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Audio Documentaries

MFJS 3506

In the past decade, an explosion in the production and accessibility of audio documentary work has created an unprecedented interest and expansion of the documentary form in nearly all sectors of public life. Building on this trend, this course teaches the skills of ethnographically informed audio documentary work that can record and interpret culture and lived experience. We focus on learning the techniques of non-fiction storytelling used in established public radio programs like This American Life, Radio Lab, or Snap Judgement, as well as newer podcasts like Reply All, Invisibilia, or Embedded. The course will prepare students to tell complex stories using strong character-driven narrative. Sound documentation and representation will not be done along journalistic principles, but instead through rigorous ethnography that relies on participant-observation and immersion. Through practical application and the exploration of ethnography and documentary approaches to communication, the course explores questions that surround the interpretation and representation of socio-cultural experience via a sonic medium. To understand the basic mechanics of sound and its narrative form, participants will learn to digitally record and edit audio. Storytelling will then become more complex as students learn to conduct ethnography, interviews, and develop a script for radio. Students will ultimately analyze and create audio documentaries in an effort to understand a significant form of digital storytelling. There are three central learning objectives that will guide us through the course: (1) we will practice ethnographic and documentary methodology, (2) learn to write for radio, and (3) learn the workflow of audio editing to produce an audio documentary. Prerequisites: MFJS 3215 OR MFJS 2140. Enrollment restricted to MFJS students.