Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling

Depending on the context in which it is invoked, the term "digital storytelling" (DST) can refer to a disparate range of practices, theories, and issues -- from performance works staged in Second Life to questions about the implications of undocumented immigrants sharing their stories via cell phones. On the one hand, this breadth of potential meanings is indicative of the vitality and variety of the artistic and scholarly practices typically associated with DST. On the other, some critics worry that this variety in fact threatens to strip the notion of DST of all useful meaning; after all, definitions are important, and agreed-upon meanings are the cornerstones of any scholarly field. That is, if DST is many things at once, is a definition even possible? More provocatively, is one even necessary?
In this forum, we reclaim DST's richness of meaning via the work of a diverse group of scholars. We propose moving the spotlight away from a narrow focus on the technical aspect to the places where the spotlight is due -- context and meaning. In so doing, we hope to expose to scholars and educational institutions a multitude of new and productive ways of thinking about the relationship between storytelling and digital technology. Below are three brief prompts written by a set of scholars exploring the topic in separate but interrelated ways. Following these prompts is a series of general questions intended to stimulate discussion and spark debate.

Digital Storytelling as Community Empowerment (Ana Boa-Ventura, University of Texas - Austin)
We have communicated cultural heritage for centuries by telling stories and singing songs. Today we continue to propagate collective memory through radio, television, newspapers and the web. In the past decade, some have contended that global media disseminate a vision that has little identity with the community they reach that these media are amorphous and / or US-driven. Some also worry that citizen journalism (CJ), while favoring local news cheaply produced by nonprofessionals, is a threat to investigative journalism and the preservation of community.
Some see the proliferation of small, cheap, web-ready cameras as a menace to the preservation of community (however broadly this term may be construed), though many see its democratizing power. This access for all comes with a commercial, as well as cultural and political, burden that is increased by a plethora of third party and video sharing services from YouTube to Vimeo and UStream.
Access for all also entails better, more accurate search / index systems, and better standards for vast video repositories. Digital stories are mostly resource-demanding video data. High performance computing (HPC) could be used in ways well beyond mere capacity, fully exploiting the spectrum of date types covered by DH tools from text and image to geodata. Moreover, HPC need not stop at the processing and indexation levels but can offer truly plastic storytelling environments where experimentation and expression are fostered through architectures of collaboration.
My three guest speakers are all key voices for DST as a community empowering, grassroots movement. Joe Lambert is the co-founder and Director of the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, arguably the organization that most has done for the worldwide dissemination and accreditation of a DST methodology. Marianna Kz from the Museum of the Person in S. Paulo, Brazil, coordinates the 1 million life stories project. Biagio Arobba, recently awarded a TeraGrid Pathways Fellowship, created the social enterprise LiveAndTell for the preservation of endangered indigenous languages through stories made of audio and photos.



Digital Storytelling: Re-Defining the Role of the Academic Library (Sherry Tuffin, Wayne State University)
Stories have always been the raison detre of libraries. The stories housed at academic libraries cover such tales as how cells divide and multiply, how cultures evolve, how wars were fought and won, and many, many more. Over the ages stories were written on cave walls, papyrus, sheepskin, and then paper.  Digital storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling, (Rule, Center for Digital Storytelling) Today stories have gone digital and are saved in e-textbooks, e-journals, flash drives, CDs and on servers. The academic library needs to acknowledge this tectonic shift and redefine its role within the academic community.
In their book, Fostering Community Through Digital Storytelling: A Guide for Academic Libraries, Anne M. Fields and Karen R. Diaz discuss how an academic library is uniquely positioned to use digital storytelling, not only for teaching and learning purposes, but also for internal organizational development, for marketing and external development, as well as outreach to the campus community and beyond. Despite the workload faced presently by academic librarians they may soon be asked to include: digital story instruction, maintaining a digital story repository, monitoring a computer software and hardware center, create inter-department story collaborations, market university assets through digital stories, become authorizes on Internet copyright policies, and facilitate campus oral histories.
Yes, all of this means change, but if we embrace the changes as exciting, rather than frightening, this is very good news for academic libraries. As Fields and Diaz so accurately state, libraries are moving from the metaphor heart of the university to a new metaphor of crossroads of the community. I have invited the authors of Fostering Community Through Digital Storytelling, Anne M. Fields and Karen R. Diaz, to view and offer comments in this forum.

Digital Storytelling: Purpose, Practice, and Potential (Jeff Watson, USC School of Cinematic Arts)
Invoking a fear of the new and the young is a familiar response to the arrival of technological revolutions. Television, radio, the cinema, the serialized novel, and countless other shifts in how and where and why stories are told were all greeted by the least imaginative of their contemporaries with doomsday scenarios and nostalgia for ages gone by. In our time, critics like Times of London columnist Ben Macintyre dismiss the storytelling potential of the Internet as "anorexic" and anathema to the "six-course feast that is nourishing narrative."

Researchers involved in initiatives like Project New Media Literacies argue that placing narrational practices such as blogging, status updates, interactive databases, text messages, fan fiction, vidding, and other digitally-mediated communications in opposition to older cinematic, televisual, and novelistic storytelling modes is a dangerous and short-sighted position. In so doing, critics abandon any potential these new practices might have to augment and enhance -- rather than undermine or destroy -- existing cultural forms. Indeed, as recent work by a variety of artists, scholars, and designers can attest, the multiplicity of forms and the interconnectivity of authors and audiences brought about by digital and network technology constitute a deep, rich, and largely untapped well of storytelling opportunities. Participants are invited to consider the following examples and questions (and feel free to pitch in your own in the forum):

     - The Whale Hunt. Can this kind of database art be considered storytelling? Jonathan Harris thinks so. If you don't, what do you think we should call something like The Whale Hunt?
    - Year Zero
    . How do hybrid cross-platform storytelling and gameplay practices that take place in both virtual and real-world environments (e.g. Alternate Reality Games) complicate our understanding of Digital Storytelling? Is it even possible to draw a clear boundary between the real and the virtual, the digital and the analog, when such binaries are in fact deeply and fundamentally intertwined?
    - Densha Otoko
    . How do collectively-created stories with indeterminate originary texts and authors complicate our notion of storytelling? How does our experience of reading a story change when we can participate in its creation?

    Discussion: Instead of getting lost in polarizing debates about whether digital technology in general -- and social networks, video games, and electronic art in specific -- are "good" or "bad" for storytelling, we would rather move the discussion toward toward an exploration of purpose, practice, and potential. Questions participants might want to address in this regard include:

    Defining Storytelling: What does it mean?

    - What is digital storytelling and how is it different than non-digital storytelling? Does the attempt to corral a wide range of practices and technologies under the umbrella of "Digital Storytelling" automatically put these modes into an oppositional (rather than augmentational) relationship with "non-digital" forms of storytelling? Is it just the technology or format, or is there something inherently different about digital storytelling?
    - What can digital technology offer the storyteller that other technologies cannot? How can scholars and practitioners leverage the affordances of the digital to raise awareness, expand consciousness, stir the heart, and do the other wonderful things that we can all agree stories are capable of doing? What are the unique considerations about digital storytelling?
    - What is a story? Is a story something you listen to, read, or watch? Can it be all three at once? Is it something with a beginning, middle, and end, or can it have many of each? Is it singular or can it be taking place in different situations or localities at once?

    Storytelling Today: How is Storytelling Changing?

    - Can mobile and ubiquitous computing change the game when it comes to who gets to tell stories and who doesn't? How does it change storytelling itself?
    - How does digital storytelling relate, if at all, to digital literacy? How is the debate in the US on digital literacy and the digital native differing from the same debate in Europe or Asia and to what extent are those differences a result of different histories in media production?
    - What is the impact of citizen journalism particularly local news produced/reported by the non-professional - having in the profession of journalism? Is the popular sponsoring of investigative journalism a viable answer?
    - What about comics and graphic novels? What kinds of stories are best expressed through this format?
    - What are your favourite examples of interesting storytelling?

    Storytelling Tomorrow: Archiving and Organizing Stories for the Future

    - How can librarians best archive and present digital stories and storytelling technologies? How are librarians both gatekeepers of stories, as well as storytellers? How does an archive also produce a story itself? What does it mean for a librarian to be a storyteller?
    - As the number and type of databases continue to expand, how can librarians (and users!) develop and maintain best practices for search terms, archival formats and tagging? Or is the very concept of best practices outdated?
    - What about other models of archiving and documentation, like museums, nonprofits, radio stations, collectives, and individuals? How are these groups grappling with the huge amounts of digital material, in order to archive, preserve, showcase and study the stories?


    1.  The Tiziano Project has been working to raise money to help teach Kurdish youth in Iraq and Turkey the multimedia storytelling skills necessary to tell their stories and share their culture.

    Digitized stories that use photos, music and video can cross languages and heighten interest.

    2.  Another interesting observation:  According to the dialogue in David Mamet's latest play "Race" courtroom adversaries who tell the best stories win!




    Dear Anne-Marie,

    The Tiziano project is such a great example of the power that storytelling has in opening up minds and borders. Youth "gets it" . Why can't we?:) Thank you for bringing it up!

    Let me share with you that some media organizations in Europe - Mira Media (NL); Stockholm Cityschool of Arts (SE) and Media Animation (BE) to name a few - have just launched a very interesting program: "MediaCoaches '. The idea behind it is to train those working with youth in journalism, video and other - more emerging - media. The bottom question is - what (new?) skills are associated with new forms of storytelling? 

    Stranger Festival is another organization in the EU doing amazing work with youth... It is not only a festival - they also organize workshops in some of the poorest regions in Europe. I quote from their site because I cannot say it better:)

    "Diversity and cohesion are the two characteristics of Europe today. Age-old differences and new urban realities present their own challenges to artists, cultural workers and people everywhere. But we can begin with the youth…"


    Thanks for the information on European sites dealing with media, storytelling.  I will add those links to my files.  Anne-Marie


    Thank you for the information about these interesting projects!  I am a PhD candidate at UNC - Chapel hill, working on a dissertation focused on middle schoolers who have participated in an after-school project where they developed multimedia autobiographical stories.  The teacher was motivated to get these students involved because she felt that they were not using technology in critical ways during the school day, and also because she wanted them to have more opportunities to express themselves.  She worked very hard to help them develop these storytelling skills.  However, my research is uncovering some interesting findings, most notable is the role of the teacher in shaping the kinds of stories that children choose to tell as well as how they choose to tell them.  I am calling these "master narratives". For example, pushing kids to tell stories of struggle...

    I think that the adults facilitating these programs are wonderful, but sometimes don't reflect on the cues they give to children about what is acceptable..So fascinating..


    Any thoughts or experience with this?


    you raise a critical issue about the role of the (co-) facilitators ["master narrators," if u will] in the media making process.  in 2009 i co-facilitated two digital storytelling workshops carefully crafting the themes (such as tobacco control and health disparities) based on research interests (and funding).  participants were recruited and screened. in the workshops, themes mostly got thrown out the window since individuals created personal stories that were more true to their hearts/interests. 

    I was fine with the decision and didn't feel it was my place to force them into project themes (even though they were thoroughly informed of the themes prior to the workshop). i was more about people taking possession of the process (e.g. "finding their voice") and getting excited about the technology rather than obtaining pre-determined outcomes and tangibles.  am writing up now. one of the digital stories (i'll post several others in upcoming weeks) is on my blog:



    Hey Marty and Jeff

    I think it is so important to talk through these issues with both kids, and faciliators, teachers, etc.  It makes so much sense that these tensions are going to arise in these projects. Sometimes we forget that autobiography is as much about the audience as it is about the storyteller..

    This is one of the projects that I am looking by teacher and "Sam"...


    Jeff - that vimeo is great!!! Young children approach the use of media in interesting ways..just apart of their environment.  I have been reviewing a ton of literature on how children and their mothers co-construct memory and family story.  Check out Autobiographical Memory and the Construction of a Narrative Self: Developmental and Cultural Perspectives


    Hi Julie,

    Check out this project at USC's Institute for Multimedia Literacy: "In early November, the IML hosted a group of 4-year-old preschool students, who learned about video cameras, story structure and basic editing in a revised version of our Digital Storytelling and Recombinant Narrative Workshop. The students responded exceptionally well, using their love of stories as a foundation for thinking through screen-based narrative."



    Digital Storytelling With 4-year-olds from IML @ USC on Vimeo.



    I don't have any specific experience in this realm, but I just want to commend the model being used here.  Anecdotally it looks to me like many kids are really honing their digital chops (and certainly their storytelling chops) by filming and posting on places like Youtube after school.  It seems such a waste that this creativity is essentially "turned off" when entering the classroom, so this sounds very promising.  My hope is that teachers like this will keep kids engaged and allow them to translate video editing and storytelling (and many other ... ) skills down the line into adulthood.


    Thank you Jeff for posting this adorable video. If I teach PK, I'm going to try some of these ideas. Fabulous video!!


    this is a very timely discussion indeed!  i conceptualize digital storytelling as an intervention for reducing health disparities and influencing effective health policy (specifically tobacco control).  one of the limitations w the dominant (CDS) model of digital storytelling is that it is time consuming (workshops 3 days, 8 hours a day, $495/person).  While the model is flexible and has been administered in a number of different and creative formats, the workshop model needs to be re-thought and de-centered. i'm hoping to tinker w model and blend w strengths of super quick and easy Tabletop Moviemaking:  

    I'm currently researching digital storytelling from a medical anthropology perspective. In the next 48 hours (by weds 9 dec 2009) i hope to administer an online survey (draft 2) with two health-focused digital stories and would be grateful for input from you.  visit the url below to begin the survey (about 10 minutes). 

    2 versions of draft surveys:

    1. health professionals and practitioners:

    2. general population:

    marty otanez, phd, assisant prof of political ecology, anthro dep, uc denver,


    Hey Marty,

    Marientina Gotsis, a colleague of mine here at USC, is working on a project that uses gameplay, digital storytelling, and mobile media as health interventions.

    One of the key hurdles Marientina has encountered in implementing these new technologies into health care/disease management/preventative medicine is figuring out how to place the activity "in the flow" of the user's everyday life. As architects of digital storytelling and other participatory media platforms, it is crucial that we be mindful of the inverse relationship between breadth of participation/access and steepness of learning curves (not to mention scarcity of time). The more that people can feel like digital storytelling practices can coexist with and enhance their existing lives, instead of being something that requires regular life to be put on hold, the more likely they are to adopt such practices.

    As I'm sure you've discovered through your own work, taking a user-centric design approach when conceiving of digital storytelling projects -- particularly in public health and education contexts -- is an essential step in avoiding the pitfalls we've seen in so many well-meaning but over-complicated projects that don't pay attention to the basic facts of the lives of their target audiences. If you have some time to fill us in on how you've tackled this key issue, please let us know here in the forum!






    Marty, I was so excited to see your post; my dissertation is on tobacco cessation. I am looking at the social media features of web assisted tobacco interventions WATIs but storytelling is key for trust and community building.

    I will try to pull into the debate – specifically in this area- two people who have worked with storytelling and Health in different ways: Dr. Yuri Quintana, Education Director at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and Luis Saboga Nunes, faculty member at the National School of Public Health in Lisbon. Dr. Quintana uses DST for health communication; Nunes has done a very innovative work with tobacco cessation in Second Life. is amazing! And I am emailing you a couple of thoughts on the survey that we really appreciate you shared in this forum!




    I became very interested in digital storytelling for the topic of cancer. In particular how to educate children about cancer, empathy, grief, and related topics. Stories can not only educate but also inspire us. I attended one of Dana Atchley digital storytelling festivals and was very impressed by the stories and people , please visit, and some early pioneers of media such as Brenda Laurel See her book Computers as Theater. My current work is developing cancer and healthy living education for children  and the global e-health challgenge for universities , where we are seeking innovative applications including digital storytelling for health education. Please contact me for details at


    Thank you for posting! Brenda Laurel's 'Computers as Theatre" has some years now but I agree with you: that book is sooo inspiring! I will tell you a secret - it was that  book that made me pursue digital media.:)

    On a post below, Ironman said "When four-year-olds start out by making recombinant narratives, can the death of the three-act structure really be far behind?" I have to say that I side with Laurel on that one. It is all (still) about the Aristotelian dramatic structure,  Freytag's triangle and similar models, which all point to the three-act structure. I am ready to be convinced of the contrary but so far...:)


    The multiple nature of digital media allows for everything. I agree that the three act structure isn't going away; indeed, digital media has enabled an incredible explosion in the kinds of storytelling that embrace classical humanist narrative structure. That said, we're still in the early days. Right now -- as we've discovered through some of the discussion here -- the mainstream conception of what the "digital" is in Digital Storytelling is primarily related to the effects new technologies have had on accessibility and distribution; that is, computation and network technology have lowered the bar for independent producers to create and disseminate materials that only a few years ago were out of reach to everyone except professional media people. This is a truly great thing. However, keep in mind that story circles in Second Life aren't that different from a story circle in "real" life in terms of the way that stories get told -- in a straight line, by a single (or serial) narrator, and typically moving toward some kind of Aristotelian crisis, climax, and resolution. What Steve (ironman) was talking about was where things are going next, as the tools and means for exploiting the unique capacities or affordances of computation and global communications networks become available to a wider audience. Here I'm talking about an entirely new class of storytelling practices which have at their heart rulesets. These rulesets can be everything from code (as suggested by ironman) to human-articulated rules such as the "architectures for participation" we see on display in Big Games or Alternate Reality Gaming. The stories that emerge out of these rulesets are intricate, engaging, thought-provoking, and distinctly non-Aristotelian, especially in terms of their reception. Such stories not only violate the unities proposed by Aristotle, but often lack a clear protagonist, antagonist, central conflict, and point of view. As more than one commentator on ARGs has suggested, these kinds of games approach story archaeologically: that is, a story is discovered by the participants in pieces as they dig through the real world looking for it. Database narratives work in a similar way: the unique efforts of the user to explore the space of story bits leads them to constitute a unique view of the narrative, one which may even differ from the intentions of the authors. Authorship thus becomes an act of creating story potential rather than the ontologically deterministic argumentation demanded by linear works such as the fable, parable, anecdote, song, play, novel, or film...

    All this is to say that while the three act structure is a useful one for telling linear stories, and that linear stories have a lasting and important place in our world, digital or otherwise, the unique affordances of computation provoke a range of new practices that, for generations growing up used to these affordances, will inevitably come to redefine our notion of what a story is, can, and should be.


    I was happy to read your description of all of the additional rules and the "architectures of participation" that effect digital storytelling.  My dissertation examines the web content of the entertainment industry.  In my research I have interviewed (and will soon be visiting) members of the creative process that produce the digital supplements that accompany traditional storytelling mediums like television and film. 

    One of the insights that I have gained from these conversations is that the types of institutions that structure the creative process has a direct effect on the types of digital storytelling that is produced.  For example a show like "How I met your mother" on CBS is produced by the Fox television studio.  Fox creates digital content designed for "rewarding" fans of the show by expanding the "world" of the story.  Digital content like webisodes, alternate reality games, alternate reality websites, character blogs and deleted scenes; each come from this studio.  They believe that this type of content is the stuff that fans want.  Fox wants to keep the fans happy and purchasing DVDs and merchandise so they create this extra content as a promotional device.  Its promotional nature does not mean that it is not storytelling.  In fact it greatly expands the narrative as has been described by Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture (when he describes Transmedia Storytelling).

    On the other hand CBS also creates digital content for the "How I met your mother."  CBS's web content also expands the world of the story but it is expressly designed to attract viewers to the website so that CBS can sell audience clicks to advertisers.  The web content that CBS creates is typically promoted at the end of television episodes.  This content allows the reader to become more engaged with the world of the story.  On CBS's website viewers of the show can interact with proprietary content and expand the world of the story for their own purposes.  This activity certainly demonstrates an advantage of digital storytelling but it should not be disconnected from its institutional motivations.

    As Hollywood remains a major force for cultural storytelling and a major player within emerging media it behooves us to think about the institutional motivations that structure the ways that digital stories are produced.


    Hi Marty (and all) Luis here, from the National School of Public Health Lisbon, Portugal

    I enjoyed your post, particularly because I think you are one of the few connecting ST & smoking cessation/prevention. I am very interested in your approach. I am curious on:

        1) the paradigm of health you are using in your ST scripts when focusing on smoking,
        2) the effectiveness of the message using this media, when health (not only DA) is the main goal.

    I have tried to use some of the approaches and made experiments with portals and SL. The portal we have developed with Ana Boa-Ventura’s input is aimed at exploring to the maximum extent the ST approach (as you can see in - on the left side of that page)

    But also in Second Life I have tried a bit with this: you can have a look at

    Your surveys are interesting! Are you planning also to enquire about the effectiveness of the message on health behavior changes, besides the more technical aspects of the ST approach?

    Congratulations also for the particularly of those from Malawi:  you have versions in other languages of these materials?



    This video developed by the Michigan Disability Right Coalition might interest you.  It too tells a story.


    Michigan Disability Rights Coalition



    I just joined the forum and notice my organization is linked. Thanks! That video was done by a fellow staff member using a Flip camera. I added the captions.  I look forward now to going back and viewing the presentations and reading all the comments.


    Dear Marty,

    Using digital storytelling for medical purposes is an exciting avenue. Anne-Marie mentioned the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) link on YouTube. It is a short, powerful message and shows how effective digigal storytelling can be in influencing behavior and educationing people. The MDRC gives digital cameras to disabled people and encourages them to tell their story. They also offer classes on using the cameras. They use digital storytelling to:

    1. Influence state legislatures to change laws
    2. Educate the public
    3. Help raise funds
    4. Raise self-esteem among the disabled

    This is an organization that is ahead of the curve in the effectiveness of digital storytelling. I am sure there are similar organizations out there using digital storytelling (DST). If anyone knows of them please let us know.






    This Forum is already leading to fascinating and important areas.  Thank you for all these insights.  I'm preparing my "This Is Your Brain on the Internet" syllabus for next semester and there are many ideas here already for me to pluck and insert into that course. 

    You ask about other organizations that use digital storytelling as part of disability rights.  You might want to check out Self-Advocacy Online, a group based at the University of Minnesota, and a winner of a 2008 Digital Media and Learning Competition award.

    Also, just today Prof Faye Ginsburg (of NYU) and I were exchanging ideas and information about disability, cognition, and new media and she generously shared a number of links that I'd like to pass on. 

    Scott Ligon's video, Escape Velocity, (it's become a bit of a cult classic):

    And a video by Amanda Baggs which is on Faye's website: Amanda uses Computer-Mediated Communication to "speak" to those of us who do not understand her multi-sensory language.   Amanda Baggs' "non-website":    Amanda made the incredible video "In Our Language" that shows her world, translating for those of us who aren't capable of mastering her language, and that packs the punchline "Just because we don't speak doesn't mean we have nothing to say."  

    Faye also runs a film series with the extraordinary disability activist/dancer Lawrence Carter-Long: 


    Thanks to everyone for sharing some really fascinating links.

    Shifting gears a little, I thought I would pose this question: In my writing courses, I’ve experimented with using ComicLife as a medium for teaching academic argumentation. Composing arguments as digital comics allows students to place themselves into a sustained conversation with other writers and foregrounds the narrative aspects of argumentation, which often get lost.

    We can point to examples of successful digital storytelling. But what are the elements of successful digital storytelling? Are they transferrable to other genres and media?




    Beyond the tenets of good storytelling, most of which are indeed largely transferrable between genres and media, an important question to ask in this regard is, "what are the affordances of the particular storytelling medium I've chosen? What is this medium good at, and what are its limitations?" Coming to terms with these kinds of questions requires a deeper investigation of the term, "Digital Storytelling." Beyond a handful of generally-applicable statements about storytelling, it is difficult to say what the elements of successful digital storytelling are simply because the category is so broad. Nonlinear video editing, performances in virtual game spaces, mobile phone apps, and social media are all examples of potential digital storytelling platforms. Each of these platforms has very different affordances; each is good at telling certain kinds of stories, and not so good at telling other kinds of stories. So maybe the first step to getting to a "poetics of digital storytelling" is to get more specific. How about starting with a poetics of ComicLife?


    I agree that specificity is a good way to keep the discussion from dissolving into generalities, but given the sheer number of platforms to emerge in recent years that offer the capacity for storytelling, it might also be helpful to address some of the specific structures, logics and underlying technologies that have made this proliferation of tools and narrative sensibilities possible. How about a poetics of RSS, XML or PHP? Increasingly it seems that the most interesting "stories" are those that resist the logic of a fixed artwork or closed narrative structure. Since we are talking about specifically digital modes of composition, dissemination and reception, it should be possible to address these structural issues on an equal plane with point-of-view, audio, etc. Although the copyright industries would have us believe otherwise, when we tell any story in any medium, we are planting a seed with the potential for infinite remix and reconfiguration as it circulates through social and technological spheres. Of course the Oulipo were practicing this long before the digital age, but digital storytellers have the advantage of starting with the concept of open architecture system design and algorithms that define potentials and limitations rather than fixed narrative structures. Part of what makes this an interesting moment in the history of narrative is the way technological affordances are reverse-engineering the logics of narrative pleasure. When four-year-olds start out by making recombinant narratives, can the death of the three-act structure really be far behind?


    Hi everyone.

    I'm most interested in this thread, and also it appears to have decided to discuss all things digital. That could take a long time.

    I wonder if it's more important that we can simply identify when a story has occurred? I would suggest that the most important part is (my own humanist nature) that someone communicated something of meaning to him or her, and that it was received by a recipient. Whatever the methods, timing, reasoning, or delivery mechanism.

    For instance, my work involves finding or making tools for indigenous language preservation (I'm in one of the seesmic videos above), and to me it's the contributions from fluent indigenous language speakers, and that they find value within their community, that are more important than whatever digital format the messages takes.



    I think you make an interesting point. For me, the message is the 'heart' of a digital story. Sometimes the message may not fit comfortably within the 7 element guidelines. While I would always keep an eye on the 7 elements as my road map, I also remember Daniel Meadows (a British digital storyteller) defines digital stories as "short, personal multimedia tales told from the heart."

    Sounds like your work with indigenous people expressing something of meaning to him/her qualify as 'sonnets from the heart.'



    Anyone interested in looking deeper into the kinds of code- and machine-level analysis Steve is hinting at here should check out Platform Studies, a series of books from MIT Press (editors: Ian Bogost & Nick Montfort) that "...investigates the relationships between the hardware and software design of computing systems and the creative works produced on those systems."



    Hi Steve and all,

    I don't have the answers but more questions.:) The CDS methodology (and you can watch co-founder and Director Joe Lambert in one of the Seesmic videos in the forum prompt) stresses 7 principles for good digital storytelling: 1. Point of view, 2. dramatic question, 3. emotional content, 4. the gift of your voice. 5. The power of the soundtrack. 6. Economy. 7. Pacing. The CDS includes these in a document they call the Cookbook. I have found these principles very useful for my workshops on DST at the National University and elsewhere. With National my next challenge (launched by Dr. Thomas McCalla) is to design a curriculum on DST in Second Life.

    I answer your question with yet a new twist:) How about orality of new media? Can we say that some media have stronger traces of 'orality' than others (and isn't an oral medium more prone to serve as a platform for  storytelling than a non-oral one?) I recently read on Yasmin (moderated list:art-science-technology interactions around the Mediterranean Rim) - a post by artist Patrick Lichty on orality and new media referring to a recent experience of his in Second Life:

    "In wondering about orality in Second Life,  I return to my thoughts on the Internet as an oral culture.  [...] Second Life, as a proprietary platform in an ephemeral medium, is only preserved persistently by culture in terms of writing, video, and less so in blogs.  The average site in SL (anecdotally) lasts perhaps 3=6 months. And because of the user-created aspect of it, there is little static content, making it less stable than the larger Internet by far.

    Therefore, I classify Second Life as a largely oral culture."

    So... is medium instability a mark of orality? I have been thinking about this ever since I read his post.:)



    The Center for Digital Storytelling ( uses 7 elements to define digital storytelling. They are:

    A Point (of View)-

    • Stories are told to make a point and should not be presented as a recitation of mere facts. Define the premise of your story so that all parts can serve to make the point. Consider your audience and direct the point to them.

    A Dramatic Question-

    • You want to capture your audience’s attention at the beginning of the piece and hold their interest throughout. Typically you want to pose the dramatic question in the opening lines and resolve it in the closing lines.

    Emotional Content-

    • Emotional content can help hold your audiences attention. The images, effects, music and tone of voice all lend to contributing emotion to the piece. Try to keep the elements consistent with the emotion of the moment.

    The Gift of Your Voice-

    • Your voice is a great gift and even thought you don’t like to hear it, others do. If you “read” your script your audience will not know how to react. Take time to learn and practice your script so you can speak in a conversational voice. Record several takes and select the best one. Trust that your audience will think it is perfect.

    The Power of The Soundtrack-

    • Music is a big plus to a digital story. The right music can set the story in time and can convey emotion. Play music behind an image and a specific emotion is generated. Change the music behind the same image and an entirely different emotion is experienced. Sound effects can add tension and excitement to a piece, but be careful, they can be a distraction too.


    • Plan to leave some of your work on the “cutting room floor”. A compact, fast moving digital story will contain only those elements necessary to move the audience from beginning to end. We know that our brains are constantly filling in (from our own experiences) details from suggestions made by sights and sounds. Don’t give every minute detail to clarify your story, let your audience fill in some of the blanks.    


    • The rhythm of the piece is what keeps your audience’s interest in the story. Changing pace within the story can facilitate moving the audience from one emotion to another. Music tempo, speech rate, image duration, and panning and zooming speed all work to establish pace. Generally pace will be consistent, but one in a while it will pause, accelerate, decelerate, stop or blast-off. Trust your own senses, we all move at our own pace.

    Also, using comics is a wonderful teaching method. Anne-Marie Armstrong (one of our commenters) will present a story (in comic) form and then leave the last box empty for students to fill in. This requires they use logic, comprehension skills and reflect upon what they have read. I thought it was very effective. You could ask Anne-Marie about more ideas with comics.

    Hope this helps, Sherry



    Hi all!

    What a great discussion!

    One of the things that I have noticed as the kids in my study have created digital stories is the use of the archive.  Specifically, they are using Google images to tell their own family story. Supporting kids understanding of visual media might be helpful as they use this content to author..It is also interesting that the kids use digital audio to present personal identity as opposed to personal images..

    An example of this:





    I was thinking about what you said and thought you would be interested in what the Llano Grande school has done with digital storytelling.  It's a terrific website. One of my professors here at Wayne State University actually visited the school while in Texas and was impressed. 

     It's a Toolkit for Digital Storytelling by a school (Llano Grande) in southern Texas. They are really into digital storytelling as an educational tool - specifically constructivist teaching. There is one digital story told by one of the migrant children who goes to Utah each summer. It's excellent.

    Go to:

    Agree about the breadth and depth of discussion. And thanks for the elements of digital story telling.

    I think that we do need to have a framework for digital storytelling.

    I also think the strategies and tools can differ.

    For example, I like to use video, audio, graphics, and original art in my stories, but I did not use all of them for my first story. And my first story was a guided story, the subject was given and I personalized it.  It then became my own and I did not need more guidance.   I have also used comics and am very interested in Scott McLeod's expansion of comics, taking them out of the linear.  Although I have found that most people can tell a story, some need to follow a structure and need to be guided in the beginning.  I worked with family members and produced a short video story that convinced them that text was not the only tool for producing family histories.  

    There are so many great links and ideas on this forum already.  Thanks, guys,


    There are rich, fantastic posts in this thread so far, and I will get to reading further and responding soon, but I want to add a few thoughts especially on the first question posed in the original post.  This ventures a bit farther afield from some of your responses, but I hope will still be useful as we flesh out the notion of digital storytelling.

    Within my graduate program (urban planning), we are accustomed to asking what a plan is.  A foundational set of definitions offered by Lewis Hopkins gives us the plan as agenda, plan as policy, plan as vision, plan as design, and plan as strategy.  I don't think it's necessary for the purposes of this forum to expand on all of these, except to note that a plan can always be more than one of these, and can also be none of them.  

    The nature of city planning as a process rather than a product has led me to consider plans in many ways, and I'm currently considering the idea of a plan as story.  As an example, several departments of the City of Detroit, nonprofit groups, and the University of Michigan collaborated last summer on a comprehensive land use parcel survey in order to, in their own words, improve "data on the condition and occupancy of residential properties in Detroit to help the city and community groups determine land use and neighborhood stabilization strategies," especially as waves of foreclosures exacerbated the emptying of neighborhoods throughout Detroit.  The results provide a snapshot of the long process of urban abandonment that has been ongoing for decades.  What I think the surveyors conducting remote sensing on this project may not have expected, though, is the narrative nature of their data, when compiled into a GIS map.  The affordances of a large database program with a spatial map component give us a picture of this story that we may not see while passing through neighborhoods one at a time, or by hand-coding information on abandoned properties.  This feels to me not like an oppositional relationship, but still inherently different; GIS and remote sensing will certainly enhance a story being told here, but I suspect there must also be factors obscured or complicated by the use of this technology.

    Is this digital storytelling?  I don't know yet; at the least, I think further iterations of such a survey compiled together can create a story about Detroit not achievable by other means.  Whether that is digital storytelling, I will continue to mull, and I invite your thoughts as well.


    Dear Jonathon,

    Wihtout knowing a great deal about urban planning this sounds to me like a database of rich information from which there are many potential digital stories to be told. You could use this information and tell stories from the point of view (POV) of the city, the people, the small businesses, etc. You could create a digital story to show all the forces that came together to create this situation (poverty, racism, economy, etc.)

    Hope that helps,



    Hi Jonathan and all,

    As I was reading your excellent post I kept thinking of Hypermedia Berlin. The way Todd Presner and John Maciuika's team designed the platform, makes it a very participatory one... thanks to important features such as an authorship component and a community annotation feature for generating not only content but data sets. So it is a map of the city space for collective memory and individual experience, very much "a la Kevin Lynch" (whom Presner actually refers to in his article for Vectors on Hypermedia Berlin)

    For me, it is that community participation, enabled by built-in features such as annotation and authorship (in sum: user generated content capabilities?) that make the environment cross the threshold between a map and a story. Your thoughts on this?:)


    Hi Ana, Hi Sherry,

    Thanks for your comments.  Sherry, I do think the project has potential for many stories to be created; while I am not affiliated with the project, I expect that it will in the end be used for more than stabilizing neighborhoods with many foreclosures.  I'll be sure to keep the HASTAC Scholars updated on any developments there.

    Ana, thanks for the reminder on Hypermedia Berlin.  That project really ratchets up the contribution of individual stories and tagging of places and experiences, much farther ahead in participatory and user-generated metadata than I have seen elsewhere. I like your inclusion of community participation in order for something to become a story, and hopefully more planners will see it that way too as we continue to strive for equitable plans!


    Closer to the Big D there is an article about the Chicago plan in the NRDC magazine, Onearth, Winter 2010.It especially relates to the pathways through and within the city and which brand of transportation is relevant and how the businesses and communities are involved and changing.


    Hi Jonathan,

    Your post makes me think of a few projects and texts that suggest different aspects of and trajectories for spatialized digital storytelling. First, you could do worse than to check out Lev Manovich's book, The Language of New Media. Manovich talks at length about how databases are the most basic component of new media texts. "In the simplest case," he writes, "creating a work in new media can be understood as the construction of an interface to a database..." Authorship from this point of view involves the way the creator(s) of the work "...control the semantics of the elements and the logic of their connection so that...[by interacting with the database] the user creates her own narrative." (201)

    Urban spaces that have been tagged with metadata constitute a fascinating new class of database that can be both physically and virtually navigated. As augmented reality applications like Layar become more widely available on mobile phones, one can imagine a world of locative media wherein layers of location-specific story are embedded on every street corner. Further, as all the data gathered by urban planners and city administrations becomes accessible, we can look forward to new visualizations a la the kinds of things Hans Rosling has done with global census data.

    Finally, there is a vibrant and provacative creative movement around the notion of "urban play." Space-based games, many of which tap into mapping databases to enable their core mechanics, are becoming increasingly popular around the world. Have a look at SF0, the Come out and Play Festival, and PICNIC for some good trailheads.



    Are the projects making use of GPS and QRLs?


    Hi Anne-Marie,

    In a word, yes! In recent years, many artists and designers have found ways to tell stories using the GPS and barcode scanning capabilities of modern smart phones. Location-based games like LocoMatrix and The Hidden Park, for example, use GPS to embed stories and activities into kid-friendly outdoor spaces like parks and public squares. Children can explore the worlds of story that these games contain by getting out into the open air and looking around (with their parents' iPhones) -- a great example of digital storytelling that isn't bound by a screen or a desk. As I mentioned in an earlier reply, the recent explosion in Augmented Reality applications for smart phones is indicative of the enormous potential these kinds of technologies contain with respect to storytelling and play -- a potential that gets particularly exciting as users/players/participants themselves begin to tag and enrich physical space with their own virtual objects.

    Two more quick thoughts related to this: first, the immediate predecessor of a lot of this kind of activity is the practice of Geocaching, which caught on about a decade ago and remains popular. Can a Geocache or a Geocacher's online profile be considered kinds of stories? Also, the ever-prescient William Gibson's recent(ish) book, Spook Country, deals extensively with the notion of locative media, augmented reality, and location-based storytelling.






    Just a quick technicality: You can post video replies to the 3 videos you see in the forum prompt by going straight to

    You will see Biagio (who just posted by the way!), Joe and Mariana. As long as you have a (free) Seesmic registration, you can hit the reply button next to any of them and record your video reply. Just another way of contributing to the debate.:)


    With regards to empowerment, we often think of storytelling strictly in terms of social empowerment. I think part of what digital storytelling can accomplish - if we deconstruct stories to their basic information assets - is a revolution in economic empowerment and community economic development. Stories are the way that everyone will find their place in the information economy. This post will now devolve into a plug for a conference paper I co-wrote on this subject: The Story Economy: Digital Storytelling in Community and Economic Development.

    Mike Nutt


    Regarding the thread about harnessing the potential of GPS to digital storytelling in urban (and rural and suburban, for that matter) spaces, you might want to take a look at the Center for Digital Storytelling's StoryMapping Stories site: - Anne Fields, Ohio State University


    Hi Anne it's Sherry,

    Thanks for suggesting the StoryMapping Stories site. When we talked on the phone you mentioned DST is being used at the Suicide Prevention Center? I'm fascinated by that concept. Can you elaborate?

    Thanks, Sherry


    A team that participated in one of our recent workshops (Ohio State) for campus faculty and staff was a faculty member in our Counselor Education Program (College of Education and Human Ecology) and a staff member who are starting the campus Suicide Prevention Program.  The faculty member and her husband, also a faculty member, both specialize in suicide prevention. One of their ideas for the campus  program is to have students who either have survived suicide of a family member or have suffered from thoughts of suicide themselves create digital stories of survival. They came to the workshop to learn how to use the technology and to see how we ran our story circles. This summer we are going to do a workshop specifically for their first group--with the story circle facilitated by the Suicide Prevention Center staff because, of course, they have the subject expertise in this vervy special area that we do not--and with us offering the technical help.  (When we have worked with Joe Lambert he has stressed to us that in potentially incendiary emotional situations, for instance with battered women, they often will have a mental health worker present.)


    Hi, I just thought I would put in my two cents.

    I would identify a story (from a Lakota perspective) by one or more one of the following elements, and I would try to identify a difficulty occurred during the story.

    Here are the elements I use to evaluate anything:

    • Physical - The objects, people, and also our physical health, or the health of a system.
    • Mental - The logic and data, education, and reasoning.
    • Emotional - What makes people emotional, and what is important to us enough to become emotional.
    • Spiritual - How people are brought together as spiritual beings.

    In addition, (in order to truly love people we must understand that everyone has could call it a distraction or anomaly, but in the Lakota way this is referred to as "difficulty" tehila, and it permeates our life on earth. So, I try to identify difficulties encountered for the people involved.

    For digital, I suppose I would do the same.


    As far as community empowerment, here are some of the tools that have been used in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe area:

    • Scratch
    • Garage band
    • Podcasting (photo slideshow)
    • LiveAndTell
    • Cell phone texting is about all we have (no iPhones)

    There is something that comes up with, scratch, for instance... The experience relies on a viewer and that's not very archival-friendly (at least as far as i know...which I haven't looked into), and there is not an easy way to export the information.


    Also, I wanted to plug because they provide fundamental video workshops, and one of the members makes open source fonts for Lakota (which is needed).



    Hi Biagio and all - I was going through the elements you have and trying do a mental map in my head along with the 7 Cookbook principles (CDS) Sherry and I brought up. I see intersections (emotional content) but mostly these are two different frameworks. Whereas some folks may be concerned with this multiplicity of frameworks / methodologies in DST - and may see it as discrediting the value of the area, at least as a research tool - I (obviously:)) disagree.Just look at this forum -tobacco cessation, second life, economic development... And yes the authors of these posts are all working with stories.

    Biagio: I wonder if you could point us to one or two links (stories you have worked with, in LiveAndTell™)? Thanks in advance!



    I don't know if these qualify as stories, but they are pretty close...


    Normally a Lakota instructor will give the student a word list on paper. One of the words would be "car" for example. But what about the wheels? headlights? windows? (Or if it was an apple, what about the stem and the seeds?) Here is a better word list:


    Next, there are lots of songs that a young adult should know that are everyday songs. Here are a few examples: (Notice the vocables at the beginning? Many songs in Lakota are just entirely words.) (Notice in English? That's OK.)


    The last example is a Children's Dictionary & Coloring Book made in the 80's. I used all the "embedding" techniques to create a separate webpage: (Only the first couple of pages have been annotated. I'm working with a school that is gong to help me annotate the rest.)


    Hi Biagio & all

    All posts here are worthy deeper consideration, but I would like to focus on your 4 elements to evaluate “anything”: This is exactly my matrix of health promotion and in my interventions or classes this is the structure I emphasize. As you are aware WHO definition of health, has several pitfalls: it lacks the 4 dimensions here considered and put health as a - state of -.

    Nevertheless “health” is a dynamic process and people are involved in this process in different dimensions at different levels and degrees of consciousness.

    Now, other than the 4 (I call them) dimensions of health you referred, there is something that has proved to be useful in my case, because it helps structure health promotion interventions, and thus I would say, helps structure a good DST: the paradigm you decide to use. Amongst the different paradigms that can be helpful, my choice has been the salutogenic paradigm.

    So, how do I evaluate anything? By answering the question: is it salutogenic?

    Salutogenesis (salus=health + genesis=origins) is a framework that underlies three basic structures of approach: comprehensibility (Co), meaningfulness (Me) and manageability (Ma).

    So I would say if my DST has Co+Me+Ma it should impact the person's  generalized resistance resources or "GRRs." This way GRRs enabled individuals to make sense of and manage events.

    This is the core of my approach to health promotion. This is why I would suggest that a DST should link the 4 dimensions of the person contributing to reinforce her/his CoMeMa


    Since Luis (all the way from Lisbon!), touched on Second Life (SL), I thought I would mention this event TODAY Dec. 9 at NOON PST for those interested in storytelling in SL.

    The Metanomics community is hosting their weekly broadcast. Today the topic is (drum roll…) Weaving Narrative Threads in Virtual Worlds” You can choose between watching it on the web or being “there” (in SL)with the speakers. You need an SL account for the latter. The guest speakers are public health folks - yes… stories and Health again in this forumJ. I am virtually sure (pun intended) that they’ll talk about Karuna * a sim in SL devoted to the lives of those dealing with HIV/AIDS and making creative services available to them in SL. Here is the video on Karuna and the World Aids Day 2009:

    I will attend in SL (Ana Farber) so TP me by noon PST if you get lost. For the non SL folks: TP is a ‘beam me up Scotty” in SLJ so avatars can meet at the same location.




    The event in Second Life (SL) took place at noon PST as scheduled. It was nice to see some of you there! Quick report here since, again, the topic was "Weaving narrative threads in virtual worlds".

    The speakers talked about Karuna (video in previous post) and the serendipity affordance of SL as an environment for healing through storytelling. When defining what stories in Karuna were more successful, storyteller Jena Ball identified 'participation' as the most important (here's Jenna, during her presentation in SL today):

    To illustrate this, Christina Galanis referred one of her organization's (Southern Tier HealthLink NY) sims - sort of islands in SL - where apart from going to a Health information Center (that as she said they do not "hit you in the face with"), SL members can ski, go to the bar,., socialize... If you have a ski accident, an ambulance will come and transport you to a hospital. And the story develops further.:) Bear in mind that behind the avatars are real people with real health questions and concerns, as well as health practitioners.

    In the stories by patients of HIV/AIDS the fact of telling stories in a space where their anonymity was protected was core. A sad note: it was very disturbing to see a "in memorium" wall with the avatar names of members who were part of the project and who have since passed away (victims of AIDS).


    I thought I'd share this article I recently read about an author using Twitter to publish a short story... poses some interesting questions as to tweets and fiction:



    Hi June,

    One of the things I like about Moody's project is that he has conceived of a story that makes use of the limitations and capabilities of Twitter instead of fighting against them. As he notes in the WSJ interview, it would have been too easy -- and probably not nearly as compelling -- to just "[write] something in the ordinary way and [carve] it up into 140 character chunks (which is cheating, I think)." This is a good case study for educators and students who are looking to tell stories in digital formats: before you begin your project, ask not only why it makes use of digital technology, but why it couldn't be done in any other way.

    Feeding this thinking back into the forum at large, perhaps we can get a bit closer to a definition of digital storytelling (or at least come to an understanding of why many thinkers find it such a contentious term). Can we differentiate between storytelling projects that simply make use of digital technology and those that absolutely could not exist were it not for digital technology? Are these latter cases really what we're thinking about when we talk about DST? And where do we draw the lines? Is a film that has been shot, edited, and projected using analog technology actually digital storytelling if the screenplay was written on a computer? Would such a film suddenly become digital storytelling if it was uploaded to YouTube? Or would this be akin to the kind of "cheating" Moody was speaking of when describing his Twitter project?

    Finally, imagine two identical projects that enable a group of people to record the sounds of their daily lives and play them back on demand. The first project uses a Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorder to record the sounds and a mechanical jukebox to enable playback. The other project uses a digital recorder and playback occurs through a "virtual jukebox" on a computer. Is the latter project "digital storytelling" simply because of the difference in technology? Is this all we're really talking about when we talk about digital storytelling -- the machines we use? Or can the idea be more nuanced than that?




    I think one of the differences that your different scenarios have evoked for me is "availability"  If the story(ies) were taped (recorded) in whatever way and not made available or distributed in ways that others can edit, enjoy, change, add to, or make comments upon, then the story(ies) are simply using digital technology.  So I like the distinction you made by calling it "distributed".  But the definition still needs some tweaking, because the word "distributed" has too many meanings also.  Anne-Marie


    I agree with Anne-Marie. My responses to the questions you pose Jeff need to be nuanced because for me the  ‘D’ is for *d*istribution.:)

    A mainstream movie uploaded to youtube is not a digital story- it is a digitized video . The responses to that video that come out of that upload may build a digital story around that mainstream video. Distribution....

    For nonprofits DST means that once inaccessible means to tell stories are now within ‘reach’them; they can now engage the (same as before) audience affordably ; this translates into more engagement and a greater call to participation.

    For the big production companies, this is in part at the basis of what Henry Jenkins calls transmedia storytelling (storytelling across multiple forms of media). From a conceptual and practical point of view the D in the digital makes a story more prone to be retold across media. Diversification of *distribution* channels. 



    I agree that distribution is important. It was one of the reasons we (Michigan Disability Rights Coalition) started learning more about digital storytelling. People have preconceived ideas of what it is like to have a disability and how to react to someone or to a disability issue. In our advocacy efforts, we often have to find a way through this in order to talk about real issue or even to be treated as multifaceted real people.  Even when a story is told well, it doesn't always get through.  We hope the interactive nature of the web would help with this. I don't think we've explored this enough however. (So much more to do!) The digital nature of the stories has helped with distribution, for example I was pleasently suprised to see one of our videos linked on this forum.

    Another important aspect of digitizing information is once information is in a digital format it opens up the potential for access. People who are Deaf can read captions, people who are blind can listen to audio description and people who are distracted by this can turn them off. We can translate to other languages too.  Back in the day of the print story, reading meant you had to be able to interpret symbols into meaning and words.  Now digitized text has lead to arguments about literacy and what it means to "read". With multimedia presentation of information, we can choose how we prefer to get information - auditory, visual, movement, music...The information is in one digitized form which we can then use a variety of tools to access in the way we either need to, or prefer (or both!). We just need the right tools.  (You may be interested in an article about Toolbelt Theory by Ira Socol.)

    Of course, just because information is distributed and accessible, doesn't make it a story. I hadn't thought of the video about Disability Pride which was linked in a earlier post as a story, but can see how it may be a story. I do think some of our other videos are stories. And some have been effective in creating change.  The story "Two Paths" has lead to changes in the company that provided the bus transportation for example. Representatives from the company have been coming to meetings with disabiltiy advocates to learn how to improve their services.  What is a story is one issue and for us, what makes a good, compelling story that will crack open the preconceived ideas and help someone else question what they think they already know. What will compell them to open a dialouge? 

    Thank you all so much for the opportunity to participate in this forum. I really appreciate all the great information and thoughts!







    Kathryn and all,

    First of all, and on behalf of all 3 of us who organized the forum thank *you* Kathryn for all the great links.

    On another forum - scholarly collaboration and metaverses - I mentioned this project by Polgara Paine (her avatar name; real name being Linda Mandlebaum, Bowling Green State University) on an interesting experience she conducted with the Wheelies - these are SL residents who in real life are in wheelchairs and who in SL may choose to use wheelchairs (or not). Most do, though, and comment on how the same stigma they experience in real life is duplicated in SL when they encounter other avatars. The building has elevators (although as you may know you don't really need them in SL where you can fly:)) to stress the importance of accessibility not only online but also in real buildings.

    The image is of a storytelling session, part of a series that Polgara organized with the Wheelies' members. I believe in this particular session we talked about memories of pur grandparents. Polgara and I had discussed how nice it would be to try it out with Wheelies (that she is the Director of) after a very small  story circle that we did in SL, the Native American way (by passing around a talking stick) to celebrate the International Day for Sharing Life Stories.


    This series of posts has got me wondering: is anyone aware of virtual worlds for the blind? A quick Google search revealed some interesting efforts to develop user interfaces for the blind (like this one at IBM alphaWorks), but I'd be curious to hear from anyone in the forum who might have been working on this kind of accessibility issue.


    My coworker sent me this:

    "A new mailing list has been established to discuss virtualization, how to use it with assistive technologies, and any problems or queries with virtual machines in general from a blindness prospective. To join, send a blank message to"

    Kathryn Wyeth, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, "With Liberty and Access for All!"



    I know I'm terribly late in responding to this post, but I just wanted to comment on the question of whether or not you can "cheat" and just use digital medias but not actually digitally story tell.  I agree with the distinctions that have been pointed out (especially the distinction between the uploaded video and the story that happens around the commentary), but one thing I think the conversation assumes is that all storytelling is completely intentional.  So if I upload a mainstream movie on youtube (let's not talk about copyright issues for a moment) I have I think participated in a digital storytelling, perhaps not with the 7 elements in mind.  But YouTube changes the story because it won't let you watch a movie all the way through the way it was originally made, nor will it necessarily stop the clip for commericials (though there are commercials for some clips).  In between sections of the movie, the form of YouTube offers me numerous other options. So that for example after a student in the course I was observing made reference to the movie version of Their Eyes Were Watching God, I looked up the movie on YouTube. For a while I watched the movie in sequential order, but between the fourth or fifth clip I saw a flash for another Halle Berry clip and left the movie I was watching and went to another clip.  I think that if not the video uploader in this moment, but YouTube itself insists on a different type of storytelling that couldn't happen in another format.  Leaving the movie to go to another clip changed not just the way I thought of the movie(as if the breaks themselves didn't already do that) but it also changed what the story was altogether for me, the types of connections I was making, etc.   What I'm saying doesn't negate in anyway that there's a difference between uploading a movie or tv show and creating something specifically for YouTube, but I do think we should ask what kind of remixed storytelling happens and also to what degree is the uploader aware of and desiring of this outcome.  I think like all storytelling, digital storytelling while it in some ways has everything to do with what the author does and creates in forms, it also has everything to do with what the audience will do and what the author is aware that the audience will do.  So that in some ways even as all I could be said to be doing is posting a digital recording of primetime news, I know that it will be watched, circulated, and processed differently in the YouTube arena then say on my homepage, or as purchased through itunes. 



    Studies show technology is underused in the classroom. People, especially older people, have a fear of technology. It can appear overwhelming to them. Could digital stories be the answer? The University of Houston has a wonderful site for digital stores. One that deals with computers called "The Computer and I" tracks the changes in a woman's life through the computer age and how she feels about computers.

    If people (faculty, students, etc.) are afraid of technology, why not use this technology - digital storytelling - to show them how:

    • it can enhance teaching and learning
    • it isn't that difficult
    • it can be FUN!

    Never underestimate the power of FUN. Here's an example:






    Hi Ines here, a Portuguese journalist:)

    Two Portuguese observers of Digital Storytelling movement, a TV journalist (myself) and a Digital Media Scholar (Ana Boa-Ventura) tried – a year ago - to unveil the trends in this new landscape, comparing what is happening in our country with the practices in the USA and Great Britain, two countries, known for their leading roles in digital storytelling movement.

    When taken at face value, “digital storytelling” simply means using computer-based tools to tell stories, but we understand the expression goes well beyond this. It also designates a movement born in California in the 1970s from Americana Road witch has evolved into what is today the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) at Berkeley, and similar organizations that have spread around the world with a similar agenda - one of empowering individuals and communities by giving them the tools and skills to tell their own stories. They promote a media literacy agenda, providing skills that, once appropriated, promote the development of a critical eye regarding the stories with which, as consumers of mainstream media, we are “hit” on a daily basis.

    The study is not exhaustive but based, partially, on a convenience sample. The authors have constructed six narratives about six journalists leading the way in his/her own organization in the area of digital storytelling and/or multimedia division.  The interviewees’ work (or, in one case, have until recently worked) for major media outlets in three countries: the US – The NYTimes and the Star Telegram - the UK – The Scotsman and BBC - and Portugal – Expresso and Público. In the case of the US and the UK one of the organizations has a national coverage and the other a regional one. Both regional newspapers serve a large geographic area: Dallas/Fort Worth area in the case of The Star Telegram and Scotland in the case of the Scotsman. In Portugal, both media outlets are national.

    I posted a blog entry on this here, which includes the conclusions of our study, for those of you interested!



    Earlier today Sherry had also mentioned BBC Capture Wales!

    Sherry, I am a confessed fan of Daniel Meadows' work too, which is why Ines (thank you Ines for bringing this up!) and I included him in our study. In preparation for this forum, I actually contacted BBC Wales to find out why the Capture Wales videos were no longer 'viewable". This is the answer I received:

    "The BBC has acquired "on-demand rights" to offer video content only in the UK and not to anywhere else in the world. Offering downloads and streaming over overseas networks would be expensive due to the large files sizes." (BBC representative, personal email Nov 18, 2009).

    ...which proves (again) the importance of finding better ways to archive these rich stories. The UK is (respectfully...) too small of an area on the map :) to access those wonderful stories that have been inspiring - up until last year -to so many folks all over the world. Saving short films for posterity is a great BBC article on the importance of that repository.


    Because I work in the Office for Teaching and Learning, I would love to hear about ways that teachers (or students) use DST in the classroom. Please share your DST ideas.




    Great idea. Let's share curricula! Sherry I'll send you the materials I used for a course at National University on Digital Storytelling for K-12 teachers. Anyone interested, feel free to email me and I'll be happy to send them.

    The first worksheet's title is "Take a walk on the Wild side" and it's about pushing yourself to explore unusual shots with your digital camera during a walk you routinely do. One teacher took shots from the point of view of her dog: low and close to the sidewalk.:)


    Great idea Ana,  I would like to be part of the group that shares curricula and ideas,  Thanks,  Anne-Marie, P.S. I am packing up my camera to take on my walk to the gym.  ;)


    Some ideas from OSU:  Chemistry professor Terry Gustafson has created this story to loop as students are settling in for large lectures, his hope being that other faculty will do the same:  Joy Reilly of our Theatre Dept. has learned to make them so her students, both undergrads and in her intergenerational "life writing" classes can turn their text-based scripts into multi-media stories: Jessica Fries-Gaither is using them for an e-newsletter for middle-school social studies teachers: Joel Bloch is using them to help his ESL students learn English but, more importantly to help them discover a sense of their identity as strangers in a strange land Cynthia Dillard, prof. in College of Ed and Human Ecology, teaches Middle School Social Studies Ed., and wanted to learn to do DST as possible activity that students could use in their own classrooms for global exploration. (She happens to be a beader herself.) We have a fabulous one by Educ professor Brian Edmiston that we can't show publicly because of human subjects issues that he is able to show at conferences,however, in order to describe his research in a personal way.  He now has his graduate students creating digital stories to tell personal stories about their own research  and using them in similar ways to engage audiences when they present at conferences before they go on to present the hard research.  Brian reports that he has gotten dramatically different responses to his conference presentations since he started beginning his presentations with his digital story.


    As I said in my individual statement at the beginning of the forum "Stories have always been the raison detre of libraries". This example from New Zealand says it much better than I could. Watch the story of Maurice Gee's "Going West"




    Karen Diaz and I first become interested in DST because we believed "there were a million stories in the library".  It hasn't been as easy as we'd hoped--we've actually had more success reaching out to the campus at large, but now things are starting to swing back towards the library.  In the meantime, you can find several digital stories created by library faculty and staff on OSU's digital repository, the Knowledge Bank (  One that I created about the Oxford English Dictionary was an experiment to prove that even an iconic reference book has a story to tell: Another, by Ruth Sesco, tells the story of the person after which a library building was named: This one, by Amy McCrory, tells about her processing of the San Francisco Museum of Cartoon Art collection acquired by our Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library And this one by Anne Gilliland, our Health Science Library's Copyright Specialist, tells her story about making the transition from librarian to lawyer and how she has to walk that fine line everyday.



    I have saved every one of these digital stories to my library. I wholeheartedly agree with you that the OED has a story to tell. The information and images were fascinating. To see the professor standing in front of all the cubby holes was a powerful image to comprehend in this digital age!

    These are wonderful examples of digital stories. All librarians should view the 3 that deal with libraries. Ruth Sesco's choice to 'speak' to Mr. Sullivant added another dimension to the telling that I enjoyed. I didn't know that newspaper used cartoons so extensively in the past so that was fun to learn. Also, the librarian to lawyer story made me feel her pain!!

    Question. What about the copyright issues of the images used in some of the videos? If they are part of the OSU archives do you need to label them as such. What if they are from other collections? I'm starting a project here on researching copyright law and the TEACH Act and so am very concerned about not crossing the copyright line.




    We include coverage of copyright issues in our workshops and provide participants with links to sources for copyright-clear audio and image resources, e.g. through the Creative Commons.  The images we've used in these particular videos have been cleared through a number of means, e.g. purchased through Univ. Communications Office (hard to believe we actually have to do that!), pictures we've taken ourselves (e.g., those weird little packets of papers), Creative Commons fair use via Flickr, etc.  People also use GarageBand a lot to create their music.  We've had some other great ones--including the very first one Karen I did at a Center for Digital Storytelling workshop with Joe Lambert (well "great" may be stretching it)--but we couldn't get clearance on the music so we don't share it. Now when we do our workshops we make sure that from the very get-go that participants work as much as possible either with original images and sound or with copyright-clear resources from Creative Commons. Saves a whole lot of heartburn. One of our team members is doing a lot of work in our image workshops helping people think about using images in a less concrete way; for instance, you may not need to have a picture of students in a classroom (which might cause IRB problems, anyways). Instead, a Flickr picture of empty old-fashioned school desks might convey the mood you're trying to convey at that point. This encourages a lot of creativity on the part of the participants and actually saves some time in the workshop because they're not agonizing about running around finding a picture of the president of the universite when a picture of a looming shadow might do just as well.

    People sign consent forms for the Knowledge Bank that their stories are copyright clear.  We also have our stories on our Digital Storytelling web site, and they sign separate forms for that, as well as for iTunesU.  Hope this helps.


    One more example of a library story--we wanted library people to tell stories about themselves.  Here's one by Miriam Conteh-Morgan, our Linguistics/French/African Studies Subject Specialist: 


    Thank you Anne. Copyright issues can be very sticky. We recently had a presentation by one of the faculty at WSU to discuss copyright issues and it reinforced how difficult copyright can be - better to avoid if possible. I love your idea of using imagery to convey a message (use a shadow to represent a person, etc.)

    Thanks, Sherry



    Over the past 5 years, my work in developing curricula and programs that give students the skills and confidence needed to create, collaborate, and communicate their stories, employing all of the power of their imagination and voice in the global digital community, has put me in a unique position to better understand the social, economic, and political consequences of digital storytelling, citizen journalism, and cultural preservation in regions heretofore disenfranchised by our over-reliance on Western-centric mainstream media sources. 

    All of us are, or should be aware, of the struggles faced by fragile cultural ecosystems in the face of overwhelming, brutally encompassing processes of globalization.  But our collective experiences and access to meaningful stories told from the most vulnerable of communities has not been sufficient to give us a balanced view of the challenges that lie ahead in the conflict between systems of global economic development and progress, and local cultural preservation and the value of diversity to the overall cultural ecosystem. 

    Make no mistake about it.  We talk about diversity, whether it be biodiversity, cultural diversity, intellectual diversity, etc., as though it be essential to the overall progress of human history and quality of life.  But we live in a time that represents both the greatest opportunity as well as the greatest threat to the sustainability of the ideals of diversity, to which we give high praise and much lip service.  My work in the ethnic communities of northwest China is a case in point.

    Since 2007, I have been hard at work with some inspirational and visionary local leaders in the relatively remote and little-known provinces of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang Uyghar Autonomous Region, and the western third of Inner Mongolia (Mongolian Autonomous Region), developing models for participatory social learning communities.  These regions cover a vast amount of territory - roughly the size of the US west of the Mississippi River, and have a population of close to 300 million inhabitants.  The land, however, is not well suited to sustaining large populations as it consists of large swaths of non-arable dessert, poor water reserves, and high mountain ranges.  The populations of these regions consist of some of the most diverse ethnic groups within China proper, including large numbers of Tibetan Buddhists, Hui and Uyghur Muslims, and Mongolian nomads.  These populations also include the hightest rates of poverty and illiteracy in China.

    The inclusion of these groups into the larger process of China's modernization has been particularly stressful.  In the West, we're aware of this stress when it tears at the social fabric through the outbreaks of violence and in some cases, brutal repression as was the situation in Xinjiang in 2009 and Tibet and Qinghai in 2008.  But these seismic events belie the nuances and subtleties of what happens on a day-to-day basis in these regions as people struggle to keep their cultural footing on the slippery slope created by globalization and rapid modernization.  The mismatches are striking.

    To be able to put cheap, easy-to-use tools in the hands of students, and to give them a powerful opportunity to document their daily lives and retell their stories to a wider audience, is critically important to the people of this region.  For China is like a petrie dish for the world to understand if it's even possible to simultaneously address the really big global challenges -- health and wellness, climate change, environmental sustainability, economic progress, justice, equity, opportunities for choosing satisfying and productive lives, and the preservation and survival of cultural memes across the great expanse of human interactions in a global digital age -- in humanistic, moral, and ethical ways.

    At the 2009 Media Literacy Conference at MIT, we presented a collection of short stories about student projects in citizen journalism.  These projects represent a starting collection of digital stories about journeys, life, growth, and connections.  Watch this video and see if you can detect the significance of these experiences to the participants.

    Here is a collection of longer stories, all the product of student-led production, editing, and distribution:

    This short collection should provide some insight into the potential we have before us to "internationalize" our ability to create, collaborate, and communicate for understanding and the welfare of our collective cultural heritages through aspects of citizen journalism.


    Dear Stephen (and all) - This is such an amazing statement about citizen journalism! I especially appreciate how after Brazil (with Mariana kz, in S. Paulo , who you can see in one of the seesmic videos at the top), Portugal with Luis, Ines (and myself:)), and that "nowhere/everywhere" place that is Second Life, Stephen, you contributed to the international flavor of this forum with your examples of an experience with CJ in remote areas of China.

    One question, Stephen - what is your position regarding the complaints by some that the localization of the news through movements like CJ - along with the the 'doomed' news*paper* reality - are leading to an overall decrease in the quality of news produced? This is often illustrated with ideas such as "crowdsourcing, along with other phenomena such as less revenue from online newspapers advertising, is  jeopardizing the position of the 'foreigner correspondent". This in turn compromises a truly 'international perspective', leading to a very local view of the world." 

    I am playing the devil's advocate here:) but would like your opinion.


    The BIG question is..... Can the 20th century journalism model survive in the digital age?

    Among my journalism friends (Bill Densmore, Ellen Hume, Rob Williams, Norm Sims, Clay Shirky, Colin Rhinesmith, Howard Schnieder, among others), the question rages over whether we can have quality journalism living side-by-side with simplistic notions of a new journalism based on "crowd sourcing" and "citizen journalists."  I think I side with Clay Shirky on this.  The old model is dead, or at least on its dying breath.  Print journalism based on paid advertising models and mass markets can not compete with news generated from the ground up.  And that's what we have when every device and computer is the equivalent of a publishing house.

    As for quality, well, Fox News killed that goose, all in the name of ratings and advertising dollars to feed the dirty capitalistic soul of Rupert Murdoch.  But what does Rupert Murdoch care about journalistic integrity and quality?  He's rich and that's the name of that tune.  So, what about the rest of us?  What are we left with as the old model of publishing and news editing crumbles away?

    We'll have to wait and see to know for sure, but I see green shoots coming up through the blackened earth so recently being swept clear by the wildfire of cheap, inexhaustible digital technologies that consume the inefficiencies of printing press and paper in a conflagration of new media, citizen reporting outlets. These green shoots include live reporting by citizen journalists of the Iranian people's revolution via Twitter... long live Neda!; crowd sourcing the Labyrinthian connections between the power-brokers who seek to control the levers of power through LittleSis, an involuntary Facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited by people like us; and finally, a series of blog posts by James Fallows, the renowned reporting icon of the Atlantic Monthly, titled “Manufactured Failure”... the utter failure of the Western mainstream media to do any proper reporting on the Obama trip to Asia. And at the end of Fallows' rant about weak reporting lies a short CJ post by “an American traveling in China.” When an icon like Fallows is able to quote you as you travel through the far reaches of known world, well, that makes the grade as a green shoot in my book.


    I also think the answer to your big question is no, and, like you, I see something very interesting (and very different from the current media regime) just over the horizon. One text I'd like to point everyone to in this respect is Gary Hall's "Pirate Philosophy," which is about how the same kinds of changes that are sweeping over journalism are similarly impacting (and, ultimately, transforming) academia. Hall quickly dispenses with the economic argument -- since scholars and scholarly journals effectively lose money in the publication process even under the best of circumstances -- and heads straight for the stickier questions to do with authorship and the identity of a text. How do we credential academics if texts and scholarship shift toward collective intelligence models similar to the "citizen journalism" described above? Hall has plenty of provocative answers (and even more provocative questions), and I'd like to emphasize how important his text is, but if you don't have the time to find it (look here), here's a sense of the arc of his argument:

    There is...something of a contradiction at the heart of much of the open access community’s defence of peer review. On the one hand, they are urging the academy to take advantage of the many benefits that are offered by the electronic reproduction of scholarship and research...On the other, in order to retain control of all this automation and ensure such virtuality does not get out of hand, to the point where texts and their authors might appear unknown, unfiltered, uncertified, unaccredited and unaccountable, they are insisting on continuing to employ methods of maintaining academic authority that have their roots firmly in print culture. (10)

    In the longer term, however, as more and more academics come to take advantage of the many benefits that are offered by electronic modes of reproduction, I suspect such a shift will at the very least involve us in having to devise new mechanisms for maintaining 'quality control'; mechanisms that do not approach digitally (re)produced research as if it were more or less a prosthetic extension and enhancement of print. Instead, standards, procedures and criteria will need to be developed which are capable of responding adequately, rigorously and responsibly to the specificity of texts that are born digital. (13)


    Hi everybody,

    Reading all your posts has been an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. So many different insights about the “same old stories”…

     I’m a Portuguese journalist and filmmaker and I’ve been collaborating with Ana Boaventura and Inês Rodrigues. Actually we are starting a project in a Portuguese high school with 12th grade students (16-17-year-olds).  The project is about sustainable consumption. We decided to explore this topic with DST using an intergenerational perspective. We will give a workshop to the teachers, namely through the creation of their own stories, and afterwards will supervise student projects. The focus will be on the creation of short films with subjective and personal perspectives and experiences. We want them to stick to the subject and bring to life stories from previous generations, the family and the neighbourhood, integrating different attitudes towards consumption into a personal statement or narrative. We will also produce a video (making of). In the end we will make stories and documents about the process available in a website to inspire and guide further educational experiment of this nature.

    While conceptualizing the project we tried to find experiences of DST about environmental and sustainable attitudes but we didn’t find similar projects. Does anyone know about similar experiences?

    The idea of involving younger generations with more “naked” forms of DST – meaning ‘stories from the heart’  - is a bit tricky. During my Masters thesis I worked with four teenagers (16-18 years old). They were very familiar with all sorts of media packages but the DST stories I showed them seemed very far from their interests, not ‘cool enough’ we may say.  While creating their own DST stories they talked about the challenges they faced and the positive experience they went through in this process. In the end, and although they are regular content creators with a personal page on YouTube, they didn’t upload their DST films. And they often upload original content that they produce with much less effort and personal commitment. This raises some interrogations about how to find better ways to reach the youth.

    That’s why it seems to me that using themes or subjects can be a way to make DST more attractive. The sort of small scale of DST seems to be more effective when there’s a community of interests to share the experiences and stories that people relate to. The idea of rapping those stories with technology experiences and different storytelling platforms seems another way to go while working with younger people.

    From here I move into the Freytag's triangle and the quest about the changes that narratives are facing. Thinking about what Ana and Jeff wrote I believe we can add another perspective.  I’m thinking about the idea of user generated content (last post was about citizen journalism). The nature of the audiences seems to be changing. The communication system of one communicating to many is not the only one that matters. Now we have the peer to peer, the many to many, the some to some and so on.

     A girl that I followed during my dissertation is a regular blogger. For her writing is as important as the sharing of what she writes. She writes and waits for almost instantaneous replays. The narrative seems to be spontaneous and continuous and doesn’t need the rules of show business and attention grabbing that it used before.  Could this mean that in order to create relationships with different types of audiences the classic elements of the stories might be used in different and new ways?

    Do we still need those old stories? From my heart J I really believe the answer is yes, but I also believe that there are different forms of narratives unfolding.




    Your post was very interesting to me.  I think you are on the right track, especially on the different forms of narratives that are unfolding.  I was very interested in how you explained that the young people you were working with did not post on their own youtube pages.  I think the user-generated is key.  Try cars, or something that is part of the youth's culture as a starter and don't be too specific on the theme.  Allow a wide range of interpretations,  


    I've been reading through the incredibly rich array of ideas and topics and the different meanings and uses of digital story telling in this incredible forum.  Thank you all for so many insights and examples.   I also am thinking about digital story telling for memorial purposes.   When the queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick finally lost her long battle with cancer, two friends made a loving and delightful--and very crafty--video to her life, her person, her love of Jane Austin and Marcel Proust, her Buddhism, and her death.   Brian Selznick and David Serlin made this lovely animated memorial.   Do others know of uses of digital storytelling to cope with grief, to memorialize and remember?   Here's the url for "In the Garden, for Eve":


    Greetings all.

    As a media designer, I have to admit to being troubled by the lack of discourse coming from non-text-centric fields that are relevant to the issues at play in digital storytelling. What of the image and its role? What can we learn/bring from film, photography, art? When does the critique and pedagogy for digital storytelling incorporate what we already know about visual storytelling? 

    In addition to the affordances unique to various media and technologies, as Jeff Watson mentioned, it's important to consider the affordances offered by words and images as distinct modes of representation. Scott McCloud's excellent Understanding Comics is a great resource both for teaching and for critiquing the interplay between showing and telling. (It's also great for addressing spatialized narrative.)

    There is another aspect that needs to be taken into consideration, and that is the materiality and experiential/phenomenological qualities of "digitality". In the literary realm, Kate Hayles' Writing Machines introduces a critical vocabulary to address the materiality of literature as integral to its meaning-making strategies. 

    So what of "digitality"? Are we talking databases? computation? electronic displays? the internet? mobile devices? video games? I have to admit to being a bit flummoxed by the attempts to define "digital storytelling" as having a specific politics or disciplinary boundaries. The term itself seems to me too broad to be useful. Why wouldn't it include filmmaking or writing that uses computers, even if they are ultimately distributed in mass "old" media forms such as feature-length cinema or books? What of non-digital forms that become digitized? Literature that is digitized lives another kind of life--it can be manipulated, read, searched, etc. in new ways that may help to tease out new kinds of stories from old forms.

    Does "digital storytelling" mean only digital-born stories? And which stories these days are not digital-born, other than those that are spoken? (Even those may be digitally recorded and circulated.)

    I apologize if there is an old history to these questions... If anyone feels these defining issues have been "resolved" somewhere, please let me know. 

    Last reference: Noah Wardrup-Fruin and Pat Harrigan's First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media, and yet-to-be-published Third Person which are also available at electronic book review. These collections address "emerging forms of fictional and playable experience" and help bring procedural literacy, interactivity, and the ludic into the dialogue.


    Hi Anne,

    I agree completely. One of my hopes for this forum was to expose exactly these kinds of critiques of the notion of a monolithic "digital". The underlying assumption here, namely the problematic idea there are in fact distinct boundaries between the virtual and the real, the human and the electronic, and so forth, has a variety of important political and aesthetic implications that for many are crucial starting points to any productive discussion of the future of story forms and media participation. That said, the forum as it currently exists seems to be functioning best as a clearing house for links and projects related to various educational and social work initiatives -- which I find hard to criticize, because much of this work sounds both important and exciting. So while the idealistic interdisciplinarian in me is still holding out hope that more HASTAC participants will respond to the urgent -- and, as far as I know, yet-to-be "resolved" -- questions that you've posed, I'm also happy to see that discussion play out elsewhere -- maybe in a new thread on EBR...?



    I came across this thread after I found out my website (  was featured in an early post by Marty.  As I started reading, I quickly became interested in all the ideas that were being presented.  So I thought I would further articulate my work in the last five years around digital storytelling in the hopes that others might learn something new and interesting.

    I developed the Tabletop Moviemaking method while on a Fulbright research grant in Ireland in 2004-2005.  My aim was to find new approaches for using digital video in marginalized communities to help build reading and writing literacies.   What emerged was a core set of methods centered on shrinking the scale of movie making to fit on a table.  The original idea came to me when I saw a diorama paper theater set built by painter Jack B. Yeats in the National Gallery of Ireland.  I thought, "What if we filmed that?" The rest is history.

    The method plugs into a powerful historical precedent for storytelling that is scaled down into diorama, paper, puppet, and shadow theater worlds.  It is amazing to watch kids kick in their Rolls Royce engines for creativity and begin crafting stories with these simple miniature sets and characters.  The use of a video camera makes them digital and distributable. Participants learn about  camera framing & movement, as well as digital video editing.  Students are authors of their content from when the pen hits the paper, to when they click "export and upload".

    I intentionally wanted to keep a majority of the process real world, or perhaps a better word is non-electricity bound.  The tactile spatial element of cutting gluing and building is incredibly important to me.  I feel the concrete tangible interaction at the beginning of the production process helps students better understand the more abstract digital manipulation of characters on a screen inside an editing program.  It is also interesting to watch students progress in their storytelling style as they make more movies.  They have a better sense of visual narratives, why exposition is important, the purpose of cutaways, how to shoot a flashback, etc.

    I have worked with schools, universities and community groups all over the world.  I am currently in LA and work with a number of non profits centered on building literacies with marginalized communities.  I wanted to share my most recent collaboration with several community groups in LA. We just screened 9 Tabletop movies on December 15th that were made by 5th graders over the course of a 6 week program.  I worked with Young Storytellers Foundation ( and Creative Artist Agency.  Student's wrote scripts and built sets, then professional actors came in a performed the student's scripts.  The students directed the shooting. Then there was a big screening in a movie theater in Los Angeles at Creative Artist Agency's in house theater.  It was amazing to see these students walk into a movie theater have have their stories projected on screen.  They received a well deserved standing ovation.

    Here is a two and a half minute 'making of video' I shot and edited that captures the whole process.


    Here is a playlist of the nine student movies


    I find this topic about using digital media for storytelling to be very interesting. One of the examples I can think of is found at the website for Human Rights Watch: The tales of human rights violations, as well as social issues that need to be addressed are told though video, pictures, and articles. The images help portray the truth and urgency of their messages in order to motivate individuals to act.

    Also, many of my friends and I use the internet to share stories with one another. Sometimes we will watch a Youtube video as a conversation starter to be discussed. Internet videos can also be stories themselves that are viewed. For example, some of my Nepali friends will occasionally show me clips of Hindi videos, which they translate for me. This represents the combination of a person and digital technology working together at the same time to tell a story. Facebook is another tool where people share personal events with each other. A “wall-to-wall” posting or a series of e-mails could be viewed as the unfolding stories between two people that used to be written in letters.


    Ana also asked about descriptions of some of Second Front's or my performances in Second Life, but I have some (LENGTHY) responses.  Apologies!



    First, thanks for inviting me to respond. It's always an honor and pleasure when someone enjoys the conversation.


    I'd like to offer a few things for our conversation, all of which are submitted as propositions and elementts of experience with my work in digital narratives and virtual worlds. They are:


    -Thoughts on Orality.

    -Curating, archiving, and antiquarianism

    -Concurrent Archives and the Library

    -McLuhan and appropriate forms

    -Performance and DST in Virtual Worlds


    Thanks to Ana for bringing up the thoughts on Orality in the digital that I recently posted on Yasmin list. The idea that online culture's collective memories (communal and archival) is fugitive enough to merit consideration of it being considered as an oral culture comes from a conversation in the 1990's with a data migration consultant who was (at the time) transferring information at AT&T from tape to hard drive archives (I believe her name is Marcie Greenbaum, but I would have to reference earlier writings on this). I was told that due to money, time, and “relevance” of information, which is what I might call selective migration, only a partial record was moved to the new platform.


    This is not surprising, because data migrations can be costly, time consuming tasks, especially when upgrading data from legacy formats and operating systems, although this is less the case today. In addition, we can look at the exponential expansion of information generation, the degree of “link rot”, and the historical role of personal paper-based letters as cultural record versus the archival of emails. Of course, one argument is to ask what records should be preserved, but from the archivist's view, the deletion of one record could be historically relevant. For this, I would ask you to refer to the love letter s of artists Gabriele Munter and Vasily Kandinsky, and then consider if we could have archives of such personal information from the digital age. Can we archive everything, or maintain an automatically “scraped” archive from the web?


    Even with resources like The Wayback Machine at, which I was having conversations with colleagues at Eyebeam Art & Technology Atelier NYC (where I am an Artist in Residence) this weekend, they had to enter exact URLs to get proper web page archives. And lastly, 2008 conversations with Roger Malina of Leonardo/ISAST had to do with challenges of maintaining areas of support for parts of their online archives.




    One more instance of communal ephemerality in online culture has to do with my observations of an online community called at the New Museum in NYC that I have been part of since 1996. The issue at stake here is that there are a number of generations of new media artists, from the “Cyber” and “R&D” generration of the late 80's/early 90's, the “net art” and early New Media artists of the late 90's, and the post 2000's Contemporary/New Media artists of today. There are any number of issues from the type of community (based around conferences like SIGGRAPH, then web for a like rhizome, then the emergence of academically-trained New Media artists after 2000), but the issue of orality in digital art culture stems from the cultural refresh time between the emergence of new generations being far shorter tthan the amount of time that historians generatew narratives.


    In terms of New Media art, the generational mean time has been about 5-6 years, and consider that the current resurgence in contemporary art scholarship is recognizing the contributions of Fluxus, largely a 60's movement. Of course, there are any number fo books by Christiane Paul, Mark Tribe, Frank Popper and many, many more, but these, I would posit, are more documentary rather than antiquarian texts, and even if they were, academic instructors of media art histories (thanks to the efforts of Oliver Grau and others) are only now starting to come online. Btu even so, many of their areas of study are still far outside the 5-6 year event horizon. I realize that historians feel this time frame to be hopelessly short, but only for purposes of maintaining the cultural archive before it degrades, New Media art's period between the event and its historicizing of same is about 5, maybe 10, years. In my opinion, current models off historiography are inadequate for dealign with this timeframe and new models need to be considered.




    Another issue in regards to the antiquarian is that of the archive. For so many reason,s so many of which have been talked about many times (degradation of media, hardware & OS upgrades, etc), New Media art as such is the second most ephemeral art next to performance. This is part fo the reason why historiicizing events should likely take place before the media and technology become unable to represent the work. Therefore, I liken New Media, and all its forms to a form oextended performative media, and maintenance should be left as such.


    One more point from above, one can probably guess my position regarding the move of people in LIS (Library Information Science) into more and more exotic forms of New and Social Media, including Second Life. My take as a practitioner of over twenty years is that atoms will always trump bits. This is not that I feel digital media should not be used; it is just that a physical dtatbase needs to be redundant/concurrent.


    I mention LIS professionals venturing into Second Life and seeking to reiterate their libraries in-world, and often seeing it does not work. I'd like to refer to McLuhan in saying that any medium serves its form, and in many ways, a virtual museum is not a physical one, and has different modalities of communication. This is something that we are learning (repeatedly). In addition, I never recommend that a library place their delivery system on a proprietary platform run by a private company.




    Lastly, I have been asked to discuss my work in performance in Second Life and its relevance to DST. For the past three years, I have been a founder/principal of a performance art group called Second Front, who derive their influences from Dada to Fluxus, and has done 35 performances to date. We have a partial archive at


    The point of relevance here to DST is twofold – first, after two weeks in Second Life, we utterly gave up on any hope of theatrical staging or blocking, or even cohesive central narrative for that matter, due to the inconsistencies, lags, delays in the network. It is then that we felt that performative DST was more like the “Happening” model of the 50's and 60's – a loose amalgam of rules or events which would then create a set of rules for the communication of a gestalt. I also realize that others have been doing staged readings in Second Life, and loosely call them “theatre”, but I have seen few that have really worked that well. I also think that this is why many groups are trying to establish projects over the Access Grid (Internet II) to create seamless, telepresent theatre. Perhaps experiential/networrk latency/lag is akin to a temporal metric that suspends reality, like the zombie quality of Mori's “uncanny valley” model.


    Alluding to McLuhan once more, I truly feel that one has to consider the formal qualities of the medium and adapt its specificities when constructing narratives/anti-narratives. This is why Second Front has developed the system it has, as is allows for the problems in interaction and representation inherent in distributed networks.


    Sive I have now entered my thirs page of diatribe, I'd like to offer participants to look at posts and videos of Second Front as works that are doing DST in-world, in video, and on blog. I'd also like to invite people to look at my latest essay on narrative, “Art in the Age of DataFlow” at


    On that note, I'll stop for now, and give everyone a breather.






























    Some of the many interesting comments have gotten me to think about the role of social media and how it affects digital story telling.  Every day I receive emails or facebook postings with "Watch this clip".  Some are short stories that meet the ST criteria, some are messages with political or social content.  But the one thing that they have in common is their distribution to a wider audience than was ever possible.  Also comments, although, somewhat rare even on Youtube allows the viewer to participate in the "story."  Also, as was noted by the latest participant in this discussion, the posting and viewing can lead to related stories/videos that can enhance or change the way the ultimate story is constructed.


    Is there anyway to breath some life into this discussion? When I first came across all the different topics i was super excited to follow it.  In a about three weeks it generated over 80 unique responses.  And then...winter break?  We are all busy* Is that what happened?  Or perhaps all that could be explored and shared is on display with regards to digital storytelling. No way.


    Are there other discussions that are more active regarding digital storytelling either here or somewhere else on the web?  I'd love to continue the exchange of ideas that seemed to be firing on all cylinders in December here.  But if not here, where else is there a vibrant discussion on digital storytelling?

    I would interpret a lack of comments as a tentative yes to my question in the subject line.


    Here are two cool projects  I just completed.  One in school and one in the community that center on the method I use to help kids tell great stories.



    I'd love to hear what you think!

    Hoping for more on this thread :)


    *come on that's not fair


    Hi Brick, Welcome to HASTAC! The forums are featured for a few weeks, and that's when folks are paying attention to the topics at hand. But as you can see, the forums are never closed. So you might draw some comments back just by posting! 

    Better yet - why not post a blog, showing your work, and introducing yourself? Are you currently a student? If so- you should consider applying to be a HASTAC Scholar next year. That's who hosts and (mostly) populates these forums, and we'd love to have someone else working on storytelling! Drop me an email if you're interested. 


    First off, I am happy to see this thread is still active.  I understand better how a featured thread will garner loads of posts and then fade a bit.  While I find many interesting topics on HASTAC, this thread in particular strikes a resonant chord with my work.

    I would love to post a blog to faciliate an introduction to my work.  I have a formal website dedictated to my method (, but perhaps and more specific blog dedicated to the practice, implementation, lessons learned, evaluation.. etc would be better for interested digital mediia enthusiasts. 

    If I were to faciliate a blog I think I would be most interested in exploring the intersection of craft (tacticle tangible implements) storytelling like shadow theater, paper puppet, Commedia Del'Arte and emerging digital tools.  Tabletop Moviemaking uses a technology, in this case a video camera, as a capturing device in order to save, edit, and share.  Once the short performance is digital and distributable, it can leverage all the wonderful new technologies on the web facilate sharing and exchange. 

    I feel that it is increasingly important to create learning experiences where small groups of students are working in collaborative groups where they are arguing, defending, exchanging, understanding and ultimately finding common solutions to create a collaborative narrative.  I facilate Tabletop Moviemaking workshops 3 times a weeks in a variety of locations across Los Angeles and I see how the method naturally creates these authentic face to face encounters with collaborative idea exchange.  Students can get mad and feel frustrated when a creative idea is rejected or the group is going in a different direction.  This is SO valuable!

    What adult has not felt this and had  to find a way two continue working despite challenges with personalities in a given group? You get through it and upon reflection perhaps that frustration wasn't so bad. 

    The more encounters with creative thinking, in this case storytelling, we can give to young people, the better equipped they will be as critical creative problem solving adults, who will no doubt be working in some form of a small group for the rest of their lives. 


    (Dead exhausted folks, rather...;)) Hi Brick and everyone!

    Ana here, who along with Jeff and Sherry, launched this with Fiona's invaluable help.

    It's not that the forum is dead but that a zillion other things diverted our attention. So you just gave me a great "excuse" to 'divert' my attention and 'focus' on what i really like - think and talk about DST... And maybe Jeff and Sherry will want to do the same.

    I love your tabletop movie making! I sent your post to my friends Helena and Ines in Portugal and maybe i can 'drag' them again into the discussion here. The 3 of us have just concluded a project with DECO (Portuguese org. for the Consumer Defense) where we (mostly they...) worked with 15-16 year olds. Helena and Ines: wouldn't it be geat to use this method if we extend the DECO project with younger kids??

    Brick (and you've probably done this but anyway): It'd be cool to show the kids that even the 'great ones' storyboard before shooting. Taxi driver is probably not thematically ideal to show kids :) but 'helas' is the one that comes to mind - this youtube video shows Scorsese's storyboard side by side with the real action.

    Some DVDs do include this type of parallel process but there's not that much on youtube... (and most refer to special FX... and I think it'd be nice to show them the 'other' movies...)

    Last but not least: Helena learned - in this forum actually!:) -of Korsacov. Have you, Brick, worked with this at all? Anyone else out there with good examples of this?.. We're thinking of giving it a try after seeing for example

    And thanks for the great post, which allowed me to 'divert' my attention from not very interesting work:)




    Hi Ana,

    Thanks fort the links.  I had not come across Korsacov specifically so thank you for that.  I met a grad student at MITs Media Lab in Dublin back in 2001 who was working on a database of video that was keyword linked and when you typed in a phrase it would dynamically stitch a video together.  Korsacov seems pretty cool.

    Tabletop is a natural storyboarding tool in an of itself.  The power of the method lies in its simple intuitive interface of paper puppets and backgrounds.  When I am working with a small group, it is very easy for me to take them through a series of guided questions about their story, characters and setting.  Because they are holding characters in their hand and can flip to new backgrounds in seconds it is easy for them to respond to my questions.  What is his name? How do they know each other?  Where do they go after this?

    After we have gone through major parts of the narrative structure I can begin going through a series of guided questions regarding camera framing and this is where Tabletop overlaps (replaces) with storyboarding.  I start with the basic question, "How do we know who is speaking?"  One common mistake for novice movie makers is to keep the entire shot wide with no edits for different shots.  This concept is known as coverage, or covering a particular scene with different shots and angles.  Camera setups take seconds in Tabletop moviemaking so it is easy for them to stage an Establishing shot and then cut to a Medium Shot for the character who is speaking.   I think the literal concrete, hold it in your hand, nature of the Tabletop helps students understand an abstract concept like storyboarding and how it helps frame a story. 

    I use solid state digital cameras and the students love to shoot a scene and then immediately watch it.  This quick feedback loop allows them to revise and reshoot.  Sometimes they just keep giggling and watching it over and over.  Which is a giggling loop.  Then I have to encourage them to get back to shooting:)

    Regarding DECO,  I have worked with a number of teenagers on Tabletop projects across Europe. In the most recent context I used the method to explore stereotypes teenager hold about different countries in the EU.  It was part of a multi-lateral cultural exchange workshop hosted by Empower Media Network that focused on bringing teenagers together from 8 EU countries to make digital media for 10 days.  Here is a site I created that describes the project and its outcomes in detail.