The Small Things

The understatement of now is that there’s a lot of Big Things to worry about. The new normal is anything but normal.

That was why for last week’s “class” where we were not in the same classroom but a virtual video one, we took it as a breather week. And we are still breathing, good. We heard via email just before class that there would be no return to campus.

So here we go. What are the things, that we maybe take for granted like our breath, that might help? They might be small.

Please do not wait one second to ask your teachers for help or to let us know what would help. We are continuing our NetMirror path, maybe not the same one we thought we were on.

For me, a small thing that helps are small acts of creativity. Going for walks and taking photos. Teasing friends online. Scratching the dog’s ears. Making Memes.


Well sure we know what meme image are, we easily share them. But why stop at just repeating, re-sharing stuff that already exists? Why not create your own?

Thus we offer a simple “make” activity that not only tells you the “how to” bits of adding large silly text to images, but the why, and understanding, maybe what commonly repeated ones mean. See (maybe try) A Meme To Counter the Internet Darkness.

A meme created by a student in last year’s NetNarr class, repurposing the Distracted Boyfriend Meme. Isn’t this more fun than just copying someone else’s meme?

Perhaps, when using an image on your blog post this week from our viewing of the short video “Frames”, create your own meme image based on the plot. See ones we did previous years for a Black Mirror episode, see the Nosedive Meme Make.

And try dropping in to the Net Mirror Slack space. Ask or comment about class. Check in with others. Drop a video. We already have Medea’s idea for a shared video activity in there (you gotta go in the Playroom channel to see what I am talking about). Send a classmate a direct message there.

For something fun/creative to do, see the Daily Digital Alchemies aka the DDAs. These are totally optional, but every morning a new one is posted and also tweeted out via @netnarr (follow that account and you will see them each day!). When you see them, take a 15 minute break and respond in any way you want; there are no “right” answers.

For example, today’s was about the earth, or a small piece thereof.

Whether you have a rock or not, find something to represent a precious part of it. Take a photo, and in a tweet, be sure to include @netnarr (so we know it is a reply to a DDA) AND include the daily hashtag #dda345 this is how the site knows which one you are replying to (the #netnarr tag is optional, it just adds to our general pile of tweets). Within an hour, it will show up on the page for that day’s DDA — see There are some there already.

Some of these are pure fun others have relationships to our topics, and some will introduce you to new resources or web tools. If you feel very inspired, you can create a DDA challenge for others to try.

These are small things that I find helps get through the days. Reading and liking content online is good, but making new things is better. That’s what I think.

Watching Video Stories

We are starting to look now closely at the kind of stories we are calling Speculative Fiction, with the first being Frames one of the three original films created by the Screening Surveillance project. This movie is understated, and D-A-R-K.

The video is a little over 11 minutes, the story part os about 8. A lot happens there. Certainly watch it to see the story. Think about where this might be and when. It’s not science fiction future but it’s not quite now.

Pay attention to the use of audio in this film (as it has no dialogue!). And the suggestions of the computer interfaces. Sometimes in film studies, it can help first to watch a short or a scene with no sound; try to understand al you see visually. Then hide the screen, and just listen to the audio. Finally, reflect how these media work together.

As another small thing, I suggest stopping at key points, and taking notes, using the time counter as a reference. Look for examples of character behavior, where they make choices, where the technology impacts the characters.

My time stamped notes- X means a key plot point where decisions are made that might change the outcome of the story.

And here is little trick you can use too when writing your blog post, you can create a web link that goes directly to a point in the video. While viewing the video in YouTube, stop at a key point, say the bus scene at 3:29. Click Share, and then check the bottom box that reads “Start at”. This creates a link you can use in a blog post, for example, this scene I might want to refer to

It’s interesting that the scene on the bus is very familiar today, that could be any bus in any city, except for the surveillance indicators. I always wonder, who is the watcher here? It’s realistic as like today, strangers do not talk, but they do acknowledge each other.

Links to the scene in the video can help a viewer see your writing in the context of the film.

Little things. Keep an eye on the little things in this film. What was in the book the lead character left behind? What do the two red chairs by the river represent?

I am eager to hear your thoughts on this story. See you in seminar, Thursday.

Image Credit

Small things, Big things flickr photo by Shermeee shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

By Prof Alan

An early 90s builder of the web and blogging, Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling, photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He has been a part of NetNarr since 2017.

2 replies on “The Small Things”

I like the meme-making, quite fun. But you have to click on it to see the memes on twitter, unless I screenshoot it next time? I made some and tagged them w/ #netnarr. 😉 Be well everyone.

Sharing memes works better when you download an image file for your meme (you usually get an option after you make one). Or if you go to the link where your meme exists, right click (Windows) control click (Mac OS) on the image. Select option Save Image As… and save that file somewhere on your device. When you compose a tweet, upload the image.

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