9 things digital storytellers can learn from Steven Moffat, Doctor Who & Sherlock writer

Here are some lessons digital storytellers can learn from Steven Moffat, based on advice he gave in an interview:

1. Imagine someone with their hat on, their coat half on, stepping out of the door. Make them say: “I’ll just keep watching until I find out what this is about”

2. Have a big whallop at the start.

3. Start with a promise of something you’re going to deliver

4. Surprise them

5. Try to think of a brand new idea.

6. Keep giving them reasons not to turn off

7. Try to make what you do appeal to _everybody_, then you’ve a chance of making it somebody’s favourite.

8. If you’re stuck for inspiration: stare out of the window, think of something and then write it down. Do that again.

9. “A good day is one when I _finish_ a script”

weeping angel photo
Photo by Lucid Nightmare

(source: notes I took at a conversation between Steven Moffat and Huw Edwards at a BBC Wales event on 19 June 2012)

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on  20 June 2012.

Just a quick post about Great British Story, HLF grants and an EdTech conference

1. The BBC Great British Story roadshow is in St Ffagan’s, Cardiff, Saturday 16 June 2012.

2. Attending will be representatives of ‘All Our Stories’. There are grants of £3,000 – £10,000 available to from Heritage Lottery Fund for UK organisations “Using collections like archives, libraries and museums, including collections held by people in the community – and – Recording things like people’s memories … scanning old photographs and documents…”
Now that sounds like an interesting source of money for digital storytelling projects. Spread the word.

3. Here’s some news of a free event in Cardiff on 26 June I heard of via Dysg’s excellent e-newsletter, mailed out every week by Rhys Davies: “Technology Working for Wales: 26 June 2012 – Free one day event, Hilton Hotel Cardiff.  JISC RSC Wales’ Summer Conference this year focuses on the twin priorities of cost efficiency and employability, and looks at how technology can help the post-16 sector in Wales to do more with less whilst enhancing the future employability of learners.”

4. FilmClub Cymru has just received a grant (select language) of just over £0.25 million from the Welsh Government to continue its educational activities in schools here in Wales.

DS7 digital storytelling conference review 2012

The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling hosted this year’s annual Digital Storytelling Festival DS7 at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, on Thursday 7th June 2012. It has been held in each of the previous six years at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. This is my annual cribsheet, looking back at the day. There are links to past festivals at the end of this post.

Annie Correal Cowbird, opened the batting at DS7 and she made everyone gasp when she revealed that her father had been kidnapped and held hostage in Colombia. You can hear about what happened in Episode 409 of This American Life.

Cowbird was hatched when Annie met Jonathan Harris and they set about making a home for people’s personal stories. Cowbird is one of the best-designed websites I know of and its user interface leads you gently through the typing, adding a picture, choosing keywords, etc. Jon and Dave Lauer have done a great architectural job with this site as it’s fiendishly difficult to make it so simple to contribute.

Annie’s critical of the way some individuals promote ‘brand me’ on social networks:
“Look how gorgeous my girlfriend is / my vacation was”. In contrast, she identifies four traits of the kind of personal stories found on Cowbird: personal, deep, vulnerable and surprising.

These traits were reinforced when she shared some of the Cowbird community’s personal stories. I love this one because of the way the gorgeous image of Angelique hypnotizes me while I listen to Scott Thrift’s frank (or personal, deep, vulnerable and surprising) account of how the two of them courted each other online before meeting, falling in love and the way things turned out (no spoiler).

I’ve only clicked ‘Loved’ on three stories on Cowbird so far and I was surprised to learn that one of them – this one from the UK: I heard you by S R Cloud – was the most popular of all on the site: “I want parents to throw their newspapers in the bin. Switch their gizmos off. And talk. To each other. To their kids. ” – S R Cloud.    Hear, hear.

During the morning, I went to hear Darcy Alexandra of Dublin Institute of Technology talking about her work with women who’d gone to live in the Republic of Ireland and who were waiting to hear if they could remain living in that country, or whether they would be deported. One of Darcy’s main interests is in visual ethnographic practice. How to illustrate a digital story when you have no images is a challenge. The storytellers Darcy worked with didn’t have a personal photographic archive because they’d left their homes suddenly. Darcy worked with the collective of women to develop a set of artistic images that conveyed their current circumstances.

Bridget’s story – which isn’t published online – was about working long days in Dublin with no breaks, six days a week, sick or not. At lunchtime she ate a sandwich standing up while still working and her employer made all sorts of cruel threats to her. After watching her story, I’m sure I was not alone in being glad to be offered  a chance by Darcy to send a personal message to Bridget, written on a blank postcard.

After lunch, Natasha Armstrong of Historypin spoke about this site which encourages people to pin their photos and memories onto a map. I’m looking forward to diving into this and exploring its capacity for embedding people’s stories onto hyperlocal websites.

Joe Lambert Digital Center for Storytelling spoke next. Joe’s presentation followed hot on the heels of his iPhone / iPad digital storytelling workshop in London. Alex Henry made a story on this workshop and you can read about her experience on her Curiosity Creative blog.

“Everyone has something to teach and something to learn” – this is part of a CDS vision statement by Arlene Goldbard and this collaborative learning ethos was underlined throughout Joe’s presentation.

He showed a slide listing the hardest lessons he’s learned on the essential nature of story work. Numbers three and four were “How they said it is how it should be said” and “Don’t leave fingerprints“. Writing as one who has facilitated digital storytelling workshops, that’s really difficult: to keep quiet, accept and see what others in the group contribute.

Joe listed the eclectic human, communication, organisational and technical skills that make up the facilitative skillset for digital storytellers. He also spoke of the issues and approaches associated with a continuum of collaboration.

He rounded off his session by playing out – from his iPhone – one of the iPhone stories made in London over the Diamond Jubilee weekend.

The final breakout of the day was about working in the corporate sector, by Pam Sykes from South Africa and Helena Lopes from Portugal. Pam showed some stories made by workers at the call centre of a vehicle tracking company. The board wanted to know what its staff thought of the company, so they commissioned Pam to run the workshop.

The workers didn’t hold back in their feedback and raised issues like how being made to ask permission to go to the toilet during shifts made one person feel that he was back in kindergarten. I predict corporate digital storytelling will grow as an industry. Pam’s advice to companies funding such work is: “don’t take it from the marketing budget, take it from the training and development budget.”

I was disappointed to have to miss these other breakouts: Steve Bellis & Patrizia Braga of DeTales; Natasha James of Breaking Barriers; Alyson Fielding of Pyuda Ltd.; Mike Wilson and Sarah Chapman of Project Aspect; Barrie Stephenson of Digistories and Bridget Foreman of Riding Lights Theatre Company; Matt Chilcott of Communities 2.0

Apart from the formal sessions, DS7 was a good chance to catch up with digital storytelling activities from other attendees and a chance to meet up with old friends. George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling were great hosts and Chapter was a great venue. I hope to see you next year at DS8.

If you’d like to read about DSCymru’s previous conferences, here are the links: DS6 (2011), DS5 (2010), DS4 (2009), DS3 (2008) and DS2 (2007) too. Unfortunately, the record of DS1 is no longer online.

Telling hyperlocal stories using Facebook comments and photos

What if people’s stories and photos about places on Facebook could be more easily be found and navigated? That’s what Nicky Getgood (@getgood) of Talk About Local and I mused about between presentations at #DS7.

One of the hyperlocal sites I edit – AbergelePost.com – is a lively local history site with committed contributors. When I set the website up, I did what many hyperlocal editors did and set up a supporting Facebook page. A few months ago, a new Facebook group about Abergele was created. This group is a much more lively forum with many users exchanging memories and photos of the town.
The difficulty with Facebook is that it’s hard to navigate this content in any way other than spooling back in time in a linear fashion.
So my question is this: how can the stories and photos about place on Facebook that members post be more easily be found and navigated?

The Globe Cinema

Digital storytelling admin

I’ve just been speaking on Facebook with south Wales digital storytelling and community video practitioner Sandra Anstiss. She’s venturing into the private sector making stories with owners, marketing staff, customers, etc. and she was asking members of the Facebook DS Working Group for advice about consents and copyright.
I’d say there are three or more issues here…
1. The stated consent of the storyteller and featured subjects;
2. Some form of evidence that any third-party assets are OK to use (other people’s pics, music, etc.); and
3. Something that says who owns the finished digital story entity.
Once these are established, it becomes possible to license the story’s re-publication elsewhere, either exclusively or – as in the case of Creative Commons – non-exclusively.
In terms of a project’s ethos, due consultation and consideration will need to be given to sensitivities around possible hurtful comments online etc. YouTube comments can be cruel.
I wish Sandra good luck with her new venture and – adding a disclaimer – I do emphasise I’m  not a lawyer, so it’s best to seek professional advice.
P.S. sorry for the really boring headline to this story
Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 2 June 2012