This is another post that came out of Ethan Zuckerman’s brilliant ‘Future of news and participatory media’ class. Our assignment was to interview a fellow classmate and write a story in which we used that classmate as an expert on a wider topic. I love literature, and was interested in finding a compelling use case/format for storytelling on Fold.cm, a contextual storytelling platform invented by my friend Alexis Hope.
This was a really challenging assignment, because it forced me to think hard about what qualified someone as an expert. I didn’t want to take the easy route and interview Fungai about his work. Although it’s a great and interesting topic, it’s also something that he talks about all the time. I did a little Facebook stalking and noticed that he posted a lot about literature. I thought it would be great to put together a contextual primer on literature by Zimbabwean authors, using Fungai’s commentary as the context. I liked the idea of a “contextual reading list.” One of the things I find frustrating about reviews on sites like Amazon’s is that book reviews are provided independent of wider context. For ex: who is the person doing the review? What expectations, history or loyalties do they bring to the underlying literature? I thought Fungai could serve as a great expert. In addition to being a media maker, he has deep emotional and personal connections to the material.
My second goal for this assignment was to try and find a good use for FOLD. I think material like reviews makes for great FOLD stories because the contextual embedding format makes great sense. So I thought I’d use FOLD to juxtapose narratives. On the one side, in the main story blocks, I’d have Fungai talking about his experiences with some of these key novels and texts by Zimbabwean writers. In the right-side blocks, I posted links, reviews and other material related to those texts so that readers could go off and explore more on their own (which was the whole goal). The goal of a review is to communicate the essence of a book. But by using FOLD’s capabilities in this way, I was able to focus the interview sections on Fungai’s experience, and to package the summaries/etc in the links I presented on the side. It was a great and interesting experience, and I’d be very interested if anyone has feedback on what it was like to read in this format.
This particular assignment got tons of positive feedback in class. In class, someone compared the interview chunks to the wall text in a museum exhibit. Although I’d never drawn that comparison, I think that was – subconsciously – exactly the effect I was after. The assignment also spurred a broader discussion about the journalistic interview process.