NMS 509/WRD 530: Digital Storytelling in Organizations (WQ 2011)

Course Description

In this class, you will learn how to produce digital stories, short videos that feature a story-driven autobiographical voiceover and personal photographs. In recent years, many organizations worldwide have used the digital storytelling method to create powerful stories for outreach, advocacy, fundraising, and training.

We will learn the digital storytelling process—including relevant writing, audio recording, and audio and video editing techniques—by creating our own digital stories. Concurrently, we will examine some of the key practical and theoretical issues related to digital storytelling, including how stories constitute personal identity, the challenges of teaching technology to diverse populations, and the ethical implications of using personal stories for organizational purposes. We will also survey some other forms of organizational new media storytelling, such as blogs and advocacy videos.

WRD 530/NMS 509 will also give you the opportunity to learn firsthand about the potential of digital storytelling in organizations through its service component, which will have us working with six Chicago-area nonprofits throughout the term. We will work in small teams with these community partners early in the term, to help clarify the potential role of digital storytelling in each organization. Later in the term, we will deploy an on-campus training workshop, in which you and your classmates will teach the digital storytelling process to representatives from these nonprofits.

After successfully completing this course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Conceive of production plans for digital stories that are produced using a range of digital hardware and software.
  • Describe the features of digital stories and determine if and how the genre might be useful for particular kinds of organizational work.
  • Explain the nature of work in nonprofit and public service organizations and identify professional opportunities in these fields.
  • Act professionally and ethically as a communications or new media consultant to an organization.


Aufderheide, P., Jaszi, P., & Mridu, C. (2010). Honest truths: Documentary filmmakers on ethical challenges in their work. Retrieved from American University School of Communication Center for Social Media website: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/making-your-media-matter/documents/best-practices/honest-truths-documentary-filmmakers-ethical-chall

Boje, D. (2001). Introduction. In Narrative methods for organizational & communication research (1st ed.). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Cizek, K. Storytelling for advocacy: Conceptualization and pre-production. In Video for change: A guide for advocacy and activism (pp. 74-118), Eds. S. Gregory et al. London: Pluto Press. Retrieved from Witness website: www.witness.org

Couser, G. T. (2003). Auto/biographical, biomedical, and ethnographic ethics. In Vulnerable subjects: Ethics and life writing (pp. 14-33). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Kenyon, G. M. (1997). Introduction. In Restorying our lives: personal growth through autobiographical reflection (pp. 1-13). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Lambert, J. (2010). Digital storytelling cookbook. Digital Diner Press. Order PDF copy online: http://www.storycenter.org/cookbook.html

Meadows, D. & Kidd, J. (2009). ‘Capture Wales’: The BBC digital storytelling project. In Story circle: Digital storytelling around the world (pp. 91-117), Eds. J. Hartley & K. McWilliam. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.


  1. Your own 2-4-minute digital story.
  2. A community partner packet that includes: 1) evaluation of your community partner’s communication genres and the possible role of stories and digital storytelling in the organization, 2) analysis of the nonprofit sector and relevant opportunities in this sector, 3) team project plan, and 4) feedback on community partner story draft.
  3. Final project from one of the following two topic choices: 1) a paper or web text discussing key aesthetic, ethical, and/or technical issues associated with digital storytelling in organizations, including analysis of stories produced by community partners through lens of course readings, or 2) a paper or web text on a topic of your choice, with relevance to the work of the course.