photo, etc.)
  • The investigation topic must be local but have larger implications that experts in a related field can speak to. For example, “Snow Fall” is about a local event, but national experts on avalanches could add details.
  • The investigation topic must have appeal for a larger readership, such as those that read specific magazines and newspapers.
  • The investigation topic must be community-focused or social justice-related
  • The investigation topic must be something that will hold your interest for the semester. There is little worse than engaging in a research topic that holds little interest.

When searching for a topic, it might help to think in terms of the kinds of subjects in the articles that we read for Week 1 and 2: profiles of a person, descriptions of an event, histories of spaces, and so on. Think about times when you have said to yourself something to the effect of, “Huh, I wonder what that is all about?” “I wonder where that came from?” “I wonder who the artist is behind that [insert art form]?” “What actually happens at those events?” “What is it like to work at that place or be a [insert esoteric profession]?” “Why is this street or town or park named the way it is?” “I’d really like to investigate that but never had the opportunity to really research it.” In short, you should be finding things that pique your curiosity, that make you wonder, that suggest something important is happening or has happened, and that will result in an engaging, interesting, and unique work.

However, be sure to focus your brainstorming to community-focused or social justice-related subjects.

Please use your research blogs to brainstorm possible ideas.

Investigation Proposal

I would like you to think about this proposal in terms of several things. First, consider the topic you are going to investigate. Consider what it is about that topic that intrigues you, that you are curious about, that makes you want to learn about it. The topic should be grounded in something community-related but have broad appeal.

Second, I would like you to consider and address each of the bullet points listed under Choosing a Topic. That is, your proposal should discuss in some depth how the research topic would be new to you, how it would be a stretch, who you might interview (generally, you don’t need names now), and so on.

You don’t need to address the items in the order listed above, and your proposal shouldn’t read like a bulletted list. Rather, the ideas and topics should appear seamlessly in your discussion. The goal is to showcase why you want to this, what you will do, where it might appear, and why it is important.

Please email your proposal to Bill at his SJU email address by 11:00pm on Friday, September 15. It should be as long as you think it needs to be based on the above requirements.

Creating the Transmedia Digital Story Layout

Your final transmediated digital story will be presented on its own page in a new subdomain. Here are the steps to set everything up:

  1. Create a meaningfully-named subdomain and install WordPress (or, if you are familiar with it and want to use it, Squarespace). If you don’t recall how to set up a subdomain, see the Blogging Assignment.
  2. Create a new page (not post) for your story and name it something meaningful.
  3. Set the theme so the static home page is the new page you have created.
  4. Find and install a responsive single-page theme. If using WordPress, I strongly suggest the free Himilayas theme. I’m not familiar with other platforms so cannot make recommendations.
    • Set the theme so there are no sidebars and so it stretches the width of the screen.
    • Do not enable the pre-installed slider.
  5. Find and install a responsive image slider. I strongly recommend the Huge-IT slider, which is very easy to use and add to any page of your site.
  6. Edit/Compose the About page that describes you as a professional — a freelance writer, a communications specialist, etc. — something that does not locate you as a student. Also discuss how you completed the story — number of interviews, total hours of footage, number of visits to a site, etc. These will help people who see the story more fully understand the extensive work you put into it and, in a way, validate it.
  7. Tweet a link to the final product and share it with those who made it possible. Send a nice thank you email, which includes the link.

Please watch the following tutorial, which takes you through the steps of installing the theme and slider, and creating some sample content.

Important Dates

Note that due dates may change based on various events during the semester. Be sure to check the Course Schedule for updated due dates as they may not always be reflected here.

9/13: Order business cards no later than this date
9/15: Investigation Proposal due in email to Bill by 11:00pm
11/3: Fieldnotes, interview, looking, and reflections posts due
11/13: Project alphabetic story due
11/17: Project Audio story due
11/20: Project Video story due
11/27: Project Photo story due
11/29: Project Graphic due
12/1: Project Mode of Choice due
12/4: Transmediated digital story rough draft due by class time
12/11: Transmediated digital story final draft due by class time

10/13: Story of Learning Midterm due by 11:00pm
12/15: Story of Learning Final due by noon

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