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The Centre for Digital Storytelling tradition

Page history last edited by Martin Jenkins 11 years, 11 months ago

 

The origins of digital storytelling are seen to be the pioneering work led by Dana Atchley and Joe Lambert in California in the 1990s (Hartley & McWilliam, 2009).  The emergence of digital storytelling at this time was a reflection of the increasing accessibility of digital technologies and a cultural shift toward the consumer as producer that has continued further with Web2.0 technologies.  The innovation led by Atchley was to ‘develop an exportable workshop-based approach to teach “ordinary” people ... how to produce their own personal videos’ (Hartley & McWilliam, 2009: 3).

 

Hartley & McWilliam (2009:4-5) argue that at this moment in time digital storytelling provides a pivotal term that can be used to represent:

 

  • An emergent form, combining the personal narrative and documentary
  • A new media practice, combining individual tuition with new publishing devices
  • An activist/community movement, combining experts with consumer led activity
  • A textual system, challenging the traditional view of the producer/consumer model and new forms of literacy.

 

A typical digital story created within this tradition is a personal narrative of no more than 2-3 minutes.  Burgess & Klaebe (2009: 155) identify two important core elements in the wide range of practice that has evolved in this tradition: the collaborative workshop and the first-person narrative.  The workshop element, whereby support can be provided for the crafting of stories, contrasts digital stories created in this tradition with the more informal ‘stories’ that are being made available through Web2.0 platforms such as YouTube.  These creations are less ‘top-down’ in approach and highlight a criticism of the CDS model that it can be too ‘teacher-centric’ (Hartley & McWilliam, 2009: 15).  This CDS approach, while using simple technologies, has also been critcised for being 'deceptively complicated' because of the formalised workshop approach (Dush, 2009: 261).  This will present barriers to use, particularly in educational settings, and make it difficult to sustain as a practice.  The focus on the personal narrative also represents a potentially restrictive view for educational use, and Hartley & McWilliam (2009: 15) note that the emphasis on self-expression can lead to a ‘serious’ work being underdeveloped.  Other developers of digital stories have expanded the range of uses and the definition of digital storytelling; for example, the website 'Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling', developed at the University of Houston, organises stories into three categories:

 

  1. Personal narratives
  2. Stories that inform or instruct
  3. Stories that examine historical events.

 

The CDS tradition of digital storytelling has informed and inspired a wide range of activities in different contexts.  The workshop dynamic, as illustrated through the Capture Wales project (Meadows & Kidd, 2009: 106), lies at the core of why this approach has gone on to be used within community projects, health work and professional development.  The workshop can have a theapeutic benefit, helping to create a coherent story of events which have personal value to the individuals involved.  For example:

 

Patient Voices Project: project to gather the stories of ordinary people to inform health care professionals

Kelvin Grove Urban Village: digital stories representing the indigenous, military, educational, residential and natural history of this Brisbane urban development.

 

Within education it is increasingly used within schools, particularly for engagement and literacy development, though the nature of digital storytelling does mean that the focus of use will vary by age.  Within higher education digital storytelling is most common within education departments, reflecting the use in schools, and also in media production departments (McWilliam, 2009: 46).  This pattern of usage does reflect the CDS tradition.  The potential applications increase if a broader interpretation of digital storytelling is adopted, such as new media narrative.  This wider pattern of usage has been evidenced at the University of Gloucestershire with use for a variety of purposes across a range of disciplines (Gravestock & Jenkins, 2009; Jenkins & Lonsdale, 2008).  

 

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