Home Research PapersDigital about the ‘space’ that is Edinburgh, where I

Digital about the ‘space’ that is Edinburgh, where I

Digital Storytelling isn’t only about the transfer of
knowledge but furthermore it is about a movement made in order to amplify a
sense of community’s voice – according to Burgess (2006:1). Therefore, everyone
can contribute to it. Digital storytelling is a universal and modern way of
telling a story, heightened by the use of images, sound and music. The
inspiration behind my story was my identity, the fact I am half English and
half Scottish – two very different British identities. This fitted comfortably
into the brief of the concept of ‘space’ and ‘spaces’ as it was about the
‘space’ that is Edinburgh, where I spent a lot of time as a child. I tell the
story of how I was forced there as a child by my mother, memories of my
grandparents and then vivid descriptions of the city with images that my sister
shot. This essay will explore digital storytelling and the effects of amateur
media and then go on to reflect on my own story.

 

When defining digital storytelling Lambert (2013:4)
references three spectrums practioners find useful when defining practices. The
first is the collaboration between storyteller and the audience – what the
creator wants the audience and grasp from the story. Regarding my story, I wanted
the audience to feel the nostalgia reflected in my work through my stories
about my grandparents and the image of my siblings and myself with them. Also,
myself overcoming my battle with identity and seeing that Edinburgh can be a
home to me as well as the one I already have. My intention was for the audience
to grasp the sense I had come to a realisation by the end of my story, that
part of me belongs in Edinburgh too. The second revolves around the “literary
voice” or the tone of the piece. Like I previously referred to, I wanted my
story to connote ideas of nostalgia therefore the tone of the piece seems to be
one with nostalgic qualities. Moreover, it is rather reflective, as I am
reflecting on who I really am as a person. And the third is the form in which the
story takes, in regard to digital storytelling this is in a digital form, such
as some sort of film. Alexander (2011:1) has the belief that digital
storytelling has the power of “combining personal life and digital technology”.
I am inclined to agree that as it allows anyone to share any aspect of their
own personal lives, it give people the courage and platform to share their
stories, as it did for me. With the growth of platforms such as YouTube, it has
allowed more and more people to share their stories. According to Gauntlett (2011:2)
“Making is connecting because acts of creating involve… as social dimension and
connects us with other people.” When creating my digital story, I saw this to
be true, as we all created something that stirred up a conversation – mine more
specifically about childhood and identity. These are topics that are relatable
and allow a connection to be made with my other creators and the audience.

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YouTube has opened up a whole new wave of amateur media,
this can be seen as a positive force, but also, by some, as a negative. It has
allowed absolutely anyone to post their own personal opinion online. This can
be a dangerous concept as any extremist views can be shared and spread to a
large audience – there is not much of a filter on what is suitable to share.
Even if the extremist ideas are taken down and removed there is always some
copy and the recollection of it being there, continuing to be shared. Because
of this, a rise in amateur media can be seen as a danger. Digital storytelling
is now open to everyone who has access to the internet. YouTube videos are
conventionally “self-coaxed’ stories, in which the story isn’t forced out of
the storyteller, it isn’t exposed by anyone else. It is their own story. Thumin
(2012:8) believed that “the concept of discourse of self-representation
contains a valorisation of experience which has a therapeutic function.” For
one, the therapeutic function it possesses is that it allows the storyteller to
take a weight off their shoulders, therapeutic to share experiences and
emotions. Furthermore, it also can be therapeutic for the audience, as they
could have gone through a similar experience and are able to connect with the
storyteller. Thumin goes on to state that it also has a “democratic function”
meaning that who tells which particular stories can be related to power and
authority. However, I am
inclined to disagree with this. With this rise in digital storytelling anyone
can tell any story, I don’t see it as anything to do with social status or
power. The lowest and neglected in modern society have as much of a voice as
anyone else on the internet – stories can get shared across the world. I don’t
see Thumin’s point having much ground in the modern technological world.

 

According to Jenkins
(2009:110) the world was ready for
amateur media in the form of YouTube. “They already had communities of practice
that supported the production of DIY media.” This means that there was already
a pre-existing community for this platform, so it was necessary for it to come
into the mainstream. There is a need to share in the form of amateur media, the
content is so vast and everyone has a use for it. It can be used for
educational purposes, to learn new skills e.g. cooking, exercise and also most
commonly entertainment purposes. My digital story was more on the spectrum of
entertainment as it had little educational value and was more a snapshot into
my life – used for entertainment. Keen (2008:2) however, sees amateur media,
similarly to others, as “flattening our culture” and also “blurring the lines
between… expert and amateur.” From this he means it is devaluing media culture.
If anyone can be a creator then it makes it less unique. For Keen, there should
be a clear distinction between amateur and expert so that they aren’t seen on
the same spectrum and aren’t judge in the same ways. However how do we define expert?
What does make someone an expert in media? If it is just education then that
seems unfair, some have natural raw talent and shouldn’t be devalued just if
they do not have a degree in the subject. Perhaps amateurs should be viewed on
the same platform as experts, as we can judge the talent of amateurs with
looking at expert’s work as a guideline. I don’t think amateurs should be as
shunned as Keen is suggesting.

 

In a way, my story was one that was self-coaxed, the story I
told was my decision to tell. However, Smith and Watson (2001:51) used the terms “coaxers” and “coercers”
meaning a person/institution provokes us to tell our story and this does also
apply to myself. I was coerced into telling my story because I had to do so to
complete my assignment, although I did have the choice as to what kind of story
I told. Coaxing, can allow the audience to see and hear a truth. However, as it
is forced there is a chance a complete truth is not being presented as it was
not the choice of the individual to share the story. This can be said for all
form of amateur media, we don’t know if a truth is being portrayed as
everything can be edited and filtered, the truth can be masked. In regard to my
story this isn’t too relevant, I told a story that didn’t require any masking
of the truth, it was simply a pleasant story about childhood. So, in my case,
being coaxed simply just encourage me to tell a personal story from my life
that I would not have produced solely on my own.

 

In Smith and Watson’s text ‘Reading Autobiography’ (2001:59-62)
they talk in regard to there being different autobiographical ‘I’s. The first
‘I’ is the real or historical ‘I’, according to Smith and Watson this is the
creator of the story, the real person who produced the story. In regard to my
story that is myself. A characteristic of this ‘I’ is that this ‘I’ has more
stories than just this one, they have a full life of stories. They are the real
physical being – which is me. The second is the narrating ‘I’. This is the ‘I’
that is available to the audience, the voice narrative in the voice over, in
the music and in the images – the storyteller is this autobiographical ‘I’. The
next is the narrated ‘I’. This is the main character in the story, the
protagonist. Again, in my digital story this ‘I’ is myself, however it isn’t
always me at my current age. At the beginning of the story my narrated ‘I’ is a
child. However, by the end of the story I am talking about myself at my older
current age, still being the narrated ‘I’. Finally, there is the ideological
‘I’. This is a concept of “personhood”, you and your story is a product of the
person you are. This can involve, the era, nationality, culture, ethnicity,
family etc. My story, as I have previously put, is clearly about my identity,
my nationality. I am reflecting on what it means to be English and Scottish.
The ideological ‘I’ is part of our identities. The where and the how has a big
impact on digital storytelling and that is what Smith and Watson are trying to
put across with this particular autobiographical ‘I’. I reflect this very
clearly in my digital story.

 

My digital story could have been improved. I could have
drawn more attention onto the images that reflected my words by using slower
transitions between images. I could’ve also slowed the dialogue down slightly,
included more natural pauses that give the audience a chance to contemplate
what they are watching and think about how it can relate to their own lives. In
parts when I was describing Edinburgh it felt rushed, which wasn’t what I has
intended, I wanted emphasis to have been brought to the beauty of the city, not
for this to have been rushed through. Despite this, I do believe the beginning
of my story was a strength as it began with a hint of mystery. Why was I being
bundled into a car, where was I going to? This seems more gripping than an
alternative beginning where it was clearer cut regarding what my story was
about. Moreover, the ending of my story was one that was self-revelatory,
something that Lambert (2013:4), sees as being one of the seven key components
of a digital story. I was ‘aware of a new insight’ by the end of the story,
that I could belong in both Edinburgh and at home.

 

Overall, digital storytelling has a considerate amount of
power in the modern age. One of its strengths is that anyone can tell their
story – allowing a variety of opinions and views to be heard and not just from experts
in the media. It has the power to stir up a conversation, the fact that anyone
can be a creator means stories become more relatable to the everyday person,
they can make an impact on a significant amount of people. Platforms like YouTube
are challenging other types of media, such as television. An increasing amount of
people are getting their entertainment and news from YouTube now, it is
challenging the mainstream television media. The practice of amateur media is
only going to grow and grow, as more people can see how easily accessible it is
to them. It may, in the future become the new norm for the majority to be
telling digital stories.

Bibliography

 
Alexander, B. (2011) The New Digital Storytelling. Santa Barbra: Praeger.
Burgess, J. E. (2006). Hearing ordinary voices: Cultural studies, vernacular creativity and
digital storytelling. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 20(2), 201-214. Accessed Monday 15th
January 2018 from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/6243/1/6243.pdf
Gauntlett, D. (2011) Making is connecting. London: Polity.
Keen, A. (2008) The
cult of the amateur: how blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s
user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.
(rev.ed.) London: Nicholas Beasley
Lambert, J. (2013) Digital Storytelling. Capturing lives, Creating community. New
York: Routledge.
Smith, S and Watson, J. (2001) Reading Autobiography. Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press
Thumin, N. (2012) Self representation and digital culture. Basingstoke :Palgrave
MacMillan
 
 
 

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