Scholars are knowledge producers. Traditional graduate seminars are designed to train people to critically assess and produce knowledge. Until recently, all that knowledge was published exclusively in bound journals or anthologies, printed by for-profit, third party publishers, and read by a very limited audience of other academics with access to those volumes.
That’s changing now.
A key component of this seminar was preparing participants in new kinds of scholarship that maintains high standards of peer-review, while it engages with communities and creates open streams of knowledge available to wider audiences. These knowledge streams, whether podcasts, infographics, or digital videos, are openly accessible and are designed to reach beyond the walls of the academy.
Listed below are twelve (12) digital technologies. Everyone that participated in #InQ13 engaged with at least three (3) of the technologies below.
These suggestions about digital technologies start with ones that are easier to use near the top, the more challenging ones are further down the list. For each tool, there’s a brief description, a suggested challenge that ties it back to the focus of the seminar, some examples of how other people have used it, and some links to how-to info. For the over-achievers, we’ve added info about the Advanced Level, if you want to step up your game.
Remember, the goal is to shift from merely being passive ‘consumers’ or ‘observers’ of digital media to becoming actively engaged and critically reflexive, producers of digital media. So try to have fun, experiment, fail, play around, observe what works and what doesn’t work for you. While you’re doing that playing around, reflect on ways you might use these tools to create knowledge that measures and resists inequality, as well as what the limitations of each might be.
Now that the class is over, you’re encouraged to use these experimental forays into digital technologies in ways that might inform your community activism and your research. Remember to share your work with the #Inq13 community in the blog.
Groups are often a good way to learn, collaborate and share when creating knowledge. You may want to join up with others who are interested in learning a particular technology, such as podcasting. Or, you may want to connect with those who share an interest in a common research methodology, such as oral history and want to explore with others what are the best ways to digitize those.
1. Animation (#animate)
One of the easiest ways to get started creating digital media is by making a short animation. Xtranormal is an application that will let you make short, animated movies, and the only skill you need is being able to type. Really, this amazing little app does everything for you. It asks to you to choose from a series of templates, pick your characters, and script the dialogue. Your animation can be easily be uploaded and shared on the course blog.
Challenge Yourself: Create a humorous and smart (theoretically or politically informed) short animation about the recent redistricting controversy in East Harlem or another political issue facing East Harlem. These short videos are ideal for biting satire, so make it short (no more than 2:00) and punchy.
Learn from Examples: These lists change all the time, but here’s a recent one of the 10 Most Popular Xtranormal Videos to give you a sense of what’s out there in this format. Some in the seminar may especially enjoy the “So you want a PhD…” series (or not).
2. Audio & Soundscapes (#audio)
We’re so steeped in visual culture that sometimes we forget to pay attention to the way the world sounds. Sounds are as important a part of a landscape as visual elements. Today, most mobile phones have an audio recording app built in, as do most laptop computers. Experimenting with audio recording may enable you to pay attention to your surroundings in new ways.
Challenge Yourself: Using your phone (or laptop), create a brief soundscape of East Harlem. What does East Harlem sound like to you? Record audio – whether it’s a marching band in a parade, music from a storefront, or just the sounds of children on a playground – then you can share that audio with others through SoundCloud.
Learn from Examples: A SoundCloud user created this soundscape of her neighborhood. This recording from a student in an Intro Media Culture class at University of South Carolina offers another guide. And, National Geographic has a nice collection of soundscapes, curated around the question “What sounds help to create a sense of place?”
How To: Here’s a description of the basics for how to record and share sound impressions through SoundCloud.
Advanced Level: Download Audacity and learn a new tool for recording and editing sound.
3. Zotero / Bibliography (#bib)
Bibliographies, lists of books and journal articles, are forms of knowledge. In a previous era of scholarship, academics worked on separate bibliographies for each paper or book they produced. Now, apps such as Zotero offer scholars the ability to work with others on the creation, sharing and maintenance of bibliographies. A shared Zotero bibliography can be an exercise in collaborative knowledge creation. And, it can also save you a ton of time when you’re finishing that final paper.
Challenge Yourself: Contribute at least two (2) citations about East Harlem to the collaborative Zotero #InQ13 bibliography. Then, write a blog post about the citations you added, summarizing them, and explaining why you chose them. Be sure to add the category KS: Bibliography, East Harlem and the tag #bib to your blog post to make it easier for other people to find.
How To: There’s a whole library of video tutorials to help you learn Zotero available here.
4. Flickr / Visuals (#visual)
Much of this course will deal with the politics of representation and images. In the one-to-many era of broadcast media, scholars often critiqued mainstream media representations of visual media portrayals of marginalized groups. With the emergence of many-to-many distribution channels on the Internet, now we can all “be” the media. Image-sharing sites such as Flickr have become popular ways for people to share digital photos.
Challenge Yourself: Contribute at least five (5) photos to the #InQ13 Flickr group that you think challenge commonly held misperceptions about East Harlem. The link to our class Flickr page is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/inq13eastharlem.
How To: To upload your photos to the Flickr group, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to put the name for the set of images or single image in the Subject line, followed by your name in parens. For example, East Harlem Blizzard 2013 (Jessie Daniels). Click here for Flickr’s Help page.
Advanced Level: Upload more photos, create a set, leave a comment on someone else’s photo on Flickr. For a advanced level critical reflection, write a blog post about the representational politics of Flickr – who is represented there, who is not, why does it matter, how might we change it by being there?
5. Information Filters (#filter)
While a big part of this seminar is learning to produce knowledge, it’s also important to learn to manage and filter streams of knowledge coming at you in a way that allows you to avoid information overload. A key information filter is RSS (“really simple syndication”). RSS enables you to set up specific streams of information so that news or research affecting your community finds you, rather than you having to search for it.
Challenge Yourself: Create an RSS reader for news about East Harlem that pulls together updates from some of the blogs and news sites listed to the left on this page, as well as other favorites you might have.
Learn from Examples: Watch this video by Howard Rheingold about “Infotention.” These remarks connect to the early exercise to “be” and reflect what your experience is of East Harlem without technology. As further background, read Howard Rheingold’s blog post about Infotention.
How To: To get started with RSS, watch this: “RSS in Plain English.”
6. Archive (#archive)
Archives are places where records of all types and formats are kept and made accessible for research and other purposes. Archives include oral histories, mass media, artifacts, manuscripts, letters, photographs, artwork, diaries, and personal papers. Archives are increasingly being available in digital formats (“digitized”), thus making it easier for scholars or the general public to access materials that were previously hard to locate. Indeed, the rise of the digital archive has been crucial to the development of digital scholarship, particularly in the humanities (e.g., Whitman archive, Dickinson archive). Yet, there are complicated issues with archives, as scholar Carolyn de la Peña points out questions of race are inextricably linked to what gets archived as well as to the history of technology.
Challenge Yourself: Visit the Centro Archive. Contribute to a digitization project that the Centro archivist selects.
Learn from Examples: Besides the digitization project at Centro, the New Museum in New York City has an excellent digital archive available online which allows you to explore 7,500 written and visual records, as well as a searchable database of over 4,000 artists, curators, and organizations associated with the New Museum’s programming. Click here to browse their online digital archive. The New York Public Library also provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from their collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, and photographs. Click here to visit the NYPL Digital Library.
How To: This page provides a quick and easy tutorial on how to create a digital archive. One of the most important tools you will need to create an archive is a scanner. This website also provides tips on how to scan your personal collection of archives as well as tips on how to preserve your digital materials.
Advanced Level: Get deeply involved with Centro’s efforts to digitize their archive; or create your own digital archive of the papers, personal stories, and artifacts of a little-known grassroots organization in East Harlem.
7. Graphic Design (#design)
If you have a strong message you want to convey, perhaps a strong visual element is the way to go. Good graphic design, whether in a logo, poster, flyer, postcard or brochure, can convey many layers of meaning very quickly. And, it can help people remember your message. Graphic design is a creative process which blends art with technology. Typically, graphic designers often work with a mix of computer-generated and hand-drawn images or photos. To read more about graphic design, click here.
Challenge Yourself: Working with community partners, create a poster that graphically illustrates what you decide together is East Harlem’s most pressing issue.
Learn from Examples: RISE is a project designed to illuminate some of the ways in which racism operates in the supposedly ‘post-racial’ 21st century. This collective of anonymous artists have designed a series of compelling posters with titles like “Stop Being Black,” followed by statistics on racial disparities in stop-and-frisk. See all their design work at this tumblr: http://racismstillexists.tumblr.com/ or around the Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
How To: This website lists 5 of the best Free Graphic Design Tutorials that you can visit in order to learn both the basics and more advanced methods. If you do not have access to Photoshop, do not worry. There are many excellent graphic design tools available for free. The best free alternative to Photoshop is GIMP, available for free download here. CNET also provides a list of free graphic design tools that you can download from their website. Click here for this list.
8. Remix (#remix)
Increasingly, we live in a “remix culture.” Remix just means that people combine or edit existing materials in order to produce a new product. Of course, this raises all sorts of interesting, complicated issues about copyright (see Larry Lessig’s excellent discussion of this). Remix pervades all sorts of cultural objects, but is perhaps most widely recognized in video.
Challenge Yourself: Create a video remix of news coverage about East Harlem.
Learn from Examples: The Bay Area Video Coalition (http://www.bvac.org) created this remix of news coverage, “The Usual Suspects: Black Men in Black Hoodies TV News Remix.” There are lots of other examples at Owen Gallagher’s Critical Remix blog.
How To: Popcorn Maker, by Mozilla (the same folks who brought you Firefox), is a web-based program that makes it easy to remix and share web videos.
The “Usual Suspects” video was created by searching the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive using the search terms “black male” and “black hoodie,” and remixing the results. Share your work on our course YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Inq13EastHarlem.
Be sure that you don’t run afoul of copyright laws when creating your remix, this guide from the Center for Social Media at American University can help.
Advanced Level: Do a second remix of YouTube videos created by East Harlem residents, contrast that mainstream news coverage. What differences or similarities do you see? Does YouTube open up a space for resistance to media images created by mainstream press? Or, does YouTube merely repeat these themes in different forms? Remember, share your work here on our course YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Inq13EastHarlem.
9. Timelines, Mapping, & Infographics (#dataviz)
Infographics, also called “data visualizations,” are easy-to-read illustrations that help tell a story and make complex data easier to understand. Timelines and maps are two distinct types of infographics. Timelines can be used to illustrate longitudinal data, change over time, or a sequence of events. Maps are useful for displaying data geographically. One of the most common uses of mapping is to present demographic data.
Challenge Yourself: Create a map with the locations of some murals of East Harlem and place them on a timeline that orders them by the date they were created.
Learn from Examples: Perhaps the most compelling use of mapping related to inequality is the “million dollar blocks” project, which maps the costs of incarceration in NYC, block by block. For additional inspiration and ideas: NYC at a Glance Infographic, Hottest New York Neighborhoods, Poverty in NYC.
How To: There are many excellent, free tools available to help you create basic to advanced infographics. Click here for a good list of free tools to help you get started. Some of the most popular tools are: Visual.ly, Piktochart, and Ease.ly. Each of these provides online tutorials on their website that walk you through the steps necessary to create your own infographic.
10. Podcasting & Radio Documentary (#podcast)
Podcasts are digital audio files, and are often produced in a series. Just as blogging has democratized mainstream communication mediums, podcasting now allows anyone to produce their own radio program that’s easily accessible through the Internet.
Challenge Yourself: Create a one-time podcast in which you tell the story of East Harlem through an interview with one individual.
Learn from Examples: The radio station WNYC features many examples of podcasts covering arts, politics, and social issues that affect New Yorkers. Click here for a list of their podcasts. For an example of a smaller podcast program, click here to visit East Harlem/El Barrio’s podcasts, which features community discussions and interviews regarding East Harlem.
How To: This online Ultimate Beginners Guide to Podcasting provides information on the software and equipment you will need to get started as well as information on how to get it up on a free WordPress site. This supplemental guide provides listings of free tools that you can use to get you started. Last, this guide covers the basics of a radio documentary.
11. Screencasting & Video (#video)
Screencasting is one method of putting together a video that doesn’t require a film degree! Screencasting is a recording of your computer screen in which you narrate and explain what is happening on the screen as the action unfolds. Screencast videos can range from basic, such as producing a series of screenshots, to more advanced methods of incorporating multimedia such as sound bites, video clips you shot, animation, and background music. However, the challenge with any screencast video whether basic or advanced is to develop an outline before hand and clearly communicate your ideas, facts, or opinions you want to share.
There are several screencasting tools available that are free and easy to use. Here are a few popular ones you can check out:
- Screenr – Provides web-based recording for Mac and PC and requires a Twitter account. Very easy to share.
- Jing – Takes pictures or video of your screen. Free download and install. Share instantly. For Mac and PC.
- Screencast-o-matic – Online recording for Mac and PC. Pro-version enables hour long recordings.
- Quicktime – This tool is available for Mac and is free on certain and newer computers.
- For information on additional free screencasting tools click here.
These free tools require users to create an account. If you want to narrate your screencasts, make sure your computer has a microphone. Most laptops these days are sold with video cameras and microphones included. If you don’t have a microphone included, you can buy one (for as little as under $10), that plugs into your existing computer through a USB port.
Challenge Yourself: Create a short 2-minute screencast video and explain how to do something for other members of the #InQ13 community.
Learn from Examples: Scan this website for inspiration on video ideas, styles, formats, etc. This webpage provides an examples of a brief and simple screencast tutorials. Here are two examples of an effective simple screencast videos:
For those wanting to experiment with multi-media screencast videos, you can review this screencast video which is a good example of a basic multimedia screencast video and these two videos which are advanced multi-media screencast videos.
How To: This online tutorial provides step-by-step instructions on creating your own screencast video.
Advanced Level: Working with a community partner, create a multi-media screencast video that highlights what you consider to be the main challenge facing East Harlem. You can use any mix of screenshots, images, Power Point, video clips (either that you recorded or you obtained through Youtube), sound clips, animations, etc. This guide explains how to incorporate your own video into screencast. Make sure to search for screencasting apps on your Iphone or Android that allow you to take pictures or video clips that you can incorporate into your screencast video.
12. Digital Media Storytelling (#storytelling)
Digital media storytelling combines video, images, music, and spoken word to tell a story in some online format. The precise online format varies widely, but typically combines some or all of the elements described above (1-11). Whatever the format, it still follows the elements of traditional storytelling, such as focusing on a particular topic and have a beginning, middle, and ending. The technology is secondary to the narrative.
Challenge Yourself: Create a digital media story of resistance and organizing in East Harlem.
Learn from Examples: The state-of-the-art in digital media storytelling is Snow Fall, recently published by The New York Times. Truly stunning ~ prepare to be amazed!
How To: Stony Brook University has an online comprehensive resource on digital media storytelling. You can also download and read this guide on the basics of getting started. There are several online and free digital storytelling sites that allow you to upload pics and audio in order to put together your digital stories. Some of the best free and online digital media storytelling tools are: Generator, Projqt, Capzles, Slidestory, Masher, Simplebooklet, and My EBook. For the advanced course, check out Bryan Alexander’s book, The New Digital Media Storytelling.
Advanced Level: Write a paper for a peer-reviewed journal that documents your experience of creating a collaborative, digital media story in and about East Harlem.