Digital Storytelling

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Digital stories are brief first person videos created by combining age-old storytelling narrative practice with modern-day technology and digital media. The digital storytelling process was developed in the 1990s at the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California, and has grown through the combined influences of popular education, third world cinema, and the community documentary movement.

Digital storytelling is different from the art of making short films in several key ways.

First, digital stories are typically produced in small, intensive workshops, where trained facilitators put much emphasis on story development and sharing. Storytellers are encouraged to put their stories ahead of the technology, and a primary aim of the process is to show people the transformative effects of giving voice to their own challenges, triumphs, opinions, and struggles.

Second, digital storytelling puts the tools of production directly into the hands of the storyteller, who is trained to use free or inexpensive digital editing tools to craft a video from her/his own materials, including the recorded narrative and important personal photographs.

Finally, digital storytellers are encouraged to use their stories, both to start conversations with friends, coworkers and family, and in more formal efforts at community building, education, program documentation, and advocacy.

How is digital storytelling used in community projects?

For community digital storytelling facilitators, these stories are useful both as a process and a product. As a process, creating a digital story can build skills in reflection and critical thinking, oral, written, and visual storytelling, and multimedia production. As a product, you can use a digital story for outreach and organizing, fundraising, documentation and reflection.

Why is digital storytelling effective as a tool?

Throughout history, story has been used to teach, to entertain, to express, to advocate, and to organize. It is through the sharing of stories that communities build their identities, pass on traditions, and construct meaning. Community building efforts use story to remember the past, to understand the present, and to imagine the future.

Stories can surface knowledge and leadership:

In the context of low-income communities and communities and color, stories are often the primary resource that individuals bring to their work. Community workers may not have financial or technical resources, but they do have a wealth of experiences, wisdom, and beliefs. Through telling our stories we learn their value. Through telling our stories we learn to see ourselves as actors with a role to play in our communities.

Stories build community:

Both internally and externally, stories can connect individuals to others who share their experiences and generate the ability of individuals and organizations to act. One goal of community building is to become part of someone else’s story, to have their story become part of you. It is through the act of telling that we realize that our stories are interconnected with others.

Stories can create the conditions for change:

When we build relationships through storytelling, the process often encourages individuals to think differently about themselves and about their capacity to act both individually and collectively. We tell stories as evidence of our work to galvanize energy, to raise funds, and to educate.

Ultimately, stories are democratic:

Storytelling fosters participation, dialogue, and voice— essential tools for social change organizations to articulate and communicate their work.

The above was published on Stories for Change website.

Digital Storytelling Curriculum

This is the first digital storytelling "textbook" originally created for students in the Center for Digital Storytelling's workshops and has been used throughout the years to help those new to digital storytelling understand the medium and begin the process of making their own digital story.

You can download the first five chapters of the cookbook:

1. Stories in Our Lives: Discusses the importance of stories in our lives and how to find the story you want to tell.

2. Seven Elements: Describes the basic elements of multimedia story, from writing a considered narrative to choosing an appropriate soundtrack.

3. Approaches to Scripting: Writing exercises and ideas of how to start telling your story.

4. Storyboarding: A guide to matching your script to images, sounds, and music.

5. Digitizing Story Elements: Outlines how to digitize the various elements of your story: scanning images, capturing video and audio, and recording your voiceover.

You can download the PDF created by Joe Lambert and the Center for Digital Storytelling here.

Movers and Shakers

Joe Lambert

A 5-minute interview with Joe Lambert, co-founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling, about the digital storytelling movement.

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Daniel Meadows

A 9-minute video interview with Daniel Meadows, founder of BBC's Capture Wales Project, about the power of digital storytelling.

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Capture Wales Project

Capture Wales is the BBC's award-winning Digital Storytelling project which came out of a partnership formed in 2001 between BBC Wales and Cardiff University. BBC Capture Wales ran monthly workshops from 2001 - February 2008, facilitating people in the making of their digital stories. In this section you can watch the wealth of stories that were created on workshops during that period. To watch the stories, install Real's free player for Win 98/XP/2000 or Mac/Win'95. Get help with the player or with watching video online.

Example of his work can be seen in his BBC Capture Wales Project.

His direct personal website with hundreds of videos can be found PhotoBus.

From his personal website:

Digital Stories are multimedia narratives Short, personal and written with feeling there's a strictness to their construction: 250 words, a dozen or so pictures, and two minutes is about the right length. Considered narratives which subject themselves to strictures of form tend to elegance. Digital Stories -- when properly done -- can be tight as sonnets: multimedia sonnets from the people. I started working with this form in 2000 when, following a research trip to the USA, I borrowed a Californian model of Digital Storytelling (all links open in a new window) and, together with a team at BBC Wales, began developing it as a new way of making broadcast television. I believed then and I believe now that this form can be used to open up the airwaves for a wide range of users, in short to give a voice to all those who, until now, have thought of themselves -- in a broadcast context anyway -- only as part of "the audience". Democratic Media Digital Stories are best made in workshops where participants come together to share skills and benefit from the assistance of facilitators. A workshop gives its participants courage, for making a Digital Story isn't easy. It can, though, be remarkably empowering and, when imagined as a tool of democratised media, it has I think the potential to change the way we engage in our communities. At the BBC we created an itinerant workshop, a lab we could take out on the road: to miners' institutes and welfare halls, community IT suites and arts centres, schools and colleges. Our project was called BBC Capture Wales. It ran from 2001 until 2008. Nearly 600 stories were produced and it won some awards including a BAFTA Cymru.

KQED Digital Storytelling

Blurb on their Digital Initiative Project.

KQED Manual

"The Art, Skill, Craft, and Magic of Digital Storytelling: A How-Come, How-To Guide"


Chapter 1: Finding the Experience Chapter includes discussion on Story Styles, Narrative Theory, The Restorying Process

Chapter 2: Telling the Story Chapter includes discussion on Creating a Storyboard, Digitizing Assets, Organizing Your Computer

Chapter 3: Creating the Piece Chapter includes discussion on Hardware and Software, Editing Video, Editing Audio

Chapter 4: Publishing the Work Chapter includes discussion on File Formats, Export the Finished Project, Using Digital Storytelling as a Resource

Alan Levine

Educator Alan Levine has proven the adage that there’s more than one side to every story by demonstrating 50 multimedia techniques to present the same tale. The result is an extraordinary collection of online creativity tools, with demonstrations of how each one was used to convey his original story. The classroom possibilities are simply mind-blowing.

It all began with a 60-second story contest a while back. Alan took up the challenge by putting together a short video slide show that tells the tale of an encounter with a stray dog named Dominoe.

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But Alan was just getting warmed up. He decided to re-tell the story using freely available Web 2.0 tools, just to see how many ways it could be done. It didn’t take long for him to re-create 50 different versions of the story, each using a different online tool. Alan scoured the Web for all sorts of creativity tools: slideshow tools, timeline tools, video editing tools, even map-making tools. The end result is a jaw-dropping collection of multimedia variations on a single story. He recently presented the results of creative adventure at a conference in Australia; there’s a mp3 of his presentation if you want to hear him describe the project in his own words.

Because each tool is different, the story never gets experienced exactly the same way. One tool, OurStory, was designed to be used for documenting life events on a timeline:

Personal tools