Tell me a story: Anne E Stewart and digital storytelling 2013

Tell me a story by Anne E Stewart

I’ve always had an innate understanding of the power of story to engage and I started developing my digital storytelling skills when the Government announced the roll out of the National Broadband Network (NBN). For me, it seemed like a huge opportunity to use storytelling to create online communities, share cultures and facilitate people telling their own stories about the things that matter most to them.

My love of storytelling began when I was working as children’s librarian at the Darwin Library. I wanted to share my passion for language and literature and I worked with the premise that the stories I told were springboards to further reading and learning. Through my work I have come to understand that storytelling is also a powerful way to promote cultural understanding, raise issues of social justice and help identify and document a united Australian Story.

I’ve had the chance to use digital platforms to tell and share some amazing stories. The first project, funded by VicHealth, was to promote the value of the arts in engaging in rural communities, in this case the farming families that lived near the Mollongghip Hall in the Central Highlands of Victoria. It was a moving experience, hearing of a way of life that has passed and paying respect to the elders of a small community. Storytelling has put me in contact with people with different skills, talentsand passion and I’ve had the chance to share in storytelling festivals around the world.

The need for digital storytelling is increasing and many organisations recognise the value that stories bring to a project and region. Stories are a way of connecting people, joining the dots and sharing our motivations. So if the NBN further enables this sharing of stories, information and ideas then I’m ready for high-speed broadband!

For some though, the wait of the NBN is off putting and for those not digitally engaged, it’s just another cost. The idea of a fairer telecommunications system is welcomed as we hurtle towards more digital lives, but for the NBN to reach its potential it needs to be seen as a strategic asset and not just another form of technology.

So here’s a strategy from a storyteller. Engage people with technology through story, then show them how to use it as a tool to improve other areas of their lives. As a storyteller, I want to see the NBN as Songlines of Stories across Australia, sharing the stories of our communities. I’d love to see a virtual map of Australia told through stories.

The NBN needs to engage artists to help imagine the possibilities. Across Australia we need collaboration between local organisations and funding bodies, working together to see artists bringing communities alive online. If the NBN is to be amazing, we need to offer a variety of entry and engagement points online for people from all walks of life. Storytelling is a great way of achieving this and it’s up to us to dream it up.

Got a story to tell?

There are endless amounts of online tools for telling your story. Here some tools to get you started: 
      Video sharing – Film your story and share it online, as well as with your local community. You don’t need expensive equipment, most mobile phones and laptops have inbuilt cameras which can help you record your story. Youtube videos can be embedded on websites, in emails and on social media
      Photo sharing – Photo sharing sites like Instagram or Flickr, allow you to upload and share images between networks. This can be a great way to share what’s happening in your life with your friends and family overseas.
      Blogs - blogging is the original, free online storytelling device. This article helps you decide which of the top five platforms is right for you
      Webinars – does your organisation have information to share or expert advice? You can use webinars to turn the internet into an online classroom or forum.

(Anne is a life member of Storytelling Australia (Victoria))

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