Edit and Forget It?

Back in December 2012, I decided to craft a brief digital story using footage of my kids from 2009. I didn’t spend that much time quickly editing it down. Maybe an hour or so? A few things that I cut but that I can still recall (even without reviewing the footage) are:

  1. At the beginning of the footage, my daughter Rosie (who was 3 at the time), was sucking on a toy. At first I couldn’t tell what it was, but when I did, I said “Hey! I thought I hid that a few weeks ago! How did you find it.” Throughout the footage, I repeatedly tell her to stop sucking on it. And she repeatedly refuses to listen.
  2. Before heading outside, the kids stop and put their shoes on. I’m struck by how easily and quickly Rosie is able to put on her own shoes.
  3. At the very end of the footage, while Fletcher (my son, then 6) and Rosie are “riding” the broom, they run into the fence. Rosie falls down.

When I first showed the kids this video, Fletcher was disappointed. What had happened to the part where they ran into the fence and Rosie fell down, he wondered. I was surprised that he could remember this fleeting moment from almost 4 years ago. I told him that I had edited it out. Why? I have a fuzzy memory of deciding to take it out because I wasn’t sure that Rosie falling after hitting the fence would be something that we would want to remember. Plus, I was originally crafting this moment for my love in fragments project. Rosie falling at the end of their cute “ride” around the backyard didn’t seem to fit. 

Last night, Fletcher (who turns 10 next week) and I watched the video for the 10th (20th?) time. And, again he lamented the loss of his favorite part. So, this morning I re-edited the digital story and put back in 6 seconds at the end. Instead of replacing my original story, I added Fletcher’s version as a new Vimeo video with the following description:

An updated version of Fletcher and Rosie singing and saying the word “poop” a lot. In the original version, I cut the ending short, leaving out the part where Fletcher and Rosie run into the fence and fall down. Fletcher was very disappointed. To please him and to ensure that repeated watchings of my story didn’t encourage us to forget Fletcher’s favorite part of that event (even before I showed him the video footage last year, he was talking about that day and remembering running into the fence) I decided to re-edit the video.

Working on this footage again has prompted me to think about the power of editing in shaping which experiences/events in our lives are meaningful and important, and which are rendered invisible. Having spent years reading and engaging with theories on deconstructing texts/narratives to challenge dominant readings and to look for the blind spots and the suppressed/repressed moments that are forgotten because of those dominant readings, this idea of editing as shaping is not new to me. But, it’s good to be reminded of it, especially when I envision one of my roles to be that of family storyteller.

Even as I try to craft stories that avoid becoming master narratives (the Story of an event), I find it difficult to avoid not allowing my particular point of view to dominate. Some may argue that this is just an inevitable part of the process, but I wonder, are there things we can do, strategies we can try, that allow us to move beyond (or move beside?) our limited perspective in our storytelling and account-giving? And, what might this look like in our written or visual accounts?

In the midst of writing this post, I’ve come up with an idea that I’d like to try. I want to give my immediate family (as in, STA, RJP and FWA) a few minutes of video footage to edit. I think it should be footage that hasn’t been edited before. Then, individually each of us will spend a little bit of time editing it down into a 2-3 minute story. The kids can easily use the iMovie app to edit and craft their own stories, which is really cool. Finally, we will screen the videos for each other and discuss them. Will we tell the same stories? Use the same footage? How will our perspectives differ?

on stories, sharing, and the trouble with coherent narratives

I just watched a video by Jake Barton of Local Projects (via Explore) called Story(Us): The Power of Collaborative Storytelling.

In this short film, Jake Barton discusses the importance of not only sharing our stories with each other, but of collaborating with each other to create a unified, coherent, grand Story together. While I really appreciate the value he places on storytelling and the power it has in enabling us to connect and collaborate, I was bothered (surprise, surprise) by his idea that this collaborate storytelling ultimately should (and often does) lead to the recognition that, as one narrator states, “we are all the same.”

Do we need a grand narrative (a singular Story) to have meaningful connections? Must our ultimate conclusion be that our differences don’t really matter, that deep down, we are all the same? These are genuine questions, although I ask them provocatively and with my own responses in mind: “why?” and “No!”

I was troubled my the larger claims of this film from the beginning, when Barton describes the power of the moon landing. He says:

We are able to go up to that thing we see in the sky, the moon. And the fact that that object has been shared by every human in every civilization for decades and centuries and millenia, is unbelievable because then the moment when one human being steps on it, it actually unites an entire world around that idea: We did it.

Such a claim seems to erase all of the politics behind who the “we” was that actually did it (the U.S.) and for what purposes (at least partially, to beat Russia and claim U.S. superiority in space and everything else). I don’t know that much about the space race in the 60s, but I do know that it took place in the context of the Cold War, an extreme fear of Russia and communism and the vigilant practice of an Us versus Them mentality. Even if we accept, in a broader sense, that the fact that someone (anyone) was able to travel to the moon meant something to us-as-humans, what do we make of what happens not too long after Neil Armstrong took his historic step onto the moon, when he and Buzz Aldrin planted a U.S. Flag on the surface? What does the planting of the U.S. flag mean for a common, coherent narrative about Us?

My point in posing these questions is to trouble the idea that sharing and collaborating on stories brings us together by erasing our differences and reminding us that we are, ultimately, all the same. I like hearing stories that resonate with me and that enable me to see how my experiences can be similar to others. And some stories that I hear do prompt me to think, “wow, we aren’t all that different.” But, sharing and collaborating on stories does not require that we erase/ignore/suppress our differences or the political context in which those differences come to matter. The realization that differences matter does not mean that we can’t connect, share, collaborate or get along with others. It means that those connections shouldn’t demand that we create a singular narrative of commonality.

Later on in the film, Barton discusses how the diversity of stories and media outlets for sharing those stories presents us with a big challenge: “Whether or not that diversity for media does create understanding between people.” Barton’s response:

Today, we have the capacity to gather those stories together, to filter them, to make meaning out of them, to curate them and to make a larger narrative that binds us altogether.

Again, I wonder, do we need one larger narrative to bind us altogether? Who gets to filter/craft that narrative? Who doesn’t? What gets left out of the story/stories when we put too much emphasis on a coherent, singular story?

I like Barton’s definition of collaborative storytelling:

Collaborative storytelling can be a better way to understand the human experience. Because it’s necessarily as diverse and gritty and strange and unexpected as any of us could imagine.

What happens to that diversity, grittiness, strangeness and unexpectedness when those stories are filtered and curated into one grand narrative? What would it look like to make connections, to do collaborative storytelling that puts these stories beside each other without one grand, unifying conclusion? What meaning could be produced? What understanding could be achieved?

On a side note, Barton’s Story(Us) video is part of a conference that happened just last week, The Future of Storytelling. As I was scrolling through the list of presenters and their videos, I found one by Margaret Robertson that was especially cool: Stories You Can Win. Here’s the synopsis:

Games have always needed stories, says celebrated game designer Margaret Robertson. For many, the first ever videogame was 1962’s Space War. It couldn’t have been simpler to look at: startlingly abstract wireframes only. Space War could hardly be a smaller story, but it allowed players to make sense of the abstract shapes, of the strange new interaction unfolding before them. And from that point on, games have consistently chased a richer relationship with stories. Technology has always made that hard, though. There were great stories in early games, but ones that you had to sip through the thinnest of straws. Everything we take for granted in other mediums of storytelling was brutally rationed in early gaming.

But now we’ve beaten those constraints. Modern games have scripts tens of thousands of pages long. They record tens of thousands of lines of dialogue and display perfectly lifelike facial expressions and body movement. Natural language conversations are becoming possible with artificial characters. Some game developers even consider that the artificial creations they make can be meaningfully said to be alive. So does that mean we’ve cracked story? Not quite. Story is hard. Story is fragile. Story is expensive. Players chew through it fast, and expect it to be endlessly responsive to their actions. Writing one good straight story is hard enough at the best of times. Producing one that’s expected to last twenty times as long as most feature films and have a hundred credible endings is next to impossible.

So how do we fix that problem? We fix it by letting games work their own particular magic. Games are engines for making stories. Their rule sets and objectives are mechanisms that engender the things that drive stories—courage, failure, shame, greed, sacrifice, surprise—and gives them context and structure. If you build a captivating world and give players interesting rules, then they’ll tell a thousand stories for you. And we fix it by letting games go free range. Whereas you needed to gather round a monolithic PDP-1 to play Space War, now most of us carry one computer in our pocket and another in our backpack. Games are leaking out on to our streets and our parks and our campuses and our beaches, and there is enormous potential to use those environments to tell new kinds of stories. This is what excites Robertson the most as a game designer: being able to give players a stage from which they can start to tell their own stories.

the Shit rock

As I write this blog post, in my peripheral vision, just below my screen and fairly close to my keyboard, is a rock. My Shit rock. It used to be my mom’s. I believe (but I can’t quite remember whether or not it’s true) that it was on her desk in her studio. When she died, this rock was one of a handful of her objects that I chose to take.

I’m fascinated by this rock. It’s pretty ugly and really ridiculous. But, it makes me curious and it conjures up images/visions/feelings of my mom and who she was how I remember her. Why did my mom have this rock? How did she get it? Did she buy it as a souvenir on one of our rare vacations? Was it a present from a past student? A gag gift? What did she think about when she looked at it? Did she laugh?

My mom was an artist, an identity she didn’t really claim until she went back to school in her mid 50s and earned a BFA in fiber arts. Her studio spaces—she had many different ones because she and my dad moved a lot in the last decade of her life—were always filled with quotes from artists, inspirational words, framed cross-stitchings (like, “of all things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most”), images torn out of magazines and various art supplies. Amidst all of these items was the Shit rock. Was this rock somehow inspiring to my mom? Did it provide her with an outlet for the frustration she experienced as an artist who was constantly doing battle with the Censor, that voice inside her that repeatedly told her she wasn’t good enough? Was it a way for her to represent her feisty and playful spirit? To poke fun at her own penchant for “pretty” knick-knacks?

All of these questions makes me want to craft a digital story about the rock and what it means for me and my memories of/connections to my mom. Much like the digital story that I crafted about my first grade progress report last spring, this story about the rock would enable me to experiment with being curious about an object.

There are all sorts of ways that I could discuss how my mom’s “shit” rock, especially with it’s flowery font, is meaningful to me. And all sorts of images and ideas that it conjures up. Here are two “shit” examples that probably won’t make it into my digital story:

1. RJP’s classic line to me in a public bathroom a few years ago:


2. A few images from a Tumblr focused on “beautiful swearwords”

Fall is here!

Last week, I declared that summer was over. For the past 33 years, since I was 5, the end of summer signaled the beginning of a new school year for me, either as a student or a teacher. But not this year. And I’m relieved.

Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of time prepping syllabi and for class discussions (which was usually enjoyable, but too time-consuming for me), I’m hoping to use this fall to create, experiment, explore practices of feminist pedagogy outside of the academy and reflect on how and why I am currently having a serious crisis of faith in higher/institutionalized education.

I’m also hoping to continue working on a project that involves bringing together various accounts/stories of my experiences making, being in and staying in trouble. Much of these accounts already exist, in various forms, online. Now, I’m trying to figure out the best way to bring them together. Part of this project is the tracing of my intellectual history for the past 16 years (from graduate school and beyond) and how my experiences engaging with feminist and queer theories, inside and outside of academic spaces, has resulted in feeling trouble and troubled in the academy.

One key theme in my intellectual history has been a persistent desire to use the theories and ideas that I was learning to understand, connect, care for/about the world and to heal. This desire was influenced and shaped by my increased exposure in graduate school to feminist thinkers/theorists, like bell hooks, Cynthia Enloe, Dorothy Allison, Patricia Hill Collins, Gloria Anzaldúa, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Judith Butler and Audre Lorde, just to name a few.

But even as I was being exposed to these powerful ideas about using theory to understand/connect/care/heal in graduate school, I was being trained to engage with and express these ideas (and others, especially in philosophy courses) using alienating academic jargon and methods. The “rigor” I was learning made it harder for me to talk to and connect with my family and friends. And, the emphasis placed on being critical (that is, critical as picking apart and always finding fault with ideas and thinkers) made it increasingly difficult to find my own voice and make sense of my own experiences. As I struggled with my university’s emphasis on a narrow sense of rigor and their increasing demands for a particular type of professional development, I looked for ways to engage beside (or outside of/in spite of) my graduate training.

In 2001 I decided to create a video (with a lot of help from STA) about my family’s farm in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I wanted to document my family’s experiences being (visiting, resting, working) at the farm. And I wanted to use theories on identity, belonging, space, and narrative selfhood that I was wrestling with in my feminist theory classes to make sense of and/or trouble those experiences. I was hoping that my documentary would enable me to share some of what I was doing in my PhD program with my family and would help me to make sense of my own conflicting feelings about belonging, heritage and identity.

I loved creating this documentary. So much so that STA and I created another the following year. These two videos are the most important intellectual projects that came out of my years as a PhD student. While hardly anyone will read my dissertation or remember what it was about—even though I liked writing it, I have trouble remember it’s title, generations of family members will be able to watch the farm films and learn about the farm (sold in 2004) and hear my mom’s stories (died in 2009). The importance of these films, especially the second one which was dedicated to my mom, became even more evident as my mom was dying and after her death. People who hadn’t met her before her illness (like her hospice social worker) could/can watch the video and bear witness to her feisty spirit and passion for storytelling.

Documenting the farm has been on my mind a lot lately. This past month, I created a series of digital stories about my dad’s experiences living and working on the farm. And this fall, I’m hoping to create another series of stories in which I reflect on my disconnection with the farm (since it was sold) and my family (since my mom died).

As I experiment with how to document (on this blog and in digital story form) my relationship to the Puotinen family farm and it’s relevance to my intellectual history, I thought I’d try to post a few related documents from my past. The following two documents speak to my efforts to take the highly personal work of my film projects and make it “appropriate” for academic audiences by grounding it in academic ideas, theories and methods.

Shortly (as in just days) before my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my sister and I did a presentation at the Feminism (s) and Rhetoric (s) Conference in Houghton, Michigan on the importance of space and place. Since Houghton was where I was born and was only 70 miles north of our family farm, it seemed like a great opportunity to screen parts of my film and reflect on them with my sister. Here’s an excerpt from the call for papers for that conference:

And here’s a draft of my abstract (I haven’t been able to find my outline for the actual conference yet):

TITLE: Losing the Farm. Two Sisters Reflect on the Value of Space

Drawing upon a wide range of theorists, including bell hooks, Trinh T. Minh-ha and Cathy Caruth, two sisters reflect on the value of physical space and the impact of its loss on representations, constructions and understandings of identity. This session will be divided into two sections. In the first section, Sara L. Puotinen will show extended clips from her two documentaries on the Puotinen family farmstead located on eighty acres of land in Amasa in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These two documentaries represent the filmmaker’s attempt to explore the stories of the farmstead—its land, buildings and past and present inhabitants—and how those stories have shaped her understandings of self, family and heritage.

In the second section, the filmmaker’s sister, Anne Puotinen, will briefly respond to the films. In addition to critically reflecting on how these films communicate the importance of the farm for the Puotinen family and its individual members, she will discuss how the recent loss of the farm—it was sold in November 2004—affects understandings of physical space in relation to memory and belonging.

In addition to serving as an example of how I tried to connect my own experiences and struggles with identity to my academic theories on self/identity/belonging/space, this document stands as the last project that I completed before my mom was diagnosed. It was also just a few months before I completed my dissertation and earned my PhD. Hmm….I’m thinking a lot about the split between before diagnosis/PhD and after. How big does the split figure into my intellectual history? Is it a split? I want to think about that some more…

summer’s over

Yesteday was the first day of school for FWA (4th) and RJP (1st). Summer’s over. It was a great one. For the past few years, I’ve done the bulk of my blog writing during the summer, when I’m not teaching. This year, I wrote some in the summer, but I spent a lot more time experimenting with TUMBLR, pixelmator and Vimeo. I took a lot of pictures with my iPhone camera and converted them into Problematizers. I created two digital videos documenting the 3 year anniversary of this blog and my 1 year anniversary of running. And, for the past month, I’ve been working on a digital story project in which I’m using footage that STA and I shot over ten years ago at my family’s farm (some of which was used in the 2 farm films we created) and crafting them into stories about and from my dad.

I have really enjoyed working on this farm digital video project. While I have grander plans for the stories and the other footage (a web-based project, perhaps?), for now I’ve been posting them on Vimeo and trying to figure out the best way to gather them together on a Dvd for my dad’s 71st birthday. So far, I’ve noticed that any attempts to create an iDvd project and then burn it on a disc results in a serious degrading of the footage. My conclusion: Streaming video seems like a better option for future versions of this project.

Here’s what I’ve prepared for the liner notes in the Dvd:

During the early 2000s, Scott and I visited the Puotinen family farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and recorded dozens of hours of video. A small portion of this video was used in two 25 minute documentaries about the farm and the Puotinen women. Even as we were editing the footage down, I had plans for a third film, one that would give voice to the stories and experiences of the Puotinen men, most notably my dad, Arthur Puotinen.

Now, over ten years later, and after losing the farm (sold in 2004) and my mom (died from pancreatic cancer in 2009), I have finally been able to return to the footage.

It’s powerful to revisit the footage so many years later. And it’s wonderful to remember the stories that I grew up on but haven’t heard since the farm was sold. I’ve included some (but not all) of my favorites. I’ve also included a few digital moments that document some of my parent’s loving and playful interactions on (and near) the farm.

The process of crafting/documenting some of my Dad’s classic stories has been amazing. After my parents sold the farm and my mom died, I lost (some of) my interest in these stories and the connections to my Puotinen heritage that they helped to reinforce. But revisiting this footage and remembering the farm and its inhabitants (and my mom as healthy and happy…for the longest time I could only remember her as sick) has reminded me that those connections are important, especially the connections that link me to the rich tradition of storytelling that exists within my family.

how I’m using social media to make trouble, part 4: vimeo

Today, on this beautiful Tuesday afternoon in June, the final day of school for the kids, I’m finishing up my four part series on how I’m using social media to make trouble (here are parts one, two and three). It seems fitting to end with Vimeo today; I just uploaded a digital video on my one year anniversary of running yesterday.

This running video is the 4th one that I’ve made since mid-March (I’ve also made 2 private, family videos). The others are: Student Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account, Stories from the UP, and TROUBLE: an introduction. It’s been a lot of fun experimenting with new techniques and new ways for creatively expressing myself.

In my first video, my goal was to reflect on the concepts of discipline and self-control by closely examining (and being curious about) one of the few artifacts that I still have from when I was a kid: my first-grade report card. As I discuss in the video, I (apparently) lacked self-discipline. In addition to using this video to tell a story about my childhood and explore a troublemaking concept (being un/disciplined), I also use it to continue processing the loss of my mom and experimenting with how to be curious about an object (the progress report).

In my second video, I wanted to trouble the typical vacation narrative by documenting the struggles and difficulties of going on a family vacation along with the joyful experiences and memories of it. Using footage (done by me, STA and our kids, FWA and RJP) from our trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last summer, I dissect (deconstruct?) a few typical parts of a story—the path or goal/purpose/telos, the characters, the place and the action—and focus on narrating the “difficult and ongoing negotiations of 4 different, all strong, personalities living together as a family.” In addition to reflecting on the trouble of trying to enjoy a vacation with 2 young kids, I also try to (at least) hint at my feelings of disconnection from the UP since my parents sold the family farm and my mom died. I think this haunting is most effectively conveyed by the soundtrack (from STA/Room 34).

In my third video, I experiment with how to tell the story of this blog. In addition to my voiceover narrative about the blog and how/when I started it, I also try to tell the story through images of blog titles. I was partly inspired to create this video after STA, somewhat jokingly, told me that I needed to work on my “elevator speech” about the blog. Of course, this video doesn’t really work as an elevator speech or a 30 second commercial, but I hope it’s still helpful in introducing visitors to my blog, my research and writing, and my life-as-a-troublestayer.

Working on the video, enabled me to further articulate my current state of being troubled by the academy. In one section, I say:

In experimenting on this blog, I’ve not only reflected on the value of trouble, but I’ve managed to get myself into trouble; I’ve come up against the limits of academic spaces and institutions. When I started my blog, I imagined it would allow me to experiment with connecting my academic self to my experiences and practices outside of the academy. And, in some ways, it has. But, it has also forced me to confront the problems with the academy.  And I’ve become troubled by how academic work seems to more often come at the expense of my meaningful engagement with ideas and with others. So, instead of enhancing or complementing my academic work, this blog has made me question its very purpose. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so, but it certainly causes trouble for me and my ability/willingness to function within academic spaces.

In my fourth and most recent video, I decided to celebrate my first anniversary of running by documenting “my process of loving and living (mostly joyfully, sometimes painfully, but always intensely) through running.” While I hope others will watch and appreciate the video, my main purpose in creating it was to record my feelings about and experiences of running a 5k, 3 times a week (usually) around Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis for my present and future self. I want to have a record of what I’ve been thinking and seeing as I run.

This video fits as a troubling video for a couple of reasons. First, the second half of the video focuses on grieving for my mom and my troubled relationship to exerciste/being healthy after she died. Second, in making the video as a (mostly) joyful story about running, I challenged/troubled my own impulse, fostered by years and years of academic training, to critically unpack and theorize about why I hadn’t exercised for so many years. In early drafts of my voiceover, I devoted a lot more time to connecting my lack of exercise with feminist theories and critiques of the mind/body split in the academy. I had a breakthrough when I decided to take all of that out and simply write:

What happened to that younger me? I could speculate on all of the reasons how and why I lost my powerful physical confidence, drawing upon personal experiences and academic feminist theories. But not now. Why spend time dwelling on that past, when I could reflect on my joyful present?

Here’s a second paragraph that I cut out of the final script; it further articulates how my choice to take out the most explicit theorizing signals a shift from critical to creative:

Instead of looking back on why I lost it, I’m much more interested in celebrating my reclaiming of it. This desire to not look back signals a shift away from a critical self who tirelessly analyzes and assesses reasons and towards a creative self who, while not uncritically ignoring causes or “oppressive structures” (to use my feminist-speak), joyfully experiments with new ways of being (or maybe old ways, once lost).

In each of these videos, I’ve experimented with learning new techniques and new ways of inserting myself into the stories. I think I’m most present in the fourth video; not only do I have voice-over and images, but lots of moving footage of me running. It was great to work with STA on capturing this footage at Lake Nokomis (on a beautiful Friday evening). At some point, I might want to further reflect on the history (starting with my farm films from 2002 and 2003) of my experiments with self-representaiton in my videos. Ha! I’ll just have to add that to the queue of projects.

As I look over these four videos as a whole, I’m struck by one common theme. They all represent a desire to move beyond (or, at least outside of or beside) my recent past of grieving a dying/dead mom and struggling to fit in and survive in the academic industrial complex.

In Student Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account I say:

While I could dwell on the damage that that need to calm down and conform did to me, I don’t want to. Instead, I want to take a minute to celebrate the 7 year old self that was full of life and passion and curiosity and wonder and managed, in spite of much adversity and resistance, to hang onto it for 30+ years. I started making trouble at an early age (mostly the good kind!) and I’ve stayed in it for all this time. I think that’s pretty cool.

In TROUBLE: an introduction I say:

Now, 3 years into writing in this blog and over 2.5 years past my mom’s death, I’m still very interested in critique and questioning, discomfort, and grief but I’m more invested in what’s beside these things: being creative, joyful, full of wonder and living, not grieving. I think that this wondering, curious and playful spirit is a key part of virtuous and effective troublemaking; it’s a needed complement to the demanding rigors of always questioning and never accepting ideas or rules or norms.

And, as I mentioned above, in RUN, I say:

What happened to that younger me? I could speculate on all of the reasons how and why I lost my powerful physical confidence, drawing upon personal experiences and academic feminist theories. But not now. Why spend time dwelling on that past, when I could reflect on my joyful present?

In creating these videos, I didn’t set out to document these shifts. Instead, it was through the process of working on these videos that I fully realized that that shift was necessary. I love that about experiment with digital storytelling; creating new products is rewarding, but the real value comes through the process of reflecting, thinking through and paying a lot of attention to the images, stories, and experiences of my life.

Some Other Important Links
Experimenting with Digital Storytelling, Part One and Part Two

Experimenting with Digital Stories, part 2

I’m continuing to experiment with using iMovie to create digital stories. I’m having a lot of fun and learning new techniques. While I created two videos in the early aughts with STA, he did almost all of the technical stuff on them (running the camera + editing the footage in iMovie, etc). It’s great to learn how to do it myself. Part of my feminist techagogy (Feminist pedagogies in conversation/beside online technologies) is a passionate belief in empowering/inspiring/encouraging a wide range of folks how to engage in their own digital multimedia projects for critical and creative expression. With easy to use and inexpensive tools like iMovie, lots of people who aren’t tech/media experts can create, produce and share compelling stories. There are also lots of storytelling apps for creating movies. I’ve created a Pinterest board with some that I’ve tried or want to try. 

I like using iMovie (as opposed to final cut pro) because it’s automatically built in to all macs and fairly easy to use. So far, I haven’t had that much difficulty figuring out how to import photos and video and edit them. I’ve also experimented with splitting video and audio clips and slowing down some footage. One thing that I haven’t spent that much time on is sound. iMovie seems to have some serious limitations when it comes to sound; it’s hard to get a consistent volume between clips. Even though iMovie has its limitations, I really like how it enables me, someone who is not a digital media expert (or interested in becoming one), to develop enough skills to experiment with various ways for creating, telling and troubling my stories.

Here’s my latest digital story project: Stories from the UP. I’m pretty happy with the various techniques that I tried out in the story. I’m also pleased with how I was able to use this story to trouble ideas of how stories, especially ones about family trips, can or should be told.

Technical note: I used iMovie + built-in MacBook Air microphone + Pixelmator for photo editing.

Here is the transcript from my voice-over:

Last summer, for the second year in a row, Scott, Fletcher, Rosie and I took a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was born in the Upper Peninsula, Houghton to be exact. And although I haven’t lived there since I was 4 and a half, I still consider it to be one of my most important home spaces.

We remember our trips to the UP with great fondness and nostalgia, as we look through Scott’s beautiful stylized instagram photos, but I know that even as these trips are deeply important and fulfilling, they aren’t always…fun or easy or relaxing. Bugs, over-excited yet easily-bored kids, too much togetherness, bugs, too cold water, lots of driving, did I mention bugs?, and the difficult and ongoing negotiations of 4 different, all strong, personalities living together as a family makes any trip messy…and exhausting….and a lot of work. But joyful, nonetheless.

I want to craft and share stories that reflect a more troubling understanding of our trips to the UP, that convey the joy and difficulties, our fulfillment and exhaustion.

Before the Path I like messy stories; stories that don’t always erase our conflicts, that allow us to put our sometimes contradictory experiences beside each other.

Before the Place I like reverent stories; stories that allow me to express an ongoing love for a place that grounds me, that nurtures me, that inspires me and that reminds me of who I am always in the process of becoming.

Before Characters I like character stories; stories that describe who we are, more than what we do…that expose our quirks and flaws and that represent us as human, not heroic.

Before the Action I like small stories; stories that represent our everyday experiences and that help to reflect who we are in our habits. Not stories of grand or epic adventures, but everyday events, when we’re just hanging out and where the exciting ending is not reaching the top of a high mountain, but going to have mackinac island fudge ice cream at our favorite ice cream shop, The Berry Patch.

An undisciplined experiment with digital storytelling

Almost 10 years ago, STA and I did two digital videos about the Puotinen family farm. While the films that we made in 2002/2003 weren’t technically sophisticated (we used iMovie, a built-in microphone and some low quality/old photos), I am very proud of them. Through these films, I was able to document two extremely important parts of me (both of which are now gone): our family farm, sold in 2004, and my mom, who died in 2009.

Since the time of making those films, the technology has improved a lot and it’s even easier to create your own digital stories, using photos, voice-over, and video. iMovie is easy to use and there are lots of different apps for creating stories on your smarthphone or iPad. Additionally, communities of scholars, artists, activists and educators have cultivated and are promoting the value of creating and sharing stories digitally. There are classes on digital storytelling (like the awesome class at the University of Minnesota, taught by Rachel Raimist and Walt Jacobs) and a Center for Digital Storytelling (started in the mid-1900s).

While I’ve been aware of digital storytelling for several years now, I haven’t read that much about it or tried it out myself. Until now.

A few weeks ago, I started writing and thinking a lot about discipline and my own lack of it. The general topic of discipline and being a disciplinary problem aren’t really new for me; they are a focus of this blog. But, something about my current in-between state (in-between teaching gigs, in-between academic and non-academic spaces, in-between a love of learning and being burned out from the academy and formal education), has made the topic of my own un/discipline particularly personal and compelling. After writing a few blog posts about it, I remembered the one and only report card that I still have from my elementary school years: my first grade report card. Since this report card has a lot to stay about my lack of self-discipline, it seemed a perfect object/subject for an undisciplined experiment with digital storytelling.

I loved experimenting with images of the report card, old photos, and voice-over in order to be curious about and reflect on who I was in first grade and why I struggled so much with self-discipline (whatever that means). I also liked trying out iMovie (I chose it over final cut pro), pixelmator (instead of photoshop) and a Yeti microphone. Pretty cool. I’m looking forward to experimenting even more with it in future projects; I’m already hoping to do a different version about my report card in which I put my struggle with self-discipline in the larger context of race, class and gender in 1980s North Carolina. For now, here’s my first experiment: School Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account

Student Progress Report: An Undisciplined Account from Undisciplined on Vimeo.

Prepping for class: feminist pedagogies, some sources

So one of my colleagues at the U of M suggested that I focus my feminist pedagogies class this fall on technology. I love this idea–even though it requires a lot of work as I think through what technologies to focus on, etc. Not sure if I even like the term technologies here. Maybe new social media or digital media? Anyway, I want to begin putting together a list of possible resources for the class. Here’s what I’ve already found (most of this comes via my twitter feed). Since I trying to learn a lot more about twitter (I don’t know much, but want to use it in my classes this year), this list is pretty twitter-heavy at this point.



I’m still trying to decide how much emphasis I want to put on technology and how many different technologies that I want to focus on. I definitely want to talk about blogging and twitter. I’m also thinking about podcasts/v-logs,  google maps/google Earth and digital storytelling. Any thoughts?