Category Archives: mobile

DS8 digital storytelling conference review 2013

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)

Mandy Rose
Mandy Rose

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
Pip Hardy

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
Darcy Alexandra

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.

Yasmin Elayat
Yasmin Elayat

“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.

Aske Dam
Aske Dam

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.

The guilt every photographer feels

Back in the day when we used film and had our photographs developed and printed, there were two things that were different from today’s digital image world.

We were more careful about the images we captured because there was stock and production to pay for.

We could put our hands on our proudest images because we’d move them from the developer’s envelope into photo albums and scrapbooks.

Today, we snap more images. They’re kept on different places: phones, cameras, storage cards and drives, hard drives, laptops and in the cloud. It’s harder to surface the gems from this sea of images.

The guilt is that feeling of “one day I’m going to sort this and compile my pool of desert island photographs. The ones I want to leave my children which will help them remember the story of their father’s life.”

So why haven’t already done this?

Stray cat at doner kebab stall in Istanbul May 2013
Stray cat at doner kebab stall in Istanbul May 2013. Photo by @digitalst

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.

Center for Digital Storytelling’s Joe Lambert teaching iPhone storytelling in London 2-4 June

Joe Lambert speaking at DS5
Joe Lambert speaking at DS5 in Aberystwyth
Joe Lambert, CDS Founder and Director, is coming to Cardiff to DS7 on 7 June 2012. While he’s in the UK he’s leading an iPhone workshop in London on June 2-4. Here’s the info from CDS:

“Join CDS Founder and Director Joe Lambert on a weekend walk through the old City of London to explore your story against the backdrop of London streets. Using iPhones, iPads or iPod Touch, you will shoot, record, edit and complete a short film. See http://www.storycenter.org/iphone-workshop/ for more information. Special offer – Sliding Scale $100-$300/participant. Limit 15 participants.”

For details, email workshop@storycenter.org

This sounds like a diamond opportunity for UK Digital Storytellers to learn about using the latest mobile tools to tell a story and to get a taste of the excitement of the Capital over the weekend of the Royal Jubilee celebrations.

Learn how to shoot for the web and edit video archive mashups

Welsh media trainers Cyfle have two tantalising training courses which are open for registration now:

1. Archive Mashup
Learn how to mix diverse archive video clips and sounds.
A part-time course beginning 26 March 2012

2. Shooting for the web
Learn how to plan, script, shoot, edit and upload footage specifically for the web and mobile devices. Using Sony EX3 cameras, the trainer is Simon Walker. A three-day course from 12-14 March 2012

For details of course fees, application and selection process, go to Cyfle’s website. The courses are held in Wales.

Using your mobile phone as a digital storytelling tool

My friend Bethan is planning a workshop to train artists and business people in using their mobile phones to tell stories about the work they do and she asked me for some ideas. I had a chat and then sent her these four links and I thought I’d share them with you here too:

Vlog tutorial This short video tutorial is from one of the pioneering video blogging sites.

Great tips from the Video Nation archive.


Citizen media network Witness Video Advocacy offers craft and safety tips here.

The old BBC Scotland digital storytelling project Highland Lives offered this valuable PDF document with useful tips on planning your shoot and advice about getting good sound.

Digital Storytelling as a marketing tool

This post is about how audio storytelling has been used to publicise a radio play.

On Friday, I attended an industry screening by Cyfle’s Digital Delta multiplatform writers. Cyfle began as a training organisation for TV in Wales and – starting with its landmark Dimension 10 course – it has diversified into digital multiplatform too.

The project that most caught my eye was an audio digital story project called A Shoebox of Snow.

AudioBoo was used as the publication platform and the brief to participants was: “what do you keep hold of in your home because of the stories that are attached to it?”

The concept’s sponsor was Justine Potter @savvyjustine of Savvy Production. That company had won a commission to make a BBC radio play, starring Richard Briers. They wanted to work with Cyfle’s multiplatform writing trainees to generate some press and media buzz and some great stories by inviting people to share their own audio stories about their precious possessions by addressing two questions:

1. What is your object?
2. What is the memory that makes it so special?

Estelle in Plymouth recorded this memory of her dogs and their collars, in an interview with multimedia writer Hannah Wood:

The top dog among collars #ashoeboxofsnow #objects #memories (mp3)

Cyfle’s Digital Delta multiplatform writers were: Medina Bailey, Leusa Llywelyn, Tina Jenkins, Mali Tudno Jones, Dylan Owen, Simon Stratton and Hannah Wood.

And the participants who came from technical and design backgrounds were: Tom Beardshaw, Robbie Brewster, Paula Major, Tara Davies, Natalie Clements, Gareth Milton Griffiths and Jon Maguire.

And the lead trainer was Cyfle’s multiplatform manager Rhys Miles Thomas.

The crew closed their presentation with a peek of Zoetrap – An Alternate Reality Game. The creators are crowdsourcing funds for this Victoria horror game and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be big.
If you’re going to Storyworld San Fransisco starting Halloween ’11, keep an eye out for Zoetrap.

One-hour digital storytelling?

Is there a form of digital storytelling that can give people a taste of what’s possible in just one hour? That’s the question Nicky Getgood and I wrestled with when we met earlier today.

Nicky works with Talk About Local and edits the Digbeth is Good hyperlocal online site. The 1 October 2011 #Storycamp in Ludlow is what Nicky was inspired to organise after she attended DS6.

Nicky and I began by looking back at the Capture Wales project, then we wondered about what kinds of video outputs might be produced at the Ludlow #Storycamp. The model we’re considering piloting consists of:
– four images, including titles;
– half a minute of audio, recorded on mobile phone in a quiet room;
– a personal anecdote based on one image or object related to ‘my special place’

We’re confident the technical building of the digital story can be done within the time, as long as not much training is required. But we’re both concerned that there’s not enough time to give the anecdote (mini personal story about a place) time to ‘breathe’.

We’ll continue the discussion and I’ll keep you updated here.

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.