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Research Guides

Digital Storytelling

A guide that gets you started in the art of Digital Storytelling

What is Digital Storytelling?

What is Storytelling 

Humans are natural storytellers: they turn their experiences into narratives in order to explain their meaning in their lives. Cultures, civilizations, and societies also have their own stories about the past and present, and even the future. These can include traits such as greatness and heroism, as well as victimhood, and suffering. Storytelling is often associated with a narrative - which is defined as "a way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values." A narrative can combine real or imagined events that connect is such a way that provide the audience or listener with a chain of events that can be followed. 

Benefits of Storytelling 

There are numerous benefits of storytelling. Stories have the potential to bring us together, can help us to empathize with one another, and can help us to pass on information. Before stories were written down, they passed from person to person, and generation to generation through the oral tradition of storytelling. Once systems of written communication were established, stories were passed along (and continue to be) in the written form. 

Digital Storytelling is an extension of traditional storytelling: it is the 21st Century version of storytelling where technology can be used to build the story and share it out with the world. Adapted from "Narratives and storytelling," by Julia Chaitin (2003)

WHY Digital Storytelling?

The UTSC Library's Digital Scholarship Unit's definition of a digital story is a presentation of a presentation of a narrative through an interactive, multimedia platform. When students are asked to create digital stories as an alternative to a written assignment that gets handed in and nobody sees, the shift from being consumers to creators of content. They have the ability to weave together multi-media elements such as images, music or audio clips, text, and video in order to create narratives in all subject areas. Creating digital stories builds 21st century skills in students - creating, communicating, and collaborating (Morra, 2013), as video and images have become primary ways of communicating in many areas. 


What are Characteristics of Effective Digital Stories? 

According to the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) in Berkeley, there are seven elements to effective digital storytelling. These elements can help you on your way to planning an effective digital story. 

1. Point of View 

  • What is the main point of the story?
  • What is the perspective of the author?

2. A Dramatic Question

  • A key question that grabs the attention of the audience 
  • Aim of the digital story is to answer or work towards answering this question 

3. Emotional Content

  •  What are the serious/emotional issues that the digital story can bring to life?
  • Is there a powerful way of bringing these issues forward so that the audience connects to the story? 

4. The Gift of Your Voice

  • What voice will you use to personalize your story?
  • What tone will you use so that the audience understands the context?

5. The Power of the Soundtrack

  •  Will you integrate music or other sounds that support and embellish the story?

6. Economy

  •  What details need to be included to tell the story so that it is not overwhelming to the viewer? 

7. Pacing

  •  At what pace do you want to deliver your story at? 

An extra tip: 

Another consideration is to create an inventory of the audio/visual items that you would like to include in your digital story as well.