This past summer I taught a workshop for DH@Guelph titled, “Digital Storytelling for Humanists.” It was a course similar to one I had helped teach the year before at DH@CC, the Claremont College’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Both workshops were made up of faculty and grad students who wanted to incorporate digital storytelling into their research or teaching practices. We spent nearly a week together, not only learning about tools and editing software but fully engaged in the process of creating a digital story. Of course, the highlight of every digital storytelling workshop is showcasing each person’s story. Some written as personal narratives and others as digital essays but we all learned more about each other, our work, our connections. And, because this was a professional development opportunity, all had a deliverable.
In late June I attended the Digital Humanities 2018 Conference held in Mexico City. I was chatting with a new friend who was presenting his poster on digital storytelling from Houston Community College. It was then that the question was asked by a visitor, how does digital storytelling fit in with digital humanities? My answer went something like this:
Digital storytelling shares the ethos of the digital humanities: the willingness to collaborate, to experiment, to share, to fail, to be transparent, to iterate, and to make public. Digital storytelling like DH is modular in its ability to remix and alter the format to fit different disciplines. Digital storytelling is less about expertise and making expert knowledge public or leveraging open data for research and more about centering teaching and learning experiences. As a field of study, the humanities focus on the cultural record of human experience and the preservation of this knowledge- in many ways recorded through stories. In this fashion, digital storytelling provides new opportunities for humanities scholarship and teaching.
Digital storytelling is simply using computer-based tools to tell stories. These can include pocket documentaries (using mobile devices to capture moving images), digital essays, mapped memoirs (embedded digital stories on a map), interactive storytelling (gaming) and even podcasts. They involve sharing the idea of combining the art of telling stories with a variety of multimedia, including graphics, audio, video, and web publishing.
I teach digital storytelling because I believe it leads to transformative learning experiences. There is also much potential in expanding digital humanities perspectives, research, and scholarship. In his article, Digital storytelling: New opportunities for humanities scholarship and pedagogy John Barber states:
“If we grant that humanities scholarship and pedagogy may be grounded in stories of human cultural and creative endeavors, then the use of digital media to help create and share such stories may help engage academic research with creative practice to promote critical thinking, communication, digital literacy, and civic engagement.”
Perhaps an affordance that digital storytelling has over other digital humanities practice is that it is relatively low-tech and anyone can do it because everyone has a story to tell.
Check out some of the digital stories created at DH@Guelph Summer Workshop:
“Digital Storytelling for Humanists.”