Multimedia Writing Assignments in East Asian Visual Culture

Professor Adam Kern (East Asian 433 / East Asian 833)

Description of Course Writing Goals

A secondary goal of the course is to help each student research, write, and publish online an academic digital essay presenting his or her research. Toward this end, training for beginners as well as tips for more advanced students will be provided as part of the course itself, drawing on the expertise of staff members from DoIT / STS, Engage, the library system, and the Writing Center.

Each student will present his or her final research project in the form of an approximately ten-minute digital essay (worth 60% of the course grade) by publishing it on YouTube. Each student will also be required to submit a brief prospectus (10%) and a storyboard (20%) laying out a preliminary thesis, research, and findings with an eye and ear to how these will be integrated into the digital essay.


Digital Essay Assignment

The digital essay should answer the question “What is early modern Japanese visual culture?” in a way that makes sense in light of each student’s particular research interests. Students of EA 833 should make demonstrable and meaningful use of Japanese-language materials in their research. The essay of each student, however, should make an original contribution to knowledge. The essay should deploy such components as still images, video clips, a soundtrack, voiceovers, animation, subtitles, and so on. Essays should include a title, student’s name, course title, instructor’s name, institution title, date, and complete list of all sources (including music). Most crucially, each project must obtain proper permissions for these sources. Although a workshop session will be devoted exclusively to this topic, an idea of what is involved can be gleaned from:

In addition to meeting these criteria, essays will be assessed for originality of argument, clarity, and persuasiveness, as well as for technical polish. Essays should contain a readily discernible thesis statement, germane supporting evidence, and a conclusion that does more than merely regurgitate said thesis statement. Completed digital essays must be published on YouTube and its embedded link sent to me via email. Each essay must also be finalized in .mov form, burned to a disk, and physically placed in the plastic bin on the door to my office.


Storyboarding Assignment—Simulated Multimedia Drafting

A storyboard is a comic-book like script for a multimedia project (e.g., a digital essay, animation, or feature movie). A storyboard consists of a sequence of images or illustrations accompanied by notes about transitions between images, the soundtrack, text, and so forth. Its purpose is to help you “pre-visualize” your project. Pre-visualization is a way of drafting the project before committing too much production time to aspects of the project that ultimately might not prove viable. The storyboard is thus a kind of simulated draft of your final multimedia project. With a draft, you of course can—and inevitably will–change any of its components as you move toward the finished product. Ideally, however, your storyboard should be complete enough to give your reader a clear idea of how your final project will look, sound, and feel.


Key Components:

1) Title Slide(s). Your title proper should convey your topic (e.g. “Such and such in Eighteenth-Century Japanese Visual Culture”) or, if you know it already, your thesis (e.g. “Eighteenth-Century Japanese Pornography: You Might Not Know It When You See It!”). The title slide should also include your name.

2) Visuals. A storyboard needs to lay out a sequence of images (e.g. captured images, photographs, video clips, animation) or illustrations (e.g., your own doodles) that represents actual visuals to be included in the project. Although the ideal would be to use actual visuals for which you have obtained permissions, in practice it is perfectly acceptable to use a “place holder” to indicate a generic image (e.g. “shunga image here”) even if you do not have the actual image yet. A storyboard should also indicate notes about such things as the estimated timing of visuals (e.g., “five seconds”), transitions between visuals (e.g., “fade through black, .5 seconds”), and even any special effects to draw attention to a portion of your visuals (e.g., Ken Burns effect).

 3) Text. A storyboard also needs to coordinate your visuals with your text. While the ideal would be to use an actual script, to be conveyed to your audience as a voiceover and/or subtitles, it is okay—and sometimes even necessary—to use generic notes about what you intend to say or to have said here (e.g., “First interview here”). When using subtitles, be sure to specify type, timing, special effects, and so on.

 4) Soundtrack. While it is not necessary to include a soundtrack (consisting of music, sound effects, voices, and so on), a soundtrack can help to provide a rhythmic frame for cuts among pictures, supporting ambiance, even vital information, even if only used as background sound.

 5) Credits. You absolutely must have credits at the end of your project. Credits convey necessary information about your visuals and soundtrack, like permissions, but also can indicate other important information, like title, authorship, year made, and so on.