Talky Tina’s Got Soul- Week 3-4-5 #DS106 Reflections

Since joining the ds106 cult, I have learned many lessons, above all how important it is to create something everyday. It’s not like I didn’t know this, but I had never truly incorporated this philosophy in my life. Too often, we know certain truths in life, but we just don’t apply them in our own. I can now fully understand the motto ds106 #4life. Even if it’s a little something; whatever it is, a silly photo, a quick drawing or 30 second video, a poem or sentence, sounds of silence, or one’s magnum opus, the act of creating something is cathartic and as Kurt Vonnegut said, a way to make life more bearable! It’s been for me these last couple of weeks when life has thrown curve balls and lemons.  

In the last few weeks, I’ve learned about the importance of my personal cyber-infrastructure, the power of digital storytelling through sound and photography and how the storytelling arc should evoke 2 key emotions: distress and empathy. I’ve learned that digital stories can span various digital mediums. They are often interactive, inviting the audience to collaborate in its composition. Storytelling, whether digital or not, must have soul and enable us to recognize the common context of being human. 

In Week 3, we had to identify what makes a story? or part of one? What works about it? What does it tap into?

Pick one or more stories and write a blog post about it. Why do you like it? What makes it special? What makes it a digital story? Is there an arc to the story? Might it be part of a larger story or does it work on its own?

I thought about how ds106 is not just a headless open learning experience. It’s also a digital story. There are key players, like Talky Tina, for one. Each of the ds106 participants plays a role, some more loudly than others, but we all contribute to this ongoing narrative through our blogs, G+ posts, our tweets, our daily creates, and Flickr accounts, Soundclouds, the ds106 radio station. The ds106 narrative unfolds on daily basis, and we compose it together and individually.  The digital story works because we engage all of our senses; we create an experience where participants have various outlets to express creativity, to quench the thirst for life long learning, and perhaps a way to make life long friends as Talky Tina would probably say. Like a good digital story, ds106 has purpose, meaning and soul. When we participate, we feel we belong. There’s a sense of community so we feel safe to take creative risks.

There’s intellectual stimulation because we are teaching and learning with like minded individuals who welcome challenge, feedback, and want to actively engage in a global learning community. DS106 is a living, breathing story, evolving just as its members do each time they master particular forms of digital expressions. The story of ds106 works both on its own and as part of the larger narrative of what it means to be a connected life long learner and educator, a digital global citizen. 

In Week 5 of DS106, we were encouraged to tweet Barbara Gangley @bgblogging. I didn’t tweet her, but I followed her, and was inspired by one of her tweets. The blog post her tweet recommends explores how “stories as communication tools are becoming a focus of attention because people want to make things closer to human scale, and stories accomplish that goal.” Although the post is essentially about the Science of Science Communication, how scientists can leverage storytelling to engage their audiences, the concepts apply to all storytelling. The blogger explores how the key to effective communication is to establish trust through storytelling.  According to Melanie Green, a researcher on the art of persuasion, she contends that you are perceived as an expert if you uses statistics, but you are perceived as warm and trustworthy when you use story. The post also explores how our social media and networks connect us, and how we can leverage it to tell our story. As I prepare to participate in a digital story contest called StoryhackVT where I must compose a digital story within a 24 hour period using three digital mediums,  and leverage my social network to vote for my story for the win, it was interesting to learn how there are four kinds of digital networks which help to propagate one’s narratives, whatever those narratives may be:

  • Social networks – who you know
  • Cognitive social networks – who they think you know
  • Knowledge networks – what they think you know
  • Cognitive Knowledge networks – what who you know knows 
I was not surprised in learning what I have always observed and experienced that our networks are often a bit homogeneous. Yes, social media helps us connect with our global peers, but therein lies the problem, they often tend to be people just like ourselves so our narratives echo each other.  The presenter mentioned in the post suggested the best way to silence this “echo effect” is by analyzing our networks and looking at “the bridges and brokers”.  If we closely examine the narratives shared by those in our networks, and we notice a one sided perspective, then we should seek ways to listen to stories expressing other views. Obviously, the internet can make this happen easily if we are willing to listen to that other point of view and consider all the angles.   

So the point I am trying to make is that when we compose our stories, digital or not, we need to listen more as we were encouraged to do in week 4, we need to notice if there is an echo. We need to notice if we are considering multiple perspectives; we need to uncover the back story so all voices are being heard and the story is not always the same old single story. Sometimes human beings tell single stories that are uplifting and raise our consciousness to help us become better versions of ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes the single story is destructive and spreads only hate and violence. I was reminded of a great TED Talk I have shared before on this blog, “The Danger of the Single Story“. Digital, paper based, or spoken stories need to break down barriers and influence people’s thinking about our common humanity and the universality of our human emotions and problems.    

In week 3, we had to write a new blog post and explain a story that you’re familiar with in terms of Vonnegut’s approach. Pick a movie, TV show, book, poem song, etc. The idea is to outline the shape of that story in a visual and descriptive form. Use some kind of media to do this, make it drawing or video or whatever you like. Be creative!

I chose Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt” because Ray Bradbury like Vonnegut was a master storyteller who influenced people to think about our technology and conveniences in the modern world. This short story packs quite a message about our society’s relationship with technology, our parenting skills, the deterioration of the nuclear family, how technology can alienate us, even make us lose our grip on reality. We had to outline the shape of the story we chose in a descriptive and creative manner so I failed at this a bit. I can’t draw very well and found Simple Diagram. This is what I managed to do without any tutorials. (Sorry.) 

From the get go, it’s bad news in “The Veldt”. Bradbury introduces us to mother/father archetypes, and we also recognize a familiar conflict often blamed on modernity and progress: the children are out of control, what do we do? Who’s to blame? Can we fix it? Let’s call the shrink and see if he can fix the problems we have brought upon ourselves! So Vonnegut said that Hamlet was a masterpiece because Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so often tell us the truth in the rise and fall of a story. In “The Veldt”, Ray Bradbury tells us nothing but brutal truths about how technology has the potential to dehumanize us, and how technology has affected child rearing and our own psyches. Although, it’s bad news from the onset, and the reader is on a downward spiral we never recover from, we enjoy this type of story because it is a cautionary tale, “the Man in Hole” as Vonnegut puts it! Ironically, human beings enjoy hearing what idiots we can be at times. It’s heeding the advice we learn from these cautionary tales that is more difficult to strive for everyday.  

Additionally in week 3, we had to find an example of something you have seen recently on the internet or elsewhere that you might describe as a digital story. It need not be just be a video. In your post about the shape of stories include a description of what you selected and why you would call it a digital story (do not forget to link and/or embed).

I discoverd Storyhackvt, and their site has several examples of digital stories told across various mediums, and even an opportunity to participate in a storyhackathon.  The point is to write a story either alone or with a team of no more than 5 people and use at least three digital media to share the story online. These digital stories can be fiction and non fiction, and they are interactive. Here are a few examples

I have also come to know Talky Tina in ds106, the doll formerly known as creepy. She has undergone extensive rehabilitation, so she says, to become a high functioning member of the ds106 cyberinfrastructure. She is its mascot, and the personal cyberinfrastructure she has created epitomizes for me what digital storytelling is all about. As an audience, we feel more engaged when we hear a narrative about events where we experience distress and empathy. “Metaphors work well because when we hear a story we want to relate it to our one of our experiences.” The emotional and cognitive effect of the Talky Tina narrative creates a fun, creative, childlike environment. Talky Tina is ds106’s metaphor. Her persona shows what it means to create a digital identity, and how cyberspace allows us to role play and explore aspects of our own identity that will help us be more creative, reflective, connected and engaged. Talky teaches us it’s ok to return to our inner child because this mindset frees us from the constraints that we often unnecessarily impose on ourselves as adults. The Talky Tina persona in the ds106 narrative establishes a fun, authentic, unique and unexpected tone and mood. There’s not a megalomaniacal bone in Tina’s body! She’s not plastic! She’s got a real soul, and is extremely real! (And, we need more authenticity in the world, if you ask me!) 

Through Talky and the various resources in week 3 through 5, I learned that stories in the digital age stand out and capture people’s attention when:

1.) “The story is Unique and Unexpected- unexpected content is what makes things go viral.”  Talky is a perfect example of the unexpected. Our daily creates challenge us to be original and express our unique brand of creativity. The more we engage with each other, the more we recognize everyone’s style and signature talents. 

2.) “The Story is told in a public space, active communities, like the streets, FB, G+, Twitter, Flickr, blogs, radio; the story is easily accessible for people and designed to foster discussion.” The ds106 story unfolds on multiple digital spaces. People experiment, take risks and support each other as they learn to express themselves on various digital platforms.

3.) “The Story is about the audience.” The other day someone said in the G+ community that Talky Tina is us and we are her. It instantly made me start humming I am the Walrus..I am she as you are she as you are me And we are all together..” but it’s true…we are all Talky Tina. We are involved with her, and ds106 through our daily creates and digital interactions. The ds106 story is a compilation of all our individual stories. We all have private and public stories we share with different audiences. In the best stories, people are involved and directly addressed. “People listen to themselves.” We each have our blogs where we get to talk about the topic we so often find most fascinating…ourselves, our lives, and what we create! We are both the DS106 storytellers and its audience, an ever expanding one too!

4.) “The Story helps create real life connections-physical element to really turn people from simply interested into highly enthusiastic.” Talky Tina connects us. We connect through sharing our daily creates, our weekly assignments, etc., but also through the characterization of Talky’s persona. She is not just the ds106 mascot, she is its cheerleader, a mother figure of sorts, watching out that we be nice to each other, and of course she’s a friend to us all. 

Yesterday, while perusing blogs of ds106 alums, I accidentally found out Talky’s true identity. She’s a double agent! ( I won’t link to the post to protect her!) I felt like I did two years ago when I discovered Santa wasn’t real! I tweeted her as soon as I found out! She sent me direct tweets asking me to reveal my source. She mentioned something about an Uncle. I warned her to leave her poor Uncle alone, but Talky is a super true friend because she makes awesome GIFs and gives life to ds106! Who cares about her past! I want to learn a lot from her. I also want to Collabogif with her and write cool interactive stories. She liked the idea. This made me happy!  When I tweeted that I joined StoryhackVT the other day too, she thought it was interesting. This made me happy too! This post is dedicated to Talky Tina because I threw her against a wall yesterday when she said the MEAN WORD: #rules. Sorry Talky I will be nice because I know you killed Telly Savallas. But, “Who loves ya baby?” — I do… because you know in storytelling we can break all the rules!