Bringing words to life – a call for ideas

I’ve become a big fan of RSA Animate – a series of 10-minute videos combining hand-drawn animation, written words and a narrative voiceover.  It is a novel and engaging way of conveying a message – often a complex one – to a non-specialist audience.

I love the ability of the Animate concept to catch and keep the interest of the viewer. I love the impression it gives of freshness and spontaneity. I love its low-tech, non-threatening look and feel. It seems…  well, human in its tone and its scale. It seems to be something that anyone could do, given a couple of marker pens, a whiteboard, a video camera and some basic artistic ability. And, of course, a compelling story to tell.

I am not alone in thinking this.  Here’s a truly fantastic example of a California high-school student, Madison Kerst, creating her own Animate to discuss issues of gender equality in US sports.

I shall come clean.  I, Bennetts The Luddite, am completely sold on this idea (along with the notion of an app for Eliot’s The Waste Land, which is the first and only thing ever to make me regret that I do not possess an iPad).  I am wholly convinced of the value the technology can add for someone with a message to get across.

Animate has its limitations, of course.  The RSA’s Animates are all linear and one-directional:  like a lecture, they consist of a single narrative voice and a single narrative thread – though no doubt it would be possible to adapt the technique to animate, say, a dialogue or a series of what-if scenarios.  Animate is good for conveying complex ideas, but not necessarily a high volume of detail – it does not, for example, lend itself to tabulated data (so some Animates could perhaps include links to appendices, for those who require a further level of detail). It is not a particularly interactive medium, in that the viewer cannot influence the outcome of the narrative (though again, maybe there is a technical solution to this). But the idea still offers huge potential.

I am thus delighted that there is a small group of Fellows of the RSA now looking at the scope for a self-service Animate tool – something to help people like Madison to produce these excellent resources. The proposal is the brainchild of Beth Wanono FRSA and is provisionally entitled YOU Animate.

As a contribution to the YOU Animate concept, therefore, I would like to ask for your ideas. With the right sort of tool or app, I can see how a local community might use YOU Animate to formulate and convey its response to local planning issues. I can see plenty of educational potential in the concept – scope for getting ideas across to students who don’t respond well to a traditional textbook medium. I’d love to see how a sixth-form literature student might use it to capture a response to poetry. Or in a completely different context, how it could help to capture and convey the reaction of a child who has witnessed or experienced abuse. I am sure there are many others. How would you use it?

Answers, or at least ideas, on the digital equivalent of a postcard that appears below – the comment box. Thank you most kindly.

STOP PRESS – The RSA and Nominet are running a competition for people to create a film accompaniment to an RSA lecture audio track.  The closing date is 1st September 2011.

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One Response to Bringing words to life – a call for ideas

  1. cassie says:

    this is great. she is so smart.

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