Digital storytelling animals

Workshop teaches ordinary folks to tell stories that matter

Two workshop sessions on July 14-16 and Sept. 8-10 are set to enlighten and teach participants about the art and process of digital storytelling, facilitated by digital storyteller Frances Ravinsky.

The concept of digital storytelling can be tricky to grasp, especially considering how commonplace the word “digital” is today; the term tends to lead people’s understanding of the work astray.

“That word now is everywhere, that ‘digital storytelling,’ and if you Google it, there’s nine million hits [ . . . ] and it means many different things,” says Frances Ravinsky, a digital storyteller certified through the University of Colorado and the Center for Digital Storytelling in California.

“It means interactive gaming, it means text-less slide shows, it means instructional media [to other people],” says Ravinksy, who is also co-founder of Community Works, which develops various social workshops for communities and organizations. But to Ravinsky, that’s not what the work is about.

The workshop, called “Digital Storytelling: Telling the Stories that Matter,” aims to provide participants the opportunity to reflect on their experiences, and invites them to share the stories that can nourish and teach the community in a creative manner. Participants will learn to use digital technology and software to create and narrate a three- to five-minute video of their story, to which they can add whatever audio or visual elements they wish.

At the core of it, digital storytelling work is more closely related to the oral storytelling tradition; the “digital” aspect is merely reflected in the tools that are used to communicate the stories. Ravinsky says that the work’s process is also consistent with participatory education, or as she describes it, “education for transformation.”

“[Participatory education is] about engaging people in a process of reflecting on their experience [and] the wisdom contained in that experience, and then [ . . . ] using it in the service of action, of making change in our world,” Ravinsky says.

“I think in general, we, as a North American culture, [have] sort of given the rights and obligations to tell the stories that matter to the professional storytellers, the filmmakers, and also to the celebrity culture,” says Ravinsky.

In the realm of human experience, there is no one true “expert” we can rely on to give us all the answers.

“We are our own experts,” she says, mentioning that even in her role as a facilitator, it is about “a dual role of teacher and student and together addressing those hard issues that need to be addressed.”

Sharing stories, then, is like collecting “life data.” It is a way for humans to obtain some answers to help us understand life experiences and solve human problems.

Digital storytelling allows us a chance to gain full authorship of our own stories and reclaim our storytelling rights. It provides a nuanced space for people to reflect and express what they feel needs to be said, in the way that they wish to express it.

For more information and to register, go to Community Works online.