Samples for Working with Space and Place

Thanks this week to Jess for her provocative materials. I’m planning to add a few things to this list over the weekend (in part because there’s a lot of overlap between what this project made me think of and what Noel’s project made me think of), but here’s a couple first-thought resources based on the questions Jess asked in her rationale. 

Zeemaps is particularly useful if you want many authors but not the general public to be able to add to an individual map’s annotations (Scribblemaps is one of many other similar tools).

Still, it is worth observing that you can do most of the “drawing stuff” you mention with the My Maps features that already exist in Google maps. In addition to text, it is now pretty easy to integrate media into place-based annotations. And lots of blog platforms (and other storytelling platforms, including the Creatavist) make embedding saved Google maps pretty easy. For example, some of my amazing digital media students created a website (coded from scratch) that explores “The Legend of Mediumfoot” during the fall of 2014. Their “Sightings” page was multiply authored and is the type of thing that could easily be featured on a blog page in a class where design wasn’t part of the content.

This (probably) isn’t the right fit for a pilot-program literature class, but it is worth noting that if students know some web design basics and/or are interested in learning javascript/json, Google Maps API is really flexible and well documented.

It might also be worth thinking about ways to have students create non-digital maps (and then perhaps to document these products photographically). I love Nobutaka Aozaki’s From Here to There – this 2012 project consists of “A map of Manhattan composed of hand-drawn maps by various New York pedestrians whom the artist asked for directions.”

Consider sound mapping as an option. I know Steph Ceraso had students do this in Pittsburgh. And there are lots of intriguing examples of other cities/places creating collaborative soundscapes in different ways. Here’s a list of project links via the Acoustic Ecology Institute.

Along those lines, I’ve long wanted to find a way to take what I got out of the article “Affective Geographies: Toward Richer Cartographic Semantics for the Geospatial Web” by Elisa Giaccardi and Daniela Fogli (link to .pdf) into a semester-sized student project. Their pilot study “engaged the local community of Boulder, Colorado, in capturing and sharing sonic experiences for a period of six weeks” and was conducted In collaboration with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department and Water Quality Department. They use fancy sound cameras, but students could probably get sufficient data using phones and notebooks.

Thinking about real-and-imagined places in terms of video game environment design could be provocative. British journalist/game critic Andy Kelly’s Other Places project, which is “a showcase of virtual worlds from a variety of games, and a tribute to the talented artists and designers who create them,” could be a starting place. Here’s a brief interview with Kelly (via the predominantly German website

A couple more general resources for place studies:

The first three volumes of the University of Chicago Press’ massive History of Cartography are available online as .pdfs.

The Cultural Landscape Bibliography – an ongoing project associated with American Studies 851: Interpretation of Cultural Landscapes at the University of Maryland (compiled by Mary Corbin Sies, Gilda Anroman, Claudia Rector, and Krista Park and their classes).

Pitt specific: 

The Darlington Digital Library has digital versions of some really wonderful historic maps of the region. 

The Audiovisual Essay

Thanks to Katie, who just sent me this amazingly useful collection of video essay resources for teachers. It is part of website that serves both as a venue for new work and as an online repository for papers from a 2013 conference called The Audiovisual Essay: Practice and Theory (organized by Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López and supported by Vinzenz Hediger of Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany). The site’s editorial board includes Cristina Álvarez López, Catherine Grant, Chiara Grizzaffi, Hoi Lun Law, Adrian Martin, and Lara Perski. It is affiliated with REFRAME: Research in Media, Film, and Music (a cool open-access academic platform).

Sample – Composition No. 1

I just discovered that there’s an iPad version of Marc Saporta’s Composition No.1 (one of the example boxed texts from Visual Editions we used in class last week). Here’s the marketing blurb for their digital version: The Composition No. 1 iPad app looks at different ways of bringing to life the book’s non-linear reading experience. The app brings the idea of “reading the book in any order” to a new level, forcing the whole randomising experience onto the reader. How does it work? The pages don’t stop moving unless you physically hold them down with your finger, forcing you to engage with the book in a completely new way. And yes, those letter landscapes do still play some role.

Digital Storytelling Sample – The Jew’s Daughter

I was talking in class last week about a “canonical” e-lit piece that I couldn’t remember the name of but that used links/shifts in text in unusual ways. Turns out, the project I was thinking of was “The Jew’s Daughter” by Judd Morrissey, with contributions from Lori Talley. First published in 2000.

The ELO describes the project like this: The Jew’s Daughter is a work that renegotiates the concept of the hypertext to present a reconfigurative narrative. As the reader moves the mouse over links, segments of a page replace one another fluidly, giving the reader the sensation of watching a single page evolve step by step into another kind of textual instrument with its own sense of narrative rhythm. *They also provide files you can download to experience the project, if you’re having trouble with the online version.

Samples for Approachable Projects interested in Circulation

* Thanks to Kelsey for this week’s really thoughtful workshop materials. Once again, I thought I’d post a few links that her materials called to my mind (since my expertises are, perhaps, more askance of hers, some of these may seem a stretch). I was particularly taken with her invitation to consider “other non-technically demanding ways to invite the work we want when we assign video essays.”

I’ve started asking students to collect what Transom calls sonic IDs. They do this before we do any formal work on audio production, but could (I think) do them as standalone pieces leading toward non-audio assignments. I tell them these should be short and unscripted and that I’m not concerned at all about recording quality. (Although, we do go over some basics like: test your recording software before you need it and make sure you know where the mic on your computer or phone is, so you can think about positioning it). I tell them 10 seconds is plenty for an ID and that one should definitely be no more than a minute. That just a funny story from a friend or roommate is perfectly acceptable.

Cowbird is a platform that pitches itself as “a public library of human experience.” They say, “Our mission is to gather and preserve exceptional stories of human life… We offer a simple set of storytelling tools, designed to encourage contemplation and depth—for free, and without ads.” Most stories are really just a couple images paired with a brief text, but I can imagine requiring students to choose a “seed” (prompts the site provides) as a way of getting brief student works into circulation. Their idea of the site as a commons is also relevant to some classes we might teach.

Similarly, there have been a spate of brief articles about teaching microvideo with Instagram and Vine, and I can imagine something like asking students to participate in one of Instagram’s sponsored weekend hashtag projects grounding an assignment in an approachable way. Not quite for beginners in very short amounts of time but pretty doable — How To Make a Vine Using Stop Motion via Photojojo and Matt Willis.

Thinking about this Adweek article on Vine Stop-Motion Artists Doing Work for Brands also started me thinking about some other contexts in which teaching advertising examples or principles might make sense as an extension of work on GIFs.

To this end, asking students to create 360-degree product adverts via video with something like Shoogleit might be interesting. This is also a cool tool for creating “interactive” time lapse of places (for those who work on either spatial rhetoric or literatures of place).

If the idea is less to work on circulation and uptake and more to work on collaborative composition in a “new” media form, giving each student one word to create a photo of and then assembling something like Shelley Jackson’s Snow Story might be a great non-technically demanding way to start working with the poetics of media and typography. (Although, this story was also pretty viral in certain circles last year. So a project like this could also be about circulation.)

Another very different direction to take this would be to consider how GIFs have been used to capture glitches. I got lured into this (commercial) outfit’s technical description of different hardware glitches. I also like this piece on The Radical Capacity of Glitch Art by Lital Khaikin on redefine for the way it distinguishes glitch art from “raw error.” I can imagine this being cool for either looking at the glitch in a media studies or art historical way or in terms of “traditional” composition where—as a field—we’ve been amassing studies on “error” (and its aesthetics and consequences and potentialities) for a long time. 

Samples for Linked and Layered Essay Assignments

* Thanks to Molly for this week’s really thoughtful workshop materials. I’ve been thinking a lot about annotation and the history of hyperlink fiction in relation to some very different assignments, so I thought I’d post a few links that her materials called to my mind: 

In terms of thinking about doing annotations with students, I can’t recommend the article “A Visual Approach to Syntactical and Image Patterns in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: Essay & Images” on Anna Maria Johnson’s annotation work enough. Seriously. Click through and look at all the pictures right now. 

Stefanie Posavec’s “Writing Without Words” visualizations are also wonderful. Especially this visualization of every sentence in On the RoadThe analysis for these was all done by hand, the images created in Adobe Illustrator – no programming knowledge or dig data tools necessary.

The Canadian poet and master typographer Robert Bringhurst writes on the materiality of reading and writing in many places – and his experience with Native North American languages and storytelling traditions inflects this work in significant ways. Of particular interest in terms of polyvocal narrative might be the works from his Selected Poems (Gaspereau Press) that use color to designate different voiced parts. Here’s a sample page.

Consider asking students to work with platforms that manage links in interactive non-linear narratives (think Choose Your Own Adventure) – there are a lot of these, including Inklewriter and Twine and Quest. You can generally link to things outside your “game” or story world, in addition to linking between your own pages.

You might also consider the Electronic Literature Organization as a resource. They have a page that addresses the question What is E-Lit? and use the broad definitional answer, “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.” They also collect exemplary works. Here’s the 2011 Collection (Vol. 2).

In terms of situating E-Lit in relation to traditions of narrative (especially experimental writing), Robert Coover is pretty wonderful. Here’s his full talk “A History of the Future of Narrative” (40 minute video), a keynote from the 2008 ELO conference.

Syllabus – David Carr’s “Press Play” Class

An innovative syllabus, published on Medium – for a 2014 class at BU – as much about circulation as it is about making great writing. Carr is a smart guy with serious (media) journalism experience. Here’s a taste of the “voice” of these assignments: “While writing, shooting, and editing are often solitary activities, great work emerges in the spaces between people. We will be working in groups with peer and teacher edits. There will be a number of smaller assignments, but the goal is that you will leave here with a single piece of work that reflects your capabilities as a maker of media. But remember, evaluations will be based not just on your efforts, but on your ability to bring excellence out of the people around you.”

Digital Writing and Research Lab’s Lesson Plans (UTexas) – A project of The University of Texas at Austin’s Digital Writing & Research Lab (DWRL); the DWRL is affiliated with UT’s Department of Rhetoric & Writing and is staffed by graduate students in rhetoric, literature, linguistics, and related fields. Link is for a list of well tagged lesson plans that range in scope from in-class exercises to semester-long projects. They also maintain an interesting pedagogy blog.


A few links to start discussion on Jan. 29th

Steven Hammer at SJU in Philadelphia – his “active” spring 2015 courses include visual rhetoric and digital storytelling. During fall 2014 he taught an audio design and production class.

Casey Boyle at UT-Austin – he has materials up for half a dozen courses built around his specialties in digital rhetoric, including a writing with sound class and a class on spatial rhetorics and locative media.

Jim Brown at Rutgers-Camden – his course archive includes a wide range of classes, perhaps of particular interest to people working on classes that involve videogames (esp. as/and the literary), interfaces, or writing-and-code.

Jennifer Proctor – filmmaker and media artist based in Ann Arbor; lots of great resources for teaching video.

Mark Sample at Davidson – many courses from both Davidson and GMU, including Future & History of the book, Videogames in Context, Intro to Digital Studies.

Jentery Sayers at U Victoria – you have to look around bit to find specific course materials in his portfolio, but he is particularly good on sound pedagogy stuff and on using/developing/teaching DH methods (with Modernist texts in particular). Also worth note: his DH perspective is deeply rooted in cultural studies training.

Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech – is another digital rhetoric specialist who teaches a range of courses; it may be worth clicking through to some of the semester-specific websites for Developing Online Content (a class that used to be called “Writing for the Web”) and/or Writing and Digital Media. (Especially if you teach in our PPW program.)

Anne Wysocki at Wisconsin-Milwaukee – this website hasn’t been updated since 2011, but there’s a class on animating writing that’s intriguing, and the document design class is worth a look (if only for the way the course has both a conceptual description and a concrete description).

Elizabeth Losh at UC San Diego (director of their Culture, Art, and Technology Program) – classes include digital poetics, feminist dialogues on technology, media seductions, and public rhetoric.

Stephanie Strickland – a single, intriguing syllabus from a practitioner’s perspective for a class called Approaching New Media Poetry.

Information for the Writing with Video class at the University of Illinois – this has been around since 2005; it has now been taught by a wide range of instructors and been subject of a lot of development conversations.

Not yet fully composed, but already featuring some amazing resources: the curate pedagogy project’s list of keywords for digital pedagogy.

A blog post from Mu Lin collecting links to various digital journalism syllabi.

Useful Pitt Links

Form to reserve a computer classroom:

List of software available on lab computers:

A&S new course/program proposal links (which Jean mentioned):