Thursday, April 28, 2016

Storied Lives: Commons Campaign

Storied Lives: COMM 250 Commons Campaign Proposal
Group Members: Nathan Daugherty, Harrison Hruby, Geoffrey Ledbetter, and Carson Post

Rhetorical Situation
Exigence: Stereotypical views surrounding senior citizens are an unfortunate part of life for many people over a certain age. We believe that these stereotypes get in the way of seeing seniors as people with a wealth of knowledge and experience in many areas of life. Critical life lessons exist in the experiences and memories of senior citizens and we can learn about these things through documentation. Furthermore, many of these lessons are lost to younger generations and family members when older generations neglect to record their life stories.  As such, our project seeks to remove this stigma and prevent this loss of knowledge by archiving the life stories of our oldest generations with audio or video recordings.
Audience: Our project arguably has two separate audiences. The first audience consists of relatives of our interview subjects who have not yet had an opportunity to record their life stories. Our second audience is composed primarily of University of Nebraska-Lincoln undergraduate students. Though stereotypes about the elderly are pervasive in all age groups, our project is targeted at this particular audience due to their generally limited contact with senior citizens outside of their own families. However, we do hope that our project will be broad enough to appeal to a more general audience as well.
Constraints: The biggest barrier to this project would be with the involvement of retirement homes and willingness of participation from senior citizens. Individuals may not be comfortable with their conversations being recorded on audio or video or administrative figures may not be comfortable with people interviewing residents. Those we would like to interview may also be uneasy about sharing their interviews online.
Affordances: Collectively, our group is skilled in both audio and video editing, facilitating the creation of an engaging end product. We believe that we are a group of personable individuals with strong communication skills, which will assist with the interviewing process. We also expect our interviewees will have interesting stories to share, giving our project a significant amount of content that will attract interest from our audience.
Fitting Response: Our project serves as a fitting response to the rhetorical situation in two ways. First, our project will work to preserve the stories and experiences of senior citizens for future generations by recording them on video and making them available online. Second, our project attempts to address the stigmas surrounding senior citizens by giving this marginalized group an opportunity to share their stories and show that they have unique and interesting life stories. While individuals tend to stereotype groups with which they are unfamiliar, contact with people in these groups allows individuals to see beyond their stereotypes. We hope that our project will let individuals experience this contact and cause them to rethink their stereotypes about the elderly.
End Goals: The end goal of the project is to collect and distribute life stories and important lessons from senior citizens. Through the dissemination of these accounts, we would like to inspire others to see the elderly in the same way that they see themselves. Ideally, these interviews will cause people to overcome stereotypes concerning the elderly and result in increased communication between generations. We further hope to inspire others to record their own grandparents’ life stories, allowing them to connect and learn from these interactions.  
Rhetorical Canons
Invention: While some people record the life stories of their own grandparents, with our project we hope to collect stories from people that have no personal relation to us. It is not common for individuals to interact with elderly individuals outside their family, a stereotype we hope to break with our project. In addition, our focus on video recording breaks from previous traditions of simple audio recording to document individuals’ stories.
Arrangement: Our plan is to visit several retirement homes across Lincoln and conduct either audio or video interviews with various residents, depending on their preferences. These interviews will include questions regarding their life stories, significant cultural changes they have experienced, and important lessons they have to share. We plan to create a blog and post videos and podcasts of our interviews with these individuals as they become available. These posts will then be shared on associated Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Style: In an attempt to stylistically keep our audience engaged, we hope to develop a handful of thoughtful interview questions that prompt interesting stories and insightful life lessons while simultaneously minimizing the chances that the interviews become tedious or dull. These interviews will then be posted on a blog that focuses attention on the videos and podcasts we have produced, making it easy for our audience to access and browse our end product.
Memory: This project will be memorable because it will offer a glimpse into the world of the past that many people have not experienced. People are naturally drawn to narratives, and we hope that our interviews will result in engaging stories that will naturally appeal to our audience. Through the use of memorable and open-ended question, we hope to collect personal accounts from our interview subjects that will endure in the minds of those listening.
Delivery:  Collected interviews will be posted on a blog site for easy access. The blog’s web address will be emailed to our contacts at the participating organizations to be given to participants, who will then be able to share this information with their families.  Facebook and Twitter feeds will be created for the project to further broadcast our work.These social media feeds will then be shared in class and on group members’ personal social media pages.
Division of Labor & Timeline
Carson Post will be in charge of developing release forms for our specific project.  Geoffrey Ledbetter will be responsible for explaining the project to interview subjects and collecting consent forms. Harrison Hruby will head up efforts to edit the collected video interviews. Nathan Daugherty will be in charge of publicizing the project via social media (Twitter & Facebook). All group members will conduct interviews at scheduled times.
Week 1: Contact retirement homes and develop memorable interview questions
Week 2: Set up interview times and find specific participants
Week 3-6: Conduct scheduled interviews
Week 7: Edit and begin publishing interviews on blog site and associated feeds
Week 8: Continue editing and focus on the delivery of the project to our target audiences
Project Summary
The procedures of our project required a high level of dedication and participation from all group members. After having clearly established a timeline,  our group began the process of preparing release forms to publish our interview videos in a public space online and developing an interview protocol to be used in these videos. Significant effort was put into developing a question list that would be sufficiently in-depth to capture the stories of our interview subjects but brief enough to keep the interest of our audience. Focus was specifically placed on asking questions that allowed individuals to elaborate on their own lives as well as cultural changes in the world or larger communities as a whole. During this process, our group also worked to create a presence online that we could share completed interviews on. We decided after some deliberation to call our project ‘Storied Lives’ because of our focus on the individual and collective experiences of the interview participants.
After having established our list of questions and prepared appropriate release forms, we began contacting communities with residents we wished to interview. Initially, three locations were contacted: Eastmont Towers, Sumner Place, and Lexington Assisted Living Center. Dr. Pfister’s aid was enlisted in the initial contact of Sumner Place, but most of the explanations of the purpose of the project as well as all scheduling was conducted by members of our group. We used e-mail and phone to contact the other two locations, and were successful in receiving answers from Eastmont Towers, but no response was received from Lexington Assisted Living Center. In the end, the two retirement communities we visited were Eastmont Towers and Sumner Place, both located in Lincoln Nebraska.
Before we were able to conduct interviews, we obtained video and audio equipment from the UNL library. Harrison was in charge of contacting people at the retirement communities and nursing homes, through emails and phone calls, to ask about letting us do interviews there. Interviews were scheduled and conducted at Eastmont Towers between April 10th and April 16th and at Sumner Place between April 17th and April 22nd.  Normally two to three group members would go to the retirement communities to conduct interviews which would last an average of 35 minutes, with the shortest interview running about 15 minutes and the longest interview lasting over one hour. In total, 19 interviews were conducted. One interviewee expressed concerns about publishing his interview online, so his story is being processed separately and will be shared with him directly rather than a publically viewable internet platform. A second interviewee requested we only publish his first name with his interview. Otherwise, most of the participants were quite eager and willing to share their stories without any restrictions.
Once all the interviews had been completed, our group began the time consuming process of editing the videos for publication. One exception was an interview which Carson did on his own that was only an audio recording. This audio interview was edited by Geoffrey. Harrison, Nathan and Carson split up the task of editing the videos. Subtitles and question overlays were added where necessary, while long pauses and video skips were edited out. Interviews were then posted on Blogspot as they became available and notifications were published on our associated Twitter and Facebook page. In addition to publishing the video content, our group started a hashtag #QuestionsForYourGrandparents to encourage individuals to connect with their grandparents and consider recording their stories. The blog site and its associated social media feeds were publicized in class and shared via group members’ personal social media pages. The last step in the project was to reconnect with the administration at the retirement communities to inform the residents who were interviewed that their interviews were available online, allowing them to share their interviews with loved ones and friends.
Evidence of Intervention
Photo of Questions
Photo of Release Form
Photo of Facebook page.
Photo of Twitter page.

Overall our group was extremely satisfied with the project as a whole with only a handful of minor regrets or slight changes we would have like to have made. Thanks to the dedication of our group and the early start we had on the project we were able to overcome several small communication delays we experienced throughout the project. In addition, our question list was well crafted and gave us an interesting glimpse into the lives of the individuals we interviewed. At the end of the interviews we would ask participants if there were any questions they wished we had asked and nearly all said the questions covered everything they had wished to discuss. Several of the interviewees even complimented the extensiveness of our list and asked to keep copies for their personal records. However, looking back we wish we had asked more questions with a bigger focus on major events in history in order to get a better idea of how the interviewed individuals had been personally influenced by such events. In addition, many interviewees grew up in the Midwest and had fairly similar backgrounds. Though this gave us a clear picture of what life was like in the area in the 1920s - 1940s, we would have liked to have been able to gather the stories of a more diverse pool of individuals with special attention given to race and ethnicity. This modification would hopefully give us better insight into such events as the Civil Rights movement and other social changes that focused on the rights of marginalized groups.
Though our group was successful in conducting a significant number of interviews, our group faced a handful of challenges. Originally, we underestimated the amount of time that the interviewing and video editing processes would take, which limited the time we had to effectively publicize our project. While our primary audience (families and friends of the interviewed residents) will easily be reached when individuals share the project within their own social networks, after the video editing process we only had a small portion of time to spend on broadcasting the project to our secondary audience (college students with minimal contact with senior citizens). Therefore, while our project has effectively preserved the experiences and life stories of the individuals we interviewed, our success at reaching our secondary audience and effectively breaking stereotypes surrounding the elderly was somewhat limited. As such, we advise future individuals attempting similar projects to consider spending more time on publishing and advertising their efforts.
The interview process also presented several unforeseen challenges. In particular, setting up and using video and audio equipment proved to be more difficult than originally anticipated. Specifically, coordinating cameras and microphones was challenging at first but we eventually became more proficient. Luckily, we were able to avoid most technical difficulties, but during one set of interviews our video recording would automatically stop every 10 minutes, significantly complicating the editing process. In future projects similar to the current one, we would likely spend more time familiarizing ourselves with the equipment and interview process. However, in spite of the handful of difficulties our group faced, as a group we were overall quite pleased with the outcome of our project and happy to have been able to document and learn from the stories of our participants.

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