Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Birds Of A Feather Flock Together

LIBRARYJOURNAL and School Library Journal host a site, The Digital Shift:  On Libraries and New MediaOn January 16, 2012, Kathy Ishizuka posted an article, Visual Storytelling Site Cowbird.  As I have previously stated on this blog there was a time in my career when I had to stop and think whether I was going to be a library media specialist who taught storytelling or if I was going to be a storyteller, period.  Being a member of the National Storytelling Association and attending their summer educational institutes and annual Storytelling fall festivals was beyond wonderful.  While I believe that I made the right choice, storytelling in all its forms is very near and dear to my heart.  This article and the Cowbird website were something that I needed to and did investigate.

Cowbird creator, Jonathan Harris seeks to create the world's first library of human experience.  The premise of the site is to post a single photograph.  From that photograph in a simple font follows a short story.  Adding audio storytelling to the image and text is encouraged.  Sometimes the majority of the story is done in audio. 

When asked about its use for children Harris responded:

At the moment, Cowbird is an open ecosystem, with no boundaries or private groups.  I haven't studied the laws and best practices around providing safe online space for kids, so I'd have to learn more about them before developing a specific approach for Cowbird.
But in spirit, I think that Cowbird would be a beautiful way for kids to learn about life.  Instead of studying a static, one-size-fits-all-curriculum that often feels out of touch with our interconnected, quickly changing, decentralized and networked reality, Cowbird could offer a more flexible and resonant way of teaching kids about the world.  (Please read the rest of the article for more insight about how Cowbird could be used for personal purposes or in the classroom setting.)

To begin using the site you need to request an invitation by entering in your name, email address and a bit about yourself and the stories you have to share.  I received a reply to my request within two weeks.  One of the emails was very brief, my URL link, how to sign in and a link to storytelling tips.  The second email was very personal; including a variety of stories already at Cowbird to view, an overview of the project, how to become part of the community by "loving" some favorite stories, and an invitation to contact the sender at anytime if you have any questions. 

According to the site:

Cowbird is a small community of storytellers, focused on a deeper, longer-lasting, more personal kind of storytelling than you're likely to find anywhere on the Web.  Cowbird allows you to keep a beautiful audio-visual diary of your life, and to collaborate with others documenting the overarching "sagas" that shape our world today.  Sagas are themes and events that touch millions of lives and shape the human story. 
(Again I encourage potential users to read the complete About section at Cowbird.)

When entering the site users are greeted with an astounding visual array based upon single word themes which can be searched immediately.  Across the top is a tool bar with a series of icons; the first when selected, lists, visually, stories that are featured for that date.  As a new user I was encouraged to post a profile photo.  When I clicked on that I was given the option of also updating other sections of my profile:  first, middle and last name, a short bio, listing a website, gender, birth date, birthplace, location and roles.  Once that is filled in with as little or as much as the user desires click save. 

The next screen is what I would call your storytelling workspace.  It lists stories by you, loved by you, mentioning you and dedicated to you.  It is from here that a story can begin. 

The second icon focuses strictly on the people, the storytellers at the site.  It includes how many stories they have shared, their roles and relationships and how many have loved those stories.

Linking stories by place is the purpose of the third icon; listing the number of stories and characters created for those parts of the world.

The final icon is for topics.  Topics includes sagas, collections, tags and themes.  To date there are two sagas, The First Loves Saga and The Occupy Saga.

When you begin to tell a story the workspace asks you to give it a title and begin writing.  Above that space are icons representing editing, adding an image, audio, characters, a date, location and tags.  When your story is completed and saved you can see it or begin another story.  I selected to see what a finished story would look like to other viewers.  The quality of the image is wonderful, the text is bold and simple and the audio is sharp and clear.

On that page you can love it, edit it or share it as well as playing the audio, if added, again.  Sharing is via a variety of social networks or by following the given permalink.

Cowbird is one of the best digital storytelling sites I have ever used.  Yesterday a post appeared at the TechCrunch site, Cowbird Is A Community For Amazing Storytellers, And Another Reason To Love The Internet by Robin Wauters.

No comments:

Post a Comment