note: I have also made this post available in a Google document if that is easier for making edit suggestions.
At a very early age I was introduced to a pre-cursor of digital storytelling by way of the record album. When I was four years old, my parents bought a toy store. Since I wasn’t yet in school I got to hang out with my mom at the store all day long. One way to keep me entertained was to put record albums on the turntable. One of my favorites was an album of fairy tales told by “Tammy.”
The doll, “Tammy,” was a competitor of Barbie and was one of my older sister’s dolls. One of my other favorite albums was stories told by Troll dolls. I’ve got that album somewhere stashed in the garage. During the long days spent at work I would listen to these albums. I would begin by placing the record needle at the beginning of the album. After a time, because I had listened to the same records over, and over, and over again, I would begin to get bored. One time I jumped up and down and found that in doing so, I could make the needle skip to a new section. All of a sudden I had a different story, much like a pick-your-own-adventure type story. That was great fun and made for complete and unexpected variations on the same old story lines.
Andrew Stanton (2012) suggests in his Ted Talk, Andrews Stanton: The clues to a great story, that there are no rules for storytelling, only guidelines. Stanton suggests that a few of the guidelines he uses include having a strong theme like asking a question, “Who am I,” that is carried throughout the story. You should also be telling your story in a way that has the audience leaving with a sense of wonder and the storyteller should use what one knows in order to make the story authentic. Depending on the story that is being told and the storyteller’s skill, which guidelines to follow or how closely to follow them, produces an opportunity for a great story.
I think the most important element of storytelling is that the recipient leaves with some kind of emotional experience, whether that be affirmation, anger, a call for action to right a wrong; some kind of emotion that gives one pause for thought. One of the 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling as outlined by The Center for Digital Storytelling at the University of Houston, is ‘”Emotional Content – Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the audience to the story.” I’m not sure I completely agree that the emotion has to be “serious,” but I do think that you need something in your story that people can be inspired by, something that stimulates one’s emotions. Or in the case of the pieced together fairy tales, which I found quite hilarious, stories with unexpected turns, that always ended with “happily ever after” for at least one of the story’s characters.
One of the biggest differences digital storytelling has from passive storytelling is access. Not only can you be a consumer of stories available through multiple online platforms, but you can also be a producer as well. Because of the openness of the web and availability of social media, when you publish a story you have the opportunity to get feedback and critiques, a chance to revise, and the ability to republish. It is true that before there were online platforms for access, storytellings were getting feedback, critique and even possibly rewriting their work, going digital opens up the options. Bryan Alexander (2011) asks; “How does being digital enable new aspects of storytelling?” and talks about how the use of social media has impacted digital storytelling by creating access to producing and consuming, supporting, showing examples, experimenting, and obtaining critiques (p. 14). These activities are confirmed by Clay Shirky (2010) , in an interview in Storytelling Part 4: Potential of Social Media when he talks about social media giving the opportunity for feedback, competition, and learning from others as social media outlets provide opportunities for storytellers to share their work.
There are endless and unknown ways in which digital storytelling can grow and evolve. In a recorded interveiw, Storytelling Part 1: Change of Storytelling (2010), Henry Jenkins talks about Transmedia in which stories can play across multimedia, dispersing across multiple platforms with multiple points of contact and Shirky talks about stories evolving into multiple threads, happening over a long period of time. Alexander (2011) talks about telling a story through multiple delivery methods either in collaboration with one another or with each mode telling the story in a way best suited for the medium (p. 14). One example of a Transmedia project is Half The Sky Movement, which uses videos, websites, games (Facebook and Mobile), along with on-site presentations and discussion forums to reach a wide audience.
Half the Sky Movement: The Game Trailer:
An example of a transmedia story that is fiction-related is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012) which was mainly a series of video posts made to YouTube that retold the Pride and Prejudice story and included twitter and tumblr posts. It ran for just about a year and has since branched out into new story threads based on some of the other Pride and Prejudice characters. These threads are telling the story from their own character’s perspective. Another example is the winning story of Story 2013 a Transmedia competition held at higher education institutions in Switzerland, called Michael2023 (2013). This is a story of how social media becomes part of one’s life in the year 2023.
Why do we study or participate in digital storytelling as a distinct art form or communication medium? Because we can. Mostly because the opportunity is there. In a video interview with Dean Janse (2010), from Participation Culture Foundation, in Storytelling Part 1: Change of Storytelling, he says that the masses can now create stories to an unlimited audience in ways that they haven’t been able to in the past.
In the past, storytelling for the masses was done by a few who had the money for recording and access to very expensive film equipment. Along with dedicated time to creating the recording or film of a story. Then these stories were consumed in limited dedicated spaces at prescribed dates and time. With today’s technology, almost anyone can document elements of a story and put one together. Anyone can tell their story and more importantly, anyone can share that story. People who may not have had a voice in the past are now able to share their stories and tell them themselves, instead of relying on someone else to tell their story for them. Youtube is one platform where people are telling their stories. Accounting to http://www.onehourpersecond.com/ (2012) every second, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. And YouTube is only one of many publishing platforms.
Is this image a digital story? What if the words making up the image is a story?
Is there really such as thing as digital Storytelling, or are we just talking about using technology to tell a story? In many ways, I think “digital” being placed in front of storytelling is misguided. You don’t say digital journalism when you are reading an online version of a traditionally published newspaper, and you don’t say digital diagnosis when your doctor reads the digital images of an MRI report.
If I had to come up with a definition, digital storytelling is a method in which a story is told with the use of some kind of digital means. At the most basic level, the difference between digital storytelling and non-digital storytelling is in the way in which the story is being captured or manipulated. To me, a storyteller being recorded with a digital camera or digital audio recorder isn’t a digital story, but rather a digital recording of a story being told. But a series of moving images recorded with or without narrative through a digital camera would be considered a digital story because the story that is unfolding through the images is using electronic means to help tell the story.
I also think to put a definition on the terms somehow diminishes its capacity, and limits the innovative ideas one might apply to it. Just as giving a definition to an “outstanding” column on a rubric might constrain what “outstanding” could be for a student, I’m willing to accept a broader definition of digital storytelling, and leave the assessment and judgement of the quality of the story to show for itself.
“About digital storytelling: The 7 elements of digital storytelling”, Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27&sublinkid=31
Alexander, B. (2011). The new digital storytelling: Creating narratives with new media. Santa Barbara, California•Denver, Colorado•Oxford, England: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
“Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story.” Feb 2012 Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_stanton_the_clues_to_a_great_story.html
The Association of Independents in Radio: AIR! Retrieved from http://www.airmedia.org/PageInfo.php?PageID=704
Baris, D., Jung, N., and Steiner, L. (2013). Michael2023. Retrieved from http://michael2023.com/
Choose your own adventure. (2013, December 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Choose_Your_Own_Adventure&oldid=585280482
Half the sky movement: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. Retrieved from http://www.halftheskymovement.org/
Lizzie Bennet diaries. Retrieved from http://www.lizziebennet.com/
Lizzie Bennet diaries YouTube playlist. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6690D980D8A65D08
Moloney, K. “What is Transmedia Storytelling?” Retrieved from http://transmediajournalism.org/contexts/what-is-transmedia-storytelling/
One hour per second. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.onehourpersecond.com/
Plett, H. (2013, December 17). “How to stop the spiral of self-doubt.” Retrieved from http://heatherplett.com/2013/12/how-to-stop-the-spiral-of-self-doubt/
Story2013. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.story2023.com/
Storytelling part 1: Change of storytelling. (2010). http://vimeo.com/12999733
Storytelling part 4: Potential of social media. (2010). Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/12999733