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Digital storytelling

Digital storytelling combines narrative elements with digital media to impart knowledge and information, and enables different people to participate and have their say (e-learning). In recent years, digital storytelling has become increasingly popular, as new internet tools and channels become available for telling and sharing ‘digital stories’ using a range of different media (text, photos, videos, audio, graphics, cards, etc.). Digital stories are often told from an individual perspective, presenting a largely personal point of view, and they can be designed and delivered in very diverse ways, adhering to certain rules and formatting requirements. An example of this diversity is the interactive documentary format used by Deutsche Welle’s Global Ideas multimedia project to create Serengeti – Toward an Uncertain Future.

The strength of digital storytelling is that texts, images and films are greatly reduced on a didactic level. This makes stories easier to understand. Complex DC issues and topics can also be broken down and packaged to be more com prehensible. Furthermore, the fact that the narratives are very often presented from a personal perspective makes the content more authentic and credible. The multimedia nature of these approaches makes them a valuable instrument for knowledge transfer – even in countries with low literacy rates.

Of course, digital storytelling also presents challenges: The amount of time required to develop a professional and didactically sound package should not be underestimated. Given the very personal nature of the stories provided, great care must be taken to ensure that they can be published, and if so in which context. Simplifying complex issues to a concise format, publication and response to feedback require practice.

It cannot be emphasised enough that there is no ‘blueprint’ for digital story telling: the project goal, context and target group will determine the content, media, methods and narrative style to adopt.

Digital storytelling can also be integrated into broader project processes or even become the main component. It can, for example, be used to:

  • promote technological and methodological media skills,
  • raise awareness among target groups of their own values, goals and ideals by getting them to reflect on specific topics and challenges,
  • present the desired outcomes for the project,
  • evaluate qualitative responses to the narratives and assess the results achieved by getting target groups to tell their own stories about how the content has affected them, and
  • train journalists.

The following checklist outlines the main elements involved in developing a digital story.