Recently in “English 10-714: Freedom and Imprisonment in the American Literary Tradition: A Multidisciplinary Approach,” we’ve been exploring the rich audiovisual oral history collection at Columbia University’s Rule of Law Oral History Project, which features perspectives from various stakeholders around the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.
Students are responsible for selecting one interview to watch, after which they post to our class blog using the results of this Close Listening Worksheet. In discussion, multiple students have mentioned their surprise at how deeply engaging AV oral history interviews can be. One student blogger wrote,
“I was skeptical at first. Skeptical that I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to these oral histories. But boy was I wrong… These interviews make the topics come alive with the tones, inflections, and the facial expressions of the narrators… Seeing a narrator… completely changes the way the anecdote is processed… I think close-listening through technology and videos could be the next big movement in reaching out to the general public.”
Of course, first people have to watch these oral history videos! But I love the idea that AV oral histories might play a central role in efforts to raise awareness about the historic relationships in the U.S. between structural injustice and incarceration, both domestically and in terms of our foreign policy.
In order to explore a digital timeline option for the Final Project Assignment for the course, last week in class students completed this Tiki-Toki Assignment, which asked them to establish a digital timeline based on the Rule of Law Oral History Project interview they watched. Tiki-Toki is a free digital timeline creation tool. Since the objectives of the exercise were 1) to gain familiarity with a new digital tool and 2) practice identifying and crediting images in the public domain, students created only one “story,” or point on the Tiki-Toki timeline, in their respective timelines. Nevertheless, their timeline creations were very impressive. Students made many creative decisions about how to visually represent themes, concepts, and issues represented in the oral histories. Click through below for a few compelling examples of the students’ work. (And thanks to the students who granted me permission to include their timelines here!)
*All student bloggers in the class, including those cited above, completed this Social Media Privacy Agreement at the beginning of the semester.*