Digital Storytelling

December 1, 2006 at 9:24 pm | Posted in Teaching English | Leave a comment

After four hours of sleep I got up today to attend a “Digital Storytelling Workshop für MultiplikatorInnen”. I am not so sure whether ‘multipliers” would be used in English, don’t have access to the OED at home and all other dictionaries only have entries for the mathematical term. The underlying idea is that a Multiplikator is a person who spreads a message to many other people, in particular through teaching, lecturing, training and education (which ever concept you prefer 🙂 )

Digital storytelling is deeply rooted in American culture and also a recent trend in youth empowerment (which, too many Europeans, certainly to me, is also a deeply American concept; although Baron Münchhausen who pulled himself out of a swamp by his own hair was a European, we are not immediately inclined to think favourably about putting the emphasis on empowerment, especially self-empowerment; I suppose we are more likely to blame the state if things go wrong 😉 Maybe this means that we are whimps, but at least we have a running social security system – ok, the German pensions office is going to go broke some time soon, but who could anticipate that people would just not mate any no more 🙂

According to Wikipedia, DST is “a grassroots movement that uses new digital tools to help ordinary people to tell their own ‘true stories’ in a compelling and emotionally-engaging form. These stories usually take the form of a relatively short story (less than 8 minutes) and can involve interactivity.”

Some people think of it as the re-emergence of oral cultures, giving it a positive connotation (a newly romanticised Rousseauism, you could say), others keep lamenting the tragedy represented by the fact that the only way of making learning appealing to the younger generations is by transforming all learning material into bright, interactive images.

I don’t really want to take sides with either of these views – although I certainly disapprove vehemently of the notion of education as entertainment, or edutainment, if you like; I’d actually be rather inclined to think of education as the painful act of self-transformation. Or as my colleague Paul once put it (in reponse to students who thought that a topic was boring): “If you’re bored, then that is actually your problem.”

There is a small venture in Vorarlberg at the moment consisting of 2 two 4 people trying to bring Digital Storytelling to Austria and this region in particular. It originated from a drug prevention project, and their main focus is currently on young people.

Either way one thinks about DST, I must give this project credit for generating amazing stories with disavantaged and marginalized youth. The project’s name is Reflect and Act, any you can find some of the stories that have been created so far on their website.

I like their claim: “100 und Deine Geschichten” – “hundred and your stories”.

They also hosted the workshop which took place today. There was a little bit of instruction on shooting pictures for your digital story in it – here are just two of the pictures Greg and I took. Poul, whom I’ve mentioned before, coincidentally stopped by s well (he’s in the “domestic violence” shot). Greg is also an adviser on the Reflect and Act Team and he uses DST in his English lessons (btw, dig his outfit ;-).

Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling

Here are some further DST resources:

Reflect and Act, Vorarlberg, Austria

Center for Digital Storytelling, California, USA

BBC Wales, Digital Storytelling, Wales, UK

Afterthoughts: To me, DST is also another attempt to prevent an increasingly illiterate populace from being no more able to reflect and express themselves. Mind you: I am apparently not thinking of illiteracy which results from the lack of access to education (in the way that we would find it in developing countried), I am thinking of the arising illiteracy in the industrial country’s gadget users whose language has succumbed and been stupefied by the limitations of the devices they use. What to think of a generation in which *bussiknutsch* (German chat lingo for something like “huggles and kissies”) is considered a legitimate and appropriate expression of affection.

EDIT: I just stumbled upon an “English to Text Lingo Transl8ter”. I’ve made up a message to illustrate these effects of gadgets on the range of expression – and orthography and spelling:

Original: Hi Greg, I really appreciated the Digital Storytelling Workshop. Thanks for being there, see you on Monday

Txt lingo: Hi Greg, I rly appreciated d Digital storEtLN Workshop. thx 4 bn ther, c U on mon.

Good thing is it also has a retranslation function: lingo to English;-)

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