The general structure and shape of the 2018 version of an open Digital Alchemy and Networked Narratives Course based at Kean University

Kean University Course Poster for 2018

Note: This course shares a few similarities of the first version from 2017, but like most experimental alchemy practices, it will be quite different this time around. If you joined us last year, please return!

Digital Alchemy & Networked Narratives (#netnarr): This Digital Life

January-May 2018 • ENG 4060/5058 at Kean University • Open/Connected Beyond

Take the oldest and most familiar form of communication, apply principles of medieval scientists, and explore it actively in the modern digital spaces — that frames what we call Digital Alchemy & Networked Narratives, noted online via the symbol #netnarr.

Storytelling and Narrative are long established ways of sharing the human experience. Yet their potential grows larger when we can create, connect, share, collaborate with almost anyone, anywhere, through networks.

Like original alchemists exploring the potential of combining the four elements of the earth, as Digital Alchemists we strive to understand and put to use the basic digital elements of words, images, sounds, motion, in pursuit of unleashing their power for spreading ideas, motivating action, and generating empathy and understanding in the world as done via networked narratives.

The overarching theme of this course is “This Digital Life” — an examination of the role digital and networked technologies play in our lives, and a question of what say we have in the shaping of it. We’d say is no separate “digital world”; the impact of networked digital technologies on our day to day activities is no longer a thing for scientists and geeks. Yet, do we fully understand of what we give up when we use “free” services? Do we have control over our digital representations? How do we untangle, make sense of world given the torrent of information coming at us? Can we really expect others have similar experiences as our own? What is this digital life we have?

To explore this theme, we will enter it through the genres of digital art, gaming, and electronic literature, all as represented in digital, networked spaces. We will also learn and put into practice digital alchemy skills of media creation to express our “digitalness”. More than creating stories of interest or for entertainment (e.g. “for the lolz”), we will be using media to examine our own digital lives.

This experience will happen in the network of our own class but also connected to other ones in Norway and Egypt, and even father with lone digital alchemists operating in the corners of the open web.

Each week will start with a blog post announcement of all activities and assignments for the week. Kean students will be meeting Tuedays 4:30PM – 7:15PM ET (check your local time). Some weeks there may be live video sessions or twitter chats from the class, but all activities will be detailed in the weekly announcement. In class, we will engage in discussions, networked activities, meet a weekly new “Digital Alchemy Tool” and ince into our three genres, we will have a hands on “Make” session with digital media.

Participation in the course activities will be via the writing and sharing from individual participant blogs (which are networked into the site, as well as via maybe the questionable social media space of twitter and an layer of annotation of the web via There will also be live streamed Studio visits to practitioners of digital art, designers of games, and creators of electronic literature.

Below are the main segments of the course spine. As we move through it, each will fill out with detail and links to announcements, activities, and maybe a few alchemical surprises.

pixaby image by PIRO4D shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Segment 0: Digital Alchemy, Tools, and Networks We Live In

(weeks of Jan 15 and Jan 22)

To open we ask you to think about the ancient practice of Alchemy applied in the present with digital tools. What would it mean to you to have that title? And there are many things to get set up for this explanation- accounts, blogs, tools. You will start building your own digital alchemy laboratory. And we will begin looking at, and thinking more deeply about networks we engage in, by our own choice, and what they might be engaging us in, not of our choice.

Week 1.0: Get Started with This Digital Life, Digital Alchemy, and Networked Narratives - This is it. The start of a second iteration of Networked Narratives. Welcome all… registered students at Kean University, peer students at the University of Bergen, and curious folks elsewhere on the internet.

pixabay image by kellepics shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Segment 1: Digital Art Genre, NetArt, and What’s Underneath the Web

weeks of January 29, February 5, February 12

Introduction to examples / background of Digital and Networked/New Media Art. What does digital aid, enable in art and artists? How does it reflect / represent the digitalness in our own lives?

In this segment we will learn and applying graphic creation skills and understand to meme messages, remixed visual media, and animated GIFs as short form video. Rather than the typical ways these media types are spread in social media to garner laughter or worse, to mock, we will explore how we can use them to express the ways our digital lives are playing out.

During this segment we plant to have virtual visits to web documentary maker Brett Gaylor and digital artist Emilio Vavarella.

Pixabay image by igorovsyannykov shared into the public domain with Creative Commons CC0

Segment 2: Is This a Game? Examining Game Mechanics of our Digital Lives, sharing via Audio Documentary Storytelling

Weeks of February 19, February 26, March 2, March 19, March 26

Overview of storytelling and mechanics of games. Exploration of game design, collaborative game activities with students in Norway and Egypt, analyzing effectiveness of empathy games and serious games as well as alternate reality games. Engage in discussions and readings on gaming addiction, how game style mechanics play out in other parts of our lives.

Students will also learn audio production skills and contribute to a student produced audio documentary piece or podcast on the impact of games outside of the games themselves.

Possible Studio visits with game educators Remi Khalir, Mary Flanagan, Anastasia Salter.

pixabay image by geralt shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Segment 3: Electronic Literature about Electronic Literature and This Digital Life

Weeks of April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23)

Exploration and examination of hypertext fiction, social media writing, creative bots, and generative literature. Readings and discussions about uitems from the Electronic Literature Collection.

Create twitter bots that engage in conversations with yourself and others on the blurring between digital lives. Develop a hypertext or a generative fictional story about your own digital lives.

Planned studio Visits with Leonardo Flores and Dene Grigar.

“Magic Sun” pixabay photo by dimitrisvetsikas1969 shared shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Weaving It Together: Synthesis of Final Digital Lives Portfolio

Weeks of April 30 and May 7

Complete final project of developing an annotated portfolio of creative works and summary of it’s meaning published to the Arganee Journal

Featured Image: Pixnio image by Andrew McMillan shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0.