is an ancient art that mankind has used throughout time to convey
personal histories, preserve cultural traditions, and instill knowledge
and values. While the earliest forms of storytelling were oral,
today's advancements in information technology have resulted in
a new art form known as "digital storytelling". Digital storytelling
refers to emerging forms of narrative that use technology tools
to help people tell compelling and emotionally-engaging stories.
Digital stories generally consist of text, voices, and images that
combine to form multimedia representations of personal experiences
and perspectives. Digital storytelling programs give residents the
opportunity for self-expression while simultaneously increasing
a center's capacity to provide technology education.
Value of Storytelling
understand the value of digital storytelling, one must first appreciate
storytelling in a more general sense. Through the art of storytelling,
personal reflections, shared experiences, and cultural values are
explored, helping the storyteller to feel a sense of meaning and
belonging in the world. Storytelling can also be an interesting
way of discovering how we came to be who we are as individuals,
families, and communities, as well as developing insight into the
potential of our futures.
helps children and adults alike to develop writing and verbal skills,
as well as the ability to openly express personal thoughts and feelings.
It also helps sharpen the skills of imagination and visualization,
empowering individuals to consider new and inventive ideas, and
to envision themselves in many different life scenarios. The added
value of digital storytelling is that storytellers can learn about
multimedia tools within a meaningful context.
Digital Storytelling Process
as there are an endless number of stories to be told in our communities,
there are also many ways to approach the process of crafting a digital
story. As Neighborhood Networks centers structure new programs teaching
this art form, it is important to remember that digital storytelling
is not just a technical processit is also emotional. Therefore,
instructors should take into account not only on the technology
tools and skills that are available, but also the life experiences
of the individuals being taught, when providing guidance and feedback
to students. Storytellers often experience feelings of vulnerability
when talking about personal experiences, as well as feelings of
intimidation from working with new technology when creating digital
stories. This requires that instructors be flexible and have the
ability to tailor the process to the individual needs of students.
the process of developing a digital story includes the following
- Write and develop text.
- Collect media.
- Get feedback.
Needed for Digital Storytelling
Networks centers and consortia that are interested in starting a
digital storytelling program can begin by collecting the technology
they will need. Fortunately, many centers already have at least
some of the necessary hardware and software. Below is a list of
the technology equipment used for digital storytelling:
||Computer workstations with a 40 GB hard drive
space available on each. |
||Flatbed scanner. |
||Computer speakers. |
||Headphones (optional). |
||Editing software-examples include Windows Movie
Maker, Adobe Premiere, and iMovie. |
||Blank CDs, DVDs. |
||Pens and paper. |
of a Digital Story
core of any digital story is the story itself. Therefore, storytellers
should spend a significant amount of time developing and refining
their text. Although digital storytelling is a fluid process, there
are some basic elements that should form the foundation of any digital
story. According to the Center for Digital Storytelling, the seven
essential elements of digital storytelling are:
- A point of view.
- A dramatic question.
- Emotional content.
- The gift of your voice.
- The power of the soundtrack.
- Point of View
A story is not simply a group of events told in sequence. Stories
are usually told to make a point. A digital story should communicate
a specific realization the creator had as a result of one or
more events described in the story. Once identified, that realization
becomes the story's point of view.
connection that other people have with a digital story often
depends on whether or not they understand the point of view,
or the central premise, of the story. Therefore, it is important
for the point of view to be defined early in the process so
that every part of the story, and the way that it is edited,
can serve to make the central point evident. One way to establish
point of view is to tell the story in first person narrative.
This invites the listener to hear the story in a more personal
context, and increases the listener's attention as he, or she,
looks for insights about the storyteller.
In addition to a point of view, all good stories have a dramatic
tension that is established at the beginning and resolved at
the end. Since digital stories are only several minutes long,
it is important to keep this concept of dramatic tension simple.
That is why the Center for Digital Storytelling calls it the
"dramatic question," one central question whose answer signals
the end of the story. The dramatic question essentially consists
of a structural "setup" and a logical "payoff." The setup can
be thought of as a desire the narrator establishes early in
the story, while the payoff is the satisfaction or denial of
that desire. When the narrator answers the dramatic question
in an unexpected way, it adds entertainment value and makes
the story more moving.
Emotional content has more power than any other element to engage
an audience in a story. According to the Center for Digital
Storytelling, when a story addresses a basic emotional paradigm
of lifelike love, loss, or acceptancein a truthful
way, the story becomes easier for the audience to connect with
and much more compelling. Emotional content can also be the
most difficult element to include in a digital story because
it requires the narrator to be vulnerable in a way that may
be new and uncomfortable. However, stories that are not based
on emotional honesty can easily become stale or over-dramatized.
Center staff can assist storytellers in being open and honest
by creating a supportive environment where they feel safe sharing
their personal stories.
Gift of Your Voice
There is no more powerful tool that can be used to tell a personal
story than the storyteller's own voice. Therefore, voiceover
narration is an essential ingredient for conveying the thoughts
and emotions in a digital story. Storytellers usually use a
script when recording a voiceover rather than reciting from
memory because of time constraints. So, to avoid producing voiceovers
that sound like they are being read rather than told, narrators
should keep their sentences short and speak as if they are having
a conversation. First-time storytellers often also need time
to do at least several takes of their voiceovers to become comfortable
with how they sound and to recite their scripts without making
errors. Fortunately, editing software allow narrators to easily
record multiple takes and then cut and paste together pieces
of different takes to create the best overall narration.
Power of the Soundtrack
A soundtrack is comprised of the music played in the background
throughout a digital story. Most of us are familiar with the
role soundtracks play in movies and television showsthe
music helps to establish setting, set the mood, and can even
forebode events to come. Soundtracks serve a similar purpose
in digital stories. When appropriate music is thoughtfully selected,
a soundtrack can further highlight the emotions already being
conveyed through words and images. It can even change an audience's
normal perception of the story in an interesting and unexpected
way, pulling in their attention even more.
Music is so much a part of our daily lives that many people
have a natural sense of what music works well with their stories.
However, storytellers should still think carefully about the
effect they want their soundtrack music to have. One way to
ensure that the soundtrack does not overpower the other elements
of the story is to avoid music with lyrics. Instrumental music
is preferable because it interferes less with voiceover narration,
and because lyrical content can often conflict with story content,
even when the general mood of a song works. Storytellers also
have to consider copyright issues when selecting soundtrack
music. Web sites like Freeplaymusic.com
offer royalty-free production music that is downloadable at
no cost. Storytellers should carefully read the use policies
on free music Web sites before including music in their digital
Since most digital stories are only several minutes long and
space is limited, storytellers have to carefully select the
words and images they use to tell their stories. In most cases,
words are written to match pre-existing visual images, such
as photos from a family album. Because of this, it can be tempting
to overcompensate for the story gaps left between photos by
using too much text. Storytellers should edit their text and
find ways of conveying the same ideas using fewer words in order
to avoid being too wordy. Remember that some ideas can be communicated
simply with visual imagesit is not necessary to explicitly
state every thought.
According to the Center for Digital Storytelling, pacing can
add yet another layer to a digital story, suggesting urgency
in one moment and contemplation in the next. Changing pace adds
energy and keeps the audience interested, as the narration and
visual images speed up or slow down. Every digital story calls
for a different pace pattern, however, each one should include
strategically placed pauses to allow the audience to process
what they have seen and heard. It is helpful to get feedback
from others during the production process to determine whether
the pace of a digital story has the desired effect.
storytelling begins with writing text, which serves as the core
of the finished project. It can be very daunting to try to tell
a personal story and some people freeze when it comes time to decide
what their story's subject matter will be. Workshop leaders should
remind participants that a story does not have to grandiose; it
can start with a very simple idea. Everyone has a voice, or a unique
way of telling his or her story, and this voice should come through
as a story's text is being developed. Listed below are some of the
types of stories that can work well in the digital story format:
||Character stories focus on our relationships
to others, often one particular other, and how those relationships
affect our lives. |
||Memorial stories serve as a tribute to someone
who has passed away, and can be very difficult to write, but
also very powerful. |
||Adventure stories describe experiences in traveling
to other places and what we learn or how we are changed as a
||Accomplishment stories chronicle the journey
toward completing a goal or milestone. |
||Work stories address how our relationships to
our jobs, or the work we do as volunteers, and how they affect
us personally. |
||Recovery stories are about the process of overcoming
a significant challenge in our lives.|
||Discovery stories tell about experiences in learning
new things and what we discover about ourselves in the process.
Feedback: The Story Circle
digital storytelling is done in a group context, such as a workshop,
or in center program, participants can share their stories with
one another to get feedback, as well as ideas for adding multimedia
to their text. This can be done in a story circle, where everyone
reads a draft of his or her story out loud and receives thoughts
and comments from the others. Feedback should center on the telling
of the stories, rather than the content, and should be constructive
story circle is a good opportunity for participants to ensure that
their stories have a clear point and voice. Participants should
also provide feedback on the general flow of the stories, and can
even offer ideas on the kinds of images and sounds that would complement
each story. Because digital stories are usually based on very personal
experiences and perspectives, it is invaluable to get input from
others who have a more objective view on their work.
can begin gathering media after the text of their stories has been
written. All mediaincluding images, video, music, and voiceovershould
be carefully organized in folders so they can be easily found on
the hard drive. Typically, the majority of the images included in
a digital story are pre-existing photos from the storyteller's personal
collection. Digital photos and images are easy to use because they
are already in the required format, while non-digital photos have
to be scanned.
can also scan other items like letters, drawings, album covers,
and even clothinganything with a flat surface that needs to
be represented visually in order to tell the story. It is sometimes
necessary to find images on the Web to fill in gaps in the visual
story being told. These images can be found on stock picture Web
sites like stock.xchng.
It is also common for storytellers to end up with more images than
they can fit into the story. When this is the case, they must thoughtfully
select the images that are most essential to the story.
is an essential step in the digital storytelling process because
it allows the storyteller to plan the story in two ways. First,
a storyboard shows the order of events, images, and words. Second,
a storyboard shows how images, voiceover, and soundtrack interact.
Any visual effects included in a digital story, like transitions
between images, are also displayed in a storyboard. This process
helps the storyteller assess whether images and music appropriately
correspond to the story being told from beginning to end.
storytelling workshops commonly use Windows Movie Maker to compile
media and edit digital stories. Windows Movie Maker allows users
with little to no editing experience to easily create storyboards
by simply uploading images, music, and voiceover into the program.
Storytellers can also use the program to change images and add special
effects. Windows Moviemaker is included with Windows XP. Therefore,
Neighborhood Networks centers with computers that operate on Windows
XP do not have to buy additional software in order to offer digital
final step is to should spend time making final edits to their stories.
After stories are finalized, they can be shared with the group for
feedback and discussion. Each participant should at least receive
a copy of his or her own story. However, if the participants agree
to it, copies of all stories can be distributed to everyone. Participants
can also discuss the overall process of digital storytelling and
provide feedback to workshop facilitators on how to improve the
Digital Storytelling Resources
Center for Digital Storytelling is a nonprofit training,
project development, and research organization dedicated to
assisting people in using digital media to tell meaningful stories
from their lives. The Center for Digital Storytelling Web site
includes a variety of resources to guide organizations through
the process of developing a digital storytelling program.|
the Neighborhood Networks consortium based in Boston, MA, sponsors
3- to 4-day digital storytelling workshops in a "boot camp"
format. The massIMPACT Web site includes dozens of sample digital
stories, including stories created at the 2006 Neighborhood
Networks Regional Technical Assistance Workshop (RTAW) Digital
Storytelling Boot Camp in Boston. |
Music is a large online library of production music that
allows users to search for music by style and feel and download
tracks at no cost. Users should read the Web site's use policy
before downloading music.|
Web site includes over 200,000 searchable stock photos and images
that are collected and uploaded by users and available at no