Week 3

Everything is due July 3 by 11:59 on Canvas.

Some of you have gotten a lot of things up and running and fixed by using the Digital Knowledge Center.  The University of Mary Washington’s Digital Knowledge Center provides peer tutoring to all University students on digital projects and assignments. Students can schedule 50 minute, one-one-one tutorials with a trained peer tutor on any DS106 related projects.  Click Here to set up an appointment.

Week 3 Video

Introduction to Audio

In this assignment in ds106 we’re going to be diving into our first storytelling genre: audio. Working with sound can be a bit daunting and unfamiliar, so we’ll be easing you into this assignment. Nearly all previous ds106 students start here dreading this media, and in a few days, they totally change their minds.

We’ll ask you to do some listening exercises as well as do some audio story editing.

PART I:  About Audio Storytelling

Look, Listen, and Watch below.  Pay attention and keep track of the “nuggest” that grabs your attention- and write a blog post summarizing what you learned about how these experts describe their craft. Come back to these later when you review some audio shows I recommend listening to.

For many of you, the radio may seem like old technology, but there is a lot of current powerful creativity done in a single media. Audio is most effective when sounds generate stories in the minds of listeners.  You might be familiar with the panic caused in the late 1930s when Orson Wells produced the radio show of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds– it was so effective, people thought it was real. If you think we are much savvier in the modern age, read about what happened when producers of an Italian movie tried to play out a promotional video as something like looked like a real news broadcast.

I’d like you to listen to some experts on audio storytelling describe a bit of how this is effective, probably no one has their game on for this than Ira Glass, host of This American Life, a weekly radio storytelling show on National Public Radio.

Listen to at least two parts of Ira Glass’ Series on storytelling (all together they’re about 20 minutes)

Find Part TwoPart ThreePart Four.

For another point of view, listen to a short interview with Radiolab‘s Jad Abumrad on “How Radio Creates Empathy”:

or listen to his longer talk where he shares how he and his colleagues go about the process of creating radio shows.

Jad Abumrad: Why “Gut Churn” Is an Essential Part of the Creative Process from 99Uon Vimeo.

PART II: Introduction to Audio Techniques

Some things to notice when listening to audio are the pacing (think of the equivalent of paragraphs in sound), the use of music, sound effects, ambient/environmental sounds, the introduction of radio “bumpers” to remind us of the show, introduction, and exits. Of key importance is trying to hear the layering of sounds, of how audio can create a sense of place by being more than just a recording, but a deliberate stacking of audio.

For a great reference, you might listen to an episode of Howsound, the radio show that takes you behind the scenes to understand how these shows are produced- Dissecting Joanne Rosser, Papermaker.

As another example, we took out elements of an hour-long episode of RadioLab, a 2007 show called Detective Stories, and uploaded a shorter version to Soundcloud, where the comments indicate how some of these are used in the show. See if you can pick these out in this example and then in other audio you listen to this unit.

Another technique that is counter-intuitive, is when sound is left out. Listen to this annotated clip, an intro to an episode of the TED Radio Hour, for what happens near the 3 minute mark when the background music suddenly stops

Here are some references for audio techniques:

And, if that is not enough, among the open participants of ds106 is Scottlo, a guru of audio and radio technique.

Also useful from Scottlo are archives from his daily series from the Summer ds106 Zone class of 2013, below are some selected episodes where he reviews audio and shares Audacity tips:

Lo Down Episode 1
Lo Down Episode 8
Lo Down Episode 9
Lo Down Episode 10
Lo Down Episode 11
Lo Down Episode 12
Lo Down Episode 13
Lo Down Episode 14

Part III: Listening to Stories

listeningOne of the best ways to understand how audio can be used to create stories is to listen to some great examples. We’ve assembled a list of audio stories for you.

Overall, how effective do you think audio was for telling the story(ies)? What types of audio techniques did the producers use — sound effects, layering of sounds, music, etc. — to convey their story? While we are interested in reading what you thought of the story being told — but we’re just as interested in your reflection about HOW the story was told. Try and step back from the story itself, and reflect upon the technique that the storytelling/producers used. What choices did they make that impacted your understanding of and feelings about the story? What are the techniques from the references above that you may not have noticed before?

Pay very close attention to not only the stories told but how they are constructed in audio format. Take the time to focus on listening, not just in the background of being on your computer. Put the phone down, turn off the TV, tell the family to leave you alone. Just listen.

Listen to “Moon Graffiti” This is an excellent example of audio storytelling. Think about how the sounds, both the sound effects and the changes in sound, tell you what is going on, how they create a sense of place, a sense of space, and a sense of atmosphere. We hear these same techniques used in film and video, where they are vitally important but often unnoticed. Consider what we watched, read, and listened to, and in the previous assignments. How does sound drive stories? How does it impact mood and create an atmosphere? Write a blog post on your thoughts on audio storytelling. Use specific examples and embed them in your post. Tag the post audioreflection.


  • Radio Lab “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” (Pick any that catches your eye)


Part IV: Your First Audio Stories

Start your work on these assignments by reviewing this list of audio resources and/or the Audio Section of the ds106 Handbook section on Tools. You will find information here about the software you can use to produce your own audio, as well as links to sites where you can download free clips, music, and sound effects.

  • We strongly recommend Audacity, a free and open-source audio-editing program, further details below. If you have access to and experience with a different audio editing system, you are free to use it instead. Along with Audacity, you will need to download and install the LAME mp3 Encoder in order to save audio as .mp3 files. Download and Experiment with Audacity: Unless you have a lot of previous experience with audio editing, you should plan on spending some time this assignment getting comfortable with Audacity. It is recommended that you do this right away because you will find that audio editing can be quite time-consuming. If you have another audio editing platform that you’re familiar with, you can skip this step. But everyone needs to get their hands dirty with audio editing. If you’re overwhelmed by Audacity, make an appointment with at the Digital Knowledge Center for help: http://dkc.umw.edu.

Complete 12 Stars of Audio Assignments: This assignment you must complete at least 12 stars of assignments from the Audio category in the Assignment Bank.

 Involve the character you created in at least one of the assignments in some way. One assignment everyone must do is the story time (3 ½ stars): This is a challenge to tell a short story (no longer than 3 minutes)  We highly recommend using http://freesound.org to find free sound effects for this project.

Make sure all your completed assignments are uploaded to SoundCloud, and write up a post for each assignment in which you embed that audio from SoundCloud. Note: If you use copyrighted content in your audio projects, the SoundCloud content police may block them. You can use CC Search to find content that you can safely use.

Share each of these contributions in separate posts on your blog, and tag them according to the instructions on their assignment page.

Part V: Summary

Your summary As always, link to or embed all of your work from the assignment. Use this as an opportunity to reflect upon your initial foray into audio. What did you struggle with? What ideas/exercises were most challenging or interesting?

Now we are moving into the main part of the course where the bulk of your work is writing up assignments, you are going to be expected to follow the criteria  – just posting “here is my assignment” is not going to be enough to earn credit. There needs to be writing with your media, a story about the story.

This assignments checklist includes:

  • Summarize the key points you learned about audio storytelling from the Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad videos. (1BLOG POST)
  • Summarize TED Radio Hour and ScottLo. (1BLOG POST)
  • Summary of the “Moon Graffiti” you listened to, making special notes of the techniques used. Be sure to link to the show you listened to. (1BLOG POST)
  • Summarize/link the Audio assignments (AT LEAST 3 BLOG POSTS, MAYBE 4/5 BLOG POST = 12 STARS)
  • Summarize/link At least 2 Daily Creates (1BLOG POST EMBED TWITTER POST)
  • Summary of your feedback from your Comments and what you gained by looking at other people’s blogs.  You must make at least 5 comments on other people’s blogs, they must be different people.  It must be constructed feedback not this is great. (1BLOG POST MAKE SURE TO SCREEN CAPTURE YOUR COMMENTS IN CASE THEY ARE NOT APPROVED)
  • Summary Every assignment, you will be required to submit a summary post by the deadline (generally due on Sundays at midnight). These posts should include links to or embedded media from all the work you have done for the assignment: storytelling assignments, daily creates, reflections etc. In addition, you should use this post to reflect upon your activity of the assignment:
    • How well do you feel you completed the requirements of the assignments?
    • What gave you trouble? What did you enjoy most? What did you learn?
    • What would you do differently? What questions do you have?
    • What are some of the larger issues surrounding your work? Cultural/Societal implications?

These summaries are what we will use to find all of your assignments’ work as we determine your grade for that assignment. In addition, they are an opportunity for you to tell us how you feel you are doing and what’s giving you trouble, overall, in the course. If you forget to include something in a summary post, I may not realize you’ve completed it. If you fail to submit a  summary, you will get no grade for that assignment! By the way, proper English and good writing are required!

These posts are REALLY important. I use them to grade you every assignment, so you need to link to other posts you’ve written, embed media you’ve created, and narrate the process of learning that you went through these assignments. What did you learn? What was harder than you thought it would be? What was easier? What drove you crazy? Why? What did you really enjoy? Why? Final Note: you MUST submit the link to this summary post in Canvas by midnight on Sunday.  NO EXCEPTIONS. NO LATE WORK ACCEPTED.