UPDATE: This project’s website received the Spring 2019 New Media and Technology Award from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Rhetoric and Writing.
Context: This project was an assignment in Digital Nonfiction (RHET 4347), part of the Professional and Technical Writing major at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Department of Rhetoric and Writing. For this project I had to create my own work of digital nonfiction (referred to throughout the course as CYOWDNF). In addition to the CYOWDNF, I had to produce an artist’s statement. The work I chose to develop was an online narrative about my grandfather Lonzy’s 1963 unsolved murder. I’ve been researching his case for nearly fifteen years and in the beginning days of my research I created a website. I used this course as an opportunity to create a fresh digital narrative of my grandfather’s life, an artist’s statement that explained the site to my audience, and to revamp the entire site. During the course, I also create a corresponding Google Tour called Mapping A Murder: Tracking A Killer Using Google Tour Builder.
Project Title: A Man Of Steady Habits: The Unsolved Murder Of Lonzy Haywood Minshew
- Website <Visit>
- Artist’s Statement <Read online>
- Google Tour: Mapping A Murder: Tracking a Killer Using Google Tour Builder <Launch>
Purpose: This project needed to satisfy the learning outcomes of the course; but more importantly, it needed to satisfy its larger purpose: to track my grandfather’s killer and to keep my grandfather’s memory alive.
Audience: Course professor, fellow students, crime buffs, family, friends, random website visitors.
Development: One of the struggles I’ve had in telling Lonzy’s story is that there doesn’t seem to be any personal artifacts from his life; only artifacts generated as a result of his murder: Two photos and a few documents are all I’ve been able to scrape together in all these years. It’s hard to bring to life on a two-dimensional surface someone who has been gone so long and that I personally knew so little about. How do I add the dimension of depth? How can I make Lonzy real again? How can I bring him to life on the page?
Alongside Digital Nonfiction, I also took Dr. Gregory Graham’s Nonfiction. I used ideas from both of these two classes to create a new narrative of my grandfather’s story. I’ve attempted to represent him using photos and images from the world in which he lived. I’ve also aspired to express who he was in a sensory way by telling his story with not only text, but also music, spoken word audio, and video.
I feel I’ve come a long way in both my understanding of the tools at my disposal for telling a narrative digitally and applying these tools in a practical way. During this course I’ve learned how sensory expression, interactivity, representation, and linearity “impact the relationships among writers, audiences, and works of digital nonfiction.”1
- Sensory expression I’ve gone from mentally filing sensory expression as a purely physical act to something that can also be applied digitally, and felt digitally. For example, we can use music and images to move our audience and to invoke a particular response. I’m no longer anchored to the physical world when I think about sensory expression. I now see how it can be used to engage my audience. I’ve relied on sensory expression a great deal in my CYOWDNF project simply because there are few personal artifacts from my grandfather’s life. I use music, images, and video to tell my grandfather’s story in such a way that my audience can experience, in a sensory way, the world in which my grandfather lived, and the world in which he died.
- Interactivity In working on my CYOWDNF project I’ve applied my improved understanding of interactivity. I’ve paid particular attention to how I want my audience to navigate the story being told. For example, I thought about the links I included on the main page narrative, about how I could use links to lead my audience down a path of my choosing. I thought about ways I can include my audience by making the website more interactive. For example, I include a “Track A Killer” link on each of the eight narrative panels. Also, in the Epilogue panel, I’ve placed a big button that says “Track A Killer.” Moving forward, I want to create a way for my audience to participate in developing theories as to what might have happened to my grandfather.
- Representation Like sensory expression, I’ve relied on representation in my CYOWDNF. I use music, images, and video to represent my grandfather’s world.
- Linearity I purposely chose to tell my grandfather’s story linearly on the narrative panels. Throughout the website, however, the story is non-linear: Every page is tagged so audiences can browse-read according to, for example, ‘Witnesses’, ‘Suspects’, ‘Clues’, or ‘UnSubs’.
- Engagement in Work & Willingness to Play From the beginning of this course right through to the end I feel I’ve given this project one-hundred percent. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and am taking away a treasure-trove of tools and ideas to build upon. I continue to read about the subject of digital nonfiction and think about how I can apply the concepts to other projects I’m working on.
- Classmate Support In the beginning of the course I wasn’t sure if I was offering much support to my classmates. Having worked in the peer response workshops, however, I feel I might have. I hope I’ve provided my classmates with useful, constructive feedback. I know that my classmates have helped me improve my work, both in the feedback they’ve provided and also in getting to look at their CYOWDNF project ideas.
- Challenges All along, I’ve felt the biggest challenge was the pace of the course. But the class was well organized so there was always something to grab hold of at times when I felt I’d lost my bearings. At the same time I took this course, I also took Nonfiction: It was a life-saver for me to be able to use the same work of digital nonfiction for both this class and my Nonfiction course.
- Growth & Goals I feel I’ve grown so much in terms of the confidence I have in my ability to put together an engaging piece of digital nonfiction work. I’ve come away with new ideas on how to interact with and include an audience. I have a great many ideas that I’d like to apply the same big ideas to that I applied to this CYOWDNF project.
- Created: July 26, 2018
- Last update: November 17, 2018
- Tools Used: Microsoft Word 2010, Google Docs, WordPress
- Keywords: Nonfiction, Digital Nonfiction