Final Reflection

I came into Digital Storytelling feeling pretty excited about everything. I already spent a lot of time blogging on my two blogs, Loopy Logophiles Love Lobsters and Hold The (Stella) Phone, and I hoped that we’d get to do something like that for this class. Honestly, I took the class for a gen ed credit, but as a Computer Science major I figured I might get something out of it too while having a bit of fun.
I loved how every night sort of had a general goal in mind, but we were free to go off on tangents depending on what interesting things we could bring up. Net neutrality, internet memes, music… It was amazing. Most of the stuff we talked about was really fun and I enjoyed it.
Prezi was one tool that I absolutely loved and will definitely use in the future. I actually saw someone in one of my linguistics classes use a Prezi in a presentation that we had to give, and I thought it was really cool but had no clue how they did it. Well, a week or so later we did the Prezi in class and I realized that this was the “really awesome presentation thing” that I’d seen before. It was remarkably easy to use and a refreshing treat after so many years of bland powerpoints.
I also liked using Jing and Google StreetView. I’d seen people make screencasts before, but once again I had no idea how to do it (and no name for the finished product, so no way of googling it). I would like to use Jing again. Perhaps I can experiment with making screencasts of this old horseback riding computer game I have. You jump courses and it’s actually really fun, but I’ve always wanted to be able to save the “instant replays” that they give once you finish the course. Also, the game is one of the few I’ve seen out there that lets you fall off of the horse (and actually in some pretty grotesque ways, like the horse falling on you or you slamming into the jump–yeah, makes me have some nasty flashbacks…), so my demented sense of humor says it’d be funny to compile a bunch of clips of falls from the game and maybe set them to music for presentation on Youtube.
Google StreetView was really fun. I kind of gave up on Google Maps a long time ago because I live way out in the middle of nowhere and every time I’d check there was still no data for my area. I really, really just wanted to see my house from here. I didn’t know StreetView existed. And the best part was, I could see my house! I really started to feel the whole nostalgia thing. In fact, when I did the project, I ran out of time every single time I did it–and I did it multiple times because I just had so many stories I wanted to tell.
I liked doing the Daily Shoot. I love photography, especially animal photography. You could almost say that my Facebook albums are digital stories themselves, because I regularly document the things that I witness and experience throughout college and at the barn. The only hard part about the project was that my digital camera charger is at home and the camera died not too long ago. For future classes with this project, I’d bring it up much earlier in the year that everyone will need access to a digital camera so that they can go home and get their cameras or their chargers or arrange to borrow one from a friend with a bit more notice. This summer, I might actually continue with some of the Daily Shoot prompts when I have the time.
I had a lot of trouble with Audacity, as well as the video editing projects. Either I had a lot of trouble learning how to use Audacity and it actually hated me back, or the Mac version was a bug-ridden piece of crap (which wouldn’t surprise me one bit) compared to the Linux and Windows versions. I liked the finished product of our sound story, and I would actually be inclined to do some more short ones if I could get a better handle on Audacity. The video editing projects were difficult simply because there’s no good open source video editor. Mac’s iMovie is NOT good. In fact, it’s really bad. I’m actually really good with Windows Movie Maker, but my version of Windows doesn’t include it. (I use a bare-bones version of Windows XP on my computer; it runs fast on my 8-year-old laptop, but I don’t have a lot of things and I can’t download it.) I use Linux the rest of the time and that really has nothing at all to use. I was kind of stuck for this project, so I’m really glad we did it in groups. That way I could do other parts besides the actual video editing, like finding clips and doing the audio.
I liked learning about the Internet Archive. I’d never heard of it before, and it has a lot of interesting stuff on it. I really also liked when we looked at internet memes occasionally. I think most of them are really funny or interesting.
I didn’t like a lot of the articles we had to read and write about. The article we read a while back about “augmenting human intelligence” was my thing. I loved getting a chance to write about computer science and linguistics at the same time, especially since many people (who don’t know much about either) hesitate to say that the two disciplines have anything in common. I like to practice writing things about computer science because one day I want to be an artificial intelligence researcher who writes things about computer science all the time and publishes them. That’s actually the reason I did a lot of my projects about computer science. I’m very passionate about what I do, yes, but I also love to explain computer science things to people in really fun ways. Many of the articles, however, were bland and too technical even for a huge nerd like me. Some of the ideas were important, yes, but perhaps excerpts could be taken from some of the lengthier articles to get the main ideas out there while ensuring that the students survive to the end of the article.
I liked the big digital story that I did. I thought a Javascript tutorial would be really fun.
I didn’t take into account a few things, however. My life is coding-intensive. I program most days, and usually for several hours at a time. I would crawl into my bed around 12:30 AM after spending the night in the Unix lab, open my laptop to write a post on Javascript, and instantly feel irritated because I’d just come back from over five hours of dealing with my own core dumps and such. I basically got burned out on programming near the end of the semester. I also didn’t think about the fact that I haven’t done Javascript in a very long time. I grew up on Javascript. I took my first actual computer science class in Javascript. I wrote the Lucky Seven game in Javascript over the summer. But I’ve been through lots of other languages since then, and I’ve basically forgotten Javascript syntax. I even wrote a post about it, comparing Javascript to Latin and talking about how much I’ve forgotten about Latin since I dropped the major.
I also ran out of time to complete such a large project. I wanted to give a really thorough overview of Javascript before giving a tutorial for the game, because I’m the kind of person who believes in having a solid knowledge of the basics before doing anything else. The project kind of evolved into explaining the building blocks of computer programs. I feel bad that it didn’t reach the point I originally intended it to, but I feel like I wrote some really interesting and good pieces for beginning programmers to read. I might continue writing things like that, but I think if I did do a tutorial for a programming project in the future, I’d simply put it all on a web page at once and either assume the reader has basic knowledge of Javascript (in which case they probably wouldn’t find it too difficult to do the project on their own given a description of the program’s behavior) or include tutorials for basic aspects of programming in a different location. I just don’t think that the building of the game itself should be split; in fact, I don’t know how I would easily be able to give a tutorial on writing a program. Lucky Seven is a really easy program and it would be possible to do a tutorial for it in one shot, but I generally see programming as something you do with your own personal flair. Everyone goes about it differently. I personally write out all of the methods I’ll need, comment what they should do, and write pseudocode/code haphazardly until everything works. Other people go method by method and then make sure everything works well together at the end. In fact, there was a whole section in a book for one of my classes a while back about the two major programming styles–the crazy style that I usually use, and the organized style that other people use. I would have to do a lot more thinking about it in order to put a really good tutorial out there.
I guess I would consider my tutorial a story. It was a fairly linear path with each part growing in complexity, and it had an end goal of creating something from everything else that had preceded it. In a way, this class redefined my definition of a “story.”
If I could make one suggestion, I’d want to start our own digital stories a bit earlier and do what we did at the end at the beginning too (and perhaps even the middle). I would have loved to hear everyone’s plans at the beginning so that I could get a better idea of what would be coming from everyone and really get excited about it. I know public speaking can be difficult for some people, but it’s not hard to stand in front of the class for two or three minutes twice a semester and tell everyone what you’d like to do and what you’ve done. I loved hearing what everyone had to say about what they’d done. I’d read and looked at some projects, but somehow I’d completely missed others that I would’ve loved to follow. The last two days of class were some of my favorites just because there were so many diverse topics to hear about from the story’s author’s perspective. (Paul and I actually discussed this together one day, how much we liked the presentations, hence we both wrote about it in this reflection thing…)
I really did like this class a lot. It was surprising, interesting, and a lot of fun. Some of the projects were difficult and very time-consuming, but they were far outnumbered by the really fun projects we did and the times I sat there in class and thought, “Wow.”

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