Getting engaged with stories

A lively group of public engagement professionals joined Jisc Netskills trainer, Chris Thomson, and I to discover how digital storytelling could add a new dimension to their activities.

Holdups due to the London tube strike meant a bit of a delayed start, but Chris soon had the room buzzing with excitement about their new exercise books (for recording story ideas) and telling each other why they loved, or hated, particular things. What’s not to like about peas…? Well one participant felt that it’s likely they are alien clones from outer space – undeniably they do all look the same. We realised early on that the group was unlikely to lack creativity!

‘Digital Storytelling’ refers to a combination of approaches and technologies that help people with little or no professional experience of digital media to produce short, narrative-based videos. Despite the simplicity of the approach, these stories can be highly engaging and often emotionally powerful. People like to hear and tell stories. Stories are a great way of making complicated ideas meaningful to a wide audience. This means the technique could be highly effective as a tool for public engagement.

Chris encouraged the group to think about the story they thought they wanted to tell in terms of saving the world. He outlined different types of stories, and that there are different starting points and structures for stories. As Tolstoy commented, “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town”. Ultimately stories are always about change.

And so we set to drafting a story, choosing a topic and thinking about the shape of what we wanted to put across. In just a couple of hours most participants were already starting to think about how they could illustrate their story, and had developed a reasonable first draft.

The comprehensive workbook and set of online resources should act in support of the further development and final production of the stories. We will also be running a follow up session online with the group to discuss draft stories, and ideas and issues around production.

If you’d be interested in coming to a session to explore how digital storytelling could be used in your public engagement work, then book onto our next training session at the King’s Centre in Manchester on Tuesday 29th April. This event is now fully booked.

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