About the Parris-Bennett Digital Story House
The Parris-Bennett Digital Story House is a digital storytelling center located in the community of East Knoxville. Digital storytelling uses narrative and new media practices to help individuals and organizations understand the power of their stories. Rooted in the Carpetbag Theatre, Inc.’s mission to reveal hidden stories, the digital story house works with individuals, organizations, and businesses to tell their stories. What best describes this creative approach to storytelling is its emphasis on personal voice and facilitative teaching methods. Digital Storytelling as an art form makes use of text, image, and audio components bringing images to life using the power of digital media design applications. The convergence of these cultural and technological tools creates a powerful medium for presenting a story, giving voice is the heart of Carpetbag’s mission.
Our journey began over a decade ago when the Carpetbag Ensemble traveled to rural California to learn how to tell stories using emerging media practices. We quickly realized that this methodology suited our practice and was easily adapted to fulfill our mission. Since that time, we have worked with foundations such as the Kellogg Foundation, youth development organizations such as Project Grad, and engaged communities nationally and internationally.
01. creating a liberated space
The digital storytelling process begins with creating a liberated space. When we say liberated space, we mean a space that does not practice the oppressive structures of dominant society and a space that is co-created with our participants. We enter into this space as co-creators with the participants by checking in with each other. During check-in, we allow people to talk about the things they want to share about their day while everyone else listens deeply. We do this because it attunes the group to listening deeply without interrupting, and providing the teller the opportunity to experience what it is like to be heard. After we are done with check-in, we move to group agreements. Group Agreements is the process where we co-create the agreements of how we will work together for the duration of the digital storytelling process. The agreements are aimed to create a liberated space where everyone can contribute to make the space what they need to participate fully. Once the group agrees to the proposed agreements, the document is a living document and can be changed as things arise, as long as the group agrees to the addition.
03. redefining the narrative: creating space
The next step is refining the narrative. We do this through community feedback. This is the part of the process where we guide people in reframing the stories that they tell. To do this, we ask the participants, “Why this story now?” This helps participants to think about the things that give rise to telling the stories they choose to tell. This helps us to determine if the aim of the story is being met. When these things are determined, the community offers suggest on how to arrive at the desired outcome of the story. We also hold that the person telling the story has the final say, because in a liberated space, no one controls the story but the teller, so it is up to the storyteller to decide what changes will be made and when it gets to the final version.
02. Pulling forth the Narrative: the story circle
The next step is extracting the narrative. We first begin with oral storytelling, because it takes away the intimidation that comes with starting with beginning with the written word. We begin this process orally through a process called The Story Circle. First we gather people in a circle, and assign a timekeeper, and agree to listen to the story tell deeply and without interruption. Finally, we give the story circle prompt. We let a person volunteer to go first and they tell their story within the allotted time. After everyone has gone. We open up the floor for conversation about what was shared, if there were common themes. This collective processing begins the process of reframing the stories we have told ourselves. From oral storytelling, we help people write their stories down.
04. thinking audio visually
This is the step where we begin to incorporate digital media into the story. First, we introduce storyboarding. During this phase we get them to look at their story visually. We get to them to consider what visuals come to mind as they reread their story. We talk to them about copyright and where to get their images that are copyright free. For those who brought images to the workshop, we show them how to scan them, so that they can have a digitized version to use for their story. We also record their voice overs of their stories. Finally, we discuss the mood of their story, and how a soundtrack can support the creating a compelling story.
05. putting it all together
This is the point in the process where we bring the voice over, soundtrack, and images together. We teach the basic functions of video editing software. We get them to consider the ways that transitions, text on screen, and various other editing techniques, aid in communicating their story visually.
Our last step is celebration. It is no small feat to reveal the personal stories that we hold inside. Once all of the participants have reach a rough cut of their stories, we celebrate their achievement by showing their digital stories to the participants.