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StoryCorps Case Study Critique

June 17, 2017

The theme this week is multimodality. After reading a few different articles about it on the web, it seems rather complicated as it’s an actual area of academic study relating to semiotics and communication. That said, the surface meaning seems to relate to the way in meaning is created through text, video, image, language, speech, etc… Text used to be the main modality, but in the digital age there has been an expansion of new literacies that flow forth from the technological transformation of smart phones and the Internet.

I chose to critique StoryCorps for my first stab at analyzing a case study. StoryCorps was created by David Isay and is connected to both NPR and the Smithsonian. It has been around since 2003 and states its mission, “…is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” Being a history teacher, I have used StoryCorps as a guide for teaching oral history. Students have gone out into their neighborhoods armed with their phones, recorded conversations, transcribed them, and edited them to make sense of various topics. The students always connect to the project because of its authenticity.

I find it to be a powerful storytelling medium that feels entirely personal, honest, and revealing. One of my favorite StoryCorps pieces is the story of “Facundo the Great.”  It is a great example of cultural awareness or the lack there of, whitewashing, and comedy via storytelling. When you listen to short clips on NPR’s Morning Edition most people don’t realize how much editing goes into crafting a two minute clip that captures a moment, a memory, a conversation. I have found the editing process per radio and oral history to be one of the hardest aspects as there can be an hour of footage and you have to cut it down to a very precise and impactful few pages or minutes of audio. The students also struggle to learn the entire process and it takes a massive amount of scaffolding and practice to achieve results. The modality of radio is an older medium that is not as prominent as television nor the Internet, however when done well, it is singular and deeply moving.




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