Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stories about Digital Stories

Got invited this week by Dr Christina Spurgeon to drop along as guest lecturer to her Digital Stories course at QUT Creative Industries.

I really enjoyed telling students stories about the Digital Stories I've either created or helped create in the various community digital storytelling projects I've organised, co-ordinated and facilitated. Digital Stories are one of the wonders of the digital age. If done well, they help keep the old traditional storytelling skills alive in a low cost digital production way. We had some interesting debates about what was 'Digital Story' and what was 'documentary' or 'interview'.

It's great to interact with students discovering the way in which creating a digital story about one of one's own important stories can be so transforming. Hearing their draft scripts was a real gift.

It will be interesting to see how the Digital Story develops in this digital age. The relatively low cost software like MovieMaker and iMovie and hardware like laptops and digital cameras will keep changing and digital stories will change with them for better or worse.

In the meantime, if you would like to see some Queensland digital stories, you can go to YouTube and do a search for 'queensland storylines' (without the apostrophes). There are even some there that I did. Look out for 'Lucas Papaw Ointment' or 'Growing up with the Princess', for example.


The Book Chook said...

It's interesting to reflect on what IS a digital story, and I have read definitions online. But I tend to think it is almost anything with a beginning, middle and end that is created with digital media. Not just with the software available either. There are wonderful online story editors kids can use too.

Austories said...

Hi Book Chook. Thanks for the comment. Yes, there is an interesting discussion to be had I think about what 'IS' a Digital Story. I notice by your use of CAPS that you would probably like to challenge the inferences I was making about digital stories in my post.

I would find your 'almost anything with a beginning, middle and end that is created by digital media' just a bit too wide for my liking. For example, recipes have beginning, middles and ends and so do Google Map directions but neither are stories, let alone digital stories.

Apart from some care about whether something is actually a story or not, I think there is some value in keeping the term digital story for the form of digitally published story that has the recorded voice of the storyteller as the main component and where the visual elements support the voice over rather than distracting from it. There is a whole movement spread around the world that uses this format for community cultural development and personal growth. I think this is worth maintaining.

I agree that, yes, there are online story editors and, no doubt, some of them are really good. However some software tends to put the emphasis on things other than the voice of the storyteller and the results are usually lacking the power of the digital story that does so.

The older versions of PhotoStory were a good example of this. They encouraged the user to put down a timeline of photos or illustrations first and then add voice clips to the individual photos. The newer versions aren't as limiting however.

PowerPoint is another example of software that can be used effectively to publish a story and do it with a voice over as well but it tends to have a similar result. Mind you, I have seen kids use it highly effectively. Kids enjoy using MovieMaker and iMovie as well and teenagers love Sony Vegas.

Would you mind giving us a few examples of online story editors that you think encourage good digital stories? I would like to have an explore.

I wonder if there are some other names we could explore and perhaps promote that allow or encourage some distinction about the type or quality of the stories produced?

The Book Chook said...

I wasn't so much challenging as putting emphasis on the "is". Not that I wouldn't be glad to challenge if I'd thought to!

I guess I tend to prefer not to get too hung up on defining, which is why I lean toward a broad description. But I take your point about recipes. I have watched and listened to some of the BBC stories and see that they give a voice to people who perhaps would not have had one. Yet I love digital stories that perhaps are children's fiction stories, and the words are typed onto a screen of drawings ie no voiceover.

I am not going to discuss what makes a "good" digital story, or guarantee that the editors I like produce "good" stories. Instead, they enable kids to play with story, engage with it and publish it for an audience which may well only consist of Granny and the dog.

So, choosing some examples: I like Storybird and Storyjumper, as online story editors, PhotoPeach as a slideshow capable of producing story, Zimmer Twins as a cartoon-style movie maker, Myths and Legends as a comic-style story editor, ToonDoo as a cartoon creator.

Austories said...

Thanks for that. Yes playing with story is so important. I know that many of the stories I improvise with children are not amazing in terms of literary value but we always have fun playing.

Looking forward to getting in and having a play on some of your online examples.

Thanks again,