For my collective storytelling class, I decided to collect stories around the question: “What was the hardest decision you’ve made?” with the follow ups of “Why did you make it? What steps led you to your decision? How do you feel about it now?” The motivation in these questions was that there is something to the way that people index their stories, their memories, their lives. I wondered what that index might look like for different people— whether there were any similarities or areas where decision-making might converge— and also wondered whether the experience of seeing another person’s decision-making process might help someone else.
I collected written, recorded, and sketched stories— sent to me from friends and family as well as classmates. I then printed them out and put them in envelopes, speaking to the idea that they had traveled to me from elsewhere. I then mounted them on a lampshade and placed them on a wooden pedestal. This atmosphere was to incite an ideal decision-making atmosphere where a person could consider others’ decisions and have the peaceful, warmly lit table to make their own. I projected a video of one of the decisions that was hand-written onto the lampshade to add another element of possible storytelling.
The stories all live at:
For this week’s Collective Storytelling assignment, we were supposed to create something in response to the prompt: “Story / Object / Location / Memory.”
I decided to bring in the stack of letters that I have saved over the years— that weighs heavily towards my summers away when I was younger— but also has a few letters sent to me at college and more. I think that letters hold a real place of importance for us. Yet the format of communication has obviously changed so much— drifting much more into emails, texts and social media sharing / commenting rather than the old longhand form of communicating with one another.
I wrote an essay about this transition but for now, will discuss some of our associations with Object / Memory / Story / Location.
Tangible - feeling of opening an envelope -
Literally stamps of a place, a moment in time, transferred from one (or several) to one (and several)
Can be shared with a group once sent - can be sent from a group -
They compile into memory - shared memory - between you and the receiver / you (if receiver) and the writer
- Choice of stationery
- Handwriting / typing
That reflects on you the receiver, you the writer
Emotional connection to letters:
- Builds with anticipation
- Holds a space in our experience and reasserts this space when we look back over our letters
- Inherent reference to space and time that carries through from ten years ago or one year ago
Collective Storytelling: Tenement Museum
Visit to the Tenement Museum:
I very much enjoyed the Tenement Museum visit. It makes a lot of sense as a structure for learning about a specific historical period and effectively transports us to that other time.
The street outside of the tenements is quite different— no cobblestones or carriages, different clothing and all sorts of new technologies. However, once inside, the darkness of the hallways and staircases, the furniture and interior decoration create a true window into that other world— New York, decades and decades ago.
Our guide’s explanations were helpful though not necessary. One need only look around the room, explore its objects in order to understand that it must have been used as a sewing factory or as a kitchen. The space itself provokes imagination, curiosity and perhaps some analysis as well— where did they all sleep? How did they stay warm? Where did they study? Did their eyes go bad from the lack of light? Perhaps the guides could add details such as stories of how the space was used— something our guide did a bit of— but could have honed in on tales of the tenements rather than just explanations.
The Tenement Museum is also effective as a space that effectively slots itself into our memories. The combination of space, objects and difference from our norms all add up to a solid memory that we can easily reference. In Josh Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein, he describes how creating spatial components to an idea or word etc. is important in order to remember it. In fact, the more extreme and wild our associations with that word is, the better we will remember it. But the “memory palaces” are particularly interesting in terms of the Tenement Museum’s premise of remembering and learning through spatial exploration.
Collective Storytelling: Notes from Readings
"Collective Storytelling and Social Creativity in the Virtual Museum: A Case Study" by Elisa Giaccardi
1. Duplication and Extension of Reality
2. Recombination and Personalization
- Collective storytelling generates the museum, and information and communication technologies “materialize” it.
"Storytelling: The Real Work of Museums" by Leslie Bedford
- Something happens in a story— something is wrong in the world— and its resolution serves to help us sort out our basic values and beliefs. We make the concrete details of the story represent something much larger.
- Storytelling is more about the listener than the narrator. Stories are powerful because they do not fill in all the blanks.
- Narrative enables people to imagine themselves in an unfamiliar world.
- Stories are the most fundamental way we learn. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They teach without preaching, encouraging both personal reflection and public discussion. Stories inspire wonder and awe; they allow a listener to imagine another time and place, to find the universal in the particular, and to feel empathy for others.
- Storytelling is an ideal strategy for realizing the “constructivist museum,” an environment where visitors of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to create their own meaning and find the place, the intersection between the familiar and the unknown, where genuine learning occurs.
- The relationship between history and memory is peculiarly and perhaps uniquely fractured in contemporary American life and repairing it needs to be a major goal of a public history concerned with enhancing our ability to imagine and create a different future through a reuse of the past.
Roopa Vasudevan and I created this story for the following assignment in Collective Storytelling:
Audio Story in Three Parts (can follow any of the examples reviewed in class: Three different perspectives on a single subject; Three components necessary in completing a single tale, etc.
We worked together to document my block in Soho (Sullivan St. between Spring and Houston), which, even as the rest of the neighborhood gentrifies and becomes homogenous, seems to retain some of the charm of “old” new york. We interviewed three prominent members of the community — the pastor of the local church, a bakery owner who has been in the neighborhood for almost 20 years, and a longtime resident who just recently opened up a coffee shop on the block.
Collective Storytelling: Convergence Culture
A few notes from the reading:
Circulation of content depends on consumers’ active participation
Delivery technologies change, the medium doesn’t (sound is medium, CDs, cassettes are deliveries)
The strength of the Daily Prophet:
- Pool knowledge,
- value systems-ethical dramas,
- connection across scattered info,
- expression from own culture outward for pop culture,
Collective Storytelling: Downton Abbey
Edith sat, unable to concentrate on the tasks at hand at home, unable to absorb the shock of Cousin Patrick’s departure. The breeze lifted her hair from her hot forehead and the clouds shifted to reveal spots of blue. As a younger girl, she had always dreamed of Patrick’s return, even imagined that he might still be alive after the Titanic sunk. They used to play for hours—hide and go seek, house—in the fields far from the house. Mary would come sit with them sometimes as they raced around trying to catch one another. But she would only watch; she thought their games were childish and not becoming for a young lady. Though Patrick knew he was destined to marry Mary, Edith had claimed a place in his affection. They had once tried to kiss one another as they had sometimes seen their parents do, smudging their noses together and brushing lips as they romped around in the field.
An automobile sped up the driveway, glinting with sun and halting promptly at the house. Startled, Edith leaned forward, placing her hands on the cold marble steps as if to get up. But the house, its winding drive, the flowing lawn melted as she found herself overwhelmed by Patrick again—how close she had felt with him after spending just a few days together! She turned away from the calm estate and hid her face in her hands as she burst into tears and considered how to proceed.
If she returned to Downton, she might not be able to stomach the daily talk of Matthew as an heir, the preparations for Mary and Carlisle, the daily confrontations between her mother and Isobel…
“Edith, is that you?” Mary said, stepping slowly up the stairs behind her. “What are you doing in such a lonely spot? Granny has been looking for you. We’re having luncheon in a few minutes and imagined you might condescend to join us. Or were you too busy pining for Patrick?”
Staring at Mary, Edith stood up and said, “How can you be so unfeeling? You are able to continue living, carrying on, flitting about as if nothing had happened. But something happened. Patrick was here and he is alive. Don’t you understand? That changes things!” Edith stood so close to Mary that she could smell the cloves in Mary’s perfume. Mary looked shocked by Edith’s boldness. Edith continued, her voice rising, “And now he has left. We are unlikely to see him or know him ever again. And why? Because you refused to recognize him or even consider recognizing him. Was he too ugly? You are fickle beyond belief.”
Mary took a step backward on the marble, shaking her head at Edith as she almost growled, “How dare you. How dare you presume to understand a situation that is apparently so far beyond your comprehension? You can only see this first layer of a bandaged man who wins a place in your affections by describing all of the stories that he had learned about Patrick—the true Patrick. This is no way to mourn Patrick—bringing up his memory for purely mercenary reasons.” Mary narrowed her eyes and stepped toward Edith, placing a hand on Edith’s elbow. Mary held Edith so tightly that Edith wrenched her arm away, wobbling as she stepped backwards and reached the edge of the marble platform.
Mary’s voice was quiet and controlled as she ordered Edith, “Never mention his name again. Never think of him either. If you are truly concerned about family, take a moment and consider the stress this has placed on father. Instead of running off after this faux-ghost of ‘Cousin Patrick’ like some lost peasant in a drama you yourself have created, be here and perhaps you will redeem yourself from your disgusting behavior.”
Mary spun away and neatly stepped down the stairs as Edith tumbled forward and shouted, “You think you are beyond reproach, beyond mistakes, beyond confusion, but take a moment and note that you are marrying your own blackmailer to protect your darling reputation. Yes, I know. I know about all of your intrigues—of course! That’s what family is, isn’t it? Oh I’m done with you, all of you.” Edith ran down the steps as if to return to Downton, but once reaching the bottom of the marble monument, she turned away from the house and walked rapidly towards the drive.
Processing of writing fan fic about Downton Abbey:
I tried to get in the mind of one of the characters whom I find particularly aggravating in the show. It was interesting to imagine her mindset as she places a lot of value on a character I thought was trivial.
It was also interesting to write both the description of the inner monologue as well as expanding (in the second part) to a more action-oriented dialogue. Most of the posts in Fan Fic were long narrative styled pieces but usually screenplays are not… in terms of structuring a story.
Collective Storytelling: TED talks
Collective Storytelling: Writing
I tried 3 different formats.
He waited. Parched. twisting as he search for a spare drop.
Parched, he waited, turning and twisting as he sought water, becoming browner each day and losing his thick velvet skin.
Parched. He twisted as he searched for a drop of water. Over the next few days, he grew browner in the sun and noticed that his skin lost its bright glow. He shed cracked flakes, useless to him now. And then he waited.
The forms are longer from 1 to 3.
It was fun to try different versions, to see how minimally I could represent the story. I also played with the concept of time: “becoming browner each day” vs. “over the next few days.”
Can you guess who “he” is?
It’s my plant.