We live in a landscape trapped between the past and the present, the real and the imaginary, the homeland and the country of exile. Students develop five collaborative spaces, each with a shifting psychological layering of narrative based on experience. Themes of magical realism, noir, memory and mystery are inter-woven in these projects. To explore the space around them, students started with the low-tech tools of pencil and paper to draw a floor plan of their home, street block and neighborhood as an organic way to raise awareness of their surroundings. Surprisingly, students revealed personal experiences when presenting their floor plan, stating facts like “My father gets drunk in this room” or “Ten people sleep here.”

Students expanded on their floor plans by transforming puzzling household occurrences into intriguing mysteries. Students could then use their mysteries to craft digitally interactive stories. For example, student Lisa Burgos’s “mystery” was why so many people bought her mother’s homemade tamales. Her mother managed a profitable tamale business, a fact Lisa didn't always volunteer. “I wasn't embarrassed, but I didn’t understand what was so special about these tamales.” The final story, a combination of five individual narratives, was titled “Making of the Delicious Tamale.” In it, a young girl forgets her Grandmother’s tamale recipe. The user must help the girl search for the great Tamale God in order to find the recipe.

In this phase, students learned more advanced media production to make their written narratives interactive. In addition to building on their Flash skills, students learned Photoshop, as well as digital video production, capture and editing. Other students also revealed parts of their life that at first glance didn’t seem story material, such as a girl’s walk to church, a neighborhood Korean restaurant, and a father who was never there.

At the completion of the Interactive Stories, OnRamp hosted a screening for students, their families and friends. The parents beamed at their children’s digital work. Irene Rodriguez reflected, “My dad was really happy to see his children bringing their own culture into the technology project, trying to know who they were.”