Digital Storytelling Audio Assignment and Workshop

The Context

In the DWRL, we teach several courses with audio components such as Remixing Rhetoric (RHE 309K), Digital Storytelling (RHE 330C), Writing With Sound (RHE 330C), and Writing in Digital Environments (RHE 328) in our undergraduate rhetoric program. The lab is an extremely collaborative teaching environment. I wrote an early proposal for Writing With Sound to get it on the books and collaborated with Professor Casey Boyle on the syllabus, technologies, and assignments. I taught Remixing Rhetoric. I've designed syllabi for Digital Storytelling and Professional Writing in Digital Enviroinments. I've procured equipment, designed workshops, and consulted with many instructors on courses like these. I won the Slatin Prize for audio workshops I gave in my own classes and the classes of other instructors, but these collaborations are just the most recent ones in a long line of courses, projects, and initiatives in the DWRL that emphasize digital audio. Before these classes, the lab produced a podcast, Zeugma, which I consulted on. The podcast and classes emerged from a lot of interest in audio recording technologies among lab members when the DWRL was still the CWRL. Kevin Borque wrote and designed and wrote The CWRL Guide for Podcasting in Pedagogy, with assistance and support from Clay Spinuzzi, Director, Jim Brown, Assistant Director, John Jones, Assistant Director, Woo Yeom, Assistant Director, Stephanie Stickney, Program Coordinator, and D. Hampton Finger, Systems Administrator. Furthermore, Jamie Jesson, John Jones, Hala Herbly, Amanda Moulder, Justin Tremel, and Lydia Wilmeth all contributed ideas to the guide.

The Assignment

"Telling Stories with Sound" is one of the units in the Digital Storytelling class. One of the assignments is as follows:

In this assignment, you will compose a 120-second stand-alone, audio story. The main purpose of this assignment is to gain familiarity with and practice in editing sound using Audacity or similar software. You have two options for completing this assignment: (1) Compose a “trailer” or “advertisement” for your final project. These might be considered as a remediation of your project proposal. That is, you will take the content of your proposal and revise it to account for a new medium but also a new purpose. Instead of proposing a project, you will be “selling” that project. or (2) Compose a short audio narrative that may or may not include something about your final project. That is, the 120-second audio story should have some form of beginning-middle-end structure of a typical narrative, but it may also eschew that form IF your narrative/story is designed to do so. The story’s content may be something related to your final project or it might be something unrelated. Either way, the audio narrative should function as a stand-alone piece that a listener can listen to without any additional information or context. Each option—or some combination of the two—must include the following features: (1) A clear intro and outro. You might choose to use music, sound effects, or voice for this component. (2) Vocal recordings. This might be your voice or it can be someone else’s. (3) At least one section where sound is layered together. This might include background music alongside voice, or something else (sound effects, other voices, etc.). (4) A least one fade-in and one fade‐out.

The Workshop

This workshop walks students through strategies and tools for finding audio and creating audio. It also addresses issues of copyright and copyleft and how these tools and skills translate to cases outside of the classroom. The workshop necessarily assumes that not all uses of audio will be clear cut fair use cases. A classroom assignment turned in behind a password protected web site has a pretty strong claim to fair use. But the workshop is designed for students to take the skills out of the classroom and address the ethics of how they work with audio in more public contexts. In addition to those things, this workshop covers the following: 

Each of these sections can be broken out into a weeklong unit and it can be mixed and matched across several different courses depending on the needs of the instructors.