Are you feeling in control of your Networked Narratives experience, lost in the chaos, or perhaps sometimes both?

This week we’ll explore this spectrum and our place on it, both in writing and in some media creation.

The Network Effect

Network Effect is an immersive and overwhelming information experience meant to ask about the effect of the Internet on our humanity

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?

Created by Jonathan Harris and Greg Hochmuth includes 10,000 video clips, 10,000 spoken audio segments, news headlines, tweets, data charts, all arranged around a series of themes, but presented at pretty much chaotic order. But the site limits you to see approximately 7 minutes worth a day (the amount is proportional to the average life expectancy in the country where you are viewing the site) “which induces a state of anxiety, triggers a fear of missing out, and totally frustrates any attempt at completeness”

The creators made this to tease out our expectations and realities of our experience with the internet:

The videos activate our voyeurism, the sound recordings tempt us with secrets, and the data promises a kind of omniscience, but all of it is a mirage — there is no one here to watch, there is no secret to find, and the data, which seems to be so important, is actually absurd. In this sense, the project mirrors the experience of browsing the web — full of tantalizing potential, but ultimately empty of life. We do not go away happier, more nourished, and wiser, but ever more anxious, distracted, and numb. We hope to find ourselves, but instead we forget who we are, falling into an opium haze of addiction with every click and tap.

The Internet is a miraculous tool, but all too often, it affects us like a drug. Many of its popular apps, news websites, and social networks have been carefully designed to addict and distract, so they can harvest human attention like the natural resource it is. “Keep searching and you will discover,” these services seem to proclaim, but the deepest truths cannot be found by searching — and you will not find them in data, in videos, or in images of other people’s lives.

We need time and space and silence to remember who we are, who we once were, and who we can become. There is a way, and every one of us contains the potential to find it.

Try to explore Network Effect at least 2 or more times this week (that’s only 14 minutes!) and reflect on your experience there. Is it disjointed? Can you find meaning? What is the feeling in there? Are you curious in that space or frustrated? Is this in any way a reflection of your own internet experience? What can you summarize, if anything, about this kind of existence.

Bonus! Geoff Gevalt has set this up as a Challenge on the Young Writers Project, where you will be able to see responses from the youth they work with.

NOTE: Only after posting this we found out via Kevin H. that the site does not work on all computers nor small mobile devices (it seems to want a big screen). Kean students, please contact us if you are unable to view the site and we will work to find a solution or alternate activity.

Networked Narratives: The Human Graph

In class on Wednesday, we have an activity where students will place themselves on a line between “in control, ordered” on one side and “utter chaos” on the other in terms of how they feel about their Networked Narratives experience.

Here is how the Kean class graphed themselves, spread across the spectrum!

There is no right or wrong place to be, it’s more a matter of thinking about how we manage ourselves and maybe how we interact with each other.

Studio Visit Discussion

Also in class, we will discuss the Tuesday Studio visit with Howard Rheingold and Mamie Rheingold and ask our students to tweet out highlights of that discussion.

After the studio visit, we will put the video in Vialogues, a site that allows annotation and discussion of videos.

Meme-and-GIF-a-Palooza

Many of you are familiar with searching for meme images or GIFs and using them in tweets or your blogposts. It’s rather fun to find a reaction GIF to express an emotion, right?

Yeah mmm hmm from Reaction Gifs

But let’s go further and generate our own! In class Wednesday, we will introduce you to a number of tools to not only create these media, but also to combine them.

And let’s aim to go beyond Ha Ha funny, can we step up a bit and create memes and GIFs that have more… meaning?

Your goal is to produce at least two new pieces of media related to our theme of Chaos, Order, Internet, and Us — make at least one original GIF and one original meme… And you are to be creating these media, not just downloading ones that exist. And please skip the obvious ones of a messy place then cleaned up. Go deeper.

Kean students will be tweeting what they do in class, starting Wednesday February 22 at around 6pm EST, all under the #netnarr hashtag, not only yo show what we are doing, but also to provide material others might remix from.

As you put these together, keep track of the sources of any images, videos, photos you use. That will help you (hint) when you write about what you made, so you have more than just a GIF to slap in a post.

Giphy GIF Maker: Make ’em from YouTube Videos

We are going to use Giphy for a few activities; it’s not necessary, but if you create an account, it will keep track of everything you create there (see Alan’s vast catalog, oh no!)

You can make a GIF from anything on YouTube (that can keep you busy) but for fun, we are going to all try making one from Howard Rheingold’s Alchemagickal Lucid DreamBox. The idea is to find a very short segment that you want to draw attention to, and would be interesting as a forever looping GIF.

Paste that URL into Gif Maker:

Using the Gif Maker controls to select a start point and how long a duration to create an interesting loop

Below these controls, you have options to add a caption.

Publish your GIF! Tweet it out (you do know the hashtag, correct?) You can link to it from your blog or download the image source so you can put it in your blog later.

Giphy GIF Slideshow: Make ’em from Photos and other GIFs

You can make GIFs from a combination of other media with Giphy’s Slideshow Maker — so you can use your own photos, ones that exist online at a URL, and URLs for published GIFs.

Think about how you might make a very short GIF message about Chaos vs order. See if you can incorporate another #netnarr participant’s GIF, and maybe a few of your own photos. It could be a reaction?

imgflip with those popular memes…

You may have a favorite site to use for meme generators – Google says there are literally a million of them We are partial to imgflip (you can use your own photos and it also has extra advanced editing tools) but you can use any tool you like.

Let’s start with one of the built in images, maybe it’s “Bad Luck Brian”:

Before you start captioning, do some research! Use Know Your Meme to learn about the one you chose. For example Bad Luck Brian was really the yearbook photo of a guy named Kyle. Try to find something that you can relate to a sense of order or chaos, and then use that info to caption your GIF.

Save it, tweet it. Carry on.

imgflip with your own images: Chaos vs Order

Now see what you can make using something like imgflip using either photos you take, have, or maybe screenshots from this week’s Studio Visit (Howard Rheingold is rather expressive!).

Your goal is to make a pair of memes that play off of the difference between chaos and order.

Now for something Lala…

We will leave this one up to your imagination- La La GIF lets you combine the animation of a GIF with the sound of a YouTube video!

Let’s Make Some Order This Week! Check These off Your list

Make sure your blog reflects the following items, either in one mega post or a few smaller ones…

  • Your requisite number of Daily Digital Alchemies
  • A reflection on your experience of exploring Network Effect at least twice during the week. Talk about this in conext of you rown behavior or relationship with the internet.
  • A reflection on the Studio Visit with Howard Rheingold and Mamie Rheingold — reference your activty as well in annotating the session in Vialogue (link TBA after Tueday). Write a personal reflection (or prescription ?) for a balanced life as a digital citizen. Include both your struggles/challenges & your best practices.
  • Show us the memes and GIFs you made! But not only show us, describe how you made them; link to your source material. Describe how what you made fits in with our theme of Chaos, Order, Internet and Us.

Bottom of the Page Goodies

You have been waiting for this, right? We got TWO special extras, completely not required for anything beyond your own curiosity.

As a follow up to our look at audio last week, watch this video to get a sense about the way Pixar uses music subtly to pull at your emotions

And in a similar vein to Network Effect, check out Astronaut which pulls videos from the very bottom of the Youtube popularity stack, a curious look at the videos almost no one has seen.


Featured Image: “Dombis 1687” by Cracksinthestreet has been placed into the Public Domain

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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