Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling takes many forms. There are stories that are audio only and rely on words, sound effects, field recordings, and music. Hypertext environments facilitates the interactive story in which the "reader" chooses optional paths to explore. Web-based media facilitate not only stories with words, but also movies, stills, sounds, and graphics.

People have a fundamental desire to tell each other stories. Human communication seems to revolve around remembering and sharing experiences. Recall how often you have heard, or said yourself, "Oh, that reminds me," as a new story emerges within a conversation.

We tell stories everyday. We talk about what was and how things were done. Or we look to the future and imagine what might be. Stories are a way of sharing who we are.

These personal stories often become the experiences upon which the imagination of the writer or media maker begins to weave the the recreation or fictionalization of events and people as portrayed in documentaries or imaginary works in words, images, and sounds.

Stories are valuable in that they serve as a means for passing on knowledge ranging from the little things in life to those big issues which give human experience form and definition.

Before the invention of the printing press oral stories formed the primary means of sharing events with other people. Traveling storytellers would share the news of the day through song and story.

The printing press allowed stories to be mass distributed and storytelling moved from a group experience to one of the privacy of reading alone. Later, other technologies such as the phonograph and radio allowed the word to be recorded and broadcast. Film became, at the beginning of the last century, a powerful visual storytelling medium. The digital revolution opened new ways for telling and sharing stories.

One can define digital storytelling as the process by which people of all ages and experience share with others stories from their lives or creative imagination. This new form of storytelling has emerged with a arrival of accessible media production techniques using computers, digital cameras, recorders and software. This new technology allows individuals to share their stories over the Internet, on discs, podcasts, or other electronic distribution systems. One can think of digital storytelling as the modern extension of the ancient art of storytelling but now woven together with images and sound. With digital technologies individuals now approach storytelling from a different perspective and devise non-traditional story forms, such as non-linear and interactive narratives.

Digital storytelling takes many forms. There are stories that are audio only and rely on words, sound effects, field recordings, and music. Hypertext environments facilitates the interactive story in which the "reader" chooses optional paths to explore. Web-based media facilitate not only stories with words, but also movies, stills, sounds, and graphics.

One form of digital story is the micromovie. A micromovie is usually a very short exposition lasting from a few seconds to no more than 5 minutes in length. It allows the teller to combine personal writing, photographic images or video footage, narrative, sound effects, and music. Many people, regardless of skill level, are able to tell their stories through image and sound and share those stories with others.

The Center for Digital Storytelling was created as a California-based non-profit 501(c)3 arts organization rooted in the art of personal storytelling. It was established to assist individuals, regardless of age, to use digital technology to compose and share the stories of individuals and communities.

The Center has worked in many states and overseas helping to bring the art and craft of digital storytelling to individuals around the world. The case studies section of their web site provides some examples of their efforts around the world facilitating the use technology to inform and entertain. The stated goal of these on-site workshops is to "...design and produce a 3-5 minute digital story. Students craft and record first-person narratives, collect still images and music with which to illustrate their pieces, and are guided through computer tutorials which enable them, with teacher support, to edit their own stories."

There are many examples of digital stories online. The following represent examples of material that can be found on the Internet to view and perhaps be inspired by to make one's own stores. Many of the sites contain material made by amateur storytellers and it is perhaps this content which demonstrates the power of media to communicate personal remembrances and viewpoints.

  • 15 Reasons: A series of digital love notes. A fine example of using text and image to convey thoughts about a relationship.
  • Examples of Digital Stories. Short micromovie examples from a digital story workshop in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • A History of Digital Storytelling Through Story.The Center for Digital Storytelling has many examples of stories created during its workshops. These examples represent a history of work spanning more than a decade of practice from 1990-2003.
  • Streaming Stories. Streaming Stories 2003 was a community of ordinary people making digital stories and films for the Internet. For six months over 100 storytellers from ten community groups all over Swindon, UK learned new skills and shared their creativity via this web site.
  • Digital Stories. A website designed to showcase digital stories told by students and their teachers. Explore the Resources section to learn more about storytelling and using audio, video and photo tools. Go to the Video section for samples of educational, fictional, and personal digital storytelling.
  • Radio Diaries. Since 1996, the Teenage Diaries series has been giving tape recorders to young people around the country to report on their own lives. They conduct interviews, keep an audio journal, and record the sounds of daily life. NPR works with each diarist to edit all the material into documentaries for National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
  • Fray. Fray began in September, 1996, with one simple idea: That the web was the ultimate conduit for personal storytelling. We saw a future web full of personal voices, where everyone has the power to tell their stories. The site was created using early web technology and it is no longer updated. However, it remains of interest to those who want to see early attempts at digital storytelling.
  • The Life Of Katherine Drexel. This story is told through the use of still images, music, and narration. It is divided into chapters. It is an example of multimedia storytelling on the web from the Philadelphia Inquire
  • This American Life. Short audio stories. Each week producers choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. They do stories that are like movies for radio, with people in dramatic situations where things happen to them.
  • Crime Scene. Each week the site's "detectives" post evidence from the current investigation. You participate by reviewing the interviews, evidence reports and other documents, and discussing them with your fellow web investigators. You can preview the current case and choose to become a member after the introduction. This is an example of a web based story that requires participation.
  • Bubbe's Back Porch. This was started in 1998 as women from around the world shared stories in real time and then posted them here to Bubbe's Back Porch. The site invites contributions of stories.
  • DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories. Select the StoryKeeper's Gallery to access stories. These are personal stories as authored by individuals exploring digital media.
  • Bramble Town by Brent Wood. A flash animated interactive comic strip.
  • The Ten Second Film Competition. From a field of 1,000 films were submitted, and about 200 made the first cut and were published on the site. These published films were then rated by visitors to the site, and the top 20 user-rated films became Finalists. The Finalists were reviewed by a panel of judges, and the three winning films were announced.
  • 120 Second Digital Film Festival. A showcase for emerging filmmakers with some of the best Canadian documentaries, narratives, music videos, animated and experimental shorts.

Everyone has stories to tell about people they know, the places that have been a part of their lives, and events - both small and large - that have given life meaning. Sharing these stories connects people over the Interment around a world without borders. Digital storytelling provides a dynamic means for a storyteller to interact with hundreds, thousands, and perhaps millions of "listeners".

Finally, if you are a college of university student interested in digital storytelling there are numerous workshops, courses, and even a graduate degree program in this field. Ball State University offers a Master of Arts Degree in Digital Storytelling through its Department of Telecommunications.

Resources:

Dana Atchley. Tribute to a pioneer in Digital Storytelling techniques.

Digital Story Institute. This site, originally for teachers, has very useful idea about digital storytelling. There is also a library of first efforts in telling stories using multimedia. Example: Who's Race Is This?

Digital Storytelling Association. Across the world, artists, business people, community activists, educators, media professionals, and large numbers of the general public have discovered the power of Digital Storytelling and have come together to form an association dedicated to this new form of communication.

Digital Storytelling Festival 1995-2005. The Digital Storytelling Festival is an intimate gathering that inspires its audience with new knowledge, ideas and a better understanding of how the traditional form of storytelling is changing through the use of technology.

Digital Storytelling Finds Its Place in the Classroom by Tom Banaszewski, An informative article by an educator who introduced digital storytelling in the classroom. Provides conceptual ideas for structuring ideas and following a step-by-step process for creating multimedia stories.

Elements of Digital Story making. Provides and overview of the elements of digital storytelling and presents the view that the digital frontier is a dynamic new space for storytelling that is yet to reach its potential.

Hillary McClellan's Digital Storytelling Links. Extensive resource directory.

Tell Me A Story. Although designed for teachers in-training, this tutorial has elements of planning and developing that the new digital storyteller may find of value.