Storify-ing Environmental Studies

StorifyWe have used the social media tool Storify to document WIC events such as our annual symposium and Gadget Day – Summer 2012. Penn Career Services has created great “day-in-the life-of” stories with this tool.

By bringing in information from various sources on the Web, Storify allows you to create not only a narrative, but also a persuasive argument about the story you are telling.  Enter Storify for scholarly research.

This semester, students in Alain Plante’s seminar, The Human Dominated Earth: Living in the Anthropocene (ENVS 400), did just this:  they built arguments around different aspects of the Anthropocene period by using Storify as an interactive platform for their research. Students’ projects read as “e-research papers” of sorts, where news articles, YouTube videos, scholarly articles, book information, tweets, and Instagram photos are instantly available to the reader either right inside of their “story,” or simply a mouse click away.

Students explored diverse aspects of the course topic, including:

  • Ayla Fudala’s project, “Tropical Deforestation in Media and Society,” which examines how corporations and media present deforestation issues to society.  Ayla uses various media platforms, including Instagram photos, YouTube videos, news articles, and tweets to support her argument.

    Ayla incorporates a brief YouTube video from NASA, called “Timelapse: Devastating Deforestation”
Caitlyn links to journal articles from Wiley and JSTOR to support her argument
  • Tan Chan’s project, “The Urbanthropocene,” which explores urbanization’s effects on ecological systems, includes images, YouTube videos, and journal articles that can be read directly inside the Storify itself.
Tan incorporates actual documents for readers to page through while exploring her story

WIC staff provided a short training session on Storify early in the semester. Students collected materials over the course of the semester, with a midterm session to evaluate their progress. As students’ stories show, using Storify for scholarly research is a powerful way to make an argument come to life, with live citations that one can browse directly while reading a paper.  We look forward to discussing this assignment further with Professor Plante (look for a followup post). We hope that other faculty will choose Storify for their assignments as well. I plan to discuss Storify at a workshop at the upcoming PhillyDH@Penn unconference.

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