INSTRUCTOR REFLECTION – Same Story Three Ways: A Culinary and Epicurean Exploration (10.1)

By Crystal VanKooten, Oakland University

It was wonderful to work with Kat on her “Same Story Three Ways” project during the winter 2020 semester in Digital Storytelling. I designed the assignment to enable students to explore and gain experience telling stories through multiple modes of expression: through images, sound, words, and combinations of these. We also focused on interviewing, recording interviews, and editing the resulting footage to help compose the stories we wanted to tell. You can see and hear in Kat’s project that she is adept at combining a strong narrative voice with other voices in order to achieve rhetorical effects. I love how we can hear and get to know Kat and some of the important people and places in her life within this project.

One aspect of video composition and soundwriting that we talked about in class several times was layering – layering visuals with interview audio, layering sounds with voices, layering images with words. Kat demonstrates throughout her project that she has carefully considered the different layers of media that help her tell stories about food and family. In her video, for example, she deftly layers images of sharecropping and cooking overtop of her own and her mother-in-law’s voices. In the audio story, we hear plates clattering, laughter, microwaves whirring, and the friendly back-and-forth banter of siblings. In the interactive story map, Kat’s powerful narrator voice is now written and layered with the brilliant colors of foods from Ireland, Spain, and New Orleans. The three digital stories in Kat’s project then layer overtop of one another, providing various points of entry into and overlap within Kat’s experiences with food and family.

Kat had a good amount of video editing and online writing experience coming into our course, and this prior knowledge shows in her work. But throughout the semester, I also watched Kat listen carefully to feedback on drafts of this project from peers and from me, and she always revised deeply in response. My comments to Kat on the final draft of her video story were that she had made some great revisions: the interview material had been rearranged, she had added a new, more meaningful ending, and she had redone the opening of the video using the world map. She made similar changes to her audio story and interactive map in response to feedback, editing the beginnings and endings of the pieces repeatedly. As she mentions in her reflection, the story map has gone through many iterations, and was initially much longer – the version you see here is much more focused and concise.

Through masterful layering of voices, images, experiences, and places, Kat speaks to us about the importance and joy of human connection with and through food. The ways she composed and revised this work also speak about the importance of human connection and community within the writing process. During this time of physical distancing, I embrace and celebrate opportunities like the one Kat offers us here, where we all can connect more meaningfully with others through digital composition and expression.

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