Thursday, June 18, 2009

Storymapping in Communities

Presented by – Joe Lambert, Director, the Center for Digital Storytelling
Bruce France, Co-Founder, Mondo Bizzaro

Before you read any further, call this phone number: (504) 256-1116. When prompted, choose and dial any number between 01-20. Now listen….

What you are experiencing is I-Witness Central City, a storymapping project in New Orleans. This is a community-based storytelling project on steroids! Goodbye stages, microphones, metal folding chairs, and Kinko’s copies….Hello 21st century!

Essentially, “storymapping” is a method of reclaiming the dialogue and character of individuals and a community. The presenters use modern, readily available technologies, to create a map of stories in cities around the world. Usually these cities or town have a dramatic, traumatic, or interesting story to tell, stories that speak to a forgotten time or place, stories that have been embellished or changed over time, or stories that are happening at the moment. Individuals who participate are asked to tell a story, any story of a place – they are not interviewed. The stories are recorded and/or videotaped, edited and uploaded, and then the people (encouraged by signs placed in the locations of each of the stories) call a phone number and hear the story. The program is supplemented by a website with video of some of the individuals telling their stories at the locations they are talking about. The Center of Digital Storytelling has worked with organizations and individuals in 16 cities, all over the world. Generally, each project is promoted signs, indicating which locations are represented in the project, local press and word of mouth. Some projects and their supporting organizations also host receptions and/or musical or theater performances based on the project. The technology and stories are approachable and storymapping is a community arts project any organization (willing to commit the manpower and funds) can accomplish.

Here are some of the questions participants asked after the presentation: (the answer is listed in italics)

1. Who holds the copyright for each individual story and the project as a whole? The teller always owns the story. In the future, The Center for Digital Storytelling would like to create a digital archive for the stories told in projects they work on. After 75 years, as defined by current copyright laws, the archive would be public with no restrictions or liabilities.
2. How do you find stories? Word of mouth! Once somebody tells their story, they often say we should speak to so-and-so –that is how we find most of our stories.
3. Where does the funding for these projects come from? The money comes from a variety of places including grants, community or regional philanthropic organizations, local arts councils, and/or state government. Both the Center for Digital Storytelling and Mondo Bizarro hold workshops to train staff at collaborating organizations in media use, film/sound editing and marketing techniques.
4. What technology is used for these projects? For video projects, everything from PowerPoint to iMovie can be used. There are hundreds of options for video and sound programs – you just have to do a little research. A good place to start is the NYU ITP Phonebank – the students and faculty in this program are doing innovative things – one student is working on a program that lets your plants call you when they need to be watered! (AWESOME!)

Here are some websites to check out:
You can see video of the I-Witness Central City project at: - The Center for Digital Storytelling - is an open-source resource that allows cell phone users to leave a “graffiti tag” of their location - The largest storymapping project in the world. - an open source resource where visitors can share stories. The site also acts as a collaborative tool for storytelling

P.S. Didn’t know what storymapping was at first – ended up loving this discussion!

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