Mas.845 Special Topics in Cinematic Storytelling:
Course Syllabus
Spring 2006
  • Part One: Time, Space, and Narrative. Our learning stories: life experience, telling, the act of interpretation.
  • Part Two: The Cinematic Experience. Finding a voice; defining a world; framing; lighting, structure.
  • Part Three: Distributed Digital Story Environments. Issues of time, continuity, participation and interpretation.


  • Participation in class discussion. Construction of a personal learning story and development of two prototype storyteller projects.

Three Assignments for the Course:

  • Assignment One: relate a personal learning story; focus on how time is transformed as you convert information to narrative.
  • Assignment Two: build and populate a small story world using rich media. Focus on your scenario for the world, your story representation, and a navigational strategy for sharing.
  • Assignment Three (final): a personal work that builds upon the prior work of the semester, and the topic is chosen by the student after discussions with the instructor.
Week 01 -
February 07
Learning Story:
a personal narrative
Story world defined:

dynamics of situation, character, time
Role of expectation, anticipation and tension
Bruner, Jerome. Acts of Meaning. Chapter 1.
Michael Roemer, Telling Stories, ch 1-3
Leacock, Richard. Life on the Other Side of the Moon
Leacock, Richard. The Art of Home Videos
Leacock, Richard. A Feeling of Being There
Leacock, Richard. 1960 Revolution
Leacock, Richard. Looking Forward
Week 02 -
February 14
Time and experience as axes of narrative:
the art of the sequence
Paul Ricouer, selections
Bachelard, G. The Poetics of Space. Translated by Maria Jolas. New York: The Orion Press, 1994. (optional reading)
View one movie of your choice to discuss in light of readings (sign out from Laura Nicols - 3 Leacock dvd discs).
Learning story as written narrative due.
Week 03 -
February 21
NO CLASS - MIT is on a Monday Schedule
Week 04 -
February 28
The Flow of History and the Life of Objects
Guest: Hyun-Yeul Lee
Kearney, Richard. On Stories. Chapter 11.
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. Chapter 6.

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, Chapter 3: The Principles of Animation.
1. Guidelines for Project 1
2. Submit written description of first project (post on wiki).
Week 05 -
March 07
The Digital Video Cookbook
Guest: Mark Halliday
Vogler, Christopher. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters. pp. 13-31.
Davenport, G. and Murtaugh, M. Automatist storyteller systems and the shifting sands of story. November 1999.
Davenport, Glorianna. Desire versus Destiny: the question of payoff in narrative. Position statement: for Caixa Forum MetaNarrative[s] Conference Barcelona, Spain, January 29, 2005.
Week 06 -
March 14
Searching sequence collections for narrative continuity with Edward Shen Davenport, G., Barry, B., Kelliher, A., Nemirovsky, P. Media Fabric : a process-oriented approach to media creation and exchange. BT Technology Journal (2004).
Davenport, Glorianna. The Storied Machine. RTE Radio Science Lecture, 2004. Radio Broadcast of live lecture.
Mueller, Erik. Story Understanding.
Week 07 -
March 21
First project presentations First project due.
Week 08 -
March 28
NO CLASS - Spring Break
Week 09 -
April 04
The Frame Speaks
Guest: Henri Herré
Week 10 -
April 11
Focus on continuity, social interaction, and the changing dynamics of audience
Flickr, Blogs
Other Sites

Stories vs. game discussion
Liu et al, Unraveling the Taste Fabric of Social Networks
Luc Courchense, early work
Final project defined in email before class.
Week 11 -
April 18
NO CLASS - Patriots Day
Week 12 -
April 25
Week 13 -
May 02
Perspectives on Computational Aesthetics
Guest: Hugo Liu
Liu, H. Articulation, the Letter, and the Spirit in the Aesthetics of Narrative Bring a hard copy of a story (as short as possible, either their own or a literary one) that you find to be unusually engaging, inspirational, beautiful, or haunting.
Week 14 -
May 09
Story construction and learning discussion
Week 15 -
May 16
Final Project Presentations