This past summer I taught a workshop for DH@Guelph titled, “Digital Storytelling for Humanists.” It was a course similar to one I had helped teach the year before at DH@CC, the Claremont College’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Both workshops were made up of faculty and grad students who wanted to incorporate digital storytelling into their research or teaching practices. We spent nearly a week together, not only learning about tools and editing software but fully engaged in the process of creating a digital story. Of course, the highlight of every digital storytelling workshop is showcasing each person’s story. Some written as personal narratives and others as digital essays but we all learned more about each other, our work, our connections. And, because this was a professional development opportunity, all had a deliverable.
In late June I attended the Digital Humanities 2018 Conference held in Mexico City. I was chatting with a new friend who was presenting his poster on digital storytelling from Houston Community College. It was then that the question was asked by a visitor, how does digital storytelling fit in with digital humanities? My answer went something like this:
Digital storytelling shares the ethos of the digital humanities: the willingness to collaborate, to experiment, to share, to fail, to be transparent, to iterate, and to make public. Digital storytelling like DH is modular in its ability to remix and alter the format to fit different disciplines. Digital storytelling is less about expertise and making expert knowledge public or leveraging open data for research and more about centering teaching and learning experiences. As a field of study, the humanities focus on the cultural record of human experience and the preservation of this knowledge- in many ways recorded through stories. In this fashion, digital storytelling provides new opportunities for humanities scholarship and teaching.
Digital storytelling is simply using computer-based tools to tell stories. These can include pocket documentaries (using mobile devices to capture moving images), digital essays, mapped memoirs (embedded digital stories on a map), interactive storytelling (gaming) and even podcasts. They involve sharing the idea of combining the art of telling stories with a variety of multimedia, including graphics, audio, video, and web publishing.
I teach digital storytelling because I believe it leads to transformative learning experiences. There is also much potential in expanding digital humanities perspectives, research, and scholarship. In his article, Digital storytelling: New opportunities for humanities scholarship and pedagogy John Barber states:
“If we grant that humanities scholarship and pedagogy may be grounded in stories of human cultural and creative endeavors, then the use of digital media to help create and share such stories may help engage academic research with creative practice to promote critical thinking, communication, digital literacy, and civic engagement.”
Perhaps an affordance that digital storytelling has over other digital humanities practice is that it is relatively low-tech and anyone can do it because everyone has a story to tell.
Check out some of the digital stories created at DH@Guelph Summer Workshop:
“Digital Storytelling for Humanists.”
+ Read More
I recently found a picture taken of me on a hill overlooking the Krak des Chevaliers in western Syria during a 2003 trip. I am pictured with my video camera, tripod and a bag strapped to my waist that holds brick-like backup battery packs and as many mini DV recording cassettes as I could carry. I was filming a documentary on women, history, and the middle east. I remember the challenges of the heat and the altitude along with the heavy gear I had to trek on some of the expeditions. But once I got the shots I wanted: Magic! Exhilaration! So many ancient stories to tell, beginning with one picture.
I’ve held on to this feeling and I’m thrilled to begin an idea I’ve had in the works for some time: pocket documentary filmmaking.
Later this spring, Kathy Filatreau (Instructional Technologist & partner in Digital Storytelling projects) and I will be traveling with 20 students from Whittier College’s anthropology and social work 300 course to Copenhagen, Denmark. The course taught by Professors Paula Sheridan and Lisa Ibañez are studying the ways in which welfare and workfare states contribute to the well-being of children and families. For many of the students in our group, this will be the first time they are traveling abroad. Along with their excitement to visit a different part of the world they also bring specific topics they would like to research. Some of these include education systems, clean energy plants, and the Dane’s renowned culture of happiness. Their main assignment is to create a digital story that reflects their research and findings. In 2016, the tools students will use to create their digital stories are all in their pocket. We will use our mobile devices, including phones and tablets to take photos and gather interviews and footage to edit with a personal narrative. The result will be a series of pocket documentaries that students will share with each other and a group of Danish faculty and students.
Our trip will include class meetings hosted by Metropolitan University College’s Social Work Program and we will share workshops on creating digital stories with our Danish partners. Students will take part in field visits relevant to course content and cultural excursions that will include a photography tour of the city focusing on techniques for capturing images and sound that will add dimension to student narratives. We will be blogging our learning adventure and sharing our digital stories on DenmarkDS.soniachaidez.com. We hit the ground running on May 20, 2016!