Syllabus

Course meets Tuesdays, 6:00 – 9:30 P.M. in Ryder 427

Instructor

David Tamés, 317 Ryder Hall, d.tames@neu.edu, 617.216.1096 (mobile), @cinemakinoeye
Office Hours: Wednesdays and Thursdays 2:00 to 4:00 P.M. or by appointment (Fridays are the best days for scheduled one-on-one meetings)

Course description

You will work in teams with access to the content, writer, and editor of a major Esquire magazine story in order to reinvent what storytelling looks like, sounds like, and reads like in the digital age. The media industry is changing very quickly, and our goal is to create a course that reflects this reality. The project work will be organized around an existing Esquire feature, with an emphasis on creativity and experimentation in the use of interactive media, data visualization, and new forms of narrative presentation. Esquire staffers will be present as well as frequent guest lecturers and active collaborators.

Course goals

  • Develop your ability to analyze, deconstruct and appraise representative works of interactive journalism and documentary as demonstrated through written reviews, analysis, and presentations;
  • Describe key trends in interactive journalism and documentary practice and methods of collaborative production as demonstrated by active engagement in reading assignments, written reviews and analysis, and classroom discussion;
  • Explain the intrinsic and technical qualities of interactive journalism and documentary in comparison to linear documentary, traditional journalism, photojournalism, news websites, etc., as demonstrated by active engagement in presentations, reading assignments and contribution to classroom discussion;
  • Participate in the research, design, and implementation of an interactive magazine feature story as demonstrated by participation in production activities working in an interactive documentary production team that successfully completes an web or tablet based interactive prototype which includes significant research and development of original content.

About this course (a manifesto of sorts)

Storytelling is undergoing a profound reinvention with the advent of computational media and the global Internet. Seemingly overnight, everyone with a computer–or smartphone–became a self-publisher of prose and poetry, photo and video, tweets and rants. The old guard of media publishing was caught off guard and is still struggling to keep pace and remain profitable in an age of free content. Access to information, distribution channels, and design have been democratized in a way that making content is as easy as hitting Publish. Wading into this fray, how do we reimagine what a well-reported, deeply-researched and finely-edited piece of journalism looks like, sounds like and reads like in the digital age? Does it connect with the reader on a deep level? How do we measure engagement? Does it have to look like what a story used to look like? Together with a writer and editor from Esquire magazine and leading innovators in interactive media, documentary, and design, we will try to answer these questions.

Teaching method and activities

Class meetings will consist of presentations, discussions, group working sessions, and the presentation and critique of project work. A significant portion of learning in this course is of a self-directed and experiential nature as you participate in the research, design, and iteration of an interactive media prototype. You will devote a significant amount of time working outside of the classroom on the group project.

Projects and assignments

You will complete four assignment and one group project in this course. Each of these will be described in detail in an assignment or project description document:

  • Preliminary Research blog post, a summary of your initial research related to the assigned story.
  • Interface: Aesthetics + Experience Review (posted to the blog), a detailed review of an interactive journalism or interactive documentary work (each student will be the lead author on one with their fellow team members as co-authors), and a group presentation in class of one of the projects their group was assigned to review.
  • Group Project, including Plan, Prototype, Design Document, Process Documentation, and Peer Review, the majority of the class will be devoted to the group project.
  • Looking Outwards blog posts #1 and #2, two blog posts that look beyond the materials covered in the course, connecting personal interests with the topic of the course.
  • Personal Manifesto, an opportunity to clarify and refine your ideas an place a stake in the ground in terms of where you think the medium should be headed.

Grading

Participation and readings will not be graded directly, however, you are expected to be conversant in the topics covered in the readings in class discussions and assignments. Your grade in the class will be based on the assignment and group project with the following weightings.

  • Preliminary Research blog post (5%)
  • Interface: Aesthetics + Experience Review and presentation (15%)
  • Group Project (50%)
  • Looking Outwards blog posts #1 and #2 (5% each, 10% total)
  • Personal Manifesto (10%)

The numbers used for internal course-related grading have no correlation with any numerical systems outside of the course. Your final letter grade for the semester will be based on the following translation from internal numbers to letter grades: Aoutstanding achievement (95 – 100); A– (92 – 94); B+ (89 – 91); B (86 – 88); B– (83 – 85); C+ ( 80 – 82); Csatisfactory achievement (77 – 79); C– (74 – 76); ; D+, poor achievement (71 -73); D  (68 – 70); D–   (65 – 67);  F, failure (0 – 64). The general criteria for assigning grades is:

  • Outstanding achievement: exceptional effort and work in all respects, work that stands out in contrast to other work in terms of both technical craft and creative execution, all deliverables submitted on time (92–100% of the points available for the particular assignment);
  • Good achievement: above average effort and work, solid technical craft, all deliverables submitted on time (80–91% of the points available for the particular assignment);
  • Satisfactory achievement: average effort and work, inconsistent execution of technical craft, all deliverables submitted on time (74–79% of the points available for the particular assignment);
  • Poor achievement: lack of initiative, some or all deliverables submitted on time (65–73% of the points available for the particular assignment); and
  • Failure: work that is incomplete and/or fails to achieve minimum standards (0–65% of the points available for the particular assignment).

Note that your semester grade will be based primarily on your performance in this course, your grades are not be based simply on “effort,” as measured perhaps by hours spent completing assignments. Effort and performance are quite different, and grades will be based on performance.

If you have a concern over any grade received, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you feel you deserve a better grade that received on a particular assignment, a written document providing cogent evidence for a higher grade must be submitted for consideration of a grade change.

Submission of assignments and group project deliverables

All homework assignments and project deliverables will be submitted as uploaded and/or postings to the class blog. The procedures for doing this will be discussed in class.

Course blog

Most handouts, readings, and related materials will be available via the course blog.  Most of the deliverables in this class will take the form of blog posts and/or uploads to the course blog.

Blackboard 

We will use Blackboard in this course for three things: 1. Posting of grades to the Grade Center; 2. Periodic communiqués (sent out as Blackboard announcements), and 3. Selected handouts and resources that can’t be posted to the course blog (the availability of these items will be announced via the weekly communiqués).

Attendance policy

Attendance is mandatory and you must arrive to class on time. Attendance may influence your final grade as only one absence will be excused. A second absence will result in a full letter grade deduction from your final grade. A third absence will result in a grade of F for the class.. Being late for class counts as a half absence. Excused absences will only be considered in strict accordance to University Policy. Sending a text or email explaining why you’re going to be late will not change how the attendance policy is applied.

Late work policy

Late assignments will result in a 50% reduction of the possible points as long as the work is handed in within 48 hours from the time it was due and accompanied with a written explanation sent to the instructor via e-mail. In other words, it’s better to submit work on time that’s less than perfect than to hand in perfect work late. After 48 hours there will be no credit given for the assignment under any circumstances. Staying on schedule in this class is important which is why you’ll see that deadlines and major project milestones are laid out in the schedule in order to help you plan ahead.

Academic honesty

You are expected to be the primary author of the works you produce. Your projects must be original works or adapted from other works with clearly stated attribution following best practices widely accepted by industry. professionals Any student submitting work that can be reasonably believed to not be their own will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Complaint Resolution according to the Northeastern University Academic Integrity Policy.

Disabilities statement

Northeastern University strives to provide academic accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Accommodations are approved by the Disability Resource Center (20 Dodge Hall, www.drc.neu.edu). Students need to register with the DRC and bring their instructors a letter from that office stating approved accommodations. If you will be requesting accommodations in this class, please let the instructor know as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Trace participation

Your participation in the Teacher Rating and Course Evaluation (TRACE) survey is expected.

Schedule

Additional readings and milestones will be added throughout the semester, refer to the weekly communique (sent out as a Blackboard announcement) for updates.

Week Date Classroom Activities Readings 
Deadlines
01 01/12 Introduction to the course, collaborators, and the article we will use as the starting point for the design project

Introduction to the Preliminary Research assignment

Weekly readings will be assigned via the weekly communique.
02 01/19 Storytelling Workshop

Interactive Journalism and Interactive Documentary Case Studies

Introduction to the Interface: Aesthetics + Experience assignment

◼ Preliminary Research (blog post)

◼ Personal introduction including goals for the course and self-assessment of experience and skills

03 01/26 Interface: Aesthetics + Experience Review Presentations ◼ Interface: Aesthetics + Experience Presentation
04 02/02 StoryLab Micro-Conference ◼ Interface: Aesthetics + Experience Review (blog post)
05 02/09 Formation of Teams and Project Launch

Studio working session

Brief project report at end of class

Introduction to the Looking Outward blog post #1 assignment

06 02/16 Preliminary Project Proposal Presentation & Critique ◼ Preliminary Project Proposal (presentation)
07 02/23 New Narratives Workshop (fundamental structures and techniques that differentiate participatory, collaborative, and interactive forms of storytelling from traditional linear storytelling)
08 03/01 Studio working session

Brief project update at end of class

 ◼ Looking Outward blog post #1
03/08 Spring Break, No Class
09 03/15 Mid-Project Presentation and Critique

Studio working session

Introduction to the Looking Outward blog post #2 assignment

◼︎  First Draft of Design Document including very rough functional specification
10 03/22 Studio working session

Brief project update at end of class

11 03/29 Studio working session

Brief project update at end of class

 ◼ Looking Outward blog post #2
12 04/05 Studio working session

Brief project update at end of class

◼︎  Rough Draft of Design Document including work-in-progress functional specification and preliminary process documentation
13 04/12 Studio working session

Brief project update at end of class

14 04/19 Final presentation and critique of group project  ◼ Personal Manifesto blog post
15  04/26 Finals week: Public Presentation of Projects,
6 – 7:30 P.M. Snell 90
◼︎  Final Draft of Design Document including a final functional specification and final process documentation

◼︎  Peer Review

Acknowledgements

The original concept for StoryLab emerged out of a conversation between Jeff Howe (Professor, School of Journalism, Northeastern University) and Tyler Cabot (Senior Features Editor, Esquire). The course was developed by Aleszu Bajak (Instructor, School of Journalism, Northeastern University) and David Tamés (Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Art + Design, Northeastern University). It was first taught during the Spring, 2015 semester by  Aleszu Bajak and David Tamés.

Note: This document was revised on 2/17/2016 (added “New Narratives Workshop”)