Since the inception of Seminar.net the phenomenon of Digital Storytelling has often been suggested as a promising genre for teaching and learning in a variety of areas. Academically, the genre has attracted interest from scholars in media studies, political science, social work, health and education. In this issue we have sought attention from a huge number of academically inclined persons who either use the genre to teach with media, for teaching and learning about media, or studying how this specific way of working with media offers new possibilities for the articulation of the voice of the common people.
When we invited authors for this special issue we did so expecting – and hoping for – contributions from a wide field of interests. We have landed 11 different manuscripts and have organised them according to a tentative order of themes they address: “Teaching and learning with Digital Storytelling”, “Community building”, “Genres of communication” and “Practical papers”. Being a journal for lifelong learning, the educational use has gained the most interest. But also emerging new areas of use related to health, leisure, recreation, activism, community building, planning, professional communication, and reflection are reflected in the papers. We think the contributions together support our efforts for building the knowledge about digital storytelling as a genre and its potential in the media society.
Scholarly publications in this field are generally mediated on paper. And there has been no shortage of superb exemplars of scholarly work these last couple of years: Story Circle: Digital Storytelling around the World, edited by John Hartley and Kelly McWilliams and Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-representations in New Media, edited by Knut Lundby, as well as a conference report, “Storytelling – Reflections in the Age of Digitalization” edited by Yvonne Gächter, Heike Ortner, Claudia Scwartz, Andreas Wiesinger et al. We think, however, that an exploration of a more multimedial approach to dissemination of research in the field is needed. With this in mind, we believe that “Seminar.net”, unhampered by many of the limits of the medium of paper, offers an opportunity to express a richer account of the field. We have encouraged the authors to provide presentations that use digital stories as examples, demonstrations, and expositions, while maintaining certain traditional academic elements, such as an abstract and references. We hope the readers will appreciate the variety of genres that support the ordinary textual information of this journal.
All contributions have been peer-reviewed by independent reviewers, who are selected among members of our editorial board, and an expert panel. The less conventional papers have been selected to fit in with our section of “Practical papers”. We consider these papers of high practical merit. We thank Joe Lambert of the Center for Digital Storytelling, professor Theo Hug of University of Innsbruck, and professor Knut Lundby, University of Oslo who have acted as an advisory board to the editors for this special issue. They have provided us with access to their networks, assisted in attracting good reviewers and responded to our practical and principal questions along the way to publishing.
Teaching and learning with Digital Storytelling
Monica Nilsson, at the University of Stockholm, discusses digital storytelling in this article. A digital story is defined as a multimodal narrative text comprising pictures, music, speech, sound and script. In the article she describes and analyzes a nine year old boy´s digital stories and argues that new media, here as digital storytelling, has the potential to play a significant role in the development of both literacy and creativity.
Grete Jamissen and Goro Skou work at the University College of Oslo. In their article, “ Poetic reflection through digital storytelling – a methodology to foster professional health worker identity in students”, they focus the role of personal narratives, multimedia and the creative process in developing identity and voice. The project reviewed in their paper identifies contexts in higher education where digital storytelling may be used as a promising tool to support students’ learning, assisting them to combine theory and practical experience in their field of study.
Sarah Copeland, of Leeds metropolitan University and Clodagh Miskelly, independent producer contribute with an article called: “Making time for storytelling; the challenges of community building and activism in a rural locale”. Their topic is how to engage prospective participants with using digital storytelling as a challenge in itself. Motivating and arguing for this way of expressing a voice has a better chance for success when one considers the various practical barriers that one meets when employing community media. They argue that an open discussion of projects that are less successful will enhance our practice and our understanding of processes intended to enable social change.
Aneta Podkalicka, Swinburne University and Craig Campbell, Salvation Army of Melbourne contribute with the article: “Understanding digital storytelling: individual ‘voice’ and community-building in youth media programs”. Their topic is empowerment for marginalised voices across community-based projects worldwide. The paper discusses uses but also limitations of the practice in the context of a Melbourne-based youth media program for ‘youth at risk’ called YouthWorx.
Genres of communication
Karen Rodriguez, of the CIEE Study Center in Guanajuato, Mexico, and Universidad de Guanajuato presents the article: “Digital storytelling in study abroad: toward a counter-catalogic experience”. She reports from a pilot project of how students on visits to a foreign university may use digital storytelling to expand their experiences and support their learning. She argues that they are able to dig deeper into the contexts they are approaching and develop critical and dialogic encounters with them.
Pauline Borghuis, Christa de Graaf and Joke Hermes, all of INHolland University have jointly written: “Digital storytelling in sex education. Avoiding the pitfalls of building a ‘haram’ website.” The project reported aimed at providing information about sex and sexuality to groups considered to be vulnerable due to lack of knowledge and cultural barriers. The researchers developed stories with the participants from interviews, and argue for the value of using the approach for a participant design or a “DS light”.
Eva Bakøy and Øyvind Kalnes of Lillehammer University College present the article: “The Hadia Story: Digital Storytelling in Election Campaigns”. The paper goes into how a particular Norwegian-Pakistani Labour politician, Hadia Tajik, has used digital storytelling to construct her political identity, and a discussion of the consequences of her experiments with this genre. During the 2009 electoral campaign she moved from being an unknown politician to becoming a political household name and the only member of the new Parliament with a migrant background. The digital stories were instrumental in this development for numerous reasons, the most important probably being that they gave her prime time television coverage.
Amber Reed, of University of California, Los Angeles, and Amy Hill, Center for digital storytelling, present the article: ““Don’t Keep It To Yourself!”: Digital Storytelling with South African Youth.” This article reviews the success and challenges of the Sonke Gender Justice Network and shows us the potential that thoughtfully designed digital storytelling efforts offer as both a psychological outlet and a tool for community education and social activism with marginalized youth.
Rachel Raimist, of the University of Alabama, Candance Doerr-Stevens and Walter Jacobs of the University of Minnesota have produced the rich media paper: “The Pedagogy of Digital Storytelling in the College Classroom. “ They report from the process when Raimist and Jacobs collaboratively designed and taught the course “Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color” with Candance Doerr-Stevens auditing the class as a graduate student. This article examines the media making processes of the students in the course, asking how participants used digital storytelling to engage with themselves and the media through content creation that both mimicked and critiqued current media messages.
Mary F. Wright and Karen Ryan provide us with the article “Meshing the Personal with the Professional: Digital Storytelling in Higher Education” This paper chronicles a yearlong journey of learning about digital storytelling and leading the creation of five digital stories within a higher education community. The many uses of digital storytelling in higher education are explored as a reflective tool for practice, to highlight academic projects, interests or initiatives, and to simply reflect on how we are shaped by the stories we live and how we in turn share our diverse identities.
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