Story Telling in the Digital Age

Online Storytelling is the practice of using digital tools (eg cameras and voice recorders) to tell stories and share them via the Internet. It embodies core values at the heart of U3A. It combines collaborations that lead to shared knowledge, connections, experiences and of course, learning. So what does it involve and why is it so different?

Let me say from the outset that it does not replace any form of narrative or written storytelling. Whilst there are bound to be overlaps, telling a story digitally involves the use of a combination of media. However, it’s not about tools but skills; not about using media to show how clever you are, but about creating meaning and developing inspiration.

One project Swansea U3A undertook involved research into Swansea Guildhall. We visited galleries, archives and museums, photographed paintings and old brochures, talked with experts and took video clips. This collaboration involved shared research and working out a framework to display results that brought out many unknown stories about our Guildhall. The format we decided upon resulted in creating electronic books that not only contained the history of Swansea Guildhall, but stories of artists, medieval knights, the Vikings, royalty and a host of supporting trivia! Whilst the results were impressive and we’ve undertaken tours as a result, the more lasting achievements revolved around sharing skills, developing joint ideas, growing deep and lasting mutual respect – and experiencing sheer fun and enjoyment!

Of course, you don’t have to embark on anything quite as large – although we didn’t realise how big it was going to be at the outset! Two smaller ideas involved research on an 18th-century landscape, then plotting the findings onto the present-day city, whilst another took an individual from a family tree and placed her at an historic point of time of her life, working with Edith Cavell.
Various skills were brought to bear, depending on the nature of the initiative, the team at the time and their particular interests and motivations. Perhaps the most critical skills involved encouraging curiosity, looking for connections, then putting them together; transforming isolated, static facts into shared experiences and perspectives.

Why not try? It’s a great way to promote co-operation between interest groups. Bring together creatives from the spheres of writing, craft, photography, iPads, art appreciation – and anyone else. But whatever you do, have fun and share the learning across not only your U3A but others – perhaps involve intergenerational bodies? I believe such sharing is at the heart of keeping our U3As alive and appealing not only to our, but to future generations of member