Using a design thinking methodology we will learn how to examine the ethics and aesthetics of data — from boutique data to big data, from fast data to slow data, from low-tech to hi-tech, from qualitative to quantitative. We will examine many contemporary data stories and learn ways to critique their form and content for aesthetic engagement.

Project 1

For this first essay we will investigate examples of contemporary longform and multimedia storytelling on the web. In an essay of approximately 1000 words you will 1) choose one of the multimedia examples from this unit to 2) perform a rhetorical analysis. After this analysis, you will 3) compose a compelling essay which highlights an original thesis statement/argument.

In your discussion, include at least four scholarly citations (using materials in the course or scholarly materials from outside the course) using MLA formatting. See Citation Machine and Mendeley for assistance.

Week 1

August 30 Course Introduction; Syllabus questions. Peer introductions.

September 1 Review (quickly skim) examples of Longform Storytelling before class (see list below); What is Longform (BBC); Why Millenials Want Longform Storytelling; More on Longform; Introduction to rhetorical analysis/audience; Key Concepts of Aesthetic Engagement

Week 2

September 6 Reading: The Inevitable Intro + Chapters 1-3; Storytelling with Data; Slides from talk; Examples of Visual Storytelling; Fish: A Tap Essay

September 8 Reading: Digital_Humanities: Chapter 1; Examples of Sonic Storytelling

Week 3

September 13 ELI Peer-review practice; discuss essays; Reading: Examples of Archival Storytelling

September 15 Drafts due; ELI Peer-editing day; Revised Projects due Monday September 19 at midnight in Blackboard

Examples of Long-form Storytelling

  • What is Code? This revolutionary “essay” by Paul Ford is a 38,000-word opus on software engineering. It was published in Bloomberg: Business Week June 11, 2015.
  • The Story of the Web A rich, engaging, parallax timeline allowing users to scroll through 25 years of web history. It is a technically sophisticated, richly creative storytelling vehicle celebrating the history of the web and encouraging discussion.
  • Greenland is Melting Away This river is one of a network of thousands at the front line of climate change.
  • Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race, and Inequality More than half a century after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama …African Americans and Latinos are still struggling with an unequal transit system.
  • Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel CreekNew York Times reporter John Branch tells the harrowing story of skiers caught in an avalanche. On Snowfall.

Examples of Visual and Sonic Storytelling

  • Extra Virgin Suicide The adulteration of Italian Olive Oil. By Nicholas Blechman (2014).
  • Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing By David Eads and Helga Salinas. Photos by Patricia Evans. (2014)
  • Sound Matters In this multimedia essay Michael Kimmelman breaks down an often-overlooked element of architectural design, explaining how space shapes sound, and how sound shapes our experience of a space.
  • Bieber, Diplo & Skrillex Make A Hit “Where Are Ü Now” and electronic dance music helped Justin Bieber sing for grown-ups. A story of how music is made today. Tufte; Polygraph 
  • SoundCity The Sound City project is an ongoing project created by David Vale that explores different cities around the world using a new 3D webaudio technology.
  • Nightwalk A virtual walking tour of Marseille, France, made by Google.
  • Fish: A Tap Essay This short but heartfelt essay by Robin Sloan is about the difference between liking something on the internet and loving something on the internet. It’s in the form of an app, which you can download.

Examples of Archival Storytelling

  • The King Center Archive The King Center Imaging Project brings the works and papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to a digital generation.
  • The Olive Project  A scrolling archive of audio-visual memories by Erin Anderson
  • Freedom’s Ring Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech,’ animated and annotated. Made with Scalar.


MLA Citation example for a handout: 

Knight, Aimée. “Key Concepts of Aesthetic Engagement.” Handout from Digital Storytelling course. Department of Communication Studies. Saint Joseph’s University. Philadelphia, PA. Print.