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True Stories: A Community Journalism Lab Exploring People, Places, and Stories Real and Imagined

True Stories: A Community Journalism Lab Exploring People, Places, and Stories Real and Imagined

Venice Arts

Program Summary

The Community Journalism Lab will target Los Angeles-area teens, ages 14-18, interested in discovering and creating community stories, both real and imagined, inspired by the quirky community of Venice, California. Their work will be guided by a series of questions about the nature of collaboration, community (real-time and virtual), and truth. Is the story of an expert skateboarder on the Venice Beach Boardwalk any more real than a poetic riff inspired by the domino players at the local park? Are ruminations while waiting for the bus on a congested thoroughfare, captured in a series of waist-level still images, any less a representation of place and time than an audio interview with a bus rider? Can the virtual world be real?

The Lab will be co-led by a Teaching Artist (Photography-Mentor), with a background in youth media education, and a Developer-Mentor who also has a background teaching photography, video, and web development to youth. It will run during the first two weeks of Venice Arts’ month-long, daily Summer Media Arts Camp. During this period, youth will build their skills and knowledge in photography and storytelling, as well as contribute to the development of a web “space” on the Venice Arts site through a HackFest and by beta-testing site tools and features each Friday, as they upload their images, multimedia, blogs, and/or other forms of story. Youths’ feedback will inform improvements and recommendations for changes in the functionality of the web space, with simple ideas or refinements executed prior to the last class, so that students can experience their ideas in action. For participants especially inspired by coding, they will have an opportunity to schedule one, special 3-hour session to be directly mentored by the Developer.

Agenda

WEEK 1
Monday (1pm–6pm—Extended session)
1-3:15pm
• Welcome, introductions, “ice breaker” exercise
• Introduce the fundamentals of documentary photography (concepts and tools) and community journalism
• Review and discuss compelling works by youth from other “participant-produced” photography and multimedia projects, as well as by important, contemporary and historic photographers and multi-platform journalists
• Discuss and share both traditional and experimental documentary or story forms
• Field shoot exercise—Treasure Hunt: The Right Way to Look For True Stories In "All The Wrong Places"

3:15-3:30 Break

3:30-6:00 HackFest!
• Review and discuss popular, online platforms, asking: What is their primary purpose (education, commerce, community-building, other)? What are the opportunities for engagement? What are their strengths and limitations? Are there other platforms that youth like and use that might be shared and discussed? Are there other ideas—perhaps not yet invented—to support building community through art making and sharing online?
• Interactive, high-energy brainstorm activity: Imagine an awesome site for young artists and creators. Would it look like other sites? Have elements of sites you use all in one place? Be different than anything that’s existed before?
• Log-in to your own Studio and see how it works, then, explore the Beta-Space for this project and its tools; experiment with uploading, interacting, and building projects of your own. Tear it up!

Tuesday–Friday (2-5pm)
• Daily:
• Field shoot
• Review and discuss works
• Give and receive constructive feedback
• Decode images and develop your aesthetic
• Reinforce concepts and skills related to image making and storytelling
• Review relevant professional work for teaching and inspiration (at least 2 x during week)

Tuesday:
• Daily activities plus: Approaching subjects, finding inspiration in place, interview skills
• Wednesday:
• Daily activities

Thursday:
• Daily activities, plus: Exploring the relationship between text and image; reviewing and discussing the structure of photo essays with/without text; writing exercises—poetry, prose, blog

Friday:
• Editing with intention: creating a visual narrative and completing your story
• Feedback on works, to date
• Upload work to and beta-test new or refined tools
• Spread the word! Test linking your work on the site with Social Media
• Feedback on site, tools, and week

WEEK TWO (2pm-5pm)
Monday
• Welcome newcomers, if any
• Review works from week one; discuss story development and ideas about truth; identify stories to be completed during week two (collaborative or individual; new or building off of prior week)
• Brainstorm weekend “aha” ideas for the project web space
• Field shoot and story development

Tuesday–Friday
Daily:
• Field shoot
• Review and discuss works
• Give and receive constructive feedback
• Decode images and develop a personal aesthetic
• Reinforce concepts and skills related to image making and storytelling
• Review relevant professional work for teaching and inspiration (at least 2 x during week)

Tuesday
• Daily activities, plus: augmenting a visual story with audio

Wednesday—Thursday
• Completing final stories—pick-up shooting, writing, multimedia production

Friday
• Upload work to project space
• Group exercise: Curating the Project’s Landing Page: What Do You Show?
• Test site refinements/new features
• Social Media shout-outs
• Feedback on project and ideas about engaging future youth through storytelling and the web
• Pizza party!

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