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?