Participatory Storytelling

Media Presentation

Click on the image below to visit my media presentation of our participatory story.Participatory Storytelling

Deconstructing the Process

Choosing the Form of Media

I knew before I began that I wanted to pair our Twitter story with some form of images. I think that, in part because it was Twitter-based, the cohort spent a lot of time “setting the scene” or developing descriptive passages. Consequently, I wanted the opportunity to create a graphically-rich representation of the story. I imagine that we were all picturing some sort of scene or item or object in our heads when we read or wrote these descriptive passages. Taylor and Williams (2014) explain that, “McCall Smith… cites the critical role of the reader’s imagination in bringing these miniature tales to life,” and so I wanted to try and capture the imaginative scenes we were thinking about as we wrote the descriptive passages.

I wasn’t quite sure how to do that, so I started by brainstorming what kinds of tools would allow me to neatly integrate images into the already-crafted narrative. I considered doing some sort of “timeline” feature (such as the one here), as I remember a classmate used it in one of her posts in my summer Digital Citizenship course and I thought it was very visually appealing. However, it did seem more appropriate for a project with a clear chronological organization, so I kept looking. I found that another student in last year’s ED 677 cohort used a very interesting tool– Adobe Spark. Since I’d never used it before, I thought it looked like the perfect tool for what I was hoping to accomplish.

I found Adobe Spark very easy to use– and actually pretty fun! It was very simple to integrate Creative Commons licensed photos- although I spent probably more time than I should’ve browsing through the images to try and find ones that matched what I was picturing in my head. I experimented with the different themes as well as the different ways to display text so that the end product offered visual variety.

Reflection on the Twitter Storytelling Process

I had a hard time with this project initially, and this blog post and media presentation through Spark came together much easier for me than did the weeks of tweeting leading up to it. Logistically, I struggled to fit in two tweets per week because I primarily work on classwork over the weekend. I would login with the intention of completing my second tweet, but wouldn’t be able to because I would be breaking the “no consecutive tweets” rule. I also often found myself confused about what was happening in the story, which made it difficult for me to write tweets that I was confident wouldn’t derail the storyline further or cause even more confusion. Thus, the process of coming up with two tweets a week was sometime frustrating.

In general, I also think it was difficult for me because storytelling as a whole is outside of my wheelhouse, and this form of storytelling even more so. According to Taylor and Williams (2014), “Mitchell says crafting stories for Twitter requires a completely different approach to novel writing. Above all, he says compression is the key, and modification of the narrative is often required.” If you look at any of my previous blog posts (this one included), compression and brevity are really not my strengths. I always prefer to use more words rather than fewer words, so the shortened nature of each Twitter contribution was a challenge for me. In addition, I am much more comfortable with nonfiction than I am with fiction. I do think I’m a creative person, but not when it comes to telling stories or creative writing. I liked what Alexander (2011) said about this type of storytelling: “The social media world has made the outer frontier of stories porous. Where a story begins and ends, what the container is that holds a narrative: these questions are more difficult to answer than before” (p. 125). I found Twitter to be a challenging “container” with which to hold a story– I like continuity, order, organization, and a plan… which is tough with 140 characters and 10+ authors!

I do like what Alexander (2011) said, though, regarding “collaborative spaces.” He explained that, “One model for understanding storytelling in a social media world, one where content and audience interaction is distributed over multiple sites and across time, is that of the networked book,” and that we should think of the networked book “…as a platform, whereupon visitors build materials in a collaborative space” (p. 127). Twitter became a platform for collaboration, and it is kind of neat to look at my Spark presentation above and consider that it all started with one tweet and was created solely through collaboration.


Alexander, B. (2011). The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Taylor, A. F. and Williams, M. (2014, Sept. 30) Alexander McCall Smith on the art of Twitter fiction. Retrieved from

4 thoughts on “Participatory Storytelling

  1. Skip says:

    I had the same sense that you did about wanting imagery with the story, and Spark is a very effective way to provide that to a reader. Spark is an increasingly popular medium for web-based stories, and you’ve used it especially powerfully here. It’s always interesting (and instructive) to compare one’s own visual sense of a story with someone else’s. Compare your take on the story’s imagery to Heather’s (at this point emerging) visual sense of the narrative. We all see things differently. That’s a good thing.

    Speaking of imagery, your selection of images (and their source–long live Creative Commons!) was particularly powerful. But it’s more than simply the photos. The flow of the layout–the callouts, overlays, etc.–contributes significantly to the story as narrative. One could argue that our story was a poorly constructed narrative. We didn’t plan it, we had no character or plot maps, no storyline, etc. Of course, that was the point of the exercise–to do away with every storytelling convention and see what sort of meaning we could construct in their absence. It may not be great literature, but it still reads pretty well and has obviously been created by people who cared about its construction and had some hopes for its outcome. I think your use of Spark to tell the story underscores this by adding a strong sense of narrative and focus on the most important elements of the story.

    Your deconstruction of the story building process that we undertook struck me as thoughtful and instructive. From this and previous experiences with this assignment, it’s clear that the limited capabilities of Twitter and the restriction of no consecutive tweets is frustrating to people across the spectrum of the storytelling continuum–from those who describe themselves as creative writers (lack of control, mostly) to those who describe themselves (as you do) as non-storytellers (no clear structure to follow). Again, that’s really the point of the assignment. Leave the comfort zones for a bit and still try to make meaning from the experience.

    It worked!

  2. Kevin Klott says:

    I thought your project was well done. Great choice to use Adobe Spark. You did an excellent job matching up the pictures with the text throughout the story. I’ve never used Adobe Spark. Does it provide a selection of photos or do you have an option of searching for them on the web?

    My video students make commercials using Adobe Spark Voice, formerly known as Adobe Voice. It’s a free app (as long as you have an Adobe account) and it’s a great way for students to make a commercial or tell a story. The voice part is a little clunky because it doesn’t continuously record your voice throughout the project (only on each slide, which is annoying). Adobe products like Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects are extremely expensive, but I think the company has done a nice job providing alternative, free apps like Spark.

    Thanks for choosing Spark for your project. You just inspired me to make a project of my own (or have a student create a project) using this engaging platform.

  3. Bob says:

    Valarie, very nice product. I viewed last week, tried again last night and weirdly couldn’t get it to open, and then just now, and it opened fine. I like it much better then the book simulation things. The scrolling thing and the text and all feels kinda Prezi like. And, I like that as a move away from “book” so very nice tool for the task.

    The whole ten authors and 140 characters thing I get it, challenging and yet very interesting.

  4. Krista says:

    Your project is awesome! I really enjoyed re-reading the story through your Adobe Spark project. I have never heard of this tool but your project makes me want to use it with something! Was it easy to use? Did they include pictures that you could choose from?

    I completely agree with your whole reflection piece. Especially when you said, “I found Twitter to be a challenging “container” with which to hold a story– I like continuity, order, organization, and a plan… which is tough with 140 characters and 10+ authors!” I myself like organization and a plan when thinking of storytelling and this was a struggle for me with Twitter. I also didn’t want to derail the storyline or add confusion by the tweets I added. Thanks for sharing!

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