ⓘ Digital storytelling

Digital storytelling

ⓘ Digital storytelling

Digital storytelling is a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their story. The media used may include the digital equivalent of film techniques, stills, audio only, or any of the other forms of non-physical media which individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea.


1. Introduction

"Digital storytelling" is a relatively new term which describes the new practice of everyday people who use digital tools to tell their story. Digital stories often present in compelling and emotionally engaging formats, and can be interactive.

The term "digital storytelling" can also cover a range of digital narratives ; It is sometimes used to refer to film-making in general, and as of late, it has been used to describe advertising and promotion efforts by commercial and non-profit enterprises.

One can define digital storytelling as the process by which diverse peoples share their life stories and creative imaginings with others. This newer form of storytelling emerged with the advent of accessible media production techniques, hardware and software, including but not limited to digital cameras, digital voice recorders, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Final Cut Express and WeVideo. These new technologies allow individuals to share their stories over the Internet on YouTube, Vimeo, compact discs, podcasts, and other electronic distribution systems.

One can think of digital storytelling as the modern extension of the ancient art of storytelling, now interwoven with digitized still and moving images and sound. Thanks to new media and digital technologies, individuals can approach storytelling from unique perspectives. Many people use elaborate non-traditional story forms, such as non-linear and interactive narratives.

Simply put, digital stories are multimedia presentations that combine a variety of communicative elements within a narrative structure. Media may include any combination of the following: text, images, video, audio, social media elements like tweets, or interactive elements like maps.

Digital stories may be used as an expressive medium within the classroom to integrate subject matter with extant knowledge and skills from across the curriculum. Students can work individually or collaboratively to produce their own digital stories. Once completed, these stories can easily be uploaded to the internet and can be made available to an international audience, depending on the topic and purpose of the project.


2. Development and pioneers

The broad definition has been used by many artists and producers to link what they do with traditions of oral storytelling and often to distinguish their work from slick or commercial projects by focusing on authorship and humanistic or emotionally provocative content. Digital Storytelling has been used by Ken Burns, in the documentary The Civil War, cited as one of the first models of this genre. In his documentary, Burns used first-person accounts that served to reveal the heart and emotions of this tragic event in American history, as well as narration, archival images, modern cinematography, and music Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009. Some of the other artists who have described themselves as digital storytellers are the late Dana Atchley, his collaborator Joe Lambert, Abbe Don, Brenda Laurel, and Pedro Meyer.

The "short narrated films" definition of digital storytelling comes from a production workshop by Dana Atchley at the American Film Institute in 1993 that was adapted and refined by Joe Lambert in the mid-1990s into a method of training promoted by the San Francisco Bay Area-based StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling.

At StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling, digital stories are produced in intensive workshops. The product is a short film that combines a narrated piece of personal writing, photographic and other still images, and a musical soundtrack. Technology enables those without a technical background to produce works that tell a story using "moving" images and sound. The lower processing and memory requirements for using stills as compared with video, and the ease with which the so-called "Ken Burns" pan effect can be produced with online or regular video editing software, have made it easy to create aesthetic but short films.

Digital storytelling was integrated into public broadcasting by the BBCs Capture Wales project working with organisations such as Breaking Barriers. The following year a similar project was launched by the BBC in England titled Telling Lives. Sveriges Utbildningsradio created Rum for Berattande Room for Storytelling. Netherlands Educational TV Teleac/NOT created a program with young people in different parts of the country. KQED, Rocky Mountain PBS, WETA and other public television stations in the US have developed projects. Digital storytelling is evolving from the simple narrated video to forms that are interactive and look better. These include websites and online videos created to promote causes, entertain, educate, and inform audiences.


3. Components

The most important characteristics of a digital story are that it no longer conforms to the traditional conventions of storytelling because it is capable of combining still imagery, moving imagery, sound, and text, as well as being nonlinear and contain interactive features. The expressive capabilities of technology offers a broad base from which to integrate. It enhances the experience for both the author and audience and allows for greater interactivity.

With the arrival of new media devices like computers, digital cameras, recorders, smart phones, and software, individuals may share their digital stories via the Internet, on discs, podcasts, or other electronic media. Digital storytelling combines the art of storytelling with multimedia features such as photography, text, audio, voiceover, hypertext and video. Digital tools and software make it easy and convenient to create a digital story. Common software includes iMovie and Movie Maker for user-friendly options. There are other online options and free applications as well such as WeVideo.

Educators often identify the benefit of digital storytelling as the array of technical tools from which students may select for their creative expression. Learners set out to use these tools in new ways to make meaningful content. Students learn new software, choose images, edit video, make voice-over narration, add music, create title screens, and control flow and transitions. Additionally, there is opportunity to insert interactive features for "reader" participation. It is possible to click on imagery or text in order to choose what will happen next, cause an event to occur, or navigate to online content.

Additionally, distinctions may be drawn between Web 2.0 storytelling and that of digital storytelling. Web 2.0 storytelling is said to produce a network of connections via social networking, blogging, and YouTube that transcends beyond the traditional, singular flow of digital storytelling. It tends to "aggregate large amounts of microcontent and creatively select patterns out of an almost unfathomable volume of information," therefore the bounds of Web 2.0 storytelling are not necessarily clear.

Another form of digital storytelling is the micromovie, which is "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."

Telling a digital story combines a narrative, whether it be fiction or non fiction, personal or general, and digital media. Digital media includes imaging, video, sound and all other forms of media then can be portrayed visually, the most simple of digital stories can even be a power point. The point is to convey a message through imagery, which a lot of times can be more effective then if just conveyed through sound. Another outlet for digital storytelling can be articulated through some social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, where one might be constantly posting images accompanied by captions in order to portray the story of ones life. "A story can be as short as explaining how one misplaced ones keys in the morning or as long as a multivolume autobiography." The wonderful thing about telling a digital story is that there really are no rules. However, there are certain guidelines that are tried and true over time that make up better stories. The most important rule is dont be boring, tell a good story and the "truth" of a "story" lies in a process not the content. Joe Lambert and others who work at Storycenter and other places around the world train people in how to improve their stories during digital storytelling workshops by writing out the story and discussing many options of connecting with the material before recording it in a digital format and editing it into video. When one wants to capture the attention of ones audience, it is important to be passionate about the themes and or characters when telling any story. In order to sell the story, regardless of the medium, the artist may need to ask oneself about what stories could be more compelling before relating the story to others. Some of the best stories begin with ones own personal insights in order to find an interesting and profound dramatic story.


4. Uses in education

The StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling model has also been adopted in education, especially in the US, sometimes as a method of building engagement and multimedia literacy. For example, the Bay Area Video Coalition and Youthworx Media Melbourne and the UK social enterprise Noise Solution employ digital storytelling to engage and empower young people at risk.


4.1. Uses in education Uses in primary and secondary education

"The idea of merging traditional storytelling with todays digital tools is spreading worldwide." Anybody today with a computer can create a digital story simply by answering such questions as "What do you think? What do you feel? What is important? How do we find meaning in our lives?" Most digital stories focus on a specific topic and contain a particular point of view. "These topics can range from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, from exploring life in ones own community to the search for life in other corners of the universe and every story in between."

For primary grades the focus is related to what is being taught, a story that will relate to the students. For primary grades the story is kept under five minutes to retain attention. Vibrant pictures, age-appropriate music and narration are needed. Narration accompanied by subtitles can also help build vocabulary. Content-related digital stories can help upper-elementary and middle-school students understand abstract or layered concepts. For example, in one 5th grade class a teacher used digital storytelling to depict the anatomy of the eye and describe its relationship to a camera. A fifth grader said, "This year I have learned that places are not just physical matter but emotional places in peoples hearts. iMovie has made all my thoughts and feelings come alive in an awesome movie."

These aspects of digital storytelling, pictures, music, and narration reinforce ideas and appeal to different learning types. Teachers can use it to introduce projects, themes, or any content area, and can also let their students make their own digital stories and then share them. Teachers can create digital stories to help facilitate class discussions, as an anticipatory set for a new topic, or to help students gain a better understanding of more abstract concepts. These stories can become an integral part of any lesson in many subject areas. Students can also create their own digital stories and the benefits that they can receive from it can be quite plentiful. Through the creation of these stories students are required to take ownership of the material they are presenting. They have to analyze and synthesize information as well. All of this supports higher-level thinking. Students are able to give themselves a voice through expressing their own thoughts and ideas.

When students are able to participate in the multiple steps of designing, creating and presenting their own digital stories, they can build several literacy skills. These include the following: Research skills by finding and analyzing information when documenting the story, writing skills when developing a script, and organization skills by managing the scope of the project within a time constraint. Learning about the use of technology is a skill that can be gained through learning to use a variety of tools, such as digital cameras and multimedia authoring software and presentation skills through the presentation of the story to an audience. Students also gain interview, interpersonal, problem-solving and assessment skills through completing their digital story and learning to receive and give constructive criticism.

Software such as iMovie, Photo Story 3 or Movie Maker do all that is required.

Faculty and graduate students at the University of Houston have created a website, The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, which focuses on the use of digital storytelling by teachers and their students across multiple content areas and grade levels.

The National Writing Project has a collaboration with the Pearson Foundation examining the literacy practices, the values, attitudes, beliefs and feelings, associated with their digital storytelling work with students.


4.2. Uses in education Use by teachers in curriculum

Teachers can incorporate digital storytelling into their instruction for several reasons. Two reasons include 1) to incorporate multimedia into their curriculum and 2) teachers can also introduce storytelling in combination with social networking in order to increase global participation, collaboration, and communication skills. Moreover, digital storytelling is a way to incorporate and teach the twenty-first century student the twenty-first century technology skills such as information literacy, visual literacy, global awareness, communication and technology literacy.

The educational goals for teachers using digital storytelling are to generate interest, attention and motivation for students of the "digital generation" in classrooms. The use of digital storytelling as a presentation tool also appeals to the diverse learning styles of students. Digital storytelling also capitalizes on students creative talents and allows their work to be published on the Internet for others to view and critique.

A handful of teachers around the world have embraced digital storytelling from a mobile platform. The use of small handheld devices allows teachers and students to create short digital stories without the need for expensive editing software. iOS devices are the norm nowadays and mobile digital storytelling applications like The Fold Game have introduced an entirely new set of tools for the classroom.

With an emphasis on collaborative learning and hands on teaching, this website offers an in-depth look at how to integrate 21st-century skills with the objectives of a rigorous academic program:


4.3. Uses in education Uses in higher education

Digital storytelling spread in higher education in the late nineties with StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling collaborating with a number of Universities while based at UC Berkeley. StoryCenter programs with the New Media Consortium led to links to many campuses where programs in digital storytelling have grown; these include University of Maryland Baltimore, Cal State Monterey, Ohio State University, Williams College, MIT, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The University of Colorado, Denver, Kean University, Virginia Tech, Simmons College, Swarthmore College, the University of Calgary, University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Maricopa County Community Colleges AZ, and others have developed programs. The University of Utah offered its first class on digital storytelling Writing 3040 in the Fall of 2010. The program has grown from 10 students the first semester to over 30 in 2011, including 5 graduate students. Chicago journalist Mark Tatge started a Digital Storytelling program at DePauw University in 2011. Students learned journalistic-style storytelling techniques and published the resulting stories on a class website.

The distribution of digital storytelling among humanities faculty connected with the American Studies Crossroads Project was a further evolution through a combination of both personal and academic storytelling. Starting in 2001, Rina Benmayor from California State University-Monterey Bay hosted a StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling seminar and began using digital storytelling in her Latino/a life stories classes. Benmayor began sharing that work with faculty across the country involved in the Visible Knowledge Project including Georgetown University; LaGuardia Community College, CUNY; Millersville University; Vanderbilt University, and University of Wisconsin–Stout. Out of this work emerged publications in several key academic journals as well as the Digital Storytelling Multimedia Archive.

Ball State University has a masters program in digital storytelling based in the Telecommunications Department, as does the University of Oslo.

In 2011, the University of Mary Washington launched an open online course in digital storytelling titled DS106. The course includes credit-seeking students at the University as well as many open, online participants from around the world.

Digital storytelling is also used as an instructional strategy to not only build relationships and establish peoples social presence online but also as an alternative format to present content.


4.4. Uses in education Uses in public health, healthcare, social services, and international development

The development of the Silence Speaks project in 1999 under the direction of Amy Hill who joined the StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling in 2005) led to the expansion of digital storytelling in public health. Projects developed with the Centers for Disease Control, the Open Society Foundation, work in gender-based violence prevention with groups in California, Texas, New York, Minnesota, and with the organization Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa, the broad use of digital storytelling with Foster Youth, and finally the connection to digital storytelling to public campaigns in substance abuse prevention and community mental health programs.

Digital storytelling is being used to raise awareness of the "human" factors in healthcare.

The Patient Voices programme is the product of Pip Hardy and Tony Sumner. Established in 2003, their project provides a means for people patients, families or healthcare workers to tell their stories which might affect clinicians, managers and decision-makers in the healthcare arena. The Programme has worked closely with The Royal College of Nursing, The National Clinical Governance Support Team, The National Audit Office, NHS England, NHS Improving Quality, Imperial College Healthcare Trust, Kings College London, University College London and many other NHS organisations and universities. Patient Voices projects have also taken place in Canada, Australia, Norway, Hong Kong and Tanzania and the stories are used in schools of medicine and healthcare throughout the world to prompt reflection and stimulate discussion and debate.

The Patient Voices programme also provides a freely accessible resource to anyone who desires to improve the quality of health and social care. All stories, once released, are available at The Patient Voices. The stories have contributed to an understanding of patients experiences and their role in their illness as well as to a greater understanding of the experience of people who work in healthcare.

In addition, the process of creating a Patient Voices digital story has been used to enhance the reflective skills of newly qualified nurses and medical students.


4.5. Uses in education Use In therapy

Digital Storytelling is also being used as therapy. Kim Anderson, who has a Ph.D. in licensed clinical social work has worked with Digital Storytelling with clients suffering from domestic violence, abuse, incest, and other traumatic psychological situations. Her work was used at the University of Southern California, the Zur Institute, and in numerous other publications including one in a chapter in a book on film/video-based therapy while teaching at the University of Southern Florida.


4.6. Uses in education Uses in museums

Digital storytelling is being used by many different museums.

The largest project, Culture Shock!, is currently taking place in the North East of England. This project is using museum and gallery collections to inspire people to create their own digital stories, which are also being added to the relevant museum collections.

Another large-scale project is the work of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. also held a series of classes to integrate arts education curriculum with digital storytelling from 2003-2005.

Some museums help interpret and make community history accessible. In 2007, the Colorado Historical Society collaborated with StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling to create a program, The Italians, about Italian American History. In 2008, a group of eleven museums in Yorkshire launched My Yorkshire, a digital storytelling project. The museums work with communities to use contemporary collected oral histories alongside those from archives to interpret local history from a personal point of view, through the use of historical oral recordings and archival photos. The group has also produced help guides to creating digital stories in a museum setting.

Finished digital stories can have many uses: advertising an upcoming exhibition, preserving a short-term project, building relations with communities. They provide skills to volunteers and can be permanently displayed in galleries.


4.7. Uses in education Uses for religious training

In 2005, the Church of Norway initiated a project wherein young people raised questions of faith and life in short biographical mini-films called Digital Faith Stories. A study of this project in a congregation near Oslo found that the method of Digital Storytelling could contribute to a more systematic educational method for including the lifeworld of the young in religious training.


5. Uses in libraries

A digital story station is a public space for people to create a digital story that serves to archive oral histories from the public perspective. These oral stories may focus on a personal experience, incident, describing a place or witnessing an event. Based on the StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling model, over 30 public libraries ranging from Northern down the coast to Southern California have a place for people to tell their own story.

Bilingual library staff work with participants to create a recording using the digital station, which can be integrated with a variety of media, including audio, video, pictures, and images. The digital storytelling station project called California of the Past is funded by a grant from the California State Library, U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and Technology Act, and administered in California by librarians. The Media Arts Center in San Diego facilitates this project.

Since 2006, San Diego has housed a story station in its downtown library. The Media Arts Center of San Diego partnered with the downtown public library to set up a story station where the public can create a three-minute video. The topics of the archived videos range from personal to historical documentaries.


6. Uses in business

With the development of marketing in the digital world is digital storytelling implemented in business. Digital storytelling is used as a tool of user-generated content, when consumers contribute their opinion based on their own experiences about a product to promote a firms product in the digital world.

Digital storytelling is being used by innovative startups to pitch their ideas to the potential investors and to communicate with potential customers to get feedback about the market potential of their product or service.

The Enterprise Center with Salem State University organized a Big Idea Video Pitch Contest competition for students to submit a 60-second video pitch of a unique idea for a business, non-profit or social cause. People could vote once per day using the "vote now" button that is displayed in the voting section. The Digital Story that receives the most votes was awarded. Videos were judged on originality, creativity, and the clarity of message.

Project SomePitching is a crowdsourced online competition for new business ideas and early stage startups to provide feedback on their product and business ideas. The freeform explanation could be a website, a short pitching video or an animation max. 90 seconds, a slideset max. 5 pages with font size 20+, or any other material or combination of materials that was short and clear for anyone to evaluate.

SomePitching used the Innopinion platform to manage the idea rating process and the selection of winners based on the ratings from both the public and professional jury.

The intent of this competition wasnt to present the best Big Idea of the product, service, or solution only, but also to find the way, how to interpret it by Digital Story the best way from visual and narrative point of view. Because in the public jury phase, the evaluations was based on the following categories with percent of the final score:

  • Interest to buy or use the solution 20%
  • The clarity and quality of the material 20%
  • The importance of the problem the solution solves 20%
  • The value the solution brings 20%

7. Place-based digital storytelling

The Canadian Film Centres New Media Lab formerly MediaLinx Habitat launched a project, Murmur, out of the 2002–2003 studio. The project integrates audio interviews into cellphone-based tours. StoryCenter formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling created in 2006 with projects in Mendocino California, Houston, New Orleans, and Tuscaloosa Alabama to promote the connection between storytelling and issues of local memory and civic planning.

The Voice Library TVL launched two, ongoing, social-giving projects in 2014. The Military Families Story Project, based out of Portsmouth, NH, maintains and strengthens families ties, builds morale through a brother-/sisterhood network, enables service men and women and their families to record history as they make it, and memorializes veterans experiences. TVLs national Let Me Be Your Memory project, in collaboration with Cognitive Dynamics, offers a unique, six-week audio-based archiving Language Arts curriculum for students and educational institutions that builds multiple, Common Core-adaptable competencies by raising awareness of those living with memory disorders and their caregivers. It stimulates students to learn, investigate, and connect with family and community. The Voice Library changes the digital storytelling paradigm by providing users passcode-protected access through any telephone technology. It also provides online access. Both combine audio and still-image capability. For 24/7, global access, unlike social media, subscribers private accounts are secured on the companys server.