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Storytelling in the Audio Studio

One of the emerging digital trends in academic coursework is Digital Storytelling. Ken Burns, who produced The Civil War television series for PBS, is considered the godfather of this medium.

Digital Storytelling is defined as developing a story, usually written or composed as a storyboard. The script or narration or personal reflection is then taken and adapted through digital techniques. Typically this means employing video or digital audio.

With the advent of the personal computer and digital media like Smartphones and Tablets, the utility of story creation does not require a lot of expense or technical expertise to tell a story using film and audio.

In the Audio Studio, we have helped students be creative by supplying guidance and expertise as well as access to equipment and space.
The story creation arc goes something like this:

  1. Student assignment: write a script, storyboard or outline.
  2. Record the script in the Audio Studio using professional microphones, digitally engineered by myself (Audio Projects Librarian) or the Audio-Visual Student Assistant.
  3. The raw recording is then taken into our Technology Classroom in the Faculty Center.
  4. There, the Students work to learn how to edit or “sound sculpt” their raw file into a finished story using the Audacity Sound Editor:
  1. Trim the beginning and ends of the soundfile.
  2. Volumize, normalize or add effects such as a music “bed”, or echo, reverb and other sound-art.
  3. Export the finished edit as an .mp3 soundfile.
  4. Incorporate the sound into a power point narration or podcast blog page.

The incorporation of Digital Stories, in this case sound, is a way to retain writing and critical reflection, which is important to any course at the University of Utah. Media skills – which aren’t often taught in a traditional class – are learned to take a written script or storyboard idea and turn it into a finished sound project.

The concepts of Digital Story creation enhances coursework in several ways:

  1. Students like the assignments.
  2. Some students who don’t feel they are good writers, (especially foreign students), are able to be creative without sacrificing the written portion of the assignment.
  3. Media literacy is achieved which is a value added component to written coursework.
  4. Students learn that the Audio and Video Studios, housed in the Faculty Center are available for subsequent projects.

Digital Storytelling is a way to engage students within the Marriott Library to expand the services of traditional Academic Librarianship into the realm of non-photo archive Digital Humanities.

Robert J. Nelson
Audio Projects Librarian
Assistant Head, Audio-Visual Services
Creativity & Innovation Services
Marriott Library
University of Utah

View the original article on the Creativity and Innovation Services Blog

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