Theoretical run-up on Elements of Digital Storytelling


I came into this game of higher education at a chaotic intellectual moment: postmodernity. Accordingly, I struggle with claims of universality, and this persists as we begin to explore storytelling and digital storytelling.

We are all familiar with the short story, “You make me so angry.” If we take the authors of the Crucial Conversations curriculum seriously, we learn that mastering our stories is a fundamental key to improving our communications (and our internal life) (Patterson, K. Grenny, J., McMillan, R., Switzler, A., 2011, p. 103). Their schema moves from perceptions, for example, “see and hear” to “tell a story” which causes emotions and, in turn, inspires us to “act.” The trainers at Crucial Conversations teach various techniques to slow down, in order to become self-critical and provisional in our storytelling. Obviously, there is a tension between our common-sense meanings of our short stories and this second version. Jacques Derrida’s observations and methods, summarized as “deconstruction,” offer us a tool to explore this tension.

Deconstruction generally tries to demonstrate that any text is not a discrete whole but contains several irreconcilable and contradictory meanings; that any text, therefore has more than one interpretation; that the text itself links these interpretations inextricably; that the incompatibility of these interpretations is irreducible; and thus that an interpretive reading cannot go beyond a certain point. (Wikipedia, Deconstruction retrieved 1/26/2017)

So, if we take clues from Derrida and the Crucial Conversations curriculum we might interpret the short story in this way — “When you speak in that tone, in this context, I tell myself a story about being patronized and denigrated. In turn, I feel angry about that (though I might as well feel sad, or insulted) and in the end, I may lash out, or I may go to silence.” The voice we hear is the storyteller. What is missing here is the listener/reader/interpreter. Sometimes we tell stories solely for our own consumption but, if we analyze our internal dialog, there is very much a persona we create to tell the story to – a version of ourselves, our boss, or a spouse, for examples. Deconstruction shows us that a listener is an aspect of “irreconcilable and contradictory meanings.” That is, we cannot talk about storytelling without talking about interpretation. Returning to our short story, there are several key ambiguities here: the story, the emotion it elicits, and the consequent actions. We can problematize this further by scrutinizing our data itself; if it is composed, at least in part, of interpretations then every aspect of our storytelling/interpretation is ambiguous. So then, if the storytelling side is particular, situated, and relative, is it meaningful to speak of the interpretation side as exempt from this variability and particularity since teller/listener are bound together?

Yet while I love these philosophical musings, an equal part of my participation in this game of higher education derives from business school. Therefore, I am pragmatically intrigued by the claim,“To achieve success on YouTube you have to have a niche” (Edwards, 2014). Perhaps this is further evidence that universal claims about storytelling are problematic, but it is also an eminently useful observation.


Bryan Alexander offers a working definition: “Simply put, it is telling stories with digital technologies. Digital stories are narratives built from the stuff of cyberculture” (Alexander, 2010, Loc 110 of 3318).

So if our topic is actually particular and situated, then it seems wise to develop an aesthetic equally particular and situated. Again, “To achieve success on YouTube you have to have a niche” (Edwards, 2014). Alas, my tolerance for fiction has waned over the years, likewise, in part, as a function of the workplace grind. Rather my aesthetic cuts in a different direction:

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word “gonzo” is believed to have been first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. It is an energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, and it draws its power from a combination of social critique and self-satire.[1] It has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors. (Wikipedia, Gonzo Journalism retrieved 1/21/2017)

And, second, Yvon Chouinard says in the movie 180° South, “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts” (Copeland, 2010). Entailed in both of these is a lived experience, lived in the “real” world. Once we attach the “digital” to our storytelling, we add complexity and nuance to this lived experience that will need to be explored. I found interesting connections between what I was sketching and this video definition of digital storytelling (Iwancio, 2010).

  • Point of view
  • Dramatic Question
  • Emotional Content
  • Voice
  • Soundtrack
  • Pacing
  • Economy
  • Length

I savor and favor the first person/subjective voice. It is most appropriate for these fraught (certainly sometimes contrived and antagonized) experiences. In addition, the fictive quality of memoir, changing names, or locations, or dates to protect the guilty adds complexity requiring additional development. “Self-aware” this is taking the first person perspective one step further and having that voice reflect on learning, emotions, and the physicality of the experience. Clearly, this is about the point of view and in this case, we hear a subjective first-person accounting hence we can combine this with voice as well.

The urgency and the on-edgy quality of both quotes are important as well. Failure, injury, and death are real possible consequences. Unlike most computer games, where we respawn at a save point, rather this lifestyle/storytelling is pushing the boundaries of our lived experiences, our skills, our preparation, and our knowledge. I would argue that dramatic question, emotional content, and pacing could all be folded together in this element.

Lastly is the social criticism implicit or explicit in these lives/stories. Going to where the risks are takes us beyond the normal. Indeed for many of us living vicariously through those tolerant of risk is part of what fuels the lives/stories. This is actually quite a complicated figure because storytellers need an audience to consume their telling and, as we will see, these consumers underwrite the risks. So social criticism and social norms are complicit in ways requiring further development.

This leaves soundtrack and economy still unaccounted for…. Except, readers of Hunter S. Thompson will remember popular music references to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane in his writing. “Economy” is a delightful ambiguous figure; we may be speaking of efficient prose or precise illustration, or we may be thinking about the transactions between characters, or writer/reader, or the money-making potential of the story and storytelling itself. Certainly, all these elements are present in gonzo journalism.

Length, Iwanicio’s video offers us a simple formula, and immediately, we hear Tara Hunt speak to a much more complex notion for deciding narrative length based on optimization accounting for YouTube algorithms (2016).



These definitions and this critical theory, alas, are formulated in the abstract.   I believe it will make better sense to explore them based on a case study of a particular digital storyteller.

Case Study

Jon B, Logo
Jon B, Fishing the Midwest Logo

Jon B., at Fishing the Midwest  is in his early 20’s. He recently dropped out of college in order to work full-time on his YouTube content. He has been creating YouTube content since 2009; he was 12-13 years old at that time. He participates in several additional social media, such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Jon B. is attentive to the details of his camera, audio work, and editing and he seems as passionate about them as his fishing. Recently Jon B. has traveled, fished, and created content with a cohort of YouTube channel hosts. These people might be seen as competitors; however, they are working as collaborators driving traffic to each others’ sites and appearing in each others’ videos.



Jon B. has created a recognizable personal brand, defined a business model, and is executing on his plans.

So returning to my critical theory, the first element is first person/subjective point of view.  This is seen clearly in his “vlogging” content. “Vlogging” is a “journalistic documentation of a person’s life, thoughts, opinions, and interests” (ZMD, 2005). It is more complicated because of Jon’s use of multiple cameras, as in this video we see both chest-worn GoPro’s and deck-mounted monopod DSLR or mirrorless cameras. In this particular video, we see Jon B. fishing with friends and we might lose track of the first person narrative, nonetheless, this is his story of that event.  In his solo trips, the vocal quality is clearly a first person and subjective point of view.

In this video, the friends have set a fishing challenge for themselves. It is not enough that Jon B. is hundreds of miles from his home near Chicago visiting Texas, during the winter, using borrowed boats on an unfamiliar water. This theatricality speaks to creating urgency, dramatic questions, emotional content, and pacing, all of which aids in having a story, an adventure, from what might otherwise simply be a relaxing fishing trip. This emphasizes both the lived experiences and the gonzo journalistic technique of pouring gasoline on the fire – everything for the sake of a story.
I see a couple places where Jon B. celebrates and advocates for “real” experience. Certainly, his love of fishing and fishing where he is presently, informs all of his video creation. He surrounds himself with friends and fans who love fishing. Yet that is only part of what is required by being a content creator. Jon B. has to film his activities and he, in turn, spends hours editing his videos. Solo camera work, self-filming, requires a split consciousness, as he must engage simultaneously with fishing and with video creation. We know that good framing and camera work can save hours of editing. Jon B. also puts the time into editing on his laptop, at home, or on the road and hence can be said to be sequestered in the virtual world as much as the real. This in part because he has to think like his consumer, in order to produce a product they want, and for many of them the ratio is inverse virtual to real world. We know Jon B. values the real world because of the message from one of his sponsors, Mystery Tackle Box (an interesting consistency between espoused value and paid sponsorship).

In several of his videos, Jon B. talks about his decision to drop out of college. In this one, he comes at it from the direction of quitting fishing and quitting video making, or the price tag that college required him to pay, beyond tuition (view from 7:30).


For me, this links back to the real sense of urgency in his life and his business enterprise. In addition, that connects with the critical theory as well. It also demonstrates the kind of social criticism that Jon B. is engaged in. I suspect that this cohort is speaking together in its’ criticism of schooling, and the “normal” career path. Yet, thinking back to deconstruction, we also see Jon B. clearly seeking corporate sponsorship as one of his revenue streams. Some of these vlogs narrate his attendance at industry trade shows and, while he offers no details, he mentions business meetings as an aspect of those trips. Therefore, this form of social criticism is complicated. Likewise in some videos, we hear Jon B. say or do things unreflective of his middle-class privilege. At other times, he is deeply cognizant of the opportunity and luxury he has in creating this media. Some of this we can attribute to his youth but some of it has to do with the straight up complexity of combining, art, self, and economics and doing it as a performance piece nearly real-time, for a subscriber base of four-hundred-thousand YouTube viewers.

Jon B. is serious about his art; his video editing, camera work, storytelling and selection of soundtrack are all intentional. He is certainly bridging a very interesting divide. He is engaged really in fishing and virtually as a social media marketer and content creator. His circle of friends likewise blur the real/virtual divide and so, yes, in response to Alexander’s definition of digital storytelling this is built, in part, from cyberculture and yet that is not enough either.

Broadening the Application

I believe this case study develops my aesthetic/critical theory and demonstrates its coherence. I likewise believe this theory can be used to examine other niche content creators on YouTube, for example, Adventure Adrift and the Ginger Runner:


These stories are built from both real culture and cyberculture. These creators are certainly engaged in digital storytelling, and yet our definitions struggle to keep up with their innovation.

Circling back to the tension between economics and social criticism in the persona that Adventure Adrift has constructed, their social criticism is more explicit. Their tiny house allows them to travel the oceans and one of their aims is to do good in communities as they travel. Their monetized web presence facilitates their doing well as they do good. I might suggest that Ethan Newberry is most at peace with being an entrepreneur. If his passion for ultra-running has a social criticism it is more subtle, and he knows better than to alienate potential customers with proselytizing. Nonetheless, he is advocating for a more active and healthy lifestyle. As mentioned above, Jon B.’s social criticism is youthful and not fully developed but intensely relevant to higher education.

Circling back to the ambiguity of lived adventures turned to content for consumption of YouTube viewers, it really remains to be seen how impactful this genre is in fostering lifestyle change and increasing risk-taking. I take the Sailing Nervous channel to be one of these fast followers in the live-aboard community. Brendan’s Fabulous World of Fishing is likewise a channel on the rise in the fishing community. At what point will imitation breakdown and the market saturate? However, in truth and speaking from personal experience in the last year, I have taken several big risks in part emboldened by this genre. I too experimented briefly with video making. It, however, is not my passion and struggling with cameras while engaged in an adventure dilutes my fun. Therefore, it will be hard to know the impact of this genre simply because not everyone will become a content creator – even as s/he changes his or her life.

However, I think my theory begins to break down with other kinds of niche content creators. So for example, those that engage in purely cyberculture content creation, such as computer game playthroughs, or those engaged in MMORPG streaming pull on my valuing of real-life activities in a troubling way. Though I am not deeply bothered with that since my opening argument indicated my abiding suspicion of universal definition and theory. The Gamer niche needs a niche aesthetic/theory just like these genres I explore here need a niche theory.


Jon B. left college because it required him to give up his passion and it prevented him from developing his entrepreneurship. To my mind, that is a harsh criticism that higher education needs to take seriously. We need to find a way to stop being an impediment and instead begin to facilitate these young people’s successes. Finally, I believe, as an aspiring Instructional Designer, that this aesthetic/theory allows me room to work with both teachers and learners in developing skills that are relevant to young people and yet allows them to display sustained intellectual engagement and learning. My aesthetic/theory allows me to engage with a teacher familiar with grading an essay but who is out of depth in grading a series of videos, for example. Likewise, by emphasizing a kind of digital storytelling that blurs the boundaries between real and cyberculture, and real and virtual activities, I am treading in an environment that requires a couple different learning curves. Observing how the participant/learner navigates those offers interesting moments and intersections to assess learning. Interestingly, participation in this genre runs the gamut of demographics from Millennial to Boomer and so we see, in a snapshot, a cross-section of lifelong learning perhaps previously impossible to compile so simultaneously. I think my aesthetic is limited, as it is not applicable to all digital storytelling; however, I do believe it crosses niches as well hence expanding its usefulness and credibility.


Adventure Adrift [Adventure Adrift] (2016, Nov 7). Our Journey: Sailing with a Purpose. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Alexander, B. (2011). The new digital storytelling: Creating narratives with new media. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger.

Copeland, L. (Producer), & Mallory, C. (Director). (2010). 180° South [Motion picture]. USA: Magnolia Pictures.

Deconstruction. (2017, Jan. 26). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 26, 2017, from

Edwards, J. (2014, Dec. 31) How to become a YouTube entrepreneur. Retrieved January 26, 2017

Gonzo Journalism. (2017, Jan. 21). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from

Barzacchini, J. [Jon B.] (2016, Feb. 14). Finesse Fishing Texas Bass — Texas Trip Day 2. [Video File]. Retrieved

Barzacchini, J. [Jon B.] (2016, Sept. 11). Why I Quit Fishing and Filming?. [Video File]. Retrieved

Hunt, T. [Truly Social with Tara Hunt]  ( 2016, Dec. 18). How Long Should YouTube Videos Be? YouTube’s New Algorithm. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Iwancio, P. [Paul Iwancio] (2010, April 22).  7 Elements for Digital Storytelling (in 4 Minutes!). [Video File]. Retrieved from

Newberry, E. [TheGingerRunner] (2011, Jan 25). WELCOME TO GINGERRUNNER.COM!. [Video File]. Retrieved from

Patterson, K. Grenny, J., McMillan, R., Switzler, A., (2011). Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, (2nd edition). McGraw-Hill Education.

ZMD, (2005, January 6). Vlogging. In Urban Dictionary. Retrieved September 29, 2016,

10 thoughts on “Theoretical run-up on Elements of Digital Storytelling”

  1. I’m not going to comment just yet on the richly integrated strands of thought in your narrative. I still need to digest some of the observations you made about one’s inner dialog (monologue?), gonzo storytelling, and the ideas of economy as they relate to digital storytelling in particular. This first response is simply to point out a couple of errors and ambiguities that you might want to address right off the bat.

    I had to read this sentence several times and I’m still not sure I have it right:

    Their schema moves from perceptions, “see and hear” to “tell a story” which causes emotions “feel” feelings, in turn, inspire us to “act.”

    Am I correct that you meant something more like this:

    Their schema moves from perceptions, e.g., “see and hear,” to “tell a story” which prompts us to “feel” feelings and, in turn, inspires us to “act.”

    Am I far off there?

    This sentence caused me to pause as well:

    The trainers at crucial conversations teach various techniques to slow down, become self-critical, and provisional in our storytelling.
    This may be more clear (and should “crucial conversations” be capitalized?):

    The trainers at Crucial Conversations teach various techniques to slow down, and to become self-critical and provisional in our storytelling.

    And while we’re on the subject, a link to Crucial Conversations might be appropriate in your narrative. I had to look it up.

    And this is an easy one:

    Sometimes we tell stories solely for our own consumption but if we analyze our internal dialog there is very much a persona we create to tell the story too –

    A small typo there on the last word…

    And it’s that sentence that intrigues me the most about your narrative and a point about which I’ll return later when I respond to the content of your narrative. So much food for thought here.

    1. Skip, thank you so much for the feedback. I spotted some that you didn’t name so still some work to do. As you can tell I am still paying off my proofreader from last semester. She is a marvelous gal and I deeply appreciate her grammar expertise even as she acknowledges that she has not a clue what I am rambling and yammering on about. So ya a few errors that she would have called me on and straightened out right away. As I mentioned I’m on the road this week, company laptop, and hotel wireless, so I’ll get at it as I can. I know as well that Tatiana, and Valarie will hold me accountable, so more to come. I look forward to the feedback on the content as well. Thanks.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing the “How long should YouTube videos be?” I’m always looking for quality, engaging and informative videos to share with my students. I teach a class called video announcements and students ask me all the time how long their video should be. Our announcements consist of news anchors, weekly segments, photo slideshows, commercials, interviews, and PSAs. My general rule for commercials and slideshows is 30 seconds. This is mostly because our total time limit is 5 minutes — 30-second intro, 3-minute news anchors, 1-minute daily segment, 30-second outro. Our announcements are posted on our YouTube channel (Goldenview Media) and played every day in every classroom at our school.

    Now that I’ve seen this video, I’m curious to check the statistics on retention time as well as watch minutes and daily active users. These statistics will also be informative for my 20 students. I believe this will help students understand that YouTube is not just a place for funny cat videos and people doing stupid stunts. It’s not only one of the best tools out there for gaining knowledge, but now I see that it’s a place where your watching habits are tracked and could possibly influence the way videographers produce stories. Thanks again!

    1. Kevin, So glad, Tara’s video is helpful. I admire her entrepreneurship and terrifying work-ethic. She saw the internet’s potential very early on. I think she is a tremendous source for the young learners you work with.

      I will be checking out the Goldenview Media channel.

  3. I really enjoyed your commentary on deconstruction. Particularly your observation that we create an audience even when telling stories to ourselves; although not intentionally, or even consciously sometimes, it’s definitely something I do. I think you make an incredibly astute observation when you note, “we cannot talk about storytelling without talking about interpretation” and the inherent ambiguity this process contains. In each of our blogs, we chose different aspects of “story” to highlight; some focusing more on the experience of the storyteller or the listener, others on the mechanics of a story, and still another on the antithesis of story. Furthermore, many of our comments indicated some inability to put the appropriate words to the concept. These experiences, I think, reinforce your discussion of ambiguity.

    To your comment of, “Perhaps this is further, evidence that universal claims about storytelling are problematic,” I wonder if this ambiguity really negates the ability to make universal claims? Or simply cautions us to consider how we define those “universal elements” of a story? For instance, when someone tells a story, they tell it to an audience. The audience may be live, anticipated via the affordances of digital storytelling, or, as you mention before, characters in our own imagination. If so, that is a universal – we tell stories to be heard. I posit another universal to be this – we expect a connection and a reaction when we tell a story. Where you run into the ambiguity, however, is in how that connection occurs and how an audience may react…this cannot be determined and is, therefore, not a universal. When we take the time to stop and hear a story, a connection occurs. We allow ourselves to feel another’s thoughts and ideas. When we feel those thoughts and ideas, we toy with them, judge them against our own, weigh them against our values, and determine how we will react. In this, we create a connection as their thoughts, ideas, and values mingle with our own. We may connect and react in unpredictable ways, but we do connect and react. And, even if the storyteller feels the reaction is inappropriate, they received their universal – the connection that caused a reaction.

    If we carry these two “universal” concepts through to digital storytelling and the first person/subjective point of view present in vlogging, they hold. Jon B. records the videos, both because he enjoys fishing and because he wants to share his knowledge about fishing (thus, being heard). The same is true of Ethan Newberry and his passion for ultra-running – he shares that passion with an audience and wants to be heard. The universal point about connection and reaction is the same; they want their viewers (even if only those in their niche) to connect with their content. But, my reaction to Jon B.’s first video proves my point about reaction (aside from niche). While an avid fisherman (or fisherwoman) might see this video and appreciate his technique, his catch, etc., I, as a displaced Texan living in Alaska, who reacts with boredom to fishing unless it’s dinner on my plate, see the surroundings in the video and miss home. Not his anticipated reaction, but a reaction nonetheless!

    Aside from the point about universals, I think you are onto something with the first person/subjective point of view being one to savor. In my work, I would rather hand a student a letter from a poorly educated individual discussing their perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement than a textbook written by the finest history professor. I am passionate about primary sources and their connection to lived history and, although we’re coming at it from different angles, find the most joy in first person/subjective.

    One question about which I’m curious. You mention your “tolerance for fiction has waned over the years” and you prefer gonzo journalism. Given this, how do you feel about fiction novels written from a first person/subjective perspective? Do stories have to be non-fiction for you to engage? I ask because I wonder if your statements together indicate a dislike based on genre or a preference for writing style/author voice.

    Finally, as an Instructional Designer (and an adjunct professor), I couldn’t agree with your last paragraph more. I spend a lot of time talking with our faculty about making courses meaningful and relevant to students; aside from being a tenant of adult learning theory, students who are able to follow their passions make innovative, engaged, and contributory graduates…which is what we (should) want!

    There’s a lot to digest here, as Skip said, but you make some wonderful points and I very much enjoyed interacting with them. =)

    A few minor edits:
    “And while I love these philosophical musings an equal part of my participation in this game of higher education derives from business school,” needs a comma after musings.

    “So then, if the storytelling side is particular, situated, and relative is it meaningful to speak of the interpretation side as exempt from this variability and particularity since teller/listener are bound together” needs a comma after relative and should, since I think you’re asking a rhetorical question, have a question mark at the end.

    1. Heather Marie, Thank you so much for your engagement with my essay. Let me first respond to your important criticism. We often hear that all of philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Plato criticized the claim “everything is relative” precisely because it too is an absolute or universal claim. I do not think I make that error here. I say that I “struggle” with these claims, I say that they are “problematic” but that is different from saying there is no universal. I do think that quantum mechanics shows us that we can know the location of a particle or the speed but not both simultaneously. It is in this vein that I develop this essay. Additionally, acknowledging cultural relativism further vexes claims to universal interpretation or storytelling. And, I think this connects to your experience of Jon B.’s Texas video. It has been a very long time since I read Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author” but, I suspect what we are discussing here could be partially illuminated by that essay.

      The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one’s sources and riches, but also with one’s discourses and their significations. The author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning. As a result we must entirely reverse the traditional idea of the author…the author is not an indefinite source of significations which fill a work; the author does not precede the works; he is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses; in short, by which one impedes the free circulation, the free manipulation, the free composition, decomposition and recomposition of fiction.

      I am still struggling with your insightful question about the evolution of my reading/viewing taste. I think that I have more patience for gonzo-styled fiction, Carl Hiasson, Christopher Moore, and magical realism, John Nichols, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman; or instead, John Steinbeck’s
      Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, and Tortilla Flats. I think it is because of the intensely compassionate portrayal of persons and lives, deeply flawed and yet struggling for fulfillment. But, in the end, the characters are characters, personas discovered in the authors’ psyche. As I have matured, I find myself hungry for real lives perhaps as an antidote to the realization that I have but this one to live. Perhaps as well an antidote to aspects of myself that I have constructed and find I dislike. Certainly, the representation of self that Jon B. offers us is “authored” it is not simply a pure map-territory correlation, again, perhaps time to revisit Foucault.

  4. Bob,
    I’ve been taking a few days to fully digest your piece; your writing style and my reading style differ and it took a couple reads to be able to pull out some points. First of all, I liked your write up of the case study – for me was the most coherent part. It flows well and your points are illustrated very well. You always take a very different approach to the topics in the courses I’ve shared with you. You’re responses are very thorough and you always add lots of examples.

    I had a hard time following some of the paragraphs because of frequent uses of this and these without further context: “ I savor the first person/subjective voice. It is most appropriate for these fraught (certainly sometimes contrived and antagonized) experiences”
    Which experiences? The previous paragraph was the introduction to a list of elements of digital storytelling and an associated video, the paragraph before that was about gonzo journalism and the idea that adventures when things go wrong. There are no previous references to any fraught experiences except, maybe, in the story “you make me so
    angry” mentioned in the second paragraph.
    -“Self-aware this is taking the first person perspective one step further and having that voice reflect on learning, emotions, and the physicality of the experience.” I had a hard time comprehending this sentence as well. To what is “this” referring?

    1. Nikki,

      Thanks for the feedback. I do slip into writing a writerly text. Said differently we can describe a text on a continuum writerly/readerly. Perhaps, James Joyce’s, Ullysses personifies an extreme example of a writerly text. Am I especially proud of this, no, or perhaps only, when I do it well. So, thank you for calling me out and sharing where you struggle with my style. I have taken you seriously and clarified some of the spots you name.

      At the same time, there is some value in challenging your reader to do some interpretive and intellectual work as they engage with your text rather than giving it all away. For, example your frustration with my saying: “I savor the first person/subjective voice. It is most appropriate for these fraught (certainly sometimes contrived and antagonized) experiences” and yet you land correctly on the most likely answer to “contrived and antagonized experiences” when you say, “the paragraph before that was about gonzo journalism and the idea that adventures when things go wrong. ” I am in not as good as Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida but they are good company. Again, thank you for the feedback.

  5. Hi Bob,
    I really enjoyed reading your essay but I honestly think you were trying to pack too much into it. You have a lot of interesting strands emerging but it was hard for me to narrow down to the trunk that they are attached to. You have universality, deconstruction, the internal dialog, the emotional response, the effective communication, interpretation, the tie between the listener and the teller (which is very nice, btw)… And that’s just first two paragraphs that then end that section in “To achieve success on YouTube you have to have a niche” quote from Edwards who made it as a YouTuber back in 2014. The quote then somehow ends up with the definition of Gonzo journalism and the word “digital” as an added complexity to the lived experience that goes into “person/subjective voice” idea….. Then, “The urgency and the on-edgy quality of both quotes “… Alexander and Edwards? Then there are computer games and death and failure…. social criticism. And on and on.

    And I get that the case study is sort of a case in point, but it comes across more as you demonstrating your own skill at deconstruction than actually deconstructing the experience that is “digital storytelling.”

    So, it kind of falls flat for me especially because you do bring up a lot of urgent and huge concepts that are affecting how we tell the stories and how we listen and read them. Algorithms are one of the good examples. There is literally a machine computation that determines the most appropriate length your story should be in order to then beat another algorithm (hm.. Google) that will bring your rating up so you come up in the search. That’s huge! The implications are enormous on not only how we adjust our stories to fit the parameters but also who reads and what! How many stories and readers that miss each other because of this? How many stories get told in a completely different way because of it? What is becoming more important: the rating or the content? And most importantly, what kind of stories do these algorithms tell of us? There is literally a story written by the machine about humanity every time you Google something.

    I really must apologize, I do not mean to sound abrasive. And I spend half a day trying to figure out my response to your essay because it is so rich in potential ideas, connections, questions. It’s just a little bit allover the place and I think other people in the class were trying to touch on that in their comments.

    My advice would be to narrow your thesis to fewer concepts and elaborate more on those. Maybe bring up more questions for your readers so that they can make the connections easier.

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