Reflecting on 2010: Digital Story Highlights

Wishing you all light and love in the New Year!

The year is ending on a definite high note.  I am writing this post as the final assignment for my digital storytelling class, which I am taking through Empire State College.  The reason I mention the course is because it has had such a significant impact on me.  It helped me integrate the seemingly disparate elements of my life in to a more comprehensive whole.  It seems appropriate, then, to finish this course and this year with a reflection on my favorite digital stories, and what they have taught me. 

But first, I have to thank my friend and digital mentor, David Truss, and my instructor,  Nicola Martinez.  David started me on this pathway over a year ago, and lit a fire under me to re-engage with a creative part of myself that had long gone dormant.  Professor Martinez has been a most helpful guide in exploring the terrain of digital storytelling.  She provided a rich environment of readings, discussions, digital “field trips” and assignments that made me think deeply, work hard and create meaningful content.  Her standards are high, and both my successes and failures in meeting them taught me a lot.  

Secondly, I have to give a nod to my favorite story tool website:  Alan Levine’s CogDogRoo.  This list of fifty plus story-telling tools not only provides a very helpful description and analysis of the tool’s ease of use, but also provides example stories.  The Dominoe story that Levine tells with each tool helps show the variations in functionality.

 So, let’s start this journey through digital storyland! 

The first digital story that really showed me the power of the medium was a creative and delightful story from a fourteen-year-old boy in Wales named Neil Fitzgerald.  His story, Which Witch, introduced ideas from the pagan religion.  The subject is not what struck me most.  It was the medium, Neil’s engagement in it, and his ability to engage me, a middle-aged American woman in China, in a culture with which I am almost wholly unfamiliar.  The story is part of the BBCs project, Capture Wales, which introduces “average” people in a short time, and made me feel like I knew them like neighbors.

The next big breakthrough for me was Jonathan Harris’ work.  His TED Talk on Collecting Stories showed me a whole new universe of story possibilities.

And speaking of “universe”, here are a few examples of his work to play with and learn from: Universe, We Feel Fine, Love Lines.

The publisher Penguin introduced compelling digital fiction to me, and gave me a “visceral” experience of the many layers and richness of the medium.  They introduced six different works of digital fiction over six weeks in We Tell Stories.  Here, a mystery-suspense thriller is told through a Google map.  The blogs of a fictional teenager and her parents reveal a frightening tale of terror.  A fairy tale is told with your input. All six stories are examples that begin to scratch the surface of possibility in digital fiction.  I look forward to exploring this area much more, and possibly even contributing to it.

A few other sites deserving mention are: The Center for Digital Storytelling and Interactive Narratives.  Both contain collections of engaging and touching storytelling, and are updated often with new stories.

Several sites were helpful in considering how to use digital storytelling in the classroom.  They are The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, from the University of Houston, and Digital Stories @ UMBC, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus.  Their examples gave me confidence to introduce digital storytelling to my own students, and I am proud of their work

Digital stories can inspire:

They can be sobering:

They teach me things I didn’t know I wanted to know.

Digital stories are personal stories, biographies, non-fiction or fiction, or they combine all of them.  They are often interactive, and you find them on the internet, on CDs, DVDs, on television and in movie theatres.  They are used for entertainment, promotion, education and training, an even personal transformation. I have only just begun to explore this world, so this list of highlights is missing many examples worthy of mention. The field is brand new and is wide open for development and growth.  This is an exciting time for me.  The next year will help define my place in the field, and I am looking forward to the journey.  I hope you all have a learning-filled new year as well, blessed with stories of all kinds.  Check back here soon for my next installment, and the first of my Virtues in Digital Story challenge.

Wordle: Digital Storytelling in 2010

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