201: Ready Player One: Oral History

Oral History


For your final project, you will record and edit an oral history that explores how someone from a different generation experiences/experienced technology and media differently than you do. Your understanding and interpretation of Ready Player One should help inspire your choice for an interview subject: How do the characters in Ready Player One experience the world differently than you do now? Consider the differences in areas such as consumption of entertainment, social interaction, work life, education, and finances (The list could go on…You may wish to focus your interview on one of these themes). Can the differences you identify between your world now and the fictional future described in Ready Player One inspire ideas about who you would like to interview and what questions you would like to ask them? You will complete preparatory work (see below) that will help you start to think about how drastically technology changes in just a few decades.

An oral history records an individual’s memories and observations about a specific topic or time period, which you draw out through thoughtful interview questions. You will record your own original audio interview using a hand-held audio recorder, a microphone hooked up to your computer, or an audio app on your phone. Then you will edit your recording into a 4-5 minute story using Adobe Audition (Adobe Creative Cloud for Mac or PC), GarageBand (Macs), or Audacity (free download to PC or Mac). Focus on featuring the most important parts of the interview as they relate to the assigned theme about technology and media, and on creating smooth transitions in your editing.

If you wish, you may supplement your interview using sound effects and music downloaded from online resources, as long as they are in the public domain or have an appropriate creative commons license. Make sure to provide links to these sounds in the written explanation you post on your blog when you turn in this assignment. You may also record your own original sound effects if you wish. Here is a good resource for finding public domain and cc-licensed sounds: Finding Audio Open for Access and/or Reuse

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Preparatory Work

Over break, you should prepare for the oral history project by 1) Reading the final section of Ready Player One (Level Three, Chapters 0028-0039), and by 2) Watching 2-3 of the classic 1980s movies described as important in the novel. When you return from break, bring a 2-3 paragraph analysis of each film you have watched that addresses these questions:

  1. What forms of technology played prominent roles in the film? Explain how they did and how this impacted the overall trajectory/narrative of the film.
  2. How have the specific instances of technology depicted in the film changed between now and the present day? How are people’s lives different as a result? Are there any instances of technology that haven’t changed very much?

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How to Record Your Interview

  • Recording Devices. There are decent recording apps available for smartphones, so this may be your best option for recording your interview. You can also record directly from your computer software. Consider hooking up a better microphone to these devices in order to record. Portable audio recorders and microphones can be checked out from WSU Academic Media Services, which is attached to the Holland Library. If you check out equipment on the last day they are open before Thanksgiving, you may keep the equipment for the break.
  • Settings for Your Recorder. Read the basic recording instructions that come with your device. See if you can adjust the levels as you record, or at least make sure levels are set to auto. Use a lossless file format (WAV or AIFF) to save these recordings if possible: You can always convert to a compressed file later (MP3 or AAC). If you cannot record in a lossless format, at least make sure you are creating a high quality compressed file.
  • Recording Conditions. Remember to create recordings in a quiet setting without additional distracting noise. Avoid echo-y spaces (large rooms with no carpeting). Make sure your interview subject is comfortable and relaxed. Also, make sure your microphone is pointed in the direction of your subject. Make test recordings, listen back with headphones, and re-record for best results!
  • Additional Sounds. You may also use sounds recorded by other people as long as they have the appropriate creative commons license or are in the public domain. There are many resources listed here: http://libguides.libraries.wsu.edu/creativecommons/audio (Make sure to keep citation info and links! You will need to turn in a citation sheet.)

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Editing Software

You may edit your interview into a condensed 4-5 minute story using one of the following programs (Audition is available in our classroom lab, Audacity if free to download for Macs or PCs, GarageBand comes on all Macs). I recommend choosing one that is also available to you on a personal computer so you can work at home if you want.

  • Adobe Audition CC is professional-level software and is available if you have a creative cloud subscription. It is also available in our class computer lab. Your file extension for your work file will be SESX and you will need to remember to include your individual sound files along with your SESX file if you are editing on multiple computers. If you are using Audition watch these tutorials: Adobe Audition Overview and How to Work With Multitrack Sessions and then supplement your knowledge with the Adobe Audition User Guide and Beginner Tutorials.
  • GarageBand comes with apple computers and can be used for basic sound editing in addition to recording/editing music. Your file extension for your work file will be BAND. Following tutorials that relate to producing a podcast may be most helpful, since you aren’t recording your own music: Try the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism GarageBand: Basic Editing tutorial (note: the interface for the latest version of GarageBand is a little different than the screenshots here, so ask your instructor if you have any questions about this tutorial as you get started.)
  • Audacity is open-source editing software for Macs or PCs (download Audacity). Your file extension for your work file will be AUP. Audacity comes with a manual that will help you get started. Links to tutorials, such as Editing an Existing Audio file, are included. You can also use How Record and Edit Audio Using Audacity and WikiEducator’s Using Audacity.

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What you will bring to group critique:

Bring a draft of your edited interview (export a compressed version to shared with group members). Be ready to walk your group through the ideas behind your work and your plans for the finishing touches. Write down their feedback. Also make notes so you can write a critique of the work of one of your group members. Two printed copies of your written critique will be due next class (one copy for your instructor, one for your group member).

As a group, you will also decide on one edited interview which you will present to the class next time. All group members should  be prepared to make comments about the work. The person whose work is chosen should have it ready on his/her thumbdrive for next class, saved as a saved/compressed as a high quality MP3, OGG, or WAV.

What you will hand in for the final project:

  • Final sound file saved/compressed as a high quality MP3, OGG, or WAV (these are the file types supported by WordPress). Make sure bit rate is high: 256kbps. (This will first need to be exported from the program in which you are working.)
  • A written explanation of your work, posted on your website’s blog, addressing:
  1. How your interview choices were influenced by Ready Player One and your observations about the way technology is portrayed in the 1980s flicks you studied.
  2. How your interview choices were influenced by the StoryCorps project.
  3. Why you chose your interview subject and topic and how you conducted the interview.
  4. How your technical tools (recording, editing) influenced your final product.
  5. If you use public domain or creative commons sounds to supplement your interview, explain what they are and provide a link to each file.