What is Digital Storytelling?
Digital storytelling is an engaging and versatile medium that combines text, imagery, video, music and narration to produce original narratives. The availability of free and easy-to-use tools makes digital storytelling accessible for nonprofit organizations and participants. There is no need for expensive software or equipment. With a moderate level of technical know-how virtually anyone can produce a compelling video using tools that are readily available.
Stories are often used for research, education, and therapeutic purposes in community development, advocacy and service organizations. The accessible and engaging format of digital storytelling projects makes them ideal for nonprofit and community organizations to call attention to critical issues.
Whether it is used for research, to engage an under-resourced population, or raise awareness, digital storytelling is a powerful medium to learn and share insights in matters of equity and social justice.
Ways to Use Digital Storytelling
Digital storytelling is a versatile and accessible method to conduct and mobilize research. Digital storytelling can be used to gather data and also to disseminate results (Davey & Benjaminsen, 2021). There is emerging interest in digital storytelling as an arts-based research method (de Jager et al., 2017; Davey et al., 2020).
In the homelessness sector, arts-based projects have been used for advocacy, to promote healing and recovery, for public education, and research mobilization. Digital storytelling promotes meaningful engagement of research participants and involvement in the research process. Studies show that digital storytelling is an effective way to understand people’s lived experiences and complex journeys (Khoshkesht et al., 2020).
Through digital storytelling, researchers gain a better understanding of individual experiences which may provide insights for preventing or overcoming system impacts and service barriers. Audiences gain an understanding of unique situations and challenges faced by individuals, allowing them to step into their shoes and experience the journey from the storyteller’s perspective.
Digital storytelling can be done in a non-participatory way, for example, to explain how services work or showing value (impact) to funders. However, digital storytelling is most effective when used as a participatory research method with underserved communities (Khoshkesht et al., 2020).
Community organizations can use digital storytelling to raise the visibility of issues among the general public and destigmatize homelessness by offering a counter-narrative to persistent stereotypes (Brown & Dix, 2019).
Digital storytelling offers many benefits for researchers, service providers and participants. The process of creating digital stories is empowering for storytellers and enriching for audiences who view them.
Brown, R. & Dix, J. (2019). Social storytelling: Making homelessness and homeless services real to a broader community. National Health Care for the Homeless Council. [Presentation] https://nhchc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/social-storytelling-hch2018-presentation.pdf
Davey, N. G., & Benjaminsen, G. (2021). Telling tales: Digital storytelling as a tool for qualitative data interpretation and communication. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 20. https://doi.org/10.1177/16094069211022529
de Jager, A., Fogarty, A., Tewson, A., Lenette, C. & Boydell, K.M. (2017). Digital storytelling in research: A systematic review. The Qualitative Report, 22(10), 2548-2582.
Khoshkesht, S., Nikbakht Nasrabadi, A., & Mardanian Dehkordi, L. (2020). Digital storytelling: The new arts-based research method. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 49(7), 1395–1396. https://doi.org/10.18502/ijph.v49i7.3602