Are you grieving from the loss of a loved one?
Would you like to preserve your loved one’s memory?
Do you want to connect more closely with family members?
What Is Digital Storytelling?
Digital storytelling refers to a new technique in which anyone can preserve their loved one’s or their own memory in a digital format. This format uses technology and digital tools, such as digital cameras and digital voice recorders, to tell an emotional, engaging, interactive, and compelling story.
Years ago, storytelling was done by word of mouth, and perhaps with a few treasures to show. Today, the old oral narrative is combined with photos, video, text, graphics, music, and sound to create a new experience. There is so much technology readily available that’s both free or relatively inexpensive and easy to use. And the opportunities to share a life story through still or moving images, audio tracks, and more are nearly limitless.
Digital stories make life stories more personal and can be shared in many available formats and mediums—all of which are viewable through phones, tablets, laptops, and computers.
- Web-based stories
- Interactive narratives
- Narrative computer games
- Social media feeds
- Compact discs
- Short stories
- Transmedia storytelling
- And more!
Using Digital Storytelling to Remember a Loved One
Stories are at the basis of human society and how we take the time to remember loved ones. Digital storytelling can be a way to find healing after a loved one’s death. Telling someone’s story helps us to process grief and view their lives in a holistic perspective. In addition, using this medium to tell your story or your loved one’s story with others promotes sharing, reminds family and friends that they are not alone, encourages others to seek help, and reduces negative attitudes and stereotypes.
Many personal stories can be told through digital storytelling to connect with family members, friends, and others.
- Mental health
- Physical health conditions
- Behavioral health conditions
- And much more!
And digital storytelling can also provide a way to trigger memories with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. According to a recent study at the University of Alberta (Canada),
“As the people I worked with shaped their own stories, they were able to recall new memories. Even after they watched the story with their loved ones, some of the images would uncover more memories from the past,” said Elly Park, principal investigator and assistant clinical lecturer in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine’s Department of Occupational Therapy.
Are You a Digital Storyteller?
A digital storyteller is someone who wishes to tell a story or convey a journey, life experience, ideas or feelings through the use of digital media and storytelling. You may wish to tell your family’s story, the history of your community, a struggle with a health issue or an addiction or as a modern form of oral storytelling. With posting and storytelling on social media happening at record pace, each of us has become a more adept storyteller than ever before.
How to Use Digital Storytelling to Connect with Loved Ones
Digital stories can bridge the past and the present. And they can be a great tool for teaching, learning, and empowerment. Every life is powerful and important. And everyone has a story to tell. These immensely valuable experiences can speak volumes to those listening or watching.
Sharing personal stories can lead to positive change—either for one person or an entire group of people. Narratives are a great way to shift mindsets and touch viewers and listeners in a deeply moving way. Some families use digital stories as a way to strengthen friendships, family bonds, and relationships. And it can help family members and friends see a person through new eyes and a fresh perspective. Often times, we see and experience the here and now, and it may be difficult to know what happened before to create the current reality. Because people perceive the world in different ways, it helps to tell a story from multiple perspectives.
So, if you want to get family members and friends involved in your digital storytelling project, just ask. Most people will be happy to tell their story because people don’t usually ask. As humans, we have a natural inclination to not only tell our personal stories, but to also be creative in doing so. You can interview people about their own lives as well as their history with a loved one.
A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Storytelling
Anyone can tell a story—even you. You don’t need to be a celebrated author or accomplished writer in order to tell a life or familial story. All you need is the desire to tell a story… and a few computer-based tools in your pocket. Through this eight-step process, you’ll be able to organize your thoughts and ideas into a cohesive, compelling story.
Step 1: Develop Your Idea
The first step in creating your digital story is to decide on your overall idea or theme. Is there a purpose to the story or an idea that you want to convey to viewers/readers? If you’re not sure where to start, try one or more of these techniques to launch your creativity.
- Brainstorm alone or with others.
- Sketch your ideas.
- Research topics.
- Browse through family photos and artifacts.
- Write down what you know.
- Ask others to contribute their ideas. (Perhaps there is something you don’t yet know.)
Once you have all ideas on paper (or computer), it’s time to narrow the focus. What is the biggest and most relatable story that will have the most impact? Is there enough supporting material to help tell the story?
Consider the following items that can help illustrate a story as you create it.
- Video recordings
- Audio recordings
- Other data
- In-person accounts
Be aware of using copyrighted material. If you obtain photos, graphics, etc. online or elsewhere, be sure to get permission before using and give proper credit in your recording for the borrowed work.
Step 2: Plan Your Story
Now that you have your idea, it’s time to put together a plan and identify your resources. What digital tools and mediums do you want to use to tell your story? Take the time to organize your thoughts and available resources. Then decide the overall purpose of your story. (The purpose of most narratives is to inform, educate, persuade, question, move or entertain an audience.) Finally, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to make the story public or keep it private among select family and friends.
You may want to incorporate these tools while planning your digital story.
- Timeline for each step
- Goals of the process
- Calendar schedule of to-do items
- A review for each step before continuing to the next step
- How others will access the story
- Support you can gather
- Costs to produce your digital story
Step 3: Create Your Outline or Script
Your outline or script is one of the key elements to producing your digital story. With a well-thought-out plan, you’ll have a better chance of success throughout each step of the process.
In the previous step, you determined the theme and purpose of your story. When creating the script or outline for your story, it’s beneficial to think about other stories that have made an impact on your own life. What made them compelling to you? How were the stories told? Which details were most important? Your answers to these questions can help in the development of the story you’re about to tell.
Here are a few tips to help you begin the writing process.
- Organize all gathered materials.
- Start with the day or moment that changed everything.
- When telling a story, be the reporter: answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Use the five senses when storytelling: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sound.
- Use more than one point of view when telling a story.
- Be truthful; don’t embellish.
- Use personality.
- Include messages of hope, fortitude, and inspiration.
- Determine length: most digital stories run between two and five minutes long with 20 images or segments.
- Practice your story on your own and with others.
Step 4: Create Your Storyboard
A storyboard is a visual storytelling plan for your digital narrative and all components of your story from beginning to end.
Your storyboard can be as simple as hand-drawn sketches or using computer software to help develop your plan. Keep in mind, that every step of the process may generate inspiration for a new idea. So, it’s OK to continue to be creative along the way and let the story evolve and grow as you progress through the steps.
Step 5: Record and Edit Your Digital Story
Before you start recording, gather your digital storytelling tools and practice using them. It may take a few trials before you get the hang of using the equipment and/or software. Most equipment and software can be easily mastered—even by a novice. Your equipment may include some or all of the following items.
- Video cameras
- Smart phone
You may want to film/record yourself or someone else telling the story. That depends on your comfort or preference. When recording, be sure that the microphone is close enough to the person to pick up all audio (usually about seven inches away). Also check that the lighting provides enough light without washing out the subject or creating awkward shadows. Some small mistakes can be edited out later. But practice, practice, practice first.
Step 6: Finish and Publish Your Digital Story
Congratulations! You’ve finished creating your digital story. Now, you’ll need to decide if you want to publish your digital story online, either with private or public access, or on a DVD, CD or flash drive. If you are using social media to either publish or spread the word about your digital story with a linked url, consider also using targeted hashtags and keywords to reach a wider audience.
Digital Storytelling Workshops
If you aren’t adept at being a self-starter or if you would feel more comfortable with some one-on-one or small-group guidance, you’ll find many options available to you. A quick online search will turn up a variety of low-cost or no-cost digital storytelling workshops, webinars, and online and local classes. These workshops will take anyone from beginners to professionals through the steps of creating your digital story, either the one you are working on or a smaller sample project.
Storytelling Options to Preserve Your Legacy
Aside from using digital storytelling techniques to preserve the memory of a loved one, you can also use the same and similar strategies to preserve your own life story and leave a legacy behind. You don’t have to wait for someone else to do it for you. You can start your digital storytelling journey anytime.
Consider using some of the following options to start creating your own legacy today.
- Daily/weekly journaling
- Audio journaling
- Video diary
- Heirloom book
- Treasure box
- Digital memory album
- And more!
Whether you are writing your story or someone else’s, digital storytelling is a wonderful way to leave a lasting legacy for your current family and friends as well as your descendants. Happy creating!