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.

Our general map is laid out as a course spine. Below is the typical Long Scrolling Announcement of what should be happening in out first week for my students at Kean University.

The Opener

In class we’ll start with something as a provocation of sorts. Something to “do”. Something for participants to circle back to in their weekly reflection posts.

Let’s take in this thing called a “network”… we have a limited view into its effect via this digital art piece called Network Effect.

single scene from Network Effect

The Internet is said to show our common humanity. Through its data, it is said to provide a kind of omniscience, and through its social networks, a deeper sense of connection. For those without access, it holds the promise of a better life. For those of us who use it a lot, its power to affect our lives is clear — but what is the nature of that effect? How does it change our behavior? The way we see others? The way we see ourselves?

NOTE: This site may not work on all computers nor small mobile devices (it seems to want a big screen). Thanks to the network effect of this class we have this view into the project

e.g.

CHASING

A post shared by Network Effect (@networkeffect.io) on

DRAWING

A post shared by Network Effect (@networkeffect.io) on

Some things to think (or tweet about if you are on board in twitter, please include the #netnarr hashtag). Does the site know something about you from the start? How would you describe what you feel watching this? How well can we really characterize the overall experience of this network? Which segments did you tap into? How long was reasonable to listen? Is this a story? narrative? Could the experience be conveyed in any other media?

What The Heck Kind of Course is This?

At the core this is a bonafide on the ground course in Networked Narratives at Kean University, with registered students who will spend some time each week in a classroom. Last year it was co-taught by Mia Zamora at Kean join via the interwebs by Alan Levine who beamed in from his home Arizona. Several of you participated.

This time around, Alan is the sole teacher, still beaming in, with the assistance of TAs Hailey and Marissa. Mia is this year teaching at the University of Bergen in Norway, and her class there will overlap with ours as well. And for a middle segment of the course we will be connecting with students of Maha Bali at the American University Cairo.

Also, as an open connected course, the experience is open to anyone else on the internet who wants to do all or part of the same activities and assignments. Why? Because that’s what networks allow and enable.

How this mix happens is, that rather than students doing their work in a centralized system, they create and reflect in their own digital space, a blog. We use syndication tools to bring together everyone’s work in one place (latest on the front page) or all in the Syndicated Category, where you might see some open participants are already active.

We also will connect through twitter and social web annotation in a tool called Hypothes.is. You will see a few other web tools along the way.

During course we are investigating, questioning, examining the roles digital tools and networked technologies play in our lives. We will do this through lenses of three genres of digital media: Digital Art, Networked Games, and Electronic literature. Through all of them, we will be expressing our investigations, questions, examinations in digital media and networks.

How Does This Thing Work?

There are alot if few moving parts. Much may be new to our Kean students. Don’t worry, we will take small steps. Our experienced open participants and Kean students from last year are eager to help too.

Our first first two weeks are meant to get you set up with the main tools you will use and get started communicating with each other. Doing much of the creative work will be much easier to do with a desktop or laptop computer and ideally, a high speed internet connection. It’s not to say one could not do this on a mobile or tablet device, but it’s not recommended. We hope you have access to a camera or a smartphone or a computer with a built in camera.

This is a class where your teacher expects you to use devices in class.

You should bring, if you have them, a laptop and/or smart phone to each class. My technology policy is that you should use whatever resources you need to be successful in this class. It is your responsibility to determine the most effective uses. I am not checking your screens. As a group, we will decide if there any situations where we should not have laptops and smartphones out.

You are responsible for reviewing the weekly course announcements published the Monday morning before class and coming to class prepared to discuss the readings/viewings assigned the week before. Your weekly reflective blog posts must be completed by end of the day Sunday of each week.

We do not require specific software nor is there a required textbook; you are welcome to use what you have access to, and we will always offer free / open source or web-based creation tools.

Kean students will meet in person for discussion and hands on activities every Tuesdast 4:15 – 7:30pm EST — the same activities will be posted here for our open participants (keep on scrolling!).

Are you with me? These blog posts are long.

Okay, just for curiosity, if you are reading this closely please tweet now, with the #netnarr hashtag, a picture of a unicorn. Do not say anything else, just the unicorn and the hashtag.

Pixabay image by darkmoon 1968 shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0. Netnarr logo superimposed on top.

On the Agenda For Week 1

Many many things to introduce this week. Like everything. Let’s break down the course title.

Digital Alchemy

What do you know of about the ancient practice of Alchemy? What does it mean to consider that spirit of curiosity, experimentation, a dab of mystery and dark arts into the digital space? For a starter explore the discussion and twitter chat we held last year.

Do you consider yourself a digital alchemist now? What would it mean to carry that title?

Networked Narratives

What does the phrase digital narrative or digital story convey to you? What does it mean to have digital as an adjective?

Who do you recall as telling you memorable stories? Where? What was the purpose? Why do they appeal? Bryan Alexander, the author of The New Digital Storytelling likes to ask audiences, “What is not a story?”

Consider Kurt Vonnegut’s notion of a story having a shape. What is it about this shape that makes stories work?

Or consider the difference between events in our lives and what makes them stories as described in the trailer for Stories We Tell.

What becomes of stories when they can go beyond the media of a book or a video, when they can be multimodal and not limited by paths in a networked environment?

Setting Up ur Own Digital Alchemy Laboratory

For a start, we are asking participants to prepare for the start of Networked Narratives by taking a trip through the Labyrinthus. In this walk through activity, you will make choices about setting up or using an existing Twitter account, Hypothes.is account, and Personal blog.

Enter the Labyrinthus Now

Upon exiting the Labyrinthus you will have submitted your information for these three items to this site. Get the laboratory started by:

  • Sending a hello twitter tweet including the #netnarr hashtag.
  • Make sure your blog has at least one new post in it.

Then of your blog is listed with the Kean University Participants or the Open Participants.

We will talk a bit more about the nuts and bolts of blogging in class and next week as you get started. Do not get too worried now about the look and appearance, it’s more important to get a writing practice going.

Review the suggestions for How to Blog Like a Digital Alchemy Champion.

A good suggestion is to start your blog and writing with a regular practice of organizing your posts using the built in organization tools of your blog (Categories/Tags in WordPress, Labels in Blogger, Tags in tumblr).

For a start make sure you have/use a category/tag/label of Weeklies for your required reflections.

The NetNarr Site Tour

For Kean students, we will do a walkthrough of the course web site. It has many corridors and tunnels.

The entrance to the NetNarrr site. I wonder why it says “do not click”?

Below the fold will be the latest syndicated blog posts from Kean University and Open participants (plus a feed of recent twitter activity).

Networked in Class Activity

Each week for the Kean University Class we will do some kind of activity in class that will connect is or situate us in a network of others, generally this will be around 6:15PM ET (check your local time).

This week we will do the Daily Digital Alchemy (DDA) together for this day. These are published every day as small creative challenges for participants to do (Kean students are required to do two per week).

Because the responses are entered via Twitter, it’s also a way to practice/engage in tha part of our network. The DDA for today has to do with expressing the way we see the internet as a whole and where we are situated in it. This one will not be available until after January 16, 2018 at 8:00AM ET:

See DDA 129

Afterwards we will look at the shape of our #netnarr network via the Twitter TAGs conversation explorer.

Alchemy at Home Checklist (we refuse to call it homework)

These are the things to do to practice your Digital alchemy this week.

  • Set up accounts. Make sure you have completed the Labyrinthus, set up all accounts.
  • Twitter. Follow @netnarr on twitter to make sure you see the newest ones. Make sure you can access the #netnarr tag on twitter (we suggest logging in to Tweetdeck, and adding a column for #netnarr. Learn more about using Tweetdeck. Then start picking other people in the stream worth following.
  • DDAs. Complete at least two Daily Digital Alchemies this week.
  • Data Detox. Review the introduction to Data Detox. Do any of the concerns about data accumulation match your own?

Your weekly Reflection

Each week Kean University students must post to their blog a summary of their activities for the week by end of the day Sunday. Do more than just describe and list the items above; reflection means expanding on what these activities mean, where you have questions, what you connect them to.

Be sure to use links in your reflection to connect readings/videos you are talking about, or perhaps, to link to your own work completed on other web sites (e.g. the Daily Digital Alchemies). Review again the suggestions for How to Blog Like a Digital Alchemy Champion.

For Next Week

In preparation for next week’s class, watch the first episode of the documentary Do Not Track.

In Closing, We GIF

You soon will GIF. Soon.


Featured Image: Pixabay image by geralt shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Alan Levine
Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at CogDogBlog.com. His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet. He and his dog enjoy the peace of a little home in Strawberry, Arizona.

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