What does digital storytelling really mean? It combines telling stories with any of a variety of available multimedia tools, including graphics, audio, video, animation, and Web publishing But at its heart, it is continuing the millennia tradition of storytelling, which began with oral stories, and continues
There are many reasons why we tell stories The two biggest are to spark memories and to communicate. Our brains use stories as a way of sorting out our personal memory and of sharing our memories. My memories are built on little stories. They might be fragments – Concord grapes and my grandfather – or a full-blown story – the trip to my father ’s funeral. But both are ways of me retaining important moments from the past. Stories are also a way of sharing. Those two little stories I just mentioned allow you to share my past in a way that communicates. Stories translate our thoughts and memories into effective communication Stories don ’t have to be from our memories. In fact most aren ’t. But they use our memories to build a sense of purpose. One of my favorite digital storytelling authors, Joe Lambert , talks about folk singers and storytellers. He says folksingers used song as a way for them to capture their own and others ’ sense of the extraordinary comings and going in life. It was democracratization of cultural literacy, as ordinary people told their stories and extraordinary people told others ’ stories. And told them in a way people could understand. He says it was the beginning of digital storytelling. Think of Kris Kristofferson ’s “Me and Bobby Magee ” or Johnny Cash’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down. ”
“ Storytelling” is the key part of digital storytelling It can be any number of kinds of stories, but the stories themselves must shape what we ’re doing no matter how powerful the images or sound. It ’s the strength of the stories that carries the project We ’re going to talk a lot about focus the next few weeks. In classes I beat people to death about focus starting with their first print story and, for those who haven ’t gotten there yet, I do it through the capstone graduate class in digital storytelling. Having a tightly-focused digital story is the difference in effectively communicating your interpretation of the story – and that ’s what you’re doing in story-telling, telling a story your way. So let ’s talk about telling your stories. How do you find them? You ’ve never used multimedia before, how are you going to go about finding that “voice” to use? Who suggests your stories? My answer: You are. You are going to do all the above, and you don ’t need much help. The key is to start looking. I always describe journalists as people who hear a siren and look to see what ’s happening. Or someone who sees three people standing around talking with serious looks on their face and heads over to ask what ’s going on. Or who isn’t afraid to walk up to a complete stranger and ask how they feel about a tragedy – or a glorious sight – or what just happened nearby. And a journalist is a storyteller. So how to find a story? Go out on the square, look around and you ’ll find a bunch. Are they the story you want to tell here? This is where you focus. You ’re going to talk a lot more about this in the script and storytelling classes.
But if you ’re having a problem or feeling overwhelmed with the idea of constructing an elaborate digital story, remember about focus. A way to break your mental logjam is to remember to focus – to start with a small idea. How many of you have read Anne Lamott ’s Bird by Bird ?
One bird at a time Last week, Carole Burns showed me a digital story she filmed at the Magic Kingdom by holding avideo camera out alongside a roller coaster. It told the story of the ride – complete with frightened shrieks from fellow riders – simply and completely. The idea was simple: How to share the experience of this nifty roller coaster with someone who wouldn ’t be caught dead going on one. (Someone like me, for instance.)
I believe there are three important kinds of stories you can tell. There are a couple of others, but three big categories.
The first is stories about people . Sometimes they are important people; sometimes simple people; sometimes people from our pasts; sometimes complete strangers who remain strangers.
But they all have a story. Your job is how to tell it.
Character stories are stories about relationships. The relationship can be beween people Tender and loving or enemies aesop
generally good stories have both heros and villains. These tend to lean on people narrating their stories. Photos are key. Slide shows or video are vital. Sometimes it ’s hard to find the photos. Do you have great photos telling your story? It ’s the same with others.
Another kind of character story tells of important people , celebrities, people whose position calls for a story. The mayor. The priest. The fishmonger. The digital storytelling teacher. OK, Scratch the last one. I think of these as accomplishment stories. They tell us how the celebrity came to their position of importance, and how they do whatever it is they do, and why . They ’re often about achieving a goal. These, by the way, are often easy to tell digitally . They ’re often documented – especially with photos. I told you two memory stories, about my grandfather ’s grape arbor and the trip to my father ’s funeral. Memory stories make good digital stories. They don ’t have to be your memories. It could be someone else ’s lost love – or great love –, experiences in the Great War, flight to the Moon, heart transplant. It ’s a memory, memories make great stories. Sometimes all you need is turn on a camera, and let your subject talk. So you get the story, but how do you turn it from just a talking head into a well-told digital story? That ’s where you use the skills we’re going to teach you here.
That idea leads directly into the second big category of storytelling, that of an event, It can be an adventure, your ’s or someone else’s. Personal stories like climbing a mountain. Fishing a river. Or it can be the story of someone else ’s adventure.
An event is something that happened. It could be an accomplishment. But something is happening, so tell the story I can guarantee you that when you get home, you ’re going to tell about a meal you had on this trip. Years ago, before I was married, I came to Italy with a group that didn ’t include my fiancé. I sent her postcard each day telling her something that happened or something I saw or an insight I had gained. One of my personal blessing from Pope John Paul II, along with the 13, 000 or so other people. Or when I was sitting on a stone in the Colusseum writing a post card and heard a tour guide say: “The Emporer’s box? See where that man is writing out a postcard. That was the box.”
The third big area for digital stories is of a place the market, a church, the opera house, town hall, even an alley The key in telling the story of a place is bringing it to life with vivid writing, photos and video. Other stories are available Recovery stories Love stories Discovery
Frankly, finding a story is not hard. Even focusing on it isn ’t hard. Bringing it to life is – and that ’s where you lean on the new visual and audio tools available today. ASSIGNMENT: Each student think back to the most powerful print story they can remember (in my case, it ’s John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony”). Then write a short treatment (a long paragraph) of how you could tell that story visually (see Visual Storytelling , page 9) without literally following the plot. Include a statement of why the story is worth producing.
Digital Storytelling Dr. Stephen Byers Marquette University
There are many definitions, but in general, digital storytelling, means combining telling stories with any of a variety of available multimedia tools, including graphics, audio, video, animation, and Web publishing