Category Archives: citizenship

Telling Truths, Changing Minds – digital storytelling evening

As a round-up of digital storytelling activities in south Wales, it’s hard to beat this event TELLING TRUTHS, CHANGING MINDS in Cardiff, Wales, on Thursday, 29 November 2012.

It’s been organised by the CommsCymru network for communications professionals in Wales and it’s open to all members of that CommsCymru network (joining details below). The event is all about the ‘practice and tactics for making effective comms narratives plus the latest applied research from experts at our national centre for storytelling’.

The programme is impressive:

  • Professor Hamish Fyfe of the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling at the University of Glamorgan will be hosting the evening.
  • Lisa Heledd-Jones of StoryWorks will share some of her digital storytelling work in the field of health and wellbeing.
  • Matt Chilcott of the digital inclusion project Communities 2.0 will talk about that project.
  • Bridget Keehan will be ‘Questioning the Purpose of the Arts in Prison’.
  • Chris Morgan – Mogs – of GEECS will discuss how storytelling can be used in digital inclusion.
  • Dr Pat Ryan will look at the improtance of story times in Welsh museums, archives and libraries.
Chris 'Mog' Morgan
Chris 'Mog' Morgan’s background is in digital storytelling and community based multi-media work. He has worked with a wide variety of community groups in Wales and Europe on projects from music and film making to animation and web design.

I’m really looking forward to this event. If you’re not already a member of the CommsCymru network, you can get details of free membership at www.commscymru.info and of how to register for this free event from commsprofession@wales.gsi.gov.uk

5.45 – 7: 30 PM Thursday, 29 November 2012
The Zen Room, ATRiuM, Cardiff School of Creative &
Cultural Industries, University of Glamorgan, Cardiff CF24 2FN

New website for BBCA: see many of their 800 digital stories – and a bouncing rabbit

On Facebook today, Natasha James, manager of Breaking Barriers Community Arts*, announced the launch of the organisation’s brand new website:

bbca

“We have a new website http://www.breakingbarriers.org.uk We’d love you to check it out and give some feedback as well as enjoy watching some stories.”

Apart from viewing digital stories and community videos, the website gives details of Training the Trainers workshops, talks about how they develop and manage both digital storytelling and video projects (including video examples of past projects).

There are insights into the storytellers, such as Conway Caswell was part of a group of stroke victims who met regularly. He graduated with a degree in English Literature later in life, but ill health stopped him being able to complete his Masters. This story gave Conway an outlet for his love of writing and he sent a copy to each of his brothers at Christmas.

* In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I’m on BBCA’s board of directors.

Premila Gamage, Sri Lankan Digital Storyteller

It’s International Women’s Day today. This year’s theme centres on Empowering Rural Women. So today’s the day I want to talk about a digital storyteller I met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in December 2011. Premila Gamage works at the Institute of Policy Studies, Colombo; in her spare time she’s taking the tools of digital storytelling to rural areas of Sri Lanka, encouraging people to tell their stories, publishing them online and helping people realise the dreams they outline in their stories.

I’d been was introduced to Premila via email by Sarah Copeland who’d met Premila because they were both studying at Leeds Metropolitan University. So Premila and I made arrangements to meet at her office in Colombo.

Premila Gamage

I could tell straight away that Premlia was a person with a strong social conscience. She’s been investigating digital inclusion and her speciality is Policy. Bearing in mind the evidence that digital storytelling can bring about policy change via health-related projects such as Patient Voices and Story Works in the UK, using such personal accounts in Sri Lanka sounds like a promising route to ignite social change.

Premila told me that she and her fellow digital storytellers have set up Lanka Community Information Initiative – LCII.org – which works with “marginalized and disadvantaged communities to access new and old communication technologies to enhance their quality of life.”

Here’s an example of one of LCII’s digital stories. Umesha Lakshika gives a glimpse of life for students of the Prabhavi Resources Center, Werankatagoda, Ampara, Sri Lanka. The resource centre consists of a library, Nenasala (ICT centre and digital inclusion project) and classes.

Premila says LCII.org would benefit from more digital storytelling equipment to help their work in rural areas of Sri Lanka. It doesn’t have to be brand new. If you’re able to contribute digital cameras, digital audio recorders, video cameras, laptops to LCII.org, please contact them to make arrangements

I spoke with Premila via email earlier today and she said:

“At the moment we are working with Macaldeniya school and community – a very remote area in a tea estate – the most deprived members (of the Tamil ethnic group in Sri Lanka) are Estate Tamils. With the generous support of CILIP (Charted Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in the UK we built a library for the school and community. We finished with the first phase of the project – and opened the library. The next phase will be introducing DST for these people as we did in the other projects. We are desparately trying to find some support to carry out the second phase – the DST!”

Photos of the Macaldeniya project.

Further information.

International Women’s Day only comes around once a year, but the work that Premila Gamage and LCII does all year round in the poorest rural areas of Sri Lanka is really inspiring. So if you feel able to help, please do get in touch with LCII.

Designing a New Media Forest of Japan

The whole world remembers the 3.11 March 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan.

Japanese participatory media research group MELL Platz is conducting a public research seminar on 10 December 2011 at the Tohoku University in Sendai, in the area which was so badly affected by the tragic events.

It’s called “Designing A New Media Forest of Japan: From Civic Generated Narratives and Memories of Post 3.11.”

The event begins with a workshop for participants to share their narratives and memories of the 3.11 east Japan great disaster.
This is followed by a panel discussion about the future media ecosystem (the Media Forest) of Japan after 3.11.

On the platform will be Kenji Kai (Sendai Mediateque), Martin Fackler (New York Times), Shin Mizukoshi (Univ. of Tokyo). Chairing the session will be Kuniko Sakata (Tohoku Univ.) and Kiyoko Toriumi (Univ. of Tokyo).
There’s more information on the MELL Platz website.
via @shinkeugri

Read also about some of the innovative projects of the “Media Exprimo” Shin Mizukoshi group.

Digital Stories may be ideal for Welsh TV channel S4C

This sounds like an interesting opportunity for someone who wants to pitch an idea for a series of Welsh-language digital stories to S4C. It’s from the Content section of S4C’s Vision for 2012 and Beyond (PDF).

“We will establish a new brand, Calon Cenedl (heart of the nation), a series of short programmes approximately three-minutes long to be broadcast at 20.25. The content will offer us the opportunity to exhibit the full range of Welsh life in a series of portrayals about areas, communities and people. This new brand can be extended to include half-hour programmes at other times during peak hours when the editorial strength of the idea merits it.”

DS6 digital storytelling conference review 2011

For the UK’s digital storytellers, a trip to Aberystwyth Arts Centre has been something of an annual pilgrimage for some years now. DS6 took place on Friday 16 June 2011. In keeping with previous years, here’s my review of the day.

Angeline Koh

First on the DS6 stage was Angeline Koh of Singapore-based Digital Storytelling Asia.

I first became aware of the interest in digital storytelling in Singapore when I wrote this blog post entitled 6,000 Storytellers four years ago.

I could tell from hearing Angeline speak just how much of an inspiration Denise Atchley – wife of the late Dana Atchley – had been.

Angeline says digital storytelling is still quite young in Singapore and the surrounding area. She’d like to see a huge growth in the form, especially in schools. After witnessing Angela’s determination and dedication, when it comes to doing this I’d say: “if anyone can, Angeline can”.

Pip Hardy

I was bowled over by the presentation made by Pip Hardy of Patient Voices. I’d briefly met Pip and her partner Tony Sumner at the previous evening’s welcome meal (thanks to Alan Hewson, director of the Arts Centre for that). The stories Pip showed on Friday drove home the power of personal storytelling in changing people’s attitudes to the way they deal with others in their day to day work. The emotion I felt as Pip showed the digital story by a trainee male nurse who reflected on being instructed to insert a catheter into an 80-year-old woman who was very close to death “because it’ll be good practice for you” will stay with me for ever. It was such an important story to tell and yet such a difficult story to watch.

If this field of stories guiding health policy and behaviour is of interest to you, see also this Aberth blog post about how storytelling is saving hundreds of lives in Welsh hospitals.

Lisa Heledd Jones (L) and Karen Lewis (R) of StoryWorks

The first breakout Session I attended was about StoryWorks and was presented by Karen Lewis and Lisa Heledd Jones. The sensitive way in which these experienced practitioners tailor experiences in consultation with the people they’re working with is what shines through for me. Full declaration: I’ve worked closely with Karen and Lisa in the past with Capture Wales.

Not all the work they do results in a classic two-minute digital story, for example they described a project called ‘Dads Who Care’ about foster dads which resulted in a PDF e-book which had many thousands of downloads which goes to show that modelling the format to suit the audience yields optimal results. Anyone who’s organised a digital storytelling workshop will know how difficult it can be to recruit participants. So it was interesting to hear Lisa say that, if individuals can see lasting good for others from the story they tell, StoryWorks have found it much easier to find volunteers to share their story.

Julie Gade

After lunch, Julie Gade of Story Field stood up to speak. Julie’s based in Copenhagen and her organisation works for companies and organisations who want to find out what their customers / clients / passengers / patients / etc really think about their products or services. As Julie said: “What people say they do isn’t always what people actually do.” One of the ways Julie’s company likes working is to give people cameras and ask them to record how they interact with the product or service, then edit the rushes into a short video story. This was a refreshing take on digital storytelling.

Joni Ayn

The final breakout session of the afternoon I attended was about Hyperlocal. It was hosted by Joni Ayn, editor of Llandaff News. The parallels between digital storytelling and hyperlocal news sites are interesting, especially when you consider the geographically-related stories of Murmur, Postcode Stories (whose creator Nicky Getgood was in the audience). There was an interesting strand of discussion around individuals’ ‘rights’ to tell a community’s stories, as opposed to capitalising on existing community frameworks.

Surprisingly, this echoed with my experiences when I worked with the BBC’s Cipolwg ar Gymru project. Some participants expressed an interest in telling a story about their village, yet when asked if that was the story they wanted to use for their digital story, they said: “Oh no, I’m not the right person to tell that one.” I don’t know whether or not this modesty in being reluctant to act as spokesperson is uniquely Welsh.

My own view as someone who runs two hyperlocal sites – AbergelePost.com and BaeColwyn.com – is that every single bit of help is welcome. After the session, the person who made the point promised to put me in touch with someone in Colwyn Bay who might be able to help with that area’s stories.

I first met Joni Ayn at DS5 and her Llandaff News was an influence when I decided to produce sites about Abergele and Colwyn Bay, so I was delighted that Joni ran this breakout at DS6.

Other breakout sessions throughout the day were run by Hannah Nicklin and Mog and Angharad Dalton. I was sorry to miss these, but these presenters kindly agreed to let me make an audio recording, so I can share here what I learned after listening to the mp3.

Patient Voices storytelling mandala slide by Pip Hardy
Patient Voices storytelling mandala slide by Pip Hardy

Pre-conference meal for speakers, generously hosted by Alan Hewson, Director of Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

Apart from the formal sessions, DS6 was a good chance to catch up with digital storytelling activities from some of the attendees. Here are some of the updates:

– Barrie Stephenson of DigiStories has been successfully using iPad to create digital stories using iMovie on iPad. Barrie says he’s focusing mainly on training trainers nowadays.

– Gwion Llwyd and Rhian Cadwaladr of Cadwyd and Galeri Caernarfon were in Aber. Gwion finds the defaulting Ken Burns effect on iMovie on iPad frustrating. They’re planning some exciting projects.

– I met Tash from Breaking Barriers Community Arts, who told me about some work they’ve been doing with Mind.

– Daniel Meadows is still teaching digital storytelling at Cardiff University. He’s also preparing for a retrospective of his work at the Bradford National Media Museum. Daniel and I spent some time remembering documentary photographer Tim Heatherington, who was sadly killed in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya. Daniel knew Tim well; I’d only met Tim once when we started learning about digital storytelling together at the Elan Valley workshop in 2001.

– Steve Bellis of Yale College Wrexham is setting up a new ambitious pan-European digital storytelling partnership project.

– other people I was delighted to catch up with, albeit briefly, included Kate Strudwick, Katrina Kirkwood, Karl Greenwood, Prue Thimbleby, etc.

As I drove home to Cardiff from Aberystwyth after DS6, I enjoyed the company of Simona Bonini Baldini and Rami Malkawi. I’ll say more about them soon on this blog.

If you’d like to read about DSCymru’s previous conferences, here are the links:

DS5 (2010).
DS4 (2009), DS3 (2008) and DS2 (2007) too. Unfortunately, the record of DS1 is no longer online.

From Truprint to Facebook

Up until the 1990s, passing round a Truprint envelope full of 6″ x 4″ photographic prints was the norm; nowadays we publish our own online and ‘Like’ our friends’ photos on Facebook. Increasingly, that’s how we pass round our snapshots.

This is a great moment to capture that change in the way we share our personal photos.

From Snapshots to Social Media – The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography” is a new book by Risto Sarvas and David Frohlich from University of Surrey. David has a fascinating history in Digital Storytelling as the pioneer of Audio Photography and one of the people behind the StoryBank digital storytelling sharing project in India.

The book tracks the snapshot from darkroom to home printer and, although it’s more of an academic read than a light and general guide, it should make a great addition to the book collection of anyone interested in home photography.

From Snapshots to Social Media - The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography
From Snapshots to Social Media - The Changing Picture of Domestic Photography

Video Nation – final screening

Last night was a poignant one. Even before I was involved with digital storytelling, I’ve been a fan of BBC Video Nation. I first became aware of it when I saw an job ad in the early 1990s announcing that the BBC Community Programmes Unit was recruiting people to develop uses for the Hi8 analogue camcorders that had heralded the introduction of near-broadcast-quality consumer video cameras. The fruits of that project, founded by Mandy Rose and Chris Mohr, were five to ten-minute video shorts scheduled before Newsnight on BBC 2 TV.

Last night I went to London’s ICA Cinema for the final screening of Video Nation Network’s Turn Back Time – The High Street community films. Along with other projects, Video Nation is coming to an end, as part of the BBC’s Putting Quality First strategy.

Rosemary Richards, VN’s editor Interactive and Outreach hosted the night well and the films were a delight. it’s just so refreshing to hear new voices who speak from experience and knowledge about subjects.

I met many of the films’ authors and some – like Karl Stewart, head of Shaftsbury Rd school in Leicester had travelled from far for the screening. Karl had brought two young school students with him and they were very proud seeing their film on the West-End cinema screen.

I also met some of the Video Nation team, from past and present: Outi Vellacott, who went on to work with Hi8Us and Mark Dunford on a pan-European digital storytelling project; Alyson Fielding, who came to work at BBC Wales for a time, while Snowdonia Farmhouse and other major productions were being made.

I’m sorry Video Nation’s coming to an end. It marks the end of a major long-running collaboration between the BBC and its audiences. And for some of its collaborators – who pay their License Fee but don’t watch, listen or read much BBC content at all – working with Video Nation was a rare point of contact that they valued with the BBC. So there’s one example of Video Nation’s priceless legacy.