Ex-stream-ly Online: exploring Express Media’s Toolkits Program

The seemingly endless creative possibilities presented by new tools for digital storytelling can feel overwhelming – which is exactly why Express Media introduced Toolkits: Digital Storytelling.

Part of the pioneering online mentorship program they have been running for writers across the continent since 2016, mentees have been learning the ins and outs of telling stories online over 12 weeks in 2019.

Celebrating the potential of new storytelling platforms, and drawing attention to the value of bridging geographic barriers through digital space, Rory Green, Voiceworks Online Editor and alumni of Toolkits: Poetry presents a new work designed to encourage readers to reflect on the infrastructure that enables and maintains a program like Toolkits.

Excerpt

I’ve had a steady crush on Riley’s writing, which is at once cheeky and thoughtful and crushing. Across all of her poems and digital experiments there are creatures and technologies, engaging us in complicated relationships: whether it’s redbacks lodging in our room, a lecture video recording reverberating hollow speeches, or ghosts eating bed sheets. The real and virtual coexist as substrates of a kind of surface magic, a Gestalt switch in the consciousness that cycles through animal, vegetable, mineral.

Some of Riley’s best and most interesting work is on her Instagram, where she seems to comfortably weave a flirty, ominous persona through wildly different experiments in form. When she posts new work using tools I recognise I think: How can Riley’s voice be so fully embodied in each strange new space she chooses to operate in? I think of threads in a scoobie, how colours that clash side by side seem to form an organic, obvious pattern when wound together. For all of the glitz that interactive and animated digital forms can offer, Riley’s words feel weighted with a promise, or a warning, best articulated in her recent zine Meat vs Body: ‘‘THE GHOST iS READiNG THiS NOW / THE BODY WiLL READ iT LATER’.

When I first learnt about digital poetry—both through a Toolkits: Live session and a class on multimedia computing I took on exchange around the same time—it took me a long time to start playing with it in ways that felt true to what I wanted to say. Riley hasn’t even finished the Toolkits program but already her digital work reads like an extension of her print practice, which makes me excited and extremely jealous of what she has in store for us in the future.

Read the full work at Voiceworks Online.