“The Power of Vulnerability” Story Critique

Brene Brown’s research on human connection led her down the rabbit hole of vulnerability, when she asked the question, “What makes a person whole-hearted?” Brene’s study is fascinating to me as her study of vulnerability embraced her, awoke her own journey of vulnerability, and then begged her to courageously share her experience with the world.

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown

Three traits were chosen from Jason Ohler’s rubric to critique this story.

(10 points each)

  1. Content Understanding
  2. Story
  3. Presentation

Content Understanding-How well was an understanding of the material conveyed and addressed?

Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston graduate College of Social Work. She is an expert in her field, having gathered and quantified data to illustrate her depth of knowledge on vulnerability as both personal and clinical. It is clear that her Ted Talk is the culmination of her life’s work: gathering data to influence and shape the world’s perspective on vulnerability.

Score: 10

Story-Was the story compelling and engaging?

Brene’s research and personal life intersect in such a way that forces her to become the thing she hates the most: vulnerable. Her realization that to be a whole-hearted person, one must allow themselves to consistently be vulnerable. In the “greyness” of vulnerability, she was unable to grasp this “weakness” within herself, which led to a breakdown. To summarize, Brene said, “I had a breakdown, not a spiritual awakening. It was a breakdown.” That’s a very vulnerable thing to admit to a coliseum full of academics. The story shifted from average rendition of other people’s vulnerable experiences to Brene’s own whole-hearted testimonial on the power of vulnerability.


Score: 10

Presentation-How effective was the performance?

Brene appears to be having an effortless conversation with her audience at Ted Talks. She introduces herself as a “researcher/story teller”, which lends itself to the ease of telling her viewpoint on vulnerability. The images chosen for her presentation are effective, relevant, and emotionally engaging. It was refreshing that her images were used sparingly for emphasis. The content was so good that too much imagery would have been distracting.

When I add up her confidence on stage, complimentary images, and well-communicated message, Brene Brown delivers a phenomenal performance.


Score: 10

Overall: 30/30





“Non-Linear Grief Symptoms: Unpredictability is the Norm” Video Assignment

How does grief work?

My friends experiencing loss and members of my grief group all have different answers. One friend compared her grief symptoms to waves from the ocean, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce, but they usually came in sets. Another friend compared her grief symptoms to being raped by a gorilla. She said, “You never know when the gorilla is going to grab you and have its way with you.”

I can relate to both explanations. The bottom line being that we are all trying to make sense of grief’s complicated emotional landscape.

The Heartlight Center gave me a Grief Wheel hand-out one night and I found peace in its reasoning. The Grief Wheel, created by the Grief Education Institute (Denver, 1986), explained that it is normal to be emotionally spread all over the map within one’s grieving process. There are four main phases that a person can move through in a non-linear manner: shock, protest, disorganization, and reorganization. Non-linear meaning that one will step or leap forward and backward between the phases at any given moment. In my video, I tried to capture the cyclical and erratic movement through the phases of grief.

As life carries on, emotions get to play themselves out, and the wound begins to heal, one ultimately steps off the wheel to embrace life again. However, visits back to the grief wheel are inevitable. Environmental circumstances may bring up an old memory like the smell of pie, a song on the radio, or seeing someone else experience loss. Grief is a normal reaction to such flashbacks and it is important to acknowledge and appreciate memories as they arise.

Remember, one’s grief is an indication of one’s capacity to love, which I believe to be the whole point of life. If you are not grieving, you are not loving.

“My Mushroom Burial Suit” story critique

My Mushroom Burial Suit by Jae Rhim Lee
There it is, that topic we don’t want to talk about: death. Most people, including myself, don’t want to talk about death until it is upon us or a loved one. What I love about Jae Rhim Lee’s My Mushroom Burial Suit is her incredible innovation and practicality around the inevitable. Jae Rhim takes ownership of death and ecological footprints to the next level by not only planning her funeral, but by planning exactly how she will decompose and further benefit the environment.

My mushroom burial suit by Jae Rhim Lee

Three traits were chosen from Jason Ohler’s rubric to critique this story.

(10 points each)

  1. Originality/Voice/Creativity
  2. Research
  3. Flow/Organization/Pacing

Originality/Voice/Creativity—Did the story exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective?

My Mushroom Burial Suit has one of the most unique perspectives I have ever encountered. Jae is not shying away from the tough topic of death, but rather delving into the decomposition of it. She coins the new words: Infinity Burial Project, Infinity Mushrooms, Body Decopiculture + Toxin Remediation, Mushroom Death Suit, and Decompinauts of the Decompiculture Society. I appreciate her blending of art, science, and culture to create a completely new way of connecting death and preserving the planet. The originality of Jae’s idea may even be pushing Ted Talks to another level of creativity. Perhaps this new way of thinking will inspire more conversations around death, loss of loved ones, and one’s body ultimate gift of good citizenship.

Score: 10

Research—Was the story well researched and documented?

Jae has thoroughly researched toxins and mushrooms for her decompiculture cause. She explains toxins in the body, which include BPA, preservatives, pesticides and heavy metals like lead and mercury. She further explains that in current burial practices, cremation releases toxins, mainly mercury, into the air we breathe, while formaldehyde, used to preserve bodies for burials, is making funeral workers sick.

In the flipside of her toxin research, Jae is documenting growth of toxin-cleaning mushrooms in petri dishes and the decomposition process. She cultivates mushroom strains that feed on her own hair, skin and finger nails in the hopes they will recognize and feed on her body upon her death. Once deceased, she will be placed in her researched dendritic patterned suit that houses mushroom spores. The last step being the insertion of a decompiculture capsule to allow mushroom spores to decompose her from the inside out.

Score: 10

Flow/Organization/Pacing—Did the story flow well, moving from part to part without bumps or disorientation?

It is clear that Jae is passionate about her work with human decomposition and the environment. She builds the story nicely by providing good context around toxins in humans and our environment. The only thing I find that disturbs her story flow is her frequent use of her notes, which causes constant disengagement from her audience. Otherwise she is eloquent and poised in spreading her message: radical acceptance of death and decomposition through our intimate connection to our environment.

Score: 8

Overall: 28/30





Week 2 Reflection: Am I Doing This Right?

It feels good to have officially completed two weeks of CU Denver’s Digital Storytelling class, but I have to admit that I keep questioning myself. It reminds of dancing at a night club. I am a fantastic dancer in my living room, but on the dance floor, I am not quite sure what the rest of the world thinks. According to our readings in New Literacies, as long as I am able to connect with my fellow classmates and participate in this new literacy, my dancing style is working.
Probably the biggest challenge I glossed over before committing to this summer class, and yes, Remi you warned us, was time management. Of course I knew I would be very busy, but I forgot about a four-day vacation I planned beforehand, how much time it takes to prep my mother’s house for sale, and just the simple things like hanging out with friends on a nice summer’s day. This has forced an agility to begin growing inside me right now. It will be born of ruthless prioritization, geeking-out in digital storytelling, and striking a balance of work and play within screaming fast timelines.

The picture I have painted so far seems a little intense and perhaps whiny. However, I must say that I feel very alive. To have my portfolio steadily growing online feels amazing and I love learning from my classmates. My natural happy place is in creating, so even though the work is hard, it is incredibly gratifying. It is a good feeling to know I am in exactly the right master’s program for my abilities and passions.

(Photo Credit: Eadweard Muybridge)

Singing Teapot Blind Contour

After procrastinating long enough, I committed to a sharpie, a lined tablet, and 60 seconds. Who knew such a simple, happy teapot needed to be born from the DS106’s daily create assignment tcd1258? It was a practice of trusting myself, the process, and that whatever picture I produced would be good enough. However, I have to admit it took everything I had not to “doctor” the image up.
There is something to be said for empty space. It lets one’s imagination come up with the rest of the setting such as the backdrop or story behind why the teapot is singing. The simplicity of this assignment was so refreshing after a long week of producing my best critiques, responses, and audio files. Simple is good, refreshing, and welcome.singingteapot

“Music, Music, Music” Story Critique

Music, Music, Music, produced by Jessica Leitko at University of Houston, tells the story of how humans are hard-wired to love pleasant, harmonized sounds. This short piece explores our musical affinity through history, science, and culture. I will be providing feedback on the research, media application, and flow of this piece using the Jason Ohler digital storytelling assessment rubric.

Music, Music, Music examines the human brain’s craving for rhythm and melody. In this piece, Leitko utilizes the knowledge of Dr. John Lienhard, Professor of Technology and Culture, at the University. When explaining the science behind our love of music he says, “PET scans show people reacting to their favorite pieces of music much how they react to food or sex.” Based on the narration, I assume Dr. Lienhard researched and compiled the script, while Jessica produced the visuals and final product. I found that how she wove images together produced an educationally potent end product.

Media Application

I applaud how Jessica’s music, narration, and imagery are used in a way to make the story more compelling. The images compliment the story nicely and kept me wanting more. It seems that Jessica pulled from every possible source for her images: ancient instruments, PET scans, courting couples, famous musicians, sheet music, and flamboyant dance. Utilizing the song Music! Music! Music! by Teresa Brewer was a nice touch as it added variety to Dr. Lienhard’s narration.


Music, Music, Music drew a large web of all the ways our brain’s relate to and crave harmonies. It seemed that Dr. Lienhard covered so much information that he barely took a breath. His pace is just fast enough to make me a little anxious. I think the overall storytelling could have benefited from a better paced flow of information. I wonder if Jessica could have implemented pauses here and there to slow down the pace. A better flow may have let the audience take the words in more deeply.

All and all, this was a fun digital storytelling piece. I liked learning that my love of music is a biological response and not just an obsession. Thank you Jessica and Dr. Lienhard for sharing your work.

(Photo Credit: Amazing Grace and Roses Christian Sheet Music Hymn Hymnal Digital Download Image Vintage Clipart Scan Graphic vs0092 via Etsy)

New Literacies’ Chapter 2 Review: Just the Right Amount of Meaning

In Chapter 2 of New Literacies, Lankshear and Knobel pose the question, “Do you think the view of ‘meaning’ as related to literacy that we are advancing in this chapter is too wide, not wide enough, or about right?” (45). I believe their use of “meaning” is right on track. Meaning provides motivation for people to adopt and participate in literacies and discourses. If literacies allow for humans to form discourses and “discourse can be seen as the underlying principle of meaning and meaningfulness” (Gee 2008a), then we need to treat “meaning” as a fundamental building block in developing a greater understanding of literacies.
It is human nature to find meaning through connection. Lankshear and Knobel write, “We think Gee’s (1997, 2004, 2008a) Discourse approach to literacies draws attention to the complexity and richness of the relationship between literacies and ‘ways of being together in the world’” (45). The best way I can elaborate on this viewpoint is by relating that connection to my own discourse adoption experience. Most of my life I have identified myself as an athlete, but not specifically a triathlete. Sure, I could make myself a triathlete without any outside help, but this route seemed slow-going and lonely. Once I found the right training team and started building upon the practices, coordinations, and literacy of the group, I started to see my place and find purpose as a triathlete. Please note, I don’t see myself as a capitalized “Triathlete” just yet.

As Gee puts it: “Within such coordinations we humans become recognizable to ourselves and to others and recognize ourselves, other people, and things as meaningful in distinctive ways” (1997: xiv). At triathlon practices I recognize my progress based on how my teammates are reflected back to me. For example, at swim practice I know Isabella is a much better swimmer than me. She swims in lane 8, while I just moved up to lane 4. However, when we’re biking, I get to lead the group, and Isabella is several riders back. This connection allows me to recognize my progress as well as my teammate’s progress. We use each other to monitor our growth and develop our discourse identity.

My triathlon team will call me if I miss a practice, which I interpret as, “I belong”. Belonging ties into the literacy of the group. I have had to become literate in equipment, paces, locations, and team language. The runners of the team will ask, “What is your pace?” At this point another runner will respond, “I have a 10 minute mile,” for example. Swimmers on the team will say, “Meet at our spot at Chatfield Reservoir.” In both these instances I have had to learn exactly what my responses need to be or figure out who can help clarify my questions so I can participate in the greater conversation.

Lankshear and Knobel’s introduction and explanation of meaning in Chapter 2 is painted with a broad stroke. They do not go too deep and they don’t dismiss any forms of meaning. I find this valuable because meaning is such a personal thing. This approach allows the reader to relate their meaningful experiences back to literacies and discourses formed throughout their lives. Their elaboration is learner-centric and provides just the right amount of “meaningful” education.

“Parable of a Mother” Audio Assignment

This DS106 audio assignment required a story to be told with a poem. I strayed a bit by reading a parable rather than a poem to get my desired effect. I think the trade-off was well worth it.

Here is my story of grief and inspiration for my digital storytelling focal theme.

“Buckminster Fuller on the Geodesic Life” Critique

In appreciation of sleek, innovative design, I chose to critique the digital story, Buckminster Fuller on the Geodesic Life produced by PBS’s Blank on Blank. The imagery of this digital story really made the Buckminster’s words come to life.“Bucky” as he asked to be called, challenged the status quo thinking of his time much like the open-source framework used in our CU Digital Storytelling class and DS106 experience.

The storyline does a great job demonstrating how Bucky’s life experiences brought intrinsic questioning and inspired inventions. When his first child died, he went deep inside himself and asked how could the world have all this technology, but not be able to save his little girl. This dark time tilled the soils of thought until his second daughter came along five years later. This was a turning point for him where he began to ask himself how he could make the world a better place for all men, but especially his new daughter.

Media Application

The story starts with Bucky being assembled by tools in a very methodical manner. From here we are led though complimentary imagery, inventive sketches, and black and white photos of Bucky’s life and work. One incredibly powerful image that sticks with me, is Bucky’s daughter putting the pieces of Buckminster back together in order to make him whole. Equally stunning is the image of Bucky’s head in the shape of geodesic dome.


Hearing Bucky’s distinctive accent throughout the story is such a treat. He spoke very much like a hurried inventor, mumbling and spouting philosophy. The Craftsmanship of this story really allows Bucky’s humanity to shine through, making him a very likeable genius. However, at the end of the story after the advertisement, the story fizzles for me. Although it’s a great story about his granddaughter, the animation does not deliver as it had in the first part. It would have been a better experience if the blending of voice and imagery could have been improved upon.