We buy/get music for many reasons, to enjoy it, but for many people (I hope) there is an interest in knowing more about the musicians, the meaning of songs -hence the liner notes that used to be part of the LP or CD package.

I am reading now Bob Dylan in America and caught note that the author worked for years as the creator of liner notes for Dylan’s music and website, and even was nominated for a Grammy for his work (an award for liner notes? there is recognition for the music meta data?)

Likewise, a movie on a DVD is certainly what we buy/rent/borrow it for, but to me, there is a ton more worth learning from the extras–

Modified from cc licensed flickr photo shared by One Thousand Words

— where through commentary, “making of” shorts, interviews, out-takes, deleted scenes, we get a whole rich layer of meta about the feature.

With the dying out of the packaged form of media- the place for the context around them is going to be the web.

And this brings me to a few observations seeing the flow of blogging going in among the students and far flung remote participants of Jim Groom’s Digital Storytelling course at http://ds106.us — this is by non means a criticism, and is more of my own take on blogging about our work.

A lot of people are proud to show their work- as they should be– but a lot of times they just plop the media in a post and say, “Here is my _______ for assignment ________ on ____________”. It’s great to see the video or animation or graphic bit of storytelling, but that is really not the whole story — there is always more of a story behind the story- how it was made, what the inspiration was, what the person who created had in mind, what their own commentary on it.

For example (and again not picking on him) Jacob posted this beautiful graphic he did called “Davinci’s Power Outlet” — it looks for all intent, like one of Leonardo’s notebooks, with a mouse on some sort of treadmill generator. Check it out http://blog.laughingllama.info/?p=129. He has since added some more written parts to his post, but when I went there at first, I had no idea if he montaged it in PhotoShop (thats about all I could do) or drew it himself (actually it was the latter, which makes it that more impressive).

But without any context, without any story behind the story, we miss out learning about the craft that went into it. But even more so, you as the creator of the story, are missing out on a chance to really show your own thinking out loud, your ideas, etc.

So when you post some piece of media for one of these projects (or any one), I certainly hope that you can tell more fo the story behind the story– to me, provide the context to your work. It’s not just for your audience, it is for yourself.

Believe me, when you labor hours over getting the perfect sync for your animated GIF or lavish effort to find the font to make the movie poster jump out– in the moment or near after, you can remember all of the ideas and things that went into creating it. In a few months, the details will get blurry, and in a year or more you might barely remember it. Do yourself a favor, and archive it for your own reference (and us too!)

Thanks, from a meta information freak.

Featured image: Diamond Dave Whittaker looking at No Direction Home liner notes flickr photo by Steve Rhodes shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. I am a meta freak too. I have actually watched all nine seasons of Seinfeld with commentary. I think it is important to add context like you said, but there are many ways to do that.

    An example, a friend emailed me and said he was enjoying my daily shoot pictures, but felt my drab “behind the scenes” stories were taking away from the power of the images, and that I should consider something different. So for the time being, I am adding a music lyric that I feel matches the mood of the pic.

    Just another way of adding a more subtle for of context. I am hoping that I can also have a more hands on conversations in the comments of certain projects.

    1. Thanks for picking up that point, Jabiz– it was one of the swirls in my mind at the time of composing that got lost.

      Certainly there is more you can do to wrap content than “the making of”, just in the same ways music can have things like fiction or rich art wrapped around it (one media contexting another?).

      I sometimes have created fake stories around mine, or just used it was a jumping board to talk about something else.

      What I was trying to get at is that we should aim to do something beyond “here’s my ________” because that just leaves an audience hanging.

      I do not claim to have an answers or advise anyone should follow– keeping in mind my own reminders that a blog is someone’s own space to do as they please.

  2. I have to disagree. I find the howto recipes detract from the craft itself, reducing it from art to just the output of a followed recipe. I don’t want to know how the thing is made. I don’t care what tools were used. That mystery adds to the impact and interest of the piece.

    1. With photography we know that process (lighting, exposure, composition, etc) is extremely important to its production, even though the technical decisions are not always evident. Those process decisions inform the interpretation of the art work. To my mind, it seems impossible to separate artistic process (or context) from the final interpretation of a work of art.

  3. And I disagree back. And agree that we can disagree.

    It need not be a sry recipe. It can be another layer of the story.

    All I meant to say was if all you post is a wad of media, what will it say 3 years from now? Will you be able to recall all that you can in the moment? It would be like loading up all your photos in aperture and only recording them as IMG6685.JPG

    It’s your choice of course; I write if my approach

  4. Today, on the tv program Sunday Morning, we got to see Herb Alpert. Unlike some rock band figures, his life and times are not so known to me. It is really interesting to me to see the history in this case (his) (story) and how, in his eyes, he came to create the things he did.

    D’arcy, this would be my claim, The art stands on its own and I am inspired by it. Any art that is useful to me in that way is important to me. But the story of a persons life can also inspire me to be better, or worse, or impact me in the same way a photograph or song can.

    But I tend to wave a pretty big wand at “art.” If I see a flower blooming, like the daffodils are now in our yard, I will often notice that I am seeing art. And I am just messed up enough to also think to myself, “Hey, me thinking these beautiful flowers are art, is art too!”

  5. @cogdog @todd – I agree. My comment was likely coloured a bit by sleep depravation. I didn’t mean to say that backstory (or metastory, or a layer of additional story above or below the “art”) wasn’t valuable. I agree with Alan that it’s useful and interesting. I was just snarking about wanting to avoid the mechanical recipe descriptions – “I used Photoshop, with the Alien Skin plugin, etc…” – the story behind the creation is much more interesting than the mechanics of how it was done.

    1. Right, I agree too with the overly technical stuff. I do a F2F Photoshop class and every other week we critique assignments. I ask students to explain some technical stuff and some “vision” of the project. I think there is value in both, and a venue for each, and a time for all and a season for…

      Hey, that could be a song. It all has a purpose. Ah, under heaven…

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