It All Falls Apart: Anna’s Transmedia Log

A Collection of Leaves by Anna Smith

A Collection of Leaves by Anna Smith


Anna Smith (@anna_phd) is currently an IES postdoctoral fellow in writing and new learning ecologies at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign. She is fascinated with the learning pathways that people form across their lives. You can find the bulk of her digital writing online at

This is a fail log. This is also a process log. It is a reflection point that is full of possibilities. For almost two months, as I worked with video footage, mosaic pieces, dancers, editing software, books, game platforms, words, etc., I repeatedly failed in composing a transmedia piece (itself called ‘pieces’).

And at each juncture, I tinkered, worked around, asked for help, geeked out, threw up my hands and walked away, and/or decided to have the piece ‘say’ something else. I found that transmedia composition required a new degree of persistence, and that these were some of the textures of that persistence.

Transmedia by Anna Smith

Transmedia by Anna Smith


Anna’s Transmedia Process Log: Reflection in Progress

Reflective Practice / Join the Conversation

An Activity: Make Writing … Digital

Has your vision for a digital piece this month hit some expected and unexpected walls, either due to limitations of technology or some other logistical quagmire? Consider sharing out your reflection on that process and help us learn from each other.

We hope you will share your work across the various Digital Writing Month spaces that you inhabit. That could be right here at the Digital Writing Month blog; at your own blog or writing space; on Twitter with the #DigiWriMo hashtag; in the DigiWriMo Google Plus Community; at the DigiWriMo Facebook page; or wherever you find yourself writing digitally.


Pieces: A Study in Transmedia

Pieces by Anna Smith

Pieces by Anna Smith

Anna Smith (@anna_phd) is currently an IES postdoctoral fellow in writing and new learning ecologies at the University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign. She is fascinated with the learning pathways that people form across their lives. You can find the bulk of her digital writing online at

pieces: a study in transmedia

Like our learning, our digital writing stretches across and is informed by the stuff of our everyday lives–the things, ideas, and experiences that we make and which make us. We bring all that we are, were, and imagine ourselves and our world to be to a piece of digital writing, a piece that is dancing along its own pathway across media, platforms, intentions, world-views, etc.

Press play below to weave with me, to bring the pieces that are surfacing in your life in conversation with those that are materializing in mine. As a transmedia exploration, I hope you see the pieces you come across and the pathways you make as materials of/for composing–quite literally.

(Note from editor: be patient with the loading of this file. Anna’s immersive project has plenty of embedded media experiences. It’s worth the load time.)

I invite us to consider how in transmedia, it is not just media across which a piece moves, but also meanings, modalities, motives, persons, processes, pasts, etc. To contribute a piece to this study in transmedia, please add to this padlet.

An Activity: Make Writing … Digital

Tinker yourself with the beta version of the new online version of Twine, a free interactive story/writing platform, and create your own set of wanderings and evocations. How do the branches and connections within and without a story expand the notions of writing? Explore with Twine. Play your story.

We hope you will share your work across the various Digital Writing Month spaces that you inhabit. That could be right here at the Digital Writing Month blog; at your own blog or writing space; on Twitter with the #DigiWriMo hashtag; in the DigiWriMo Google Plus Community; at the DigiWriMo Facebook page; or wherever you find yourself writing digitally.

Sounds and Stories

Maha Abdelmoneim @maha4learning : I have an unquenchable thirst for learning and for sharing what I learn, that stems from an ever inquisitive mind, a sense of wonder that I hope I never lose and a genuine, strong interest in people and in helping them find new ways. Currently working as an independent consultant, I’ve been in the field of Learning and Development since 1992 as an instructional designer, trainer and coach. Just a few of the things I love doing and/or exploring are Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds, learning and teaching languages, photography, experimenting with Web tools, playing World of Warcraft and making corn cake (this is new).

Frankfurt train station

Frankfurt Airport Train Station By zug55 under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0

Several weeks ago I saw Laura Ritchie’s tweet announcing her new online course about music.Calling all musicians! Come join is!

I was immediately curious. I decided to take a look at the content of the course and perhaps sample parts of it that I find interesting to me as a music amateur. I don’t think I had really thought about what I expected to find in the course, but the first session had a couple of interesting surprises that changed how I listen to the world around me.

Like many, I already had a general idea about how some places are acoustically better than others. I knew that how a space is built affects how everything sounds within it — I am sure many of us experienced the frustration of not being able to understand a word of what is being announced in some places, like an airport or a train station; but I discovered much more about acoustics and sound listening to the audio file Aural Architecture (a 26 minutes long, very interesting and informative audio. If you are pressed for time listen to the first 5 minutes. and save the rest for later) I learned that everything around us has a distinct sound, that we actually hear our spaces, walls and all, even if we don’t consciously realize it, and that we can learn to hear more of our surroundings. As Laura says:

“Listening is a skill, and just as people may say someone has developed ‘an eye for detail’, being able to hone in listening is a valuable skill that can be developed and refined throughout learning.”

As a first step to train our ears to listen and hear more, Laura has a task that inspired me to pay attention to the sounds around me. I am quoting part of the task here and you can see the complete description of the task on Laura’s blog.

“Task: Capture your experience of the surface of sound around you. Choose a place and create a soundscape using your phone or another recording device. Before you make your recording, take a photo or video of the place and take time to really be aware of what you are recording and how the sounds are woven or collide to form that canvas. Write a full description of the place, including photos or videos if possible, and list all the sounds you have captured – do this right away so you have everything fresh in your mind.”

I didn’t participate in the task online but I got very involved in the experiment for days, and I still do it whenever I remember or notice something new. I went around my apartment and my terrace with my phone, recording different normal daily activities and spaces.

Here are three examples of sounds that I captured from my terrace.

Street vendor 1

This is a street vendor in Cairo calling “Bekkia” . This is short for “Robabekkia” which is not an Arabic word at all. it is originally from the Italian “Roba Vecchia” and means Old Things. Those vendors go around buying and selling any used things — except glass, I discovered. I realized what they are saying because I speak Italian but most Egyptians don’t have a clue where the word comes from, they only know what it means. I wonder how it got to us?

Street vendor 2

Man pushing gas cylinders

Bharat Gas Bike by Meena Kadri under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

This picture is of an Indian vendor, not an Egyptian one, because I couldn’t find any from Egypt — something that I need to remedy :) , but ours are almost identical. They go around banging on their tricycles to announce their presence to the residents who still use cylinders — most buildings now have piped natural gas.

Early Morning

This is what I hear sitting on the terrace, in my favorite corner, very early in the morning, as early as 5 or 6 am, depending on when the sun starts to come up and the birds start to chirp.


Chair and plant pots on a patio

This picture is taken later in the day.

Soooo, it’s your turn now.


Listening Ears

My Listening Ears by Niclas Lindh under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0

Put on your listening ears and switch on whatever sound recording device you want. Record some sounds from your daily activities, your surroundings, your world. Listen to them and see what you find. Tell us some Stories with Pictures and Sounds, in text or with your voice or both. Use any tool you like, experiment with a new one, shout out if you want to learn a new tool and would like some company learning or want to collaborate with a bunch of us. Learn, create, enjoy and don’t forget to share. :)

An Activity: Make Writing …Digital

We hope you will share your work across the various Digital Writing Month spaces that you inhabit. That could be right here at the Digital Writing Month blog; at your own blog or writing space; on Twitter with the #DigiWriMo hashtag; in the DigiWriMo Google Plus Community; at the DigiWriMo Facebook page; or wherever you find yourself writing digitally.

Transmedia Annotation with Zeega and Hackpad

My name is Terry Elliott, AKA tellio (@tellio). I fancy myself a ‘learning concierge’, but my job title is “instructor”. I have taught English for ten years at middle and secondary levels in the U.S and ten more years at university level teaching composition and literature both F2F and online. I have been a MOOC facilitator the last three years for the National Writing Project’s connected learning MOOC, CLMOOC. My wife and I have three grown, unschooled kids and we own a small flock of Clun Forest sheep in southcentral Kentucky near Mammoth Cave National Park. In a previous life before teaching I owned my own chimney cleaning and repair business. That was the second greatest education I ever received, parenting being the ultimate. I am very happy to be authoring a four-part series on digital writing and annotation for DiGiWriMo.

Rays of light

flickr photo by Vermin Inc  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I make a big point of accessing low barrier to entry tools like the ones I have mentioned in three previous posts here, here and here. The beauty of these is that by building a repertoire of digital tools it is almost inevitable that you will seek out even more expressive and complex tools based nearly always on the skills you have sussed out using Canva and SnagIt and Witty Comics. Take, for instance, Zeega.

Zeega was one of my favorite tools for creating rich digital experiences that had sound, image,moving image, text, texture and color. Unfortunately, like so many of these online, multi-modal tools (Mozilla’s Popcornmaker also comes to mind) the creators pulled the plug on them and they went into long term life support. i.e. open source software at Github.  Luckily, I knew a Dr. Frankenstein who could bring it back to life.

Aside: my holiday project this year is to bring it back for all to use, but for now I can show you a project that jumped out of it just the week before #digiwrimo was set to begin.  This is a work in progress so bear with it, I am extending it every day. Below you will see what I consider a classic example of the translation that I think digital writing can be so good for.

In this case I saw this reference in one of Maha Bali’s tweet to a post from a former student, Ayah Elewa.

I considered her word “listen” and went to the post expecting to hear a voice, but then I realized Maha meant for us to read Ayah’s post.  Happy accident that. I read the post aloud using Soundcloud and imported it into Zeega. Now I am working on a deeper translation of her text with pictures, more text, and animated gifs.  Below is the work in progress. (Viewing advice: go to lower right of zeega box, mouse over, click on full screen view, turn off volume when done.)

Here is one that uses music but is a translation of a post by Susan Watson. Derivative? Yes.  Creative? Yes.  (There is a bonus in this kind of ‘close reading’–you can pay respect and honor the author’s voice.  You can begin to really hear the genius loci in a post and the genius behind it as well.  You can be properly grateful.  Reciprocation is the price we pay in the infinite game of life.)


Here is one that embraces togetherness from last summer’s #CLMOOC

Transmedia Prompt

I have tons of these zeegas from the defunct site. They work but I cannot edit them anymore. My “resurrected” version of zeega is not quite ready for prime time so I have an alternative you might want to try–Hackpad.

Use Hackpad (it’s free) to gather Soundcloud files as well as pix and gifs.  First,  all you have to do to embed a SoundCloud file is to copy the url  into the Hackpad. It is equally simple to insert images either by drag and drop or by using the insert function in the menu at the top of the page.   Once you have enough pix and gifs click on the sound file to get it started, then click on the first image.  That sets up a slideshow which you can cycle through as the Soundcloud file plays.  It’s a transmedia blast.

Check out this sample and play with it as you will.  I have included a jukebox of four songs that you can choose from as well as lots of images and gifs.  Or you can just start your own transmedia Hackpad.

P.S. If you want a taste of the original zeega, let me know and I will see if we can give you an alpha test of the zeega club this week so you can make a transmedia masterpiece (or crash and burn),  Transmedia completely transformed how I experienced digital writing.  For the better.  Here’s hoping the best for you as well.

Go Ahead and Jump: Transmedia Storytelling

A Leaf, in flight

A Leaf, in flight (Image by Kevin Hodgson)

By Kevin Hodgson

If you have been following Digital Writing Month the past few weeks, you may have noticed a progression of themes. We began our first week exploring the concept of writing itself, and of what it means to be a digital writer. We then moved into the use of images as literacy moments, of meaning buried within pixels. Last week, we explored sounds and silence. This coming week, we shift into transmedia for this last full week of November.

It’s OK to scratch your head right now and wonder: Transmedia? What are they talking about now?

Wikipedia describes transmedia this way:

… the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats including, but not limited to, games, books, events, cinema and television.”  

Or, if you don’t trust Wikipedia, you might turn to the ever-insightful Henry Jenkins:

Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.

Or, perhaps this TED talk by Elaine Raybourne will help:

In simple terms, I like to think of transmedia as storytelling with few if any boundaries, and as we continue to explore digital writing this month and beyond, this idea of taking a story for a walk across platforms seems to be right in tune with the possibilities of writing in a digital age.  We should probably clarify: Transmedia storytelling does not require technology. An opera troupe in Los Angeles, for example, is doing an interesting performance called Hopscotch by moving scenes of the opera into the fabric of the real city, coordinating scenes across the urban landscape, with the audience following the dancers.

Closer to home, our impromptu Storyjumpers Project at Digital Writing Month has been a lesson in transmedia collaboration, as more than 25 writers from all parts of the world are passing a story from blog to blog as November rolls on. What strikes me is how much media is being used by the bloggers. We are hearing sounds, watching associated videos, viewing images … all in the name of the story that is always in the midst of transition, even as participants write and pass it along to the next person. That transmedia project has enriched the collaborative nature of this month’s digital writing experiences.

Storyjumpers Map

A collaboration across time and space for DigiWriMo

Unfortunately, in some ways, book publishing companies are at the forefront of much of the transmedia story experiences (as are now many other businesses) we encounter in the wider world. I say “unfortunately” because the books that I see being marketed at my own children and my sixth grade students as transmedia (they don’t often call them that but that is what they are) begin with a book in text that links to a publisher’s website with a game experience of some sort, all in the hope of selling more books and products.

I guess this strategy of “hook the kids” must work because I do see more and more of these book series being offered. In my opinion, the writer for young adult readers that I have seen pull this off with any level of real success is the talented Patrick Carmen, whose Skeleton Creek series, with video links, are creepy and mysterious and go deep when the media elements are connected to the reading experience.

I don’t blame the publishers for co-opting transmedia. Their job is to sell books, and make profits. For them, transmedia is a way to capture eyeballs and open pocketbooks. But my role as a teacher, and as a writer, is very different from that. As a teacher, my passion is bring my young writers into the world of writing, now and into the future, and I think one of my jobs is to get them composing their own interactive, digital texts. As an educator who writes, and one who writes digitally in order to explore the way composition is changing with technology (or not, as is sometimes the case), I also task myself with trying out different kinds of writing to push myself, and to consider possibilities for my students, and transmedia writing is no different.

No different, but certainly more complicated. I’ll give you that.

It’s one thing to write a blog post, with links and maybe even added embedded media on a page. That takes time and thought, but it is not overly complicated. Consider, though, the planning you have to do in order to move a story off the blog, into another medium, such as a podcast, and then into yet another medium, such as a game, and then maybe even into another … and another …

At each juncture, you have to juggle more than the story itself. You have to consider the affordances of the shifting platforms. What works as a video won’t work as a piece of writing. What works as an image might not work as an audio project. You have to weigh the pros and cons of the experience, and wonder, does it help or hinder the story? Always, it is important to remember that the story is at the heart of the matter, not the technology. If your story doesn’t hold together, no amount of transmedia hopscotching here and there and everywhere will save the reader/viewer from the dreaded state of boredom or confusion.

A weak story will remain so, no matter the platform. A good story has the potential to transcend the technology in interesting ways.

There may yet be a day when our technology applications and websites and devices work in seamless concert with each other — where writing a story across platforms is not hindered by the differences of technology, but complemented by the common pathways. It may be easy to write this way. We’re not there yet, are we? Maybe, we’re not even close. So it takes careful planning and writing when attempting transmedia composition.

But when it works? Wow. The experience is incredibly engaging, in ways that can’t quite be replicated off the screen. Composing a transmedia piece is at the heart of writing in a digital age, with all of its limitations and all of its potential. And the only way to understand it is to experience it. So, what do you say?

Are you ready to begin?

(Pssst. That was an invitation.)