Two years ago I understood digital stories to be stories told using a variety of media, end ofâ€¦story. An author might retell a childhood experience, incorporating background music and a series of family photos. Another might tell the story of Abraham Lincoln, the history of Twinkies, or how they overcame childhood abuse. They might include audio clips, video, images, animations, music, or whatever other media might serve to tell the story. They could create it using Windows MovieMaker, Photo Story, Final Cut Pro, audio recordings, or just tell a story to a group with a CD player and a slide projector. No matter what the topic, I understood it to be the telling of any story making use of a variety of media, at least one of them being digital. As far as I was concerned, a digital story could be the retelling of a family vacation to Florida to a live audience using PowerPoint slides. It could also be capturing the same story in a feature film.
However, as I was prepping for a class that I start teaching in a month, I scanned several digital storytelling sites and I noticed a trend. There seems to be a growing desire to claim the phrase for a certain type of multimedia story, one that is autobiographical and gives voice to the under-represented or suppressed. As much as I see that as a noble cause, and as much as it partially represents the type of digital narrative that is of great personal interest, this is too limiting of a definition. Whether this is your first time reading about digital narratives or you are a seasoned digital storytelling, consider the explanation of The Digital Storytelling Association. The definition/explanation provided on their site is one that leaves room for a variety of expressions, ranging from the educator seeking ways to engage learners, to the activist seeking to provide a personal agenda, to the bored web-junky hoping to get a few laughs. “Digital Storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Throughout history, storytelling has been used to share knowledge, wisdom, and valuesâ€¦” (read the full DSA explanation on their site).
*By the way, some like to be more precise when using this word “digital,” arguing that much of what we call digital is technically analog. If that interests you, feel free to Google “what is the difference between analogy and digital.” You’ll probably find a dozen sites advertising the benefits of digital phones, but in the process of being convinced to go digital, you’ll also get a quick primer on the digital-analog debate.