Thing 07: Digital Storytelling
Our rapidly changing world has modified the way we choose, consume, and digest stories – and the way we tell them is also shifting. The general public have become storytellers, acquiring a new power as content creators. COVID-19 has enhanced that: in isolation, stories from around the world create a global sense of interconnectedness. In this post, Mariona Guiu Pont looks to the future of digital storytelling and explores some of the ways it can be applied to research.
What is digital storytelling and how do we use it?
Wikipedia describes digital storytelling as “a relatively new term which describes the new practice of everyday people who use digital tools to tell their ‘story’”. Digital storytelling can mean different things in different contexts. In journalism, digital storytelling involves using a range of tools to enhance a sense of interactivity: multimedia, infographics, video, and social media (used separately or combined). For educators, digital storytelling is often one of the easiest ways to integrate technology into the classroom (as if more screens were needed with kids today!). For the rest of us, digital storytelling is inherent to almost all online content we consume: think about the Instagram stories you watch, Facebook posts you read, or WhatsApp audio messages you listen to. In essence, personal and genuine stories are at the core of digital storytelling.
This last point is particularly relevant for researchers who want to use digital storytelling in their practices. Digital stories accelerate interpersonal connection, and they often allow us to retain information longer than text-based content. A highly technological world is quickly transforming what it means to be an up-to-date and contemporary researcher. This means it is vital to employ engaging, participatory, digital storytelling techniques that put people at the centre.
That Thing you do: integration into practice
Digital storytelling in health research: ‘A Full Life’ – a case study
One of the most interesting applications of digital storytelling is happening in health care and health research. A revolution in information technology has changed people’s access to health information. Every day, YouTube provides hundreds of millions of hours of videos, with a significant percentage being health information. Despite this, hospitals and community-based health care networks have largely failed to recognise a major societal shift from text- to video-based learning.
Cardiologist and Associate Professor of Medicine, Luke Burchill, from The University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital, approached us with an idea: to create a video platform for patients by patients.
The catalyst for the project was a patient of Burchill’s: a 19-year old man named ‘Max’, with a unique heart condition that carried a high risk of associated complications. Max wanted to hear how other people with the same condition were living their lives, but he was unable to find information that was authentic and medically accurate. Max had identified a common problem faced by people living with a health condition – where to find accurate health information that is relatable, and that gives voice to patients’ perspectives? That was the seed for ‘A Full Life’:
Video: Sizzle reel for A Full Life
‘A Full Life’ is a digital video platform that has been collaboratively produced by patients and clinicians. The resource features video stories that provide patients with reliable, authentic, trustworthy, and relatable health experiences. In this way, it is a vehicle for patient health information and empowerment.
For the ‘Full Life’ prototype, several people were video interviewed and shared their experience of life after the ‘Fontan operation’, a surgery for children born with congenital heart disease. The videos are intended to help young adult survivors of this operation overcome the sense of isolation they often experience.
‘A Full Life’ is a life experience library created for patients by patients. With an expected release in late 2020, the platform is a positive example of digital storytelling that aligns patient-clinician priorities in a collaboratively-produced resource.
- Know your audience and their channels. What do your audience care about? What do they watch? When and where? Messages come to us all the time in the shape of a story, and we consume hundreds of them without even noticing. Identify your opportunities and your windows to understand where to disseminate your message.
- Privacy and digital consent matter. People are at the centre of digital storytelling, so their privacy and consent are crucial. The original asset you conceptualised might have changed by the time of delivery, and so might peoples’ willingness to participate. Dynamic consent is a new approach that allows consent to be updated as the use of digital assets (stories) change over time.
- Focus on the story. There’s no doubt digital storytelling is here to stay, modifying not only the way we consume stories but also our attention span. Attention is the new IQ, they say. However, no matter what technology you use to support your message, never lose sight of the power of a good story. Technology is your creative partner but ultimately the story is the one shaping minds, changing behaviours, and triggering actions.
- To learn about some of the current projects in digital storytelling, and how you might apply this approach to your own research, please contact Learning Environments.
- 18 Free Digital storytelling tools for teachers and students.
About the author
Mariona Guiu Pont is a filmmaker with a body of work in documentary and non-scripted content spanning across gender, identity and social justice. Check out her feature documentary Singled [Out] or the award-winning It started in the Sunderland for MDHS. She works as a creative consultant @ Learning Environments and proudly co-leads ‘A Full Life’ with Associate Professor Luke Burchill.
One more Thing …
You can learn more about digital storytelling in this 3-part video series, ‘Effective Video Storytelling for Researchers’ by Thing 7 author, Mariona Guiu Pont:
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