25 Aug 2020 20:30 IST

MICA students create engaging audio novels on social issues

Audio novels, an instrument of digital storytelling, was used to educate and entertain listeners

Students of MICA, Ahmedabad have developed a unique and engaging social communication channel through audio novels that addressesissues plaguing society. As part of ‘The Audio Novel’ workshop, a total of 216 first-year students produced 18 audio novels on a variety of social issues including work from home resulting in screen fatigue, helping the elderly adapt to digital technologies, bullying, LGBTQIA+, trolling, gender inequality, the dignity of domestic help, digital fatigue, mental well-being, racism, addiction and so on, through an engaging narrative and script.

MICA had been conducting a photo novel workshop, an attractive communication medium, for the incoming students for many years. The institute has published over 100-plus photo novels to date. The photo novel workshop helped students with creativity, visual storytelling, social research, conflict resolution, and managerial abilities of planning, organising, teamwork, and execution.

However, this year, the institute introduced audio novels, that required students to understand social issues, develop stories around them, and finally translate them into engaging audio stories that educate, entertain, and empower.

Effort trumps talent

Speaking about the new form, Prof Kallol Das said, “Due to the current restrictions of learning from home imposed by the pandemic and given the increasing popularity of podcasts, we thought of introducing the audio novel workshop.”

“While the idea would remain the same, the format would be different and more accommodating in the present scenario,” Prof Das, who led the workshop, added. “The workshop was re-purposed as an instrument to help students understand growth mindset, a widely accepted concept pioneered by Carol Dweck of Stanford University, which has this central philosophy that effort is more important than talent. With this mindset, any skill — however, unfamiliar and challenging — can be mastered.”

Sharing their experience, winning students of the novel 'Last Seen' said, “With a topic as sensitive as LGBTQIA+, we had to be very precise about the script and other creative decisions. We chose the route of allegorical fiction in an attempt to zoom out and look at the systemic problems that are troubling the community. We thank our mentor Prof Harmony Siganporia for responding positively when we first presented the story to her. Audio-novel was a great opportunity to push ourselves into a new medium of storytelling.”

Digital storytelling

The institute recently hosted a virtual award function where the President and Director Dr Shailendra Raj Mehta unveiled all the 18 audio novels in presence of MICA Dean Preeti Shroff and other faculty members. The three winning titles focused on the issues of LGBTQIA+, bullying, and curiosity.

Preeti Shroff, Dean, MICA, said, “The goal is to help students reflect on self and society in a creative way, and also design a digital story-telling business model. Like every other year, student audio-books bring real-life, creative, heart-warming, and impactful learning experiences for the entire MICA community.”

The winning audio novel, ‘Last seen 28th June,’ examined the social issue of LGBTQIA+ The audio novels that bagged the second and third position, 'Domino' and 'Sawaal' highlighted the issue of bullying and the need to nurture childlike curiosity respectively.

Domino subtly traced the mental repercussions of bullying on a series of individuals and 'Sawaal' revolved around a young boy who uses his creative thinking along with his science teacher to foster scientific temperament in his community.