Digital Stories

Storytelling, Experiential Design, User Experience

My RISD BFA Graphic Design thesis work. This is a collection of experiments around the idea of storytelling, cumulating in a designed presentation and installation of the work.

Visit the website

Questions

  • What is the most effective way to tell a story?
  • How do you make people empathize, even those who have no similar experiences?

Outcome

Various experiments that explore different ways of storytelling, which were archived and presented in an exhibition.

Introduction

How do we talk about our digital lives?

“Digital Stories” questions the concept of people having separate digital and physical lives and is a critique of the notion that digital friendships mean less than physical ones.

My own personal history to the digital has been something I’ve been very reluctant to talk about for a very long time. It has, however, impacted my personal relationships, my design work, and my life decisions. From influencing my decision to go into design, to giving me a predisposition to anything computer-related, I have not been able to separate my online life from any plans I make concerning my future. Now that I am close to making some large life decisions, my degree project is an attempt to reconcile myself with my past in order to better understand where I want to go in the future.

Exhibition and Presentation

Storytelling experiment: Directly speaking about a story to an audience

Digital Stories

Storytelling experiment: A summary book that consists of interviews, collected evidence, and essays.

A fairly common storytelling technique—providing the content in a written form. I tried to experiment with the presentation of the content, keeping in mind different audiences:

The book starts off with essays I wrote around the topic of digital lives, which is a very slow and intentional read. This is ideal for audiences that are willing to invest the time—people with a personal investment in the topic, or people who are close to me.

On the other hand, choice quotes are pulled out and emphasized in full page spreads, allowing for a quicker read. These quotes are chosen because they are emotionally powerful or they summarize an important point—by making them large and easy to read, people who may flip through the book can get an understanding of the content really quickly. It may also serve to draw them into the rest of the content, encouraging them to spend more time with the stories.

The book consists of 4 parts: You can order a copy of the book here, or read it online here.

Birthdays

Storytelling experiment: A collection of various items that viewers can open, explore, and remix in order to create their own narrative

A selection of digital ephemera—long forgotten files found on old harddrives, old email accounts, abandoned social media profiles—all related to my personal journey of exploring my self identity.

My search for my identity as a transgender man is impossible to separate from the internet. Growing up in a socially conserviative society, the internet was my safe haven and my confidant. This is my attempt at archiving the best and the worst moments of my journey by presenting my own digital history.

A digital download of this project can be found here

Chatlogs

Storytelling experiment: A physical manifestation of digital content—a way to legitimize the information

This work is a physical collection of chat logs, focused around my younger self. While often ephemeral, these chat logs have been given physical form, and once committed to paper are much harder to forget or put away. It can be found at a later date by anyone, regardless of permission.

There were 5 copies of this text made—all but one were placed in bookstores and libraries, among books about history, sociology, anthropology, and plays as a manifestation of digital culture in these physical spaces.

A Love Letter to the Internet

Storytelling experiment: Giving users a narrative to follow along, as well as providing context clues

A video performance that links to mass texts sent out to the audience. The video is a love letter to the internet, where the internet is treated as the collection of all my online friends. These friends appear throughout the video as Throughout the video, and even after the video ends, audience members will receive text messages with images or messages pulled from my personal archive of digital ephemera.

Posters

Storytelling experiment: Prominently displaying artifacts from archives

Using screenshots and archived photos from more than 5 years ago, these posters are printed on vellum, backlit, and displayed. They depict my online friends, some of whom I no longer have any contact with.

These were originally printed on various papers, before I decided to project them. Projecting them meant that I could light them without additional lightsources—important for my exhibition where everything needed to be lighted.
Examples of final posters using Photoshop filters to simulate glitch effects that make the images recognizable as faces, yet still obscure the identity of the person

These posters were made from screenshots
Previous form explorations that played with typography and imagery. This was inspired by However, this approach felt very arbitrary, and the text was superfluous. Instead the text was removed and the glitch and pixelation effects were enhanced.

When I Was 14

Storytelling experiment: Using the interface to encourage interaction and to tell more about the nature of the content

A website that uses the restricted screen size of a mobile phone to tell a story. The user is forced to handle the information with lots of care and attention, otherwise the message is impossible to read. You can view the project here on your phone

Digital Humanism

Storytelling experiment: Mass collaboration that allows the user to share their own experiences and add to the collection of stories

An open Google Drive folder, giving edit permissions to everyone and anyone. The folder is an open collaboration that invites people to add their thoughts on computing, in an attempt to try give dignity to the computer. To allow the computer to be its own entity that cannot always be measured by human standards.