Lines of Flight

While first conceptualizing my Untold History, I was intimidated by the idea of telling the story through a variety of media. I had never produced a visual argument or audio piece, let alone worked with the adobe production programs that we explored this year. Entering this course, I had the most experience working in the print medium through traditional journalism. This course allowed me to explore the different affordances of each story telling outlet and challenged me to utilize the contributions that each brought to the overall narrative.

Each medium had its particular affordances when it came to producing the segment and having an outside viewer engage with the segment. The visual medium — produced through the visual essay and visual argument — allowed people to properly visualize the areas/images of my untold history that I found most important but also afforded them room to interpret the material and attribute meaning because they did not rely on written word. I feel as if my visual work was effective while not overwhelming the viewer by requiring her to need information that she may not have known about McKeesport. My visual argument, which outlined the amount of CDBG money given to the city government, provided necessary information, but did not overwhelm the viewer. The captions that accompanied the photos also gave a brief history of the city without inundating the viewer with unnecessary facts or figures. 

The video medium — produced through the video essay — combined moving images and audio in a way that was most easily accessible by the viewer. I believe my video was one of the most effective in furthering the goals of my overall history because it allowed me to personalize the narrative with the anecdotes of the people from the Heritage Center, while still allowing me to include important background information about McKeesport. Because the medium allows the  viewer to engage with the narrative through the video without having to do too much extra “work,” the video is integral in providing necessary background information that would weigh down other segments of the project. 

The audio medium — produced through the audio interviews — relied on voice and music to tell a portion of the narrative. I found this medium the most difficult to work with. As a visual learner, I found it difficult to engage the listener in the piece. I originally felt that the grant funding would be a good topic for this section because it was a complicated issue that was discussed by the official who deal with it, but I ultimately found that the issue was rather dry for an audio clip. In the future, I would try to use more anecdote and less straight fact in my audio compilations. I believe that I was able to liven up the piece with background music clips to further convey the mood and message of different portions of the piece, but music alone could not carry the piece. The audio medium may have been more engaging than the print medium in the case of discussing the grants, but the print medium may have allowed for a briefer discussion of the funding. 

The remix and remediation projects challenged me to approach the story telling in a new way. While each of the other mediums asked me to create, these projects asked me to recreate and reshape, and It was a new experience. I was pleased with the story telling capabilities that the remix afforded me. It provided me with a different level of depth that the other mediums did not. I was able to echo the past on top of images of the present to draw a comparison between issues that McKeesport has faced overtime with its current state. The remediation project was both familiar and knew. I have the most experience working in the print medium, but it allowed me to combine my work produced throughout the other media forms. While I was writing a type of news feature — something I have done several — I found myself approaching the experience from the reader’s vantage point and considering the type of experience she would have engaging with the text in comparison to each of the other mediums. This portion of the overall history was effective because it allowed for a traditional narrative story telling while also giving the reader the opportunity to engage with the material in different ways through the visual, audio and remix forms.

The net effect of the projects directly relates to the way that they were interwoven and worked toward one common goal. I believe that I largely achieved my storytelling goal. It is hard to judge without an objective viewing eye, but I believe that I was able to share part of the city’s story in a new way. While the narratives within each segment of the overall narrative were similar — and at some points even overlapped — each medium has a different impact potential and, in several ways, furthers the overall narrative.

To further develop this piece in the future, I will next undertake the project of re-envisioning the final product and narrative. While I believe the net effect of the project produced a cohesive package, I am still not sure if it offers the most effective narrative engagement experience. Most interactive news pieces still focus on the text-based portion of storytelling and incorporate the other visual and audio elements within the more linear delivery. While I linked my other projects in an attempt to create this effect, having the different elements combined more accessibly in one place may strengthen the narrative’s overall delivery. I will also continue to sharpen my different segments, and cut down unnecessary material. This will present me with the opportunity to add any new reporting without drawing out the engagement experience to a fault.

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