Tonight in Digital Storytelling: Podcast, Podcast, Podcast, Podcast (also, Podcast)

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Tonight we’ll be listening to and giving feedback on your podcasts. If your podcast runs a bit long, we may be able to screen only part of it, but don’t worry. I’ll listen to the full podcast when I review your site for grading.

Speaking of which, as we wind down the semester, here are some things to consider in regards to your final grade.

  • Be sure your blog site is up to date and that you’ve completed all assignments.
  • Use our remaining time together to edit, tweak, fanci-fy, and otherwise make your site the best it can be. Remember to use the comments and feedback from workshop as you edit — paying close attention to your written texts. If you have any questions or need additional feedback, I’m here.
  • Remember that this has been an introduction to the art of digital stories. Don’t judge your work against the work of folks who have had more experience. Our purpose here is to get you started and help you experiment with the different forms of digital stories. I will be grading you accordingly.
  • Your grade will depend upon the following:
    • Class participation
    • Blog site (completeness, professional approach, applied concepts like niche and audience)
    • Attendance (tied to participation)
    • Effort (willingness to experiment and try new storytelling techniques, openness to the genre, and so on

Your site should be complete by Wednesday of finals week. You’ll have until 11:59 that day to file your final edits. After that, I’ll review your sites and provide feedback on your progress for the term.

If you have any worries about your grade, or about your work from now until the end of the semester, please make an appointment for an additional conference. I’ve got you.

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Podcast night!

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After we catch up on any lingering blogs to workshop, we’ll listen to a podcast or two and gather ideas as we listen.

Here’s Vulture’s list of the Best of 2018 so far.

And here’s my personal favorite forever: NPR’s This American Life.

If you have a favorite podcast, or have discovered a new one, please share it with our class and, if it’s connected to your topic, link to it on your blog.

 

Your Assignment: Due November 28

Create one, 10-minute (or less) podcast on a subject linked to your blog’s niche. Be sure to come up with a great name and cover image for your podcast.

Post the podcast feed to your blog site.

Be sure to write an introduction to the podcast. Your introduction should give readers/listeners a preview, add any additional information not covered in the podcast, and it should include a visual element (photos/illustrations.)

See this example from Modern Love. 

A definition and some examples of great podcasts

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Digital Trends defines podcasts like this:  “Essentially talk programs, podcasts have their roots in the early days of the internet when services provided shows to radio stations in digital formats. However, it wasn’t until the dawn of high-speed internet and the rise of portable media players that digital radio shows could be widely distributed. The rise of the podcast brought an unprecedented democratization of programming. Unlike traditional radio, podcast hosts can produce shows in their living room on any topic they choose, without being shackled by FCC regulations. Today there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts flitting about on the web, covering every topic imaginable, including true crime, history, even gastronomy. And although podcasts are still a niche product, they’ve been steadily growing in popularity over the last decade, alongside the smartphone. Some even speculate that this trend may spell the end of traditional radio.”

Here are some popular podcasts:

Here’s Esquire’s list of the 15 Best Podcasts of 2018 so far.

And here’s Digital Trends’ list.

Here’s My Brother, My Brother and Me.

And here’s This American Life.

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Tonight in Digital Storytelling: Screenings, then Podcasts

Hi everyone — Tonight I’ll be rescheduling conferences for those of you I missed last week (sorry!). We’ll also be screening your responses to the Questions assignment from last class. I hope you fell in love with the interview process during our past two assignments.

Then….

We’ll be moving on to your next assignment — a podcast.

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We’ll start with the basics. With big thanks to LifeHacker, here’s how to get started:

You’ll need:

Microphone(s): Any microphone will work for recording your podcast. If you’re planning to podcast beyond our class, you might want to invest in a good one, though. If you’re not sure what to look for, here’s LifeHacker’s  list of the five best desktop microphones. (I have the Blue Yeti Pro and like it a lot.) To keep it simple for our class purposes, maybe stick to a USB mic instead of an analog mic, which would require additional and expensive equipment. Also, if you have a gaming headset or other basic microphone around, you can use that, too.

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A Computer: Any Windows computer or Mac should work fine to record, edit, and upload your podcast. Additionally, depending on how you choose to record—directly to the computer or onto a dedicated recording device—your computer will also need the right ports. USB microphones, for example, will obviously need an open USB port.

Audio Editing Software: For the actual recording and editing, you’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW). Licenses for professional-grade DAWs like Reason or Pro Tools can cost anywhere between $300 and $900. For our purposes, I recommend a free open source program like Audacity

Pop Filters (optional): Pop filters, while not required, are fairly cheap and can keep your plosives from making a nasty sound on your recording. If you don’t want to buy any, though, here’s Lifehacker’s guide to making your own out of paper.

Find Your Niche

Remember how, when you were setting up your blogs, we talked about finding a niche, that concept that would make your blog different from all the other blogs out there? Same goes for podcasting.

You can probably already find a podcast about just about everything. Don’t get discouraged! While just about every broad topic is already covered, you just have to find your spin on things to make an old idea something new.

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Let Lifehacker explain:

“For example, if you wanted to make a podcast about music, ask yourself if there’s an audience out there for what you want to talk about. Maybe you narrow your idea down from music in general to bluegrass specifically. Now your coverage is specific: the music, people, and culture of bluegrass. Once you have your topic narrowed down, it helps to add a spin to it. Maybe you talk about bluegrass music and culture while sipping moonshine with your co-hosts. It’s kind of true that everything has been done before, but it hasn’t all been done the way you would do it. So find an angle that’s personally interesting and you’ll be better off.”

Download Audacity

  1. Download Audacity 2.1.3 at audacityteam.org and install it.
  2. Connect your microphone and open Audacity.
  3. See if your microphone is being recognized by Audacity by checking the drop-down menu next to the small microphone icon. If you see your mic, go ahead and select it.
  4. In the top-left corner, you should see the pause, play, stop, skip back, skip forward, and record buttons. Click the record button and talk into your mic to make sure it’s working properly.
  5. Stop recording and playback what you just recorded to make sure everything sounds okay.
  6. You’ll want to export your audio in the MP3 format later on. In order to do that, you’ll need to download and install the Lame MP3 encoder for either Windows or Mac.
  7. Once that’s installed, close and reopen Audacity. Record yourself talking for a few seconds like before, then go to File, then Export Audio, and select MP3 Files in the ‘Save as type’ dropdown menu. Name your file something simple like “test1” and save it to your desktop.
  8. Find the MP3 file on your desktop and try playing it in your MP3 player of choice, just to make sure everything is working properly.

Check Your Mic Levels and Room Tone

Recording is pretty straightforward in Audacity, but there are a few things you should do before you jump into your first show:

  1. Connect your microphone and make a quick recording the same way as before to check your audio levels.
  2. You can adjust your recording volume with the slider right above the drop-down menu where you selected your recording device.
  3. When you’ve found a good level, go ahead and remove your recording test by clicking the small X at the top left of the track. You don’t need it anymore.
  4. Make sure your recording space is silent and record around 5 seconds of “silence.” This is called room tone and you can use this to cut out things like swearing or even cover up some background noise that happens while you’re recording. You can mute this track for now by clicking the mute toggle button on the left side of the track. You can also minimize it by clicking the arrow at the bottom-left of the track.
  5. Go to File, then Save Project As, and choose a name for your project. Keep in mind that this doesn’t export any audio, just saves your progress.

Record!

Now you’re ready to actually record the main part of your podcast. Just hit the record button and Audacity will start capturing your audio in a new track. When you’re done recording, hit the stop button. It’s as simple as that. Before you continue be sure to save your work.

Add Music and Edits

Now it’s time to add music and make any necessary edits.

Find free tunes at places like the Free Music Archive and Vimeo’s Music Store:

  1. Go to File, then Import, and then Audio. Locate the music you chose (or your own if you made some), and click Open. The music will get dropped into Audacity as its own separate track.
  2. Now find the Selection Tool in the Audacity toolbar. It will look like a typing cursor.
  3. Drag the Selection Tool over the section of music you’d like to use for your intro and outro music.
  4. With that section of music currently selected, find the Trim Audio button on the Audacity toolbar and click it. You should be left with only the section of music you chose.
  5. While that section of music is still selected, find the Copy button on the toolbar and click it (you can also use CTRL+C or Command+C).
  6. On the same music track, click anywhere to the right of that music section. Then find the Paste button on the toolbar and click it (or CTRL+V or Command+V). You now have your intro and outro music, but it’s still not quite ready.
  7. With the Selection Tool, select one of the music copies. Then go to Effect at the top and choose Fade Out. Do the same for the other music copy, but choose Fade In instead. Your intro and outro music is now ready to go.

Cut Anything You Don’t Want x@#!!%&*

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If you need to cut something out of your podcast—like swearing if you’re trying to keep clean, or information that shouldn’t be made public—it’s easy to fix:

  1. Find the section of audio that needs to be cut out.
  2. Use the Selection Tool to select the entire section that needs to be removed.
  3. Find the Cut button on the toolbar and click. Boom, it’s gone. Alternatively, you could also use the Silence button.
  4. Now, remember the room tone you recorded earlier? You can copy a section of that and overlap it with the cut out portion so you have a less jarring silence.

 

When you get everything sounding the way you want, save your work (and probably save your progress as you work as well).

Export Your Podcast as an MP3 File

  • Go to File, then Export Audio.
  • Select MP3 Files in the ‘Save as type’ drop-down menu. Then name the file (your podcast name and the number of the episode, for example). Click Save.
  • Now you’ll see the Edit Metadata window. Enter all of the necessary information. You can also add and remove sections as you see fit here.
  • Go down to the Template section and click Save. Save this template for future episodes so you don’t have to fill out most of this information ever again.
  • Click OK. Your MP3 should export and be ready for uploading.

Pick a Strong Name and Create Cover Art 

When it comes to people finding your podcast, the name you choose for it is important. John Lee Dumas, the host of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast, suggests you pick a name that communicates to your audience exactly what your podcast will be about. If we return to the bluegrass and moonshine example, it could be something straightforward, like ”Bluegrass n’ Moonshine,” or something less obvious, but still gets the point across, like “Sippin’ and Singin’: The Bluegrass Podcast.” The title gives you an idea of what the show is about, but more importantly, your show would likely pop up in someone’s search for podcasts about bluegrass music.

You’ll also need an image for your podcast. This is the first thing people will see when they come across your show, so it should look good.

Get Hosted

Getting your podcast hosted is essential so you can start distributing your show to podcast directories and apps via RSS feed. SoundCloud is a great start for beginners, and it’s free. It offers free podcast hosting (in addition to two competitive paid options for when you get a little more serious), and lets you distribute your podcast via RSS. Your podcasts can also instantly publish to SoundCloud itself, which makes it really easy to share your podcast on social media, blogs, and other websites. When you sign up for the service, use the name of your podcast (or the closest thing to it).

  1. Upload a cover art image that is at least 1400 x 1400 pixels.
  2. Fill out all sections of your profile, especially your show’s description.
  3. Upload your MP3 file. Most hosting services let you listen to your podcast right within the site, so give it a listen to make sure everything sounds good.
  4. The file’s metadata that you created before should fill in a lot of the necessary information. However, if something doesn’t look right, now is the chance to make changes and fix it before you submit your RSS feed to any directories.

 

Tonight in Digital Storytelling: Interviews, Interviews, and Questions That Will Make You Fall in Love

Hi everyone!

Tonight we’ll be screening your interview/stories. I’ll break you into small groups, like we’ve done before, and each group will pick one or two interviews to share.

But first, this.

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Modern Love

A while back, The New York Times Modern Love column featured Mandy Len Catron’s essay, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This.”  

The essay went on to become one of the most popular Modern Love columns ever. (And Ms. Catron published it in an essay collection last year.)

The column was followed by a video project:

 

It became a Modern Love Podcast, as read by actress Gillian Jacobs.

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It became another feature in the Times, where readers shared their experiences with the 36 questions.

So here we have Digital Storytelling, three (or maybe four) ways.

Some Background

Ms. Catron’s essay is based on a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one.

The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. To quote the study’s authors, “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.” Allowing oneself to be vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue.

The final task Ms. Catron and her friend try — staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes — is less well documented, with the suggested duration ranging from two minutes to four. But Ms. Catron was unequivocal in her recommendation. “Two minutes is just enough to be terrified,” she told me. “Four really goes somewhere.”

Let’s take a look at those 36 questions:

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

Set III

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

 

Questions for discussion: Based on what we know about interviewing, why do you think these questions are so effective? What can you learn about the interviewing process by studying these questions? 

Assignment for November 7:

Now it’s your turn to go through Arthur Aron’s 36 questions — with a partner, a friend, or a complete stranger. You can record your conversation and edit it. Or, when you’re done, record a short video/vlog, voice memo or write something about your experience. Post this to your blog.

P.S. If you’d like more Modern Love columns that are relevant to college life, check out the winners from last year’s College Essay Contest. You might want to consider writing something of your own for this year’s contest, too.

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Remember to sign up for a conference! We won’t be in our regular class next Wednesday (Halloween!), but I will be having conferences next week for anyone who might like one. I’ll pass a sign-up sheet in tonight’s class. The conferences are not required, but recommended since we’re at mid-terms.

 

Tonight in DS: October 17 — Who’s on First?

Hi everyone!

So since we are a week behind (sorry!), we’ll be playing catch-up tonight. We will complete our viewing of any short videos we didn’t get to last time. Then we’ll move on to a lecture/discussion of interviewing techniques. We’ll begin with the basics: Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.

Speaking of Who, here’s a classic —

 

I realize there might be some confusion about what’s due tonight. If you went ahead and completed your interview project, that’s great! We’ll take a look. If you didn’t, no worries. You  needed to complete only the checklist and post your interview source to your blog. (See the assignment from Oct. 3 to review the checklist.)

As we review interviewing techniques, we’ll take a look at a variety of interviews. For instance, we’ll look at author/graphic memoirist/ MacArthur Genius Alison Bechdel interviewed three ways:

 

O.k., let’s make that four ways:  Fun Home Creator Alison Bechdel on Turning a Tragic Childhood into a Hit Musical 

We’ll talk about techniques in each interview that work, or that could work better. We’ll talk about why. Also, we’ll listen in as Studs Terkel, master interviewer and oral historian, works his interview magic for the radio.

 

As I mentioned earlier in our course, Story Corps was founded on the ideals of Studs Terkel. We’ll go over Story Corps Great Questions List in class and talk about the who, what, where, how, and, most important maybe, why.

As Terkel knew, and as Story Corps goes on knowing, the best interviews are conversations. Here’s a lovely one between Joshua Littman and his mom:

If you haven’t downloaded the Story Corps app, here’s a link with information about it. The app might help you with this assignment and many more.

Assignment:

Keep working on your interviews, applying some of the concepts we covered in tonight’s class.