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Digital Storytelling, NVivo and the cutting room floor

12 February 2014 - IN College, digital, DS, Joe, Lambert, memos, Mercy, nodes, NVivo, storytelling, workshops

This past year I had the good fortune to begin working with researchers at Mercy College, many of whom are conducting qualitative research in the fields of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and education, supported through Mercy’s Graduate PASS program.

In a further bit of good fortune, I came to learn about Mercy’s deep engagement in digital storytelling.

I took to meeting with Matt Lewis and Liz Lowe both instructional designers there, to learn more about this medium and its history.

What is a digital story?

Joe Lambert  is a pioneer of Digital Storytelling and is the Director of the Center for Digital Storytelling. He is a frequent guest at Mercy, hosting workshops for faculty and others.

In his inspiring Digital Storytelling Cookbook , he describes the power of a story:

"A story can be as short as explaining why you bought your first car or house, or as long as War and Peace. Your own desires in life, the kinds of struggles you have faced and most importantly, the number and depth of realizations you have taken from your experience all shape your natural abilities as an effective storyteller. Translating those realizations into stories in the form of essays, memoirs, autobiographies, short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, or multimedia scripts, is mainly about time. You need time to put the raw material before you, time to learn procedures and approaches for crafting the story, and time to listen to the feedback and improve upon your efforts."

What happens at a Digital Storytelling workshop?

Mercy College CDS Workshop June 2012 (Attribution cc by Matt Lewis)

Before you attend a Digital Storytelling workshop at Mercy, you are asked to prepare and write a personal story (250-300 words). There are great resources on the Mercy website to help with this process. On the day of the workshop you bring your script, photos and music on a USB drive.

In a supportive group setting you review the script, get feedback, dig deeper, develop your ideas and put together a multimedia presentation.

How does NVivo support digital storytelling?

Liz, Matt and I have been exploring the idea that NVivo has great potential as a tool in digital storytelling – as a kind of repository/workspace, as a place to analyze digital stories (whether for the purpose of assessment or research), and – an epiphany of Matt’s that Matt and Liz will be sharing in a webinar this spring – as a place/tool/space that can give us a view of the ‘cutting room floor.’ NVivo has the potential to make transparent the critical thinking process that lies between the first draft script and final production of a digital story.

Liz uses memos to organize potential digital stories—in each memo, she lists the sources that might be used to 'tell' the story:

She also uses nodes to capture the wealth of themes that may lead to a digital story in any one project:

Exploring NVivo's role in the creative process

We will keep you posted, and for now we are eagerly beginning an exploration of what happens when you mix the analytical and organizational tools of NVivo with the creative content and process of digital storytelling.

We can gather potential content (images, video, text and so on), and can tag that content for themes that can help us see what our own emerging story is telling us, we can bring in others’ feedback on a story in progress, and look to see how we’ve heeded – and chosen not to heed – the comments that come our way.

What does a digital story look like?

Here's an example of a digital story created by a student at Mercy College:


You can find more examples on the Center for Digital Storytelling YouTube channel

We welcome your thoughts and experiences. Are you a digital storyteller? Beginning to the feel the urge to become one?