Hello, my name is Crispin Butteriss, I’m the CEO of Bang the Table, a specialist software supplier in the online community engagement space.We work with governments across Australia, as well as in NZ, CA and the UK to take their community engagement processes online in parallel with their traditional F2F processes.We will be talking together about gathering digital stories for community engagement. A quick definition… I use the term digital story VERY loosely.The strict definition, as far as one exists, states that a digital story combines images, voice-over and music to create.I’ll be using the term to indicate any kind of online content that is either explicitly a story or connotes one – whether in the form of text, images, video, music or any combination.
You can tweet me @crispin_btt during or after this session.I will attempt to answer any questions to the best of my ability.But… I would love it if you could refer me to more resources in the space so that I can share them with the world.
If you have a web enabled mobile phone, please go to iap2.engagementhq.comThere you will find the demonstration site I have created to support this session.It includes links to sample text, image and video digital stories plus a few other resources.You can add your own examples to the site if it so pleases you.
There is also a little quick poll tool…Scroll down to the first quick poll question…Have you ever used story telling as a community engagement process?
And then the second quick question…Have you used digital tools to support story telling?
Who’s in the room….
Why (think about digital stories)?
Back in the late 1990s I was doing post graduate research into the use of discourse analysis as an interpretive tool for community engagement.If you haven’t come across discourse analysis, and I hadn’t at the time because my background was in natural resources management, it came out of cultural and social studies as a method for pulling apart ways of thinking about issues to reveal the underlying metaphors and assumptions. Probably its most well known writers are the French philosophers, Michelle Foucault and Jacques Derrida and their mates. It’s a language all of its own and very heavy stuff.So, to keep myself interested I started reading stories about “place”.Beautifully written, emotionally rich, engaging essays about the relationship between the authors and their environments and communities.Quote from “The Sweet Smell of Pines at Dawn”…And then I forgot all about using stories for community engagement… My research was all about collaboration and dialogue, getting people to listen to each other, learn from each other, and build a collective knowledge beyond that of the group of individuals. So stories were outside my strict terms of interest at the time!Then, very early in the life of Bang the Table we were doing lots of test consultations to see whether the software worked and whether anyone would use it.One of my business partner’s wife, Cath, set up a site to ask women to share their stories about post-natal hospital care.The results were extraordinary.Within a few days a whole series of confronting stories began appearing on the site. They were emotionally rich, very long, and, as I said, quite confronting and a serious moderation issue for us to deal with. I felt like I was in the middle of a conversation where I definitely didn’t belong!The interesting thing was that the stories were mutually reinforcing. They provoked empathy and sympathy rather than disdain and argument – which is an unfortunate side effect of when “dialogue” turns into debate and crass argument.Once again, I forgot all about stories and got on with the job of building BtT and encouraging everyone to use forums!
And then, a couple of years ago, a prospective client asked us to build a “safe” alternative to an online forum so that they could (theoretically) gather community comments on projects without encouraging debate that might turn nasty.And so the “Guestbook” was born. A very simple tool that simply allows the individual to post their comment. You can’t agree or disagree with another’s comment. You can’t get into an argument.Then, the NSW Government launched a consultation about the 80th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.They asked for “stories” from the community about their memories and connection with the construction of the bridge.I’d like to read one short example…My dad Patrick Bridges, was 9 when the bridge opened - Dad turns 90 in August this year. He can remember his uncle Charlie coming down from Coffs Harbour especially for the opening. Uncle Charlie grew bananas at Coffs Harbour and Dad remembers that he and his brothers travelled on the train with uncle Charlie from Lidcombe to the city, enjoying fresh bananas. Dad said his overwhelming memory of the day is how many people were there and he can vaguely recall a big kerfuffle and seeing a man on a horse with a sword. Dad has crossed over and under the bridge innumerable times since that day, and says he still feels a thrill at the masterful construction of the old girl!
This was followed earlier this year by the Australian Government’s consultation on the NDIS policy.They created a bunch of forums to discuss policy issues, but more interestingly, established a space for people living disabilities and their carers to share their stories.I like to read a short section of the very first story…I Wish My Son Had Cancer….I can almost hear the gasps and you all shaking your heads as you read this but I don’t care. It is true…I wish he did.For nearly 17 years he has been through almost every type of test, scan and has had so many procedures and surgeries that I gave up keeping count long ago. Trying to keep him healthy has been a constant and a sometimes impossible goal. A good year is usually followed by a disastrous one and sometimes they have all blended together into a swirling blur. I try to keep his brothers and their interests a priority but sometimes they’re not. As for me and my husband….that is also something that has altered and bent and is somewhat more of a habit than anything else. …So yes I am angry, frustrated and upset because what does he have to do to be heard? How much more do you want him to go through? How many more times does he need to lose control of his bowels in front of his classmates, friends, girls and strangers before someone says enough! But he doesn’t complain just chooses to stay at home and watch tv in his room instead of going out.And we all wait with him while someone, somewhere decides that he really isn’t as important. He doesn’t complain, he can’t be fixed so he can wait a bit longer.So think about it and don’t condemn me for wishing that my son had cancer…..There were several hundred similar stories. Each read, line by line, by our moderators.
Activity:Identify one specific reason you believe that digital stories (could) add value as part of your community engagement program?
Now, I just want to show you a few examples of different types of digital stories..
The Gift of Non violence by LeRoy Moore.Click through to the video…
Pinstagram… collected images of Uluru
Twitter as a collective space for very short stories… Tweetviz.com
What if story gathering was turned into a community development project. For example, Feral Arts, a QLD based company has been helping community groups to create simple but clever digital stories for many years.
ActivityIdentify one way you can add digital stories to a project you are working on right now.
Thanks for you time
Gathering Digital Stories
Dr Crispin Butteriss
CEO, Bang the Table