Creating Story Instruments with Stepworks 2

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24.05.2021 to 25.05.2021
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In this workshop, attendees will learn to create "story instruments," a genre of performative e-lit with a very simple interaction model. In a story instrument, the author decides *what* happens, and the user, through a one-button interface, determines *when* it happens. This form, with its inherent connections to music, video games, interactive comics, and slide presentations, has been used to collaboratively remix the works of noted California poets, sonify the history of Mars exploration, create multi-vocal lyric videos for Hamilton, and visualize samples of martial arts films in hip-hop tracks — to name just a few applications. The software attendees will use to create their story instruments is Stepworks 2, a new version of the web-based tool I first introduced in 2017. Stepworks ( has been described as "an ideal platform for teaching e-literature through feminist critical making pedagogies" (Sarah Whitcomb Laiola, "Back in a Flash: Critical Making Pedagogies to Counter Technological Obsolescence" [The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, December 10, 2020]). It can be used to create interactive works, live-streamed presentations, or linear videos (one example being last year's popular ELO talk "Temporal Aesthetics in Digital Comics: An Introduction for Makers and Researchers"). Stepworks standardizes multimodal interactive media in a way that simplifies authoring, while collapsing the boundaries between text, visual, audio, and musical content. Instead of tracks or layers, Stepworks features "characters" who take actions in discrete steps. Each character appears as a rectangular panel that can be rendered anywhere on screen. When a character "speaks" a word, that word appears in its panel. When they "show" a video, that video fills the panel's area. Put another way, Stepworks takes the visual logic of Zoom we've been living with during the pandemic — in which each box equals a person — and allows authors to build on it in creative ways. Stepworks 2 introduces a web-based authoring environment to augment the Google Sheets model launched with Stepworks 1, making possible more sophisticated compositions (even including the user's webcam) while maintaining ease of use. Attendees will come away from the workshop with basic knowledge of the tool, and free accounts which they can continue to use afterward (while Stepworks will ultimately include a paid tier to support continued development, the essential set of authoring features will continue to be free, and its file format is open and JSON-based). The workshop will be held over Zoom, and participants (up to 15) will be required to use the Chrome web browser. Each attendee will use Stepworks to follow along with workshop activities, creating their own experiments using media they possess locally or find online. Attendees will be encouraged to show progress via screen sharing, and will save their work locally, while also learning how to publish projects online (a secondary account like a GitHub account may be required for this). Finally, participants will receive tips for using Stepworks to expose students to basic e-lit creation in a classroom setting.

Record posted by: 
Milosz Waskiewicz
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