Digital Storytelling – Stories of the Street?

Digital Storytelling (pic from flickr user 'NCinDC')

Digital Storytelling (pic from Flickr user 'NCinDC')

In my first two blog posts, I set out my cautious stance on citizen journalism. After seeing Daniel Meadows lecture on the subject of digital storytelling at JOMEC last Thursday, my opinion now has to be qualified.

In terms of citizen journalism and telling the news, my beliefs are unswayed. I share the view of blogger Josh Levy who, speaking about the US election this week, said: “when the chips are down — when it’s less than two weeks out from The Most Important Election of Our Lifetime — I always turn to the pros.” He makes the point that modern channels of presenting news which were initially the preserve of the amateur, such as the blog, have been usurped to a significant degree by professionals. He also says that many bloggers, citing the examples of Andrew Sullivan and Ben Smith, had formerly been shining lights of citizen journalism but claims that they now must be regarded as pros as “they all run professional operations, and are paid (or pay themselves) to do nothing but write about the election.”

Seen in this light, citizen journalism is at its most effective when alerting professionals to new means of communicating news, and providing them with leads to fresh content. In addition, the modern reporting process gives more opportunities for the public to keep professional journalists in check, and gives citizen journalists more means of “professionalising” themselves (eg through becoming a successful blogger) should they be capable of doing so.

However, I would support to the hilt more public involvement in digital storytelling of the kind that Daniel has pioneered. None of the charges I have previously levelled against citizen journalism hold up against this type of public multimedia project. It is possible that if the stories are true they will be more compelling, but accuracy is not essential as stories are there to entertain. In terms of recounting a story from personal experience, there is surely no-one equipped with more expertise (and entitlement) to do it than the person in question. With this in mind, there is no obvious advantage of handing over the task to professionals. As Daniel made clear, facilitating citizen participation is the best way of developing the art of digital storytelling.

Having been introduced to the concept, I had a peep on the internet to see if there were any multimedia tales from my hometown of Liverpool. All I found were a handful of pieces on a BBC site called Telling Lives, all of which were made back in 2004. This is a real shame. My one criticism of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year proceedings so far has been the lack direct involvement of the scouse public in events. Liverpool is brimming with natural and enthusiastic raconteurs who could have been shown how to produce local digital tales to accompany the international flavour of the programme highlights of 2008, such as the Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Tate Gallery.

I’m completely sold on the idea of digital storytelling, and like the regeneration and renaissance of Liverpool in 2008, it would be a crime if it turned out to be an under-resourced fad. I’ll finish with a promise to try and spread it to Liverpool if I ever get the opportunity.

~ by seanbradbury on October 27, 2008.

2 Responses to “Digital Storytelling – Stories of the Street?”

  1. I can also see them as a kind of multimedia feature – when reporting on an event why not get someone directly involved to be part of the process?

    What does interest me is how you see the difference between pro as black and white – are you an expert in drug addiction? I’m not, but have had to write a lot of stories about it. Why not help the pros tell the story, even in text form, as a facilitator rather than just adding a few quotes to offer expert opinion.

    My point is simply this: do we have to do it all? We have skills at research, knowledge and understanding of infrastructures (the law and government as two examples). Should we be using those skills to try and do it all, or can we involve those with the knowledge in the process?

  2. I hadn’t considered using them as a multimedia feature in news, thats a good idea. As long as the content is checked to ensure they are not digital tall stories, that could be really effective.

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