By Jennifer Janviere
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the international Relato Digital Storytelling Conference at the Universitat de Valencia in Spain. I was there to present a video poster that I’d created with my friends and colleagues Daria Kempka and Mandi Linder about using the tools for multimedia narrative to empower people who had experienced past traumatic life experiences. I was also fortunate to learn from the presentations of other academics and storytelling professionals at the conference (not to mention getting the chance to put my Spanish language skills into practice).
There were many great ideas that people shared during the event. Some of these were entirely new concepts, while others were affirmations about the importance of this creative medium.
A number of participants shared their experiences working to teach the tools of digital storytelling to people in their communities. One such group was the iWitness Central City Project, which was formed in response to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. The group placed signs around central New Orleans with a phone number, allowing anyone calling the number to record their story. These stories were later archived online in order to preserve an oral history of the city for future generations.
Silence Speaks was another project exploring the impact of personal perspective. The international collaboration gathered stories of survivors of domestic abuse and focused on allowing space for people to share their experiences and heal from them, while at the same time promoting health and human rights. This was a similar idea to what Daria, Mandi and I helped create on a smaller scale at MetaHouse last fall.
Also making an impact through digital narrative was Detales, an organization that teaches digital literacy skills to adult learners throughout the European Union with no previous technological experience, with a focus on eastern European countries. The group also offers a training manual on its website (available at http://www.detales.net/wp/digital-storytelling/).
One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation by Joe Lambert, founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling. Lambert talked about the importance of social media to give ordinary people a voice. He cited examples of the Arab spring uprising and even the political protests happening right here in Wisconsin, during which people used smart phones together with Facebook and Twitter to tell the story of the events unfolding. It was a surreal experience to travel half way around the world, only to hear about what was happening in our own backyard!
The Relato Conference was a fantastic learning opportunity. I hope that after going and hearing about some of the interesting ideas that other people are putting into practice, I’ll be able to bring back some of these new ideas to use them in the classroom (and maybe even to some of my own projects as well).
Jennifer Janviere is an instructor and multimedia specialist for the Diederich College of Communication.