Digital storytellers from as far afield as Japan to Norway and from Egypt to Canton gathered together in Cardiff on 14 June 2013 for the DS8 digital storytelling conference.
The host, Karen Lewis, co-director of the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling thanked the sponsors - the Arts Council of Wales - welcomed everyone on behalf of DS Cymru and introduced the first guest speaker. (All speakers’ biographies are on the DS8 site)
Personal factual participation & collaboration are themes running through Mandy Rose‘s Video Nation, Capture Wales and academic career. Speaking of her time with BBC Video Nation, she said: “I think the veto we gave Video Nation diarists to opt out of having their video shown was a first at the BBC.”
Mandy was one of the leaders at BBC Cymru Wales who set up and ran Capture Wales digital storytelling. It was 12 years ago that the first training workshop in Wales happened, led by Joe Lambert and Nina Mullen of CDS. Mandy credited Daniel Meadows, seconded from http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/jomec/ to BBC Wales, for his vision. For example, citing how Daniel ensured Capture Wales was more than just a broadcast project, how important it was that people took a copy of their story home with them from the workshop and how inspiration came from Mass-Observation, early radio documentary makers and from Ivan Illich’s ideas in Tools for Conviviality.
Mandy Rose is now senior research fellow at the Digital Cultures Research Centre, University of the West of England. She’s studying and instigating globally collaborative interactive real-life projects. She ended by challenging traditional broadcasters to engage with emerging participative video content forms and projects.
Pip Hardy was a memorable guest speaker at DS6 in Aberystwyth. I’ll never forget the digital story she showed back then of an anguished nurse told to fit a catheter in a dying patient because it would be “good practice” for him. In DS8 Pip tacked the ethics of digital storytelling at DS8. Attribution, no-derivative3, non-commercial Creative Commons licenses are the ones @PilgrimPip uses for Patient Voices. Pip screened an early Patient Voices digital story about a ‘closed’ circumcised Somali woman in a maternity ward, and then led a discussion about ethical issues raised in it.
Other morning breakout sessions were: David Frohlich Mobile Digital Storytelling for Development. Grete Jamissen/Suzana Sukovic – Digital Storytelling in Education; Rose Thompson - Digital Storytelling: Medical Education for the Google Generation. Of the last in this list, Mike Wilson @profmikew tweeted: “Rose Thompson on how Internet as narrative vehicle has changed power relationship in clinical situations. Patients taking the lead now.”
After lunch, there were two further cracking guest speakers and I attended an inspiring breakout led by an old friend….
Darcy Alexandra began her presentation by showing powerful protest films from south and central America. One of a silent protest by relatives of family members who had been ‘disappeared’ and another by a film-maker from El Salvador who returned to her village to film a survivor of a massacre there some years ago. She then spoke of her work in the Republic of Ireland with people who were waiting in an asylum centre for their cases to be heard in court. She showed a film by a Serbian visual artist Vukasin who spoke with palpable sadness of not being able to be there at the end of his mother’s life after she warned him not to return to his home as it wasn’t safe for him. As in the case of many refugees and asylum seekers and others moving from one country to another for their won and their families’ safety, when Vukasin’s mother died he was not even able to attend her funeral.
There have however been two uplifting outcomes for Vukasin today: he has “ received leave to remain in Ireland, and completed an MA in Visual Arts.” Do watch Vukasin’s digital story.
“What if we can get a country to write its own history?” The energy of young Egyptian video-makers and social media commentators was carried into DS8 like a flag by #18daysinEgypt’s Yasmin Elayat. She spoke of their use of social media in sharing the story of the revolution in Egypt by the people protesting. Tools like Mozilla Popcorn Maker help to add contextual metadata to each story when presenting unfolding events. And there were some stories I hadn’t heard before: like the lovers who met after making fleeting eye contact across a crowded Tarhir Square; the image of charging military rushing the photo journalist who captioned it ‘the image that nearly took me’; and the motorcycle-riders who rode where ambulances couldn’t reach and skidded into tear gas clouds to rescue the injured.
There was a great question at the end of Yasmin’s session, about the fragility of archives. Greece’s national broadcaster has just closed, said the questioner. What happens to these videos and stories if social media sites go under? This is a safeguarding question I’d like to explore some more. Especially considering how precious these artifacts are if the challenge is for individuals to collectively write their own history.
I’ve known Aske Dam of IMA Norway for some time. He came to observe an early digital storytelling workshop I worked on with post-graduate students of Cardiff University’s JOMEC with Daniel Meadows and the rest of the Capture Wales team. Aske’s also worked extensively in Japan and is highly-respected by the people I know there. His breakout session was a call for communities to use local cinemas and cinema technology to share and respond to each others’ digital stories. Instead of showing PowerPoint slides, Aske made his presentation using the DLP (Digital Light Processing) digital cinema format on Chapter’s cinema projector.
Because I’m so interested in hyperlocal media, I was delighted when Aske showed examples of Japan’s early rural local cable TV broadcasts. Farming prices were chalked onto a blackboard, with a black-and-white camera pointing at it. Presenters dialled into the local police station live on camera and asked the officer if there had been any accidents today. Local stories were written by local people and then acted out live on TV by professional touring drama companies. Every piece of content was relevant to its local rural audience.
Aske also spoke of the importance of local radio after disasters like Japan’s 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear incident in 2011. When mobile phone and other communications networks were down, lists of the survivors and those who’d been killed were drawn up in shop windows and local reporters would read the names on radio.
Other afternoon breakout sessions were by one of Britain’s busiest digital storytellers Alex Henry about using iPad technology to capture memories of Newcastle’s heritage. And Carlotta Allum spoke about her Stretch Story Box project.
The afternoon was brought to a close with thanks to the organisers, speakers, sponsors (Arts Council of Wales) and a look ahead to an evening of storytelling later on at Chapter, Cardiff.
I’d summarise the theme of DS8 as being about citizens’ use of social media and digital storytelling in documenting events truthfully and in seeking justice.
This Wales digital storytelling conference review is something I’ve done every year. Because it’s so dark in the hall, I do apologise to the speakers for the poor quality of my photos.
If you’d like to read previous years’ reviews, here are the links:
DS7 (2012); DS6 (2011); DS5 (2010); DS4 (2009), DS3 (2008) and DS2 (2007). Unfortunately, the record of DS1 is no longer online.