Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Work of Stories

I'm at MIT's Work of Stories conference in Boston, in a session on Stories in the Classroom. The presenter read a passage from a book and asked us to do a fast write. Here is mine:
That last passage sounds like the type of writing we do in blogs. It is the personal, reflective, first person narrative that is so powerful. I'm also convinced that the power of digital storytelling is in the storyteller's own voice...both literally and rhetorically. That is why I do what I do... what drives my work: to help people find their voice... in their words spoken from the heart.
This was an interesting conference. On the first day, I thought I was on another planet, where almost every presenter in the breakout sessions I attended read their papers to the audience. Is this what an academic conference is really like? Luckily, on the last two days, the presenters either told stories themselves, or had more engaging slides on the screen. There were the usual problems with the technology in a few of the rooms, like the sound didn't work. But I gained some new ideas. It is always delightful to hear Joe Lambert speak, since he provides both humor and quick insights. I also made some new acquaintances, people interested in similar topics. There were a group of us that tended to show up in the same breakout sessions.

The Saturday night session provided examples of MIT faculty storytelling projects. I was especially impressed by one graduate student's electronic brush, that was a combination micro video camera and a brush for electronically painting on a screen. We saw videos of kindergarten children using the brush to copy colors, objects or short video sequences, and then paint what they captured on the computer screen. I hope we will see this tool available as a commercial item soon.

The panelists at the closing session provided an overview of the three days, invoking a bit of controversy, but providing a good way to end the weekend. As one participant observed, "Some people said it was too academic, others said it wasn't academic enough!" That means the program provided both theoretical and practical insights. I'm glad I traveled all the way across the country to attend what was basically a free conference.

No comments: