Digital Storytelling

CPSC 106
Martha Burtis
Trinkle B52/6:00-8:45pm
Spring 2011

Email, Office Hours, and Location

Office: DuPont 310
Office Hours: TH 4:00-6:00 PM or by appointment

Course Description

According to Wikipedia Digital Storytelling is defined as “using digital tools so that ordinary people can tell their own real-life stories.” It then goes on to elaborate as follows:

Digital Storytelling is an emerging term, one that arises from a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people tell their own ‘true stories’ in a compelling and
emotionally engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.

The term can also be a broader journalistic reference to the variety of emergent new forms of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, fan art/fiction, and narrative computer games).

As an emerging area of creative work, the definition of digital storytelling is still the subject of much debate.

The above article is rather vague about the details surrounding this emerging genre of narrative, and it is our responsibility to interrogate the term digital storytelling within the cultural context of our moment. This means each of you will be experimenting with your own digital platform for storytelling, as well as placing yourself within a larger narrative of networked conversation within the course and on the internet at large.

This course will require you to both design and build an online identity (if you don’t have one already) and narrate your process throughout the fifteen week semester. Given this, you will be expected to openly frame this process and interact with one another throughout the course as well as engage and interact with the world beyond as a necessary part of such a development.

In many ways this course will be part storytelling workshop, part technology training, and, most importantly, part critical interrogation of the digital landscape that is ever increasingly mediating how we communicate with one another.

Course Objectives

The primary goal of this course is to expose you to a range of ideas about digital storytelling as well as a range of tools and technologies that will push you to think more deeply about your own narrative in a networked world. Specifically, by the time this course is over I expect you to

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the concept of storytelling and the power of narrative;
  • Define for yourself the concept of digital storytelling;
  • Demonstrate proficiency at investigating technologies for the purpose of storytelling and meaning-making;
  • Develop an online presence that communicates your own intellectual progress through the ideas, theories, and technologies discussed in this class;
  • Participate in an ongoing and meaningful conversation with your classmates about the ideas, theories, and technologies discussed in this class; and
  • Publish online your own exploration of digital storytelling techniques and approaches.

Department of Computer Science Grading Scale

A 92-100% | A- 89- 91% | B+ 87-88% | B 82-86%| B- 79-81% | C+ 77-78%

C 72-76% | C- 69-71% | D+ 67-69% | D 60-66% | F 0-59%

Course Materials

  • The internet: There is no textbook for this class, however individual readings will be assigned and will all be available online.
  • A computer: This class does not take place in a computer lab. I STRONGLY recommend bringing a laptop computer with you to class to participate in class activities and assignements.
  • A Web account: You will be expected to purchase a subscription to a commercial Web hosting service with a LAMP/cPanel Web environment. One option will be presented to you in class, but you may choose any hosting service you like, as long as it meets the basic LAMP/cPanel requirements.
  • Radio, an Illustrated Guide

Class Schedule

The following schedule lays out the basic structure of the class and the units and topics we’ll cover over the semester. A more detailed Course Calendar is available as well, but it is subject to change based on the progress of the course.

Week One (1.13): Introduction: What Exactly IS Digital Storytelling?

Week Two (1.20): Narrating Your Story & Building Your Cyberinfrastructure

Week Three (1.27): Disciplinary Storytelling; Introduction to Web 2.0

Week Four (2.3): Web 2.0; Introduction to Telling Stories Through Images and Design

Week Five (2.10): Images & Design

Week Six (2.17): Images & Design; Introduction to Telling Stories with Audio and Sound

Week Seven (2.24): Audio and Sound

Final Project Topic Due
In-class Conferences


Week Nine (3.10): Audio and Sound; Introduction to Telling Stories on the Web

Week Ten (3.17): Web

Week Eleven (3.24): Web; Introduction to Telling Stories with Video

Week Twelve (3.31): Video

Week Thirteen (4.7): Video; Introduction to Playing Inside the Story (Fan Fiction)

In-Class Conference

Week Fourteen (4.14): Fan Fiction

Week Fifteen (4.21) Fan Fiction; Class Wrap-Up

Final Exam (4.28): Presentation of Final Projects

Final Conferences

Grading Breakdown

Participation (20% of Grade)

This class will in many ways be anchored around your participation both in and outside of class through the various technologies you will be experimenting with. If you are not present both physically in-class, and virtually outside of class (asynchronously or synchronously) you will compromise the success of the class (as well as YOUR success in it) . I expect active and engaged participation, which for the purposes of this class means responding thoughtfully and critically to your classmates work. This will be accomplished in several ways, and we will discuss them at length in class.

Course Blogging (20% of Grade)

Everyone will be expected to regularly contribute their reflections, course work, and projects to their personal blog. We will discuss the specifics of this practice more thoroughly during class. The course blog must host all of your digital storytelling assignments (see below).

Digital Storytelling Assignments (30% of Grade)

Throughout the semester, I will assign a number of digital storytelling projects using a variety of tools, techniques, and technologies. You are expected to complete all of these assignments (and share them on your blog). Your grade on these will reflect both your success at completing these assignments as well as any commentary (on your blog) about difficulties you encountered. In other words, if you have difficulty with an assignment I will always expect you to attempt it, but you can use your blog to share with me (and your classmates) insight into what you found challenging and how you negotiated the requirements. Generally speaking, as long as I see a commitment to completing an assignment creatively, you can expect to do well on it. If you don’t complete an assignment, you will receive a zero. If you complete an assignment, but you have failed to meet the requirements (and have not adequately explained to me why you did not meet them), you can expect to receive partial credit.

Some assignments will be given in class. However, since we only meet once a week, from time to time, I may post a new assignment on the course site between class meetings. You are expected to review the course site regularly and to complete all assignments on-time. I WILL NOT BE EMAILING YOU ABOUT THESE ASSIGNMENTS; THE ONUS IS ON YOU TO REVIEW THE COURSE SITE AND COMPLETE NEW ASSIGNMENTS.

Digital Storytelling Collective Contributions (10% of Final Grade)

You will be expected to find and share various online resources, tools, and examples related to digital storytelling during the semester. You will use the social bookmarking site Delicious to complete this activity. Your grade will reflect the frequency and value of your contributions. A voting system on the site will make it possible for your classmates to review your contributions. I will consider these reviews when I determine your grade on your contributions, so you should try to impress your classmates! When time permits, we will review the highest-rated contributions during class sessions.

Final Project (20% of Final Grade)

A digital story of your making. During Week Seven of the class, you will submit a topic for your final project. The topic may be anything you choose, but if I believe it is not sufficient or appropriate for a final project, I will advise you of this. You may tell the story using any of the tools or techniques we discuss in the class; the only requirement is that you share it publicly on your blog.

Extra Credit

At various times during the semester, I will provide extra credit assignments which you may complete and post on your blog (I may occasionally also ask you to share them in class.) Your completion of these assignments can help your final grade, particularly if you have not successfully completed the majority of the regular digital storytelling assignments.


I expect you to attend class on a regular basis. If, for some reason, you need to miss class I expect that you will contact me prior to class to let me know (or immediately afterwards in the case of an unforeseen emergency). In the event your attendance begin to represent a problem I will contact you directly. If this happens, it is your responsibility to follow-up with me and discuss your future in the class.

The Honor Code

Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the Honor Code. Upon occasion, assignments for the class may require you to work in small groups. In these cases, group work/collaboration is entirely acceptable. If, when working on an individual assignment, you end up collaborating with another student or someone outside of the class, I expect you to make that clear to me and the rest of the class. Some assignments may include the provision that you may not collaborate in which case any sharing/collaboration is prohibited and any violation will be considered a violation of the Honor Code.

Disability Service Statement

The Office of Disability Services has been designated by the University as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.