Posted January 2nd 2013 at 1:20 pm by
in Storytelling Course 2013

Storytelling Class: The Reading Looking Listening List

MIT Community Innovators Lab is teaching a course called People, Planning, and the Story: An Applied Media Workshop from January 7th – 10th at MIT. We’ll chronicle the course in real time for those four days in an effort to make the class as public and replicable as possible.

You’ll find the assigned readings, audio files, movies, and photo essays listed in this post. Almost everything is available online. Head to your local library to find the non-linked material.


Course facilitator Aditi Mehta listens to the story in her hands. New Orleans, 2009.

• Why media for planning?

Stories elevate planning issues to the public consciousness, move decision makers to action, and shift funding streams. What is a planner’s role in shaping stories and using new media tools? ‬The following are general readings for the course.


1. Forester, John. Planning in the Face of Power. Chapter seven, “Listening: The Social Policy of Everyday Life”. University of California Press. 1989.

2. ‪Reinsborough‬, ‪Patrick‬ and ‪Doyle Canning‬. “Chapter 2: Narrative Power Analysis.” Re:Imagining Change. Smart Meme. 2010. (17-40)

3. Giles, D. B. “Lectures 1-3,” The Portable Film school: Everything You’d Learn in Film School (Without Ever Going to Class). 2005. (17-23)


4. Glass, Ira. “Mo’ Better Radio”.

5. Williamson, Eugenia. “Oh, the Pathos!” The Baffler. No. 20.

6. Wickline, Heath. “Telling American Stories.” 2008.

7. Ganz, Marshall. “What is Public Narrative?” 2008.

How to Tell Stories with Pictures

The following photographs and visual essays use images to convey stories about people or places. Some of these essays combine text or audio with the pictures to share even more information with audiences. What do you think is effective about the different images and photo essays? What makes you stop and look? How can photos help you see a different perspective?

Photographers and Essays:

1. Anne Whiston Spirn

2. Prashanth Vishwanathan

3. One in Eight Million by the New York Times

4. Camilo Jose Vergara

5. Martha Cooper

6. Excerpt from On Photography by Sustan Sontag

Two Approaches to one Planning Issue: Foreclosure

7. Creedon, Kelly. We Shall Not be Moved: Stories from the Grassroots. 2011.

8. Suau, Anthony. Struggling Cleveland. TIME Magazine. 2008.

• How to Listen to Someone’s Story

The producers of these stories took special care to listen, sometimes using uncommon methods. “Unexpected” is a movie about young mothers who learn to make their own movie. In “The Marriage Cure,” you’ll wonder how the author ever managed to capture certain details. In “Yellow Rain,” the subject of a radio broadcast felt that the hosts did not listen, and so she published her own essay, “The Science of Racism”. How can you make sure you’re hearing the whole story?

1. Cizek, Katerina. Unexpected. National Film Board of Canada. 2008.

2. Boo, Katherine. “The Marriage Cure”. The New Yorker. August 18, 2003.

3.  Abumrad, Jad and Robert Krulwich. “Yellow Rain”. Radiolab. September 24, 2012.

4. Yang, Kao Kalia. “The Science of Racism: Radiolab’s Treatment of the Hmong Experience”. Hyphen. October 22, 2012.

One Issue, Many Stories: Immigration Today

The following are several stories that all touch on the same current issue — immigration. These stories are in different formats, from radio to video to written articles. Each story plays to the strengths of its particular medium, and each frames the issue in a particular way. What works in each of these pieces and what could they have done better?


1. “Just One Thing Missing,” last segment in “Nice work if you can get it.” from This American Life

2. “Illegal.” Directed by John S. Carey.

3. Vargas, Jose Antonio. “Not Legal Not Leaving.” Time Magazine. June 25, 2012.


4. Dream Act Student Movement. “Dream Summer 2011.”

5. “Undocumented Dreamers.” Los Angeles Times. June 8, 2012.

6. Poo, Ai Jen. “Stop with the Us vs. Them Approach.” New York Times. Dec 9, 2012.

7. A Better Life. Film directed by Chris Weitz. 2011. See trailer.

Post by Alexa Mills, Stefanie Ritoper, and Aditi Mehta.

3 responses to “Storytelling Class: The Reading Looking Listening List”

  1. Jackie says:

    So excited to read along!!

  2. What a great idea for a course! I wish I could take it. I’m so grateful that you will be documenting the class and posting reading materials.

  3. Katie says:

    This looks great. I’m excited to follow along as much as possible!