DS106 on the couch

Tag: AudioAssignments (page 1 of 2)


The village psychiatrist was inspired by our resident dreamer’s calming morning announcement into creating her first full track of calming music. I have titled it ‘Something mental to aid sleep’.  Here at the hospital we are always concerned with the well being of our prisoners residents and this track should be safe to listen to just as you are settling into bed after soothing day of passeggiata in the village. Enjoy.

Behind the scenes

I have been meaning to learn how to use the new Garageband for a while. So after several tutorials and muttering that the old one was better, I managed to stay with it and learn. It looks like it will even teach you how to play an instrument now. But that is for another day. 

Today I just decided to make on track. I had forgotten how much I like to edit sound. Up here, down here, left a bit right a bit….much fun.

Credits to: Ms Talky Tina with material from the archives, to 

Riccardo Colombo for a lovely background to all my craziness from Jamendo. The rest is my own bits an bobs and GarageBand’s own amazing new sound effects and loops. I had like 10 tracks mixing and blending. Rest well after you listen, if you dare. And I note that Ms Tina did actually put a coma in. Who is N1? You are, number 6. Mystery solved as Ms Tina knows the truth. 

And you know what would help us great deal? If both village committees got together and we had to practice the same type of thing each week. This week design in fairy tales and then audio with the prisoners. This shrink is pooped. 

The wire” a poem by Melinda Albrycht

DS106 Art on the couch – critique

When I first heard the poem on sound cloud it was the voice, the depth of the voice that stood out for me the most. I wondered how to do an art critique with audio art. So I went googling. I guessed that music might offer some constructs to comments. 

From my explorations I get that the tempo of the voice is steady and this is what brings me in. The monophonic nature of the voice has a hypnotic effect and I also notice, on hearing again, that there is a rhythm to Melinda’s voice as she read her poem, it becomes almost a song.

Is this what people refer to as a melodic voice? When she talks about the losses in the game, one can almost tap to ‘the music’ of her voice.  Repetition is used to great effect in this part of the poem to create the sense of hopelessness in playing this game.

I found it interesting to compare the written words with the performed words. ‘Look again’ says the text. ‘Look again, player.’ says Melinda’s voice. ‘Player’ added to keep the rhythm in the voice I am guessing.

The last part of the poem has a different tempo. I am not sure how to interpret that, I just noticed it. I notice the change comes when she says ‘Look again’. May be this looking again gives new information and this is shown by the change in tempo in the quality of the voice and the cadence of the words?

The voice is used to convey the emotion of the words. The contrast between the possibilities when we play a game is marked with the change in tone. As we are losing the game, the option comes up to win it. But if you think you can win it, think again. Nobody does. Can I win? Will I lose? Can I leave the game? There really is only one choice, if you play on the wire you will always lose. 

It is that dangerous.

The poem starts with ‘walking the wire’ and ends with ‘playing on the wire’. A way to bring closure to it? a kind of circle that keep going in a never ending cycle of despair?  

The poem has a realistic and expressive style.

Unless you have seen the TV series, ‘The wire’ and what the wire is is hidden from the composition. Yet it stands alone as a description of a kind of life style that leads to the destruction of life. Anyone ‘hanging by the wire’ is in danger. The poem brings up despair and hopelessness blended with a sarcastic ‘gotcha’ flavour – just think again, player.

And now for the informal critique: I thought it was so bloody good (as we say in the UK, Melinda) that I wished I had written it myself. 

If you want to know why I am doing this and how you can join in, read this post

If life throws you a lemon, DS106 it!

When I started DS106 and this blog, I heard somebody advising a participant that if he was frustrated by the way a large corporation had treated him, then he should just ‘DS106 it!’. I remember thinking it was interesting to advise the use of creativity to work through frustration. DS106 as art therapy. I have since learnt that it also means DS106 as political activism, as there are many examples in the community of producing art as a way to make political or social critique

Life has thrown me a lemon in the form of the systems and procedures of the Open University (OU) which have led to me formally withdrawing from their Masters on Online and Distance Education (MAODE) and requesting that all my personal data held behind their registration wall be deleted. I filed a generic email under ‘appeals and complaints’ – which will probably only give me yet another automated email as a response – after 3 months of trying very hard to hold a reasonable conversation with those responsible for the module and the Master as a whole. All to no avail. The trail ended with an anonymous feedback form with a set of assumptions that will lead to my tutor being held responsible for the issues I have had, rather than a review of the systems and procedures of an educational institution that in the name of fairness is running a Masters programme teaching students critical thinking by numbers.

The rest of this post offers the feedback I was unable to offer confidentially.

MAODE has several modules one of which is the Openness and Innovation module (#H817). At the end of the module it asks its students for  the following in order to assess that they have reached the apropriate standards: 


and  a further 10% is broken down as follows:


Am I the only one seeing the irony in this assessment procedure? This is a Masters programme. This is a module that teaches openness and innovative approaches to learning. However, in signing up I knew that I would have to adapt.

I understood that if I wanted to continue with the course then I would need to adjust to this way of learning. When asked, I said that whilst I was enjoying what I was learning, I was not enjoying how I was learning it. The module has numerous pedagogical issues that I will not be discussing here, but I did want to discuss with faculty. I asked my tutor, she referred me to the head of the module, the head of the module referred me to the director of the programme, the director of the programme sent me the link to the anonymous feedback form. 

I need to say that I have always had very idealistic notions about the OU and how it opens up education to all. This was my first real experience with it, and I must admit to being shocked by the reductionistic and disposable assignment nature of its pedagogical approach. In completing my first module with them, I kept making allowances for the shortcomings and doing my best to offer feedback and to attempt to navigate the constraints whilst looking for my learning needs to be met. I contacted one of the OU tutors, who has been an exemplary role model of open education, Paige Cuffe. 

She was supportive of my intentions:

I failed in my good natured attempts to offer feedback beyond anonymous surveys. I was frustrated beyond my levels of tolerance by the ‘closed-due-lack-of-interest’ approach my requests for dialogue met.

I was even accused of not being polite enough, as I got close to my third month and 5th person asking for a phone or face to face conversation to discuss my learning needs and offer feedback:

Thanks, Mariana, for your comments. However, you have strayed beyond the reasonable (and the polite) when you write:

“It is really not great practice to keep passing unhappy customers on to other members of faculty to get them out of your inbox.”

I was pointing you to the person who is in the best position to take account of your feedback.

I had only one option left and I chose not to take it. I could have contacted the one person that had made this #817 Open University module worth doing, Martin Weller. Martin, like Paige, is an exemplar open scholar. Engaging on the open web, sharing resources and certainly not trying to pass on OU students, or anyone else for that matter, so at to clear his inbox. He has always been helpful, he ran my first MOOC and opened my eyes to what adult education using the open web could really be like beyond the walled garden of the LMS. Yes, I could have contacted him and he would have listened. But it is not his job to deal with unhappy OU students. Particularly, when he works so hard at giving the OU a positive profile. This is why I chose to go through the appropriate channels. How should the OU have responded? Not the way it did in my view.

In my view, the right thing would have been for the head of H817 or the director of the Masters I was enrolled in to do me the courtesy of listening. I am, after all, paying two thousand five hundred pounds sterling for the privilege of being taught on the module. I have rights. Of course, if I were invested in getting yet another postgraduate degree I would not feel quite so free to challenge the powers that be. Those very people who control the pass/fail levers. Thankfully, I already have as many degrees as I need, and a reputation in my field as a chartered research psychologist specialising in adult learning. I do not need another degree.

I wanted to engage in dialogue as equal partners with the Open University faculty. I was, instead, treated as a nuisance and forced to make the choice to withdraw from a course I really wanted to complete just because I believe in the ideals of the Open University and wanted to be part of its community.

I have met wonderful people through H817open and through the closed LMS #H817. The community is not at fault. It is the systems and procedures of an institution that used to be at the leading edge, is now drowning in red tape and made up of silos that do not communicate with each other. I would have wanted to engage constructively with faculty to offer a view of one student’s experience and how their pedagogy may be affecting dropout rates. It was not to be. My final communication with the director of the Masters Programme after my repeated requests to talk, simply reminded me that I had been sent an email to give feedback and had not acted on it. It was clearly my fault that my feedback had not got into the system and may be a reminder would lead me to comply.


I did comply. I filled in the form, but the form is not designed for dialogue but for the same thing that all OU formal communications seems to be – ensuring that the organisation is not held responsible for any complaints. I lost track of the interactions I had that were not about engagement but about fault finding. I summed up my form filling experience in my last email to the director as follows:

It seemed appropriate [to fill in the form] to help future students and yourselves. Your form is biased and does not allow for a flexible and open feedback loop. The way the form is designed it will put the responsibility on my tutor for my discontent. This would be a mistake. She has struggled with the same things as I have: really trying to do a good job as procedures, systems and work conditions have conspired against her being able to deliver.

The module (H817) was not ready to be delivered and you have made your students pay for experimentation and refinements. I paid for access to library and faculty and all I got were excuses from the library and apologies from my tutor as she struggled with the system. The only faculty member that offered what I paid for was Martin Weller. Everyone else was absent beyond writing a Moodle book. It was only when students insisted on getting contact that we got 1 hangout to clarify a confused block and project. I was paying for more than that.

I close this post with the best example of the systemic pattern I encountered at the OU. I spent 6 months trying to get access to the library services I was paying for and failing. Unless references could be acquired directly online no support to speak of is available. A number of ignored emails later, I contacted my tutor and asked for help. She could not help me. She did, however, suggest I contacted their web chat service, as it was an efficient service. 

If you have made it this far, make yourself a cup of tea and listen to my podcast ‘The Helpful web-chat librarian’. I could not make it up.

Good bye Open University, hello MOOC life!

Reading movies – The Matrix audio only

I have followed the same idea as with the video only part of the scene and put the audio on Soundcloud for anyone to add to. I read somewhere that this is thought to be the best acted scene in the whole of the movie. This has to be in no small part due to the quality of the sound – it is like an audio story in itself even without the powerful visual input. Like an opera dialogue of sound between good and evil! Get me the movie critic after reading the first scene in my life…This could become an addiction like animated gifs if I am not careful. Enjoy!

Week 9 Evaluation – self and others

We are asked to evaluate our own radio show and one other.This feels an important element of learning on DS106, but harder to offer and get in this Headless version of the course than it might be if we were doing this course for credit. Alan Levine reflects on the difficulty of giving feedback at the right level in a hashtag classroom. He concludes his post on this with some interesting questions:

Can a community fill some of that feedback role so an instructor does not max out? Or in what ways can the class itself pick up its own feedback circle without it being a thing being done just for the credits?

I think this area that merits a thoughtful response – and the best way to do that is to jump in and offer some feedback, as the week 9 assignment asks me to do. I will post later on what I believe to be a methodological approach that may offer an answer – briefly, I believe that Self Managed Learning offers a potential model. I have been teaching using this model face-to-face for 20 years and believe it would translate to the hashtag classroom well with few adaptations.

A core issue on this Headless 13 course is that as it is not done for credit – it is permissible to do as much or as little as anyone wants and there are no consequences for non-compliance with assignments . Furthermore, what is delivered meets self-set criteria not externally or collaboratively set by the cohort. The issue of how we learn, how we reach understanding and how we meet quality criteria for learning is complex and many-fold involving a 4 point diagram that includes content, teacher, learner and context where learning happens. This further depends on personal beliefs about how these elements interact. Is learning social or personal or both? do we subscribe to the conduit metaphor of knowledge or to a metaphor of learning as participation? These will be a topic for another post. 


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Dave Sag

Here I jump the donkeys carrying computers, and evaluate ‘Shrinking the big questions’ and ‘Spinning around’ by answering the questions our weekly announcement set. I trust that my capacity for critical thinking and feedback going back a long career will suffice to do this task justice. There is little in DS106 material, beyond informal conversations and suggestions, that supports open participants in learning how to do this. Gardner Campbell suggested at Open VA recently that we could do worse than follow Wikipedia behavioural guidelines when working in the hashtag classroom. The decline of participation in the wikipedia project not withstanding, may be this is a good starting set of rules for online evaluation.[ At least until I write the definitive post on online feedback and why it will never work.]

My observations so far are that peer celebration is more the order of the day in DS106 than clear and specific feedback. The best feedback of this kind I have received has come from Alan Levine, who though not an instructor of Headless 13 is certainly an ‘elder’ active in our little community.

Let me be clear, I have nothing against peer celebration. I do believe we need ego boosting as well as notes for change and improvement.

The issue for me is that as we have light reciprocal relational links, I am unsure I know anyone well enough to be able to offer improvement feedback in a way that can be heard and may be wanted. I am also unclear about standards for assessing and evaluating, both my own work and that of others.

I am unsure what I can offer will be welcomed.

My initial observations of the norms operating our community suggests to me that whatever we do is a ‘pass’ and that better/worse are not comparators that it uses explicitly. For myself, Alan telling me ‘avoid x and try y instead’ helped me improve the quality of my output and that is why I engage with others to learn. I welcome more of that from others and whilst I have had great help when asking about a ‘how-to’, I have had less feedback evaluating my work against a set of standards than I might on a  for-credit classroom.

We do implicitly  evaluate work in DS106. This week we were asked to nominate somebody’s work to the Inspire website. I had already done so before reading the request – I nominated ‘Spinning Around’. The frame used is ‘nominate work you found inspirational’. This does give a clue as to evaluation norms in the community. Work is not better or worse, but sometimes people make art that inspires us. I can do that but that does not teach me (or does it?) how to make my own work better.

I make stuff that sucks, I am happy to have a go. However, my trying does not make it good art. It just makes me good at trying. External evaluation matters if I am to improve and learn beyond my own limitations.

Our radio team gelled behind the shared aim to produce a great show:

and I feel we succeeded. 

How did we evaluate each other’s work? We made sure we spent time relating and laughing together. Good old fashioned ‘let’s get to know each other a bit’ before we focus on the task at hand. We agreed working norms that would enable us to produce the show and stuck to them. 

We had plenty of opportunity to offer each other feedback. What I noticed was that it was never personal, it was always a measure against quality output. For example, I spent a few hours trying to clean up Jess’s audio. I did what I could, but was not happy with the output. Karen also offered specific feedback in the shape of ‘the echo is just too much, should we ask Jess to re-record?’. By then, Jess has already heard the edited audio and was on the case to re-record and learn Audacity. Another example was the show’s introduction. I had recorded an introduction early on, and was pretty chuffed with it. Of course, the introduction had been done in isolation of the show as it evolved. I woke up one morning, to find lots of Tweets that essentially said ‘introduction is too long, need to re-record or drop from show’. After picking up my hurt ego off the floor – not really – I tweeted that I thought we should not drop it as the show needed an introduction and  that I would re-record. I was ruthless in editing the script, did it again and it was all the better for it. 

It has also been easy to keep on working together and offering feedback on each other’s output. We are now even evaluating our own work as we send it out – I can hear when the sound is not right, I can offer my evaluation and then we use if usable and short of time or just redo if we can. We got our evaluation process streamlined and it has enabled us to produce another episode of our show for Halloween. Just because we wanted to.

Below I take a stab at answering the evaluation questions exactly as week 9 announcement requests. I am doing this to encourage us all to do more realistic and specific evaluation as well as keep on with peer celebration just because we are motivated to create something each day. This is awesome.

What would make it even more awesome, for me at least, it to have us engage more on evaluating the quality of what we are producing and critically engaging with criteria for evaluation – what can I do 

  • less of
  • more of
  • or continue doing

to make my DS106 work better each day?

I believe the weekly announcement suggest we should be engaging on this conversation beyond the undeniable fact that our motivation to keep making stuff is inspirational and exercises the creative muscle.

Criteria for audio and the extent to which Shrinking the big Questions (SBQ) and Spinning Around (SA) met them

Quality of audio sound – e.g. Is the volume appropriate? Are the levels even? Is the sound clear, and free of noises not needed (e.g. mouse clicks, background noise)?

To my untrained ear SA had the best sound quality of all the shows. I listened to it over and over and enjoyed its crisp sound each time. There was a flow to the sound, silences were just long enough not too long or too short. The whole thing cohered to give the feel of one song with many voices with each voice clearly heard. 

SBQ struggled with getting the noise even, when I heard the whole thing at the European Premiere I noticed there were extraneous noises in the different segments, at some point you can hear somebody tapping at a keyboard. We each mixed our own segments, where SA had one person mixing from the raw sound. What would make it better? I learnt that much care has to be taken in the quality of that raw data, there is only so much you can do when you edit something – this was so clear with the DS106 controversy segment. The second recording, made with a higher quality microphone, was of far higher quality and easier to edit than the first. 

Quality of audio editing – use of effects, transitions, are the edits clean?

I need to learn more how to fade in and out. I learnt, in looking at how others edited, that I cut in/out in too sharp and abrupt a manner. I do not understand enough about the physics of sound to manipulate in any meaningful way beyond trial and error. I also need to learn more about the mechanics of microphones and fine editing.

We were saved in SBQ by our overall editor having a self-confessed perfectionistic streak. Credit goes to her for going through many a tutorial to learn ways to improve our sound. Talky Tina and Christina know more about sound clearly, and though I have not asked Karen, I think their sections will have given our sound editor much less hassle than say mine.

I am now learning to use effects more easily, music for transitions, and smoothing out segments. SA uses effects and transitions in such a way that there is not sense of separate sections – it all blends easily to my ear and with so many voices I am inspired by the editing and the quality of the raw sounds the group produced. 

Use of sound effects- How are they used? Is it effective?

Yes, I think we both used sound effects effectively. I did not use them in my section, and their lack shows. I ran out of time to add them in and I had not yet learnt how to do it well – so decided to go without. SA used repetition staggered to great effect. Reading the lyrics of the song spoken just after the the song is played – very powerful. Of note in SBQ are the sound effects on the cooking section of the show and on the meaning of life section – they are clear, appropriate and timely. 

Use of music- how is it used? Is it effective or distracting?

Music added in SBQ worked well. I did not use music for same reason as above – not enough knowledge of how to mix. Music added by Karen and Talky Tina really helped bring the show together and taught me how important it was to include it so as to keep attention of listeners. I need to work on this and SA were an example of best practice in the use of music.

Does the show have a structure? Is it cohesive or does it feel stitched together?

SBQ could have felt stitched together, and may be it does a little. Talky Tina’s interventions throughout create a thread, the bumpers and commercials do also – I did not see the point of them at the start of audio weeks – and references to other segments within the show help the flow.

However, our topics and styles were very different and had the team work not been as good as it was, the knitting together may have failed.

Interestingly, SA’s editor Rochelle also felt that their approaches were different and an approach was needed to cohere a show. Perhaps this is the craft of editing? SA tackled the coherence issue with music that flowed through the whole show. I loved the one song SA used, but the whole thing would have been lost on somebody who may be did not like the song as it was repeated over and over again. A high risk strategy for coherence that paid off for my untrained ear at least. I would have like more narrative about the ideas and the making of it – some of what came through in the blog post could have made another 15 minutes of the show and may have given us a coherent analytical message after the emotional and on-linear message had been heard.

Does it tell a story effectively? Is there a sense of drama, unknown? Does it draw you in to listen?

SA absolutely and I could not think of anything that would enhance it. SBQ was not about drama but humour and thought provoking ideas, it did draw me in. I chose to listen to it for fun and each time I hear it I smile. Yes it tells a story effectively but it is too long.

If i were thinking of it a a ‘proper’ radio show I would structure it as 10 minute episodes each tackling only one question. Music and other programming would be the main focus, and SBQ would be short ‘funny, absurd, and very DS106!’ morsels spread through the day.

If you would rate this radio show, how many stars out of five would you give to the show

I answer this question with a little help from Photoshop and Hackssarus.


I worry about upsetting my team by giving us one less star, I worry about the other teams thinking I chose this show because I liked it, but that may be I did not like them as much. I worry about offending both teams I talk about here with some of my suggestions for improvement. It is hard to offer meaningful evaluation to others online, I find it easier to self-evaluate. But unless I hear external voices, I worry I am  in a digital echo chamber not learning new things just hearing what I want to hear.

What has helped the process is the closeness of our small group work and getting to know people. If we understand people’s motivation, it makes it easier to offer feedback that can be heard. Just because I want improvement feedback, and because DS106 announcements suggest we should learn how to evaluate ourselves and others effectively it does not mean that everyone involved in DS106 Headless 13 wants evaluation.

Some may just want a space make art and not a space to be evaluated. 

I need to tackle the issue of assessing others’ work.

  • How can criteria for assessment be agreed online?
  • How can we teach online participants to assess each other with rigour that comes out of engaging with the issue of setting clear standards?

Why? Selfishly, if I want to use this kind of model to support my own students then we need to be able to assess each other’s work to Masters standards and do so in a public setting. Self-managed learning offers a set of procedures that may help, but the group process and norm setting issues remain.

This feels an insurmountable challenge to introducing open education in my environment right now. I hope to learn more about effective ways to evaluate my own work and that of others as we move to the final (final?) stretch of this DS106 Headless. 

Do not attempt if distracted – Shrinking the big questions

And if you want to make sense of this post you need to read my previous post and most importantly – have listened to the show!

I want to start winding down audio weeks 7 and 8 so that I can start week 9 of DS106. I am feeling quite overwhelmed – like one of those situations when I ask my students to fill in feedback forms too soon after a class.

I know that they need time to process, but sometimes I do not have the choice to let them reflect before feedback as I have to follow the procedures set up by the place I may be teaching in.

Nobody is asking me to follow procedure on DS106 Headless 13. I am asking myself to follow procedure – complete weeks 7 and 8 before you move on to week 9. The reality is I will not complete for weeks as the list of audio to dos grows. Some might say, I will never ‘complete’ as DS106 is #4life. The rhetoric being what it is, I like the feeling of getting to the end of the weekly announcement – done!

So, as my true friend Talky Tina might say, here we go.

My previous post offered highlights of the work I did and posted a link to our radio show which for me was the highlight. Here, I want to complete audio weeks by following procedure to the letter.

I want to offer a personal ‘reflection upon [my] contribution to the radio show and to [my] assessment of the group process’ as requested in the weekly announcement.

I will write a more theoretical assessment of group process and how I see the differences between my current practice when facilitating groups and teams and what I have learnt here elsewhere. Here I want to use the questions posed in the announcement as a way to start a personal reflection on what the making of my first radio show has meant to me. For once in my life, I will do as I am told. Mum would be proud. 

How did your group go about choosing a theme and organising itself?
The idea for the programme came to me early on when talking with Talky Tina and Christina Hendricks here on this blog. The three of us talked about the meaning of life, about why shrinks are called shrinks and Talky said:
“Well, hi there! I posted a big question to the “Ask the headless13 shrink” and I wonder why it is called shrink anyway if they help you with big questions/ because if they were just little questions you can answer them all by yourself or use Google.”
This is how the theme was chosen. I love Frasier’s talk show, and had the idea we might do a call-in show with Talky and me shrinking the big questions of life. This was early on in the Headless 13 and when we had to make our first radio bumpers, I made bumpers for a show that did not exist other than as a vague notion in my head. My favourite was the one I started this post with, but we did not use it in the end. 

When it came to forming groups, I posted what I knew about the idea on our shared google doc and suggested the idea for the show. I think I invited a few people I felt I knew a little better to join the group, some did and some did not. As time went on some people asked to join the group and we welcomed everyone. We had a last minute joiner to help out with one element of the show. The theme was jointly chosen by Tina, Christina and me. But it evolved as we talked about the show and we included more people in our group. 

The organising was also quite organic. For example, I got quite bored typing everyvbody’s twitter handles and sent a Tweet asking if it was possible to do something about this, I did not know enough about Twitter to work out how to get a team twitter handle. Christina saw it, created the @talkyteam account and told us what we needed to do (open a Tweetdeck column and follow @talkyteam) to have the tweets turn up on our stream. it worked so well. It helped the organising but also the sense of identity of us as a team. The rest was easy – hangouts to talk, google docs to create a shared outline and talk asynch, and my Dropbox with a TalkyTeam shared folder to store stuff. A lovely touch here came from Talky Tina. As the dropbox started to get full of stuff and very unorganised, I woke up one morning to find that our DS106 doll has a penchant for tidiness – she had created her own little TalkyTina sub-folder to put her recordings in. Clearly, I took her lead and swiftly tidied up the Dropbox creating a sub-folder for each of us and one for introduction and close materials. 

We were all really motivated to make the show and enjoying the process.

This showed in the process of organisation and theme selection. Karen Young said on the live premiere that one of the things that made it work in her view was that we allowed everyone to play to their strengths and contribute rather than try to force an idea through. She is right. Once we had the shell of the programme, the idea that we were going to shrink the big questions, we put all the information on the Google doc (such as questions the Headless Shrink had been asked, ideas for style, examples of podcasts or shows that we might emulate) and people took all this and shaped it to their own visions. There was no micro-management of content, within the constraints of time and overall theme, each person selected a ‘question’ and wrote their own script.

I loved Radio-lab, so I tried to shape my piece in that way. The Cooking Show was Karen’s idea and she used the philosophy and meaning of life idea to create her hilarious and nuanced segment. Christina decided to play at shrinking the philosopher’s biggest question (what is the meaning of life?) and created a really thoughtful piece to explore this question. Jess’s numerology was all Jess. She took the question ‘what is DS106 and why DS?’ which we had been asked anonymously when I pleaded for questions on Twitter, and made it her own. I remembered about the DS107 rebellion, asked Jim Groom and he not only directed us to News on the March but also recorded a Soundcloud for us to use. The script Jess came up with was hilarious and really appealed to the geek in me, as a Dr Who fan the notion that 106 lost Dr Who episodes had been found appealed to me hugely. As did the idea that her Galaxy phone would have the answers. Rhonda was asked by Karen to join in to be the second cook on the cooking show part of the show, she recorded her parts and was happy to work with what we had to help us get to the end. She was very gracious and supportive – getting a new group member half way through the process would not have been so easy had it been anybody else. 

Talky Tina deserves a paragraph all her own. She rocks! She attended hangouts, created her own hangouts and made art as she was waiting all on her own at a hangout she created whilst we were all talking elsewhere. She was in her travelling container most of the time and yet had a good enough signal to talk with us and produce impeccable recordings of anything we asked her to do. She was a true professional actor, as well as giving us really useful technical tips as we wrestled Audacity and GarageBand. Alan Levine asked at the premiere if we thought she was real. Well, Alan, I can only say that she is more real to me than many ‘real’ Ds106ers that are lacking in art and in completing weekly announcements. She knows her stuff, she helps her team mates, she never lets her ego get in the way of opening night, and she gives us inspirational art and tips to boot. What is not real about that? The effort that goes into making Talky Tina an integral part of DS106 is something I am full of admiration for and support in any way I can. She rocks! And i just realised I have been doing week 9 stuff all along in supporting the narrative around our beloved true friend Talky. 

What was the easiest/hardest part of working as a group?

The easiest was working with the people who formed the team, we all had a sense of shared responsibility and a genuine desire to make something good. We all did the best we could to put our egos to one side and be in service of the craft. It was a joy to see something beyond any initial idea I may have had emerge as we engaged openly and honestly. 

The hardest for me was the time difference. I felt at times excluded from conversations that went on as I slept. This ended up working in our favour as relationships matured because it meant that we never slept as a team. Jess and I got stuff done as others slept and Christina, Tina, Karen and Rhonda worked whilst we slept. Seamless work flow with Bossy Young sending us our tasks as deadlines approached and we loved her for that!

How did you decide upon your own contribution to the show — did you pick something in your comfort zone or did you decide to push yourself in a new direction?

It was all a new direction. I have never done audio or radio before DS106 and have had negative learning experiences working with groups of strangers over the web on study projects. I did not have high expectations and, if I am honest, I was dreading the group work. In fact the only person to drop out of the group early on, was one of the people I worked with on a previous online project that had not gone well – I wonder if she had concerns about putting herself in that type of learning situation again after our previous experience. On that project for the Open University we found ourselves the only two people having to work on a project not of our choosing for assessment on a Masters Module with no community or tutor support. That experience left me feeling negative about virtual group work – and reinforced a belief that effective team work requires face to face leadership. A view I have since changed. I did have to push myself hard in a new direction to stay open to what DS106 radio group work would bring. Christina helped a great deal, as she was so positive about her previous experience.  

How do you feel your show holds together as a whole? Do you feel like you achieved your goals in terms of the story your group set out to tell? 

Yes, we achieved our goals.

Our goals were emerging and not fixed, so it is hard to say we achieved anything. The show took shape and we were all part of it taking shape. My contribution was more the big picture, staying on the theme of shrinking big questions, and pulling together threads as I saw them emerge online. Others contributed attention to detail, yet others a sense of humour, interesting insights, and all contributed a willingness to engage and share.

My sense is that what holds the show together is Tina’s inquiry into the big questions we chose to shrink. Her interventions throughout and her opening and closing the show. The actual questions we chose could easily become shows in and of themselves – ‘Shrinking with cooking’ with Karen and Rhonda- domestic goddesses, ‘Tina and Christina shrink philosophy’, ‘Jess shrinks the 106 conspiracy’, and ‘This The Headless shrink, I’m listening…’ (apologies to Frasier). 

I would like to turn this question on its head and say that it is amazing that such disparate ideas held together at all. The glue was Talky Tina and the good faith with which we engaged in the process together. As far as the quality of the radio show outside our learning experience – I do not think it holds together at all outside the ongoing narrative of DS106. A martian (or a zombie?) coming to it would not make much sense of it. The whole show is just a story that makes sense in the context of DS106 Headless 13 and to those of us participating in it. For those outside, I fear,  it would be little more than in-jokes and a Talking Doll that asks too many questions. In comparing this with what others have done, I see that radio needs to be standalone to have wide appeal. I also see that each short section needs to be standalone as a listener’s attention span is short and goes back and forth. 

My intention was to create something that would make us smile and would embody the nature of DS106. Does the show do this? Yes, I think it does. What comes through is how openly we engaged, and how we have developed our relationships with each other and outside the DS106 community. We are already talking about the next Talky Team assignment and are considering a Zombie Radio Show or station for Twitter Vs Zombies next round. Karen puts it best – we keep listening to what we have done and laughing at our own jokes, we enjoy the output we have created. For myself, I keep listening and finding subtle links between segments that we never planned as a group but that we each felt responsible to include in order for the whole to hold together. If any one of us had wanted to run away with their own ego and forget about the show as a whole, these subtle connections between segments would not have been there and the show would have been much poorer as result.  

What do you think people will say about it?

I have collected a couple of Tweets from people about the show. There were many more but I am out of time (I wanted to collect them all and do a Storify with them, but not right now).

The overall sense I have about what people are saying is that it has a lot of ideas in it, a lot of jokes and witty lines that perhaps can most easily be understood by those who made the show and other DS106ers, some interesting ideas about stories and life and some damn good commercials.  

You’ve worked pretty intensively with audio now for several weeks of DS106 — describe what that process has been like. 

I never gave audio a thought. I was surprised to see it have such extensive billing on the syllabus. And was not particularly looking forward to it. The process has been one of discovery. I do not listen to radio or music for reasons beyond the scope of this post, so it was not as a listener that I had any interest. I started to get interested out of necessity and realised that there was something I enjoyed about voice and audio. The last few weeks have been like finding a treasure trove with amazing trinkets from another planet. I have a sense of a precious mystery, as I ask myself what makes audio work. I am learning from listening to DS106 Radio and now even listening to my local radio station and beginning to understand a new language. 

Have you changed your feeling towards audio?  

I had no feeling for audio before, I am learning to love it.

When you started with this section of the class, what did you think it would be like and how did the experience measure up?

I thought it would be a chore to complete, but that I might learn something new. I did not have any expectations beyond learning how to tell a story with audio. So the experience had low expectations to measure up against. It seems meaningless and cliched to say it has offered learning beyond my expectations. What I have gained and am still gaining is much more precious than that – I feel like I am visiting a new country, one I do not understand well but am fascinated by. It reminds me of how i felt when I went to Japan. I loved it, it felt very special but I was also so very aware that I did not understand it. A great gift. Now, I had better get on with my audio to do list and start working on week 9. 

For a web begun, god sends thread...

Thank you Seth, for this lovely saying.

I hope God will send me thread as I sit to write my 2 week reflection post again. I spent all morning putting it together and did not save my work. I have had the opportunity to connect with the ephemeral nature of the web and with the ill-will of a mind full of unmet expectations. No, Tumblr does not auto-save drafts. Just breathing and noticing my attachment to completion, as I start again and keep saving every sentence.

I start again with half an idea of how I may put this together with the time I have left before I need to move on to the next thing. Have a tantrum? Write a stinking letter to Tumblr and meet them up the stairs?

i will just get on with my reflections for weeks 7 and 8 and write them down for a second time – may be with fewer links and shorter than the previous version, but reflections anyway.

Key insights:

  • Daily creates help me get into the habit of making stuff but do not meet any real quality criteria. I have done many and most I have forgotten. They fulfil a need in the moment but have no permanence
  • Assignments give me more time to wok on something and get it to a standard I assess to be ‘good enough’ – I prefer to work this way
  • These last 2 weeks have taught me much and left much work in progress
  • The highlight of the 2 weeks has been the radio show and whilst you can listen to the show below, i will be writing about my learning from it separately as there is much both practical and theoretical I want to unpack from the project. 

Of all the daily creates these last two weeks I like this one best,


It was done in response to TDC643 draw the internet. I like it because it started as a screenshot of a film I made for the same daily create and it ended up as I played with photoshop as something that emerged – just like the web does each day we connect with it. 

As far as audio my favourite was the create I made up for myself visiting the Phonar course.

Of the assignments my favourites are 2:

Both challenged me in different ways, one expanded my mental models of the value of audio, the other helped me expand my technical skills using GarageBand and iMovie.

I said that these 2 weeks have left me in flux with work in progress, I have begun a web and I hope God will send thread in the shape of time to complete this work and start week 9 before the end of week 9!

Here is the list:

  • Pictures for your ears podcast – editing a joint effort between two hashtag classrooms: DS106 and Phonar. I have been inspired by my interviews so far and hope a regular slot on DS106 radio may emerge
  • ColinPods – i have started a new blog for audio photos. I love the idea and want to do many more
  • Talky Team’s radio project blog post here – my personal experience
  • Keep getting better at all the tools as I am still limited by my lack of skill in bringing about the ideas I imagine
  • A ‘serious’ blog post about team process and facilitation of virtual teams – this project experience has made me question much of the received wisdom I work from when I facilitate executive teams in the workplace
  • I want to do a podcast shrinking another big question ‘is DS106 addictive?’ I have asked another Headless13 participant if I can use a conversation we recorded a while back as a starting point

What is the most important practical tip I have learnt this week? You guessed it – save your [add your own expletive] drafts regularly. The biggest insight? I am learning to be less about explanation and more about imagination.

Car chase commentary

Well, I am supposed to tell you about my procedures for getting to my artefact. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 

Let me just say that I have spent 4 hours on this assignment and have been through: You Tube, Mpeg streamclip, GarageBand and iMovie. Several tutorials to learn basics on iMovie and here is the result. I wanted to do a 4star assignment from the DS016 bank. I did it. Here was the brief:

Take any video. (The worse the video, the easier this is. Look for something with virtually no action. If it’s exciting, you’ll never keep up.)  Add your voice over as if you were a local TV news anchor attempting to provide color commentary without stating anything overtly factual. Add all the hedge words and banalities that exemplify this kind of coverage.

There seemed little educational point to it to start with, but it seemed a lot of fun.

Yet creating the commentary to an existing film has taught me about synching audio to video, about how I could have done the whole thing in iMovie, and a lot about editing and creating audio. 

Without further ado, I give you my film debut:

The craft is in the silence

Take a movie clip and create foley sounds for it, do it all in one take.

Seemed an easy enough assignment. I set out to read and listen all the recommendations about Foley artists. The more I watched, listened and read the more I frowned. I could not understand why I should do it the way it was being suggested. Advise from fellow ds106ers did not seem to help. yes, I knew I could redefine the assignment and yes I knew that making sound effects was a fun and creative activity. I loved watching foley artists at work and really appreciate the efforts they go to to get just the right effect. Why one take? I kept asking. Why not use ready made sounds and use an editor? I kept talking to my fellow participants and went to bed frowning.

I woke up with an aha! moment. I said to Rochelle on Google plus:

This morning I woke up and I got my why :o) it is like acting and improvisation of course! I could not fathom why foley artists do it the way they do it. Now I see that (I think) if they did what I suggested yesterday, get sounds and add on garage band then there would be no performance. Ahhhh ! And that transfers through to the sounds. I was wrong and thanks for helping me see it :o) I will do my clip and perform my sounds in the kitchen this morning. Yes, mad mad mad….btw  your podcast was really helpful on the how. Reflecting on the how helped me see the why.

I did as I said and here is the result. We were not asked to create the film clip with the sounds, but I could not resist:

I cannot even begin to make an exhaustive list of what I learnt.

Yes, the performance to the film makes all the difference and hence you have to do it all in one take because there is a movement flow that adds realism to the sound effects. Whilst it may be okay to adapt the assignment, if had done that I would have learnt only how to use the editor and not about the depths that exist in sound and the continuity of sound. The silence is full of sound and it matters – I am not the first to say this, but this morning I experienced it. 

May be this is the appeal of radio, working with sound, music and the ‘noisy silence’. The meanings it carries are just below awareness but are there. A pause, a hesitation, a word mispronounced say something to the listener. What a gift to have learnt to listen a little better to silence this morning. i am glad I chose to do as I was told for once. 

Some details of how the video above came to be:

  • download and use Mpeg Streamclip to select the 30 seconds for the assignment
  • save as video only with not audio
  • used this tutorial to learn that GarageBand would do movie and sound editing – I was not up for iMovie yet
  • listed all the sound in my clip
  • rehearsed in my kitchen – learnt that I had to flow with the clip as if I were in the cage with the lion
  • used my iPhone on a tripod for the recording – no extras
  • emailed me the sounds
  • opened GarageBand and imported my sound file and my video clip
  • made sure it all lined up – it as pretty seamless. The only issue was I had to copy one sound to get better flow
  • I then decided to get experimental and add music to the sounds
  • found something appropriate in Jamendo 
  • I thought I wanted to do a bumper for Colin The Dog Productions and set to it. Colin obliged with a perfectly executed bark and Quicktime recorded sounds well enough
  • I was so happy with the result I did add the cheering crowds from Garageband sounds
  • had more layers in Garageband than I have dared to have until today. I even started to have sounds come from left/right for impact. I staggered sounds for smoother transitions. I tracked sound and increased and decreased volume depending on the impact I wanted. The fun ending was the hardest to pull off. 
  • upload to YouTube
  • embed here
  • revisited the track on its own to upload to Soundcloud, made sure it was 30 seconds and tagged as requested. I really do not have a clue why, I am expecting something big to happen with all that tagging

And an assignment that I was planning to get done in five minutes has taken days, rehearsals, water all over my kitchen, and profound learning about sound and its relationship with silence. Thank you to all those who engaged in the dialogue to help me learn. My favourite sound has to be my tiger.  I do a mean tiger don’t I?

Happily ever after…may be.

I have just had another fabulous afternoon playing with sound for another Ds106 assignment

Such a surprise that I would even enjoy it. This time I chose to practice 3 things I have learnt about story listening to Ira Glass and also Piers Ibbotsson  who I work with:

  • your story should pose a question
  • use the anecdote – this happened, then that happened
  • don’t try to be clever, serve the story

What has fascinated me this afternoon has been the process of selecting sounds. I love the sound of footsteps running through the forest. This was my starting point. I created my Freesound.org account and went searching. I then got the ‘story’ as an image ( I am much more of a visual thinker than an auditory one – want to know what you are? here is a fun quiz ). I have to concentrate hard to listen to the image! 

He runs desperately through the forest, his shoes getting caught in the undergrowth. He keeps running, he cannot go any faster. It is pitch dark. A dog howls in the distance. He tells himself he will not make it. He will be too late. A loud scream can be heard in the distance. He speeds up. Stops. The gate opens. She is safe. 

What was hilarious for me was getting to the sounds that would represent the elements of the story. What sound means ‘happy ever after’? No, I am not kidding. I wanted the story to end well – So a kiss? A sigh? How long should the kiss be? Kiss and sigh? Just the kiss? What am I hearing as I see my story in my mind’s eye? Is the pitch of  this sound right? 

What are the criteria I am assessing against as I choose – length, pitch, fading in and out, and why oh why did I swap the sigh for the gate opening?

And all this gets made concrete by having to make choices in Garageband as to what to do with the different sounds you are bringing into the project. Of course, I wanted more than 5 once I got the hang of it. May be some background music? Don’t try to be clever, just tell the story and get out of the way. Did  it work?



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