Week 3: Divergence

Our goal this week is to transition from traditional digital storytelling (ACT01) to divergent digital storytelling (ACT02).  

Also, we will begin your first digital story project.

And finally, I am asking you to reflect on the vastness of the ocean and our own Natural Default Learning within this environment.

ACT01: Recap

ACT01 was a bit of a storytelling history lesson, establishing a baseline of archetypical story structures and tropes; and also examining the breadth of storytelling as a fundamental tenet of mankind.   Stories are what we use to shape our tribes, be they families, churches, political parties, schools, countries, or clubs.  We swap stories that reinforce our values and beliefs, whatever they may be.

Stories are how culture, communities, and people function.

This is our baseline.  

ACT 02: Plot Point 01

As a summer class we move quickly, and this week we transitioning from ACT01 to ACT02 , Divergence.  


[di·ver·gence] (n) /dəˈvərjəns,dīˈvərjəns/ : the process or state of diverging; a deviation from a course or standard.

Old School.  Traditional digital storytelling would very likely have you produce a short video about some element of your life; and focus on the aesthetics of basic video production - script writing, 3 act structure, storyboarding, and so on.  This is the traditional archetype, and possibly what you expected when signing up for this class.  

This format has generally involved basic audio/visual  slide-show based storytelling which is hugely overdone.  You've seen it thousands of times, and likely produced your own slide-decks as well.  These are so prolific and often poorly done that I generally ask you not do this.  I'd rather INTE5340 be divergent, and therefore - NO SLIDE SHOWS.

New School. INTE5340 and courses like it, orient more toward the media-explosion that is the world wide web.  We orient toward media-making, media-mixing, and media-literacy, and adopt challenge-based pedagogies. Here, students may be presented with a collection of assignment challenges, from which they choose. INTE5340 is actually a spin-off of a couple of famous digital storytelling courses called DS106 and ANTH101 - both of which have been running in these formats for years.  There are teaching philosophies baked-in to challenge-based courses that prioritize learner-agency and learning inquiry; allowing students to grow, explore, and create beyond the factory model of schooling.

Natural Default Learning.  ACT02 will take us further from home and deeper into the digital ocean, i.e. the hyper-mediated space that is the Internet. It is an ocean of digital stories, so large in scale that we often do not see the water in which we swim.  

Autopilot makes day-in and day-out easier for all of us.   We each have routines and rituals that allow us to zone-out and ride-along; paying continuous partial attention to details.  And before we know it, it's over!!  We have multitasked our way through at a caffeinated pace, with a primary focus on getting it done.  This is a common human behavior that we all do.  This is the comfort-zone, aka the status-quo.  In the video, Wallace calls it our natural default setting.

How much learning occurs when students and teachers operate in a state of  natural default learning?

What is the archetypical course? This default setting might look like a check-lists to check; papers to write; worksheets to complete; sit-n-get lectures, and standardized tests.  In a professional organization it is evaluations, required trainings, cubicles, and general bureaucracy.  These archetypes are anesthetics.

[an·es·thet·ic] (n) /anəsˈTHedik/ : a substance that induces insensitivity to pain; something that induces sleep.

AKA scorekeeping and efficiency activities that disengage our thinking and automate our behavior.  

Thus we play the games of education and work - defaulting to autopilot to get through the day.  Get through the semester or through the year.  Until we wake-up, done!!  What I'm writing here is called an easter-egg.  It is a hidden thing designed to see who is paying attention.  If you see this, open and answer my question so I know you found it.  

The hero’s journey model used in INTE5340 is distinctly about waking up, recognizing water, and challenging you to adjust your natural default learning.

This is what we'll be doing for the next month.  

This Week's Tasks
  1. You may have skimmed or skipped the material above (natural default setting). Challenge yourself to shake this off - go back, and authentically read and watch. Then annotate this web page with your groups.

  2. There are a number of example digital stories linked below. Identify ONE story that has a significant affect / effect on you. Tell us about it in the #week-03 Slack channel. Which story did you pick, and why?

  3. Help a sidekick. There are a number of project ideas pitched by your classmates in the #week-02 Slack channel. Recommend ANOTHER of the example stories linked below as inspiration for a classmate's idea. Help them brainstorm a bit further by connecting their project idea to one of these examples. Connect the dots in the #week-03 Slack channel.

  4. Complete the weekly StoryThing, as always.

  5. Begin working on your first project, it is due in 2 weeks (July 5th).

Digital Story Sampler

Participatory Storytelling invites the audience to actively contribute and collaborate in telling the story, producing media ancillaries, and actively engaging with one another.

  • ANTH101 is an open, online class telling stories about humans being.
  • DS106 is an open digital storytelling class-community.
  • World Without Oil is an alternate reality game with 1000s of players telling a single story.
  • Sherlock Holmes & the IOT is a blend of meetups, digital, discovery, past, present, and future.


Data Storytelling is an emerging art form that takes big, dry data-sets and converts them into visually rich interactives that give data the necessary style, media, tone, cadence and context to make them engaging.

  • A brief history is a visual essay about US history based on 100 years of newspaper meta-data.
  • Payback is a playful story about combatting college debt.
  • The Next America is a longform story about changing US demographics.


Playful Stories engage learners with choice in the narrative; allowing them to branch into different possibilities, perspectives, and potential outcomes.

  • That Moment When is a humorous branching video told in choose-your-own-adventure fashion. Adult humor/language.
  • SPENT is a role-playing game centered on real-world hardships in America.
  • Finding the Truth is a game in which you play judge and jury in the criminal justice system.   Also, an empathy machine.


Empathy Machines are stories centered on putting you into someone else's shoes, for all the obvious reasons.

  • Notes on Blindness is a VR experience that immerses you into a sensory and psychological world of a blind man in a visual world.
  • My Grandmother's Lingo is an interactive story explaining and exploring the cultural loss of an aboriginal language (Marra).
  • Depression Quest is an interactive fiction that delves into the challenges and depths of depression.

INTE5340 Stories come from past students and past iterations of this course. These are valuable to explore to get a sense of size, scale, and scope of the story you'll be producing in the next couple of weeks.  The samples above are all high-dollar, high-media, and high-investment productions.  We aren't doing that.  

Rather, we'll be doing something like this...

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About Brad Hinson

Teller of stories; drinker of coffee; father of kids; tinkerer of tools; geek. I am an SEHD Assistant Dean, an LDT Instructor, and a ThinqStudio Director @ CU Denver.
  • Denver
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