The general structure and shape of the 2019 version of an open Digital Alchemy and Networked Narratives Course based at Kean University

Note: This course shares a few similarities of the versions from 2017 and 2018, but as usual, as an alchemy practice, it will be quite different this time around. If you joined us previousl7, please return!

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

January-May 2019 • ENG 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 this year for the course is “Digital Alchemy in the Post Truth Era. Last year we did explore issues of digital identity and data tracking, but so much has happened in a year. It feels… well worse, maybe even like the lights have gone out. Who can we trust? Social companies that collect our data and sell to advertisers? Manufactures of our devices that have hidden spy features? Are we influenced by bots? Are all media sources suspect?

A recent publication from the Intelligencer suggests most of the internet is fake, that we are in a “Post Inversion”:

How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

We will not only learn about the internet that is no longer a shiny dream, but also work towards developing out critical and digital skills to become practicing alchemists that shine more light on the dark corners of the digital space. We will explore, create, express, and develop a collaborative field guide to the Ways of Digital Alchemy.

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.

This experience will happen in the network of our own class but also connected to other groups in other parts of the world, and as well the the 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 Tuesdays 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 Hypothes.is. 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

Spine Step 1: Digital Alchemy for Dark Times

weeks of January 22 – Feb 12

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.

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.

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

Spine Step 2: More than Consume: Create, Craft & Express via Digital Art & Net Art

(Feb 19-Mar 5)

Details TBA – Topics include “Self Representation in the Digital Age”, “Memes, GIFs, virality, and Reproducibility”, “The Image & Exploring NetArt”

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

Spine Step 3: What is Interactive Experience? Robots, A.I. & Chatbots

(Mar 19 – April 2)

Details are mixing in the lab. Topics may include “Bots & us”, “Algorithms & Artificial Intelligence”, “A Path to Digital Wellbeing?”

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

Spine Step 4: Narrative & Creative Fictions: An Alchemist’s Journey

(April 9 – April 30)

Researching, writing, and publishing our online Digital Alchemy Field Guide.


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