NMS 541: Digital Storytelling (Autumn 2016)

Course Description

Digital storytelling is a facilitated, workshop-based process for creating autobiographical video narratives. In recent years, organizations and communities worldwide have launched digital storytelling initiatives to start important discussions and create powerful media for outreach and advocacy. This course introduces digital storytelling and its allied values of personal storytelling, participatory process, and affordable, DIY production methods. You will read and discuss foundational digital storytelling texts, create your own digital story, and learn about a range of real-world digital storytelling projects. NMS 541 also integrates a substantial, quarter-long client project: on a team with two or three other students, you will help one of our nonprofit partner organizations to conceive of and develop a digital story and a distribution plan for that story.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Create a polished digital story, demonstrating intermediate-level knowledge about the following processes: narrative script writing and revision; story circle facilitation; digital audio recording and editing; image sourcing and editing; and video editing.
  • Articulate the core values of digital storytelling, and apply these values in conceiving of a digital personal storytelling project in a specific organizational or community context.
  • Work with professionalism and ethical sensitivity with organizational staff, clients, and stakeholders, as well as with members of a production team, to complete an organizational digital storytelling project.
  • Summarize key critical theories about digital storytelling—related to ethics, institutional mediation, and questions of agency and social change—and use these theories to reflect on your own experiences creating and helping others to create digital stories.


Bruner, J. (1986). Two modes of thought. In Actual minds, possible worlds (pp. 11-43). Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.

Dush, L. (2013). The ethical complexity of sponsored digital storytelling. International Journal of Cultural Studies 16(6), 627-640.

Families USA (n.d.). Story bank toolkit. Retrieved from http://familiesusa.org/story-bank-toolkit

Higgins, L.D. & Brush, L.D. (2006). Personal experience narrative and public debate: Writing the wrongs of welfare. College Composition and Communication 57(4), 694-729.

Lambert, J. (2013). Digital storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community. 4th ed. NY: Routledge.

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.

Meyer Foundation. (2014). Stories worth telling: A guide to strategic and sustainable nonprofit storytelling. Washington, DC. Available: https://csic.georgetown.edu/research/strategic-storytelling/stories-worth-telling/

Nelson, H. L. (2001). Narrative repair: reclaiming moral agency. In Damaged identities, narrative repair (pp. 1-35). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Vivienne, S. (2016). Introduction. In Digital identity and everyday activism: Sharing private stories with networked publics (pp. 1-17). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Vivienne, S. & Burgess, J. (2012). The digital storyteller’s stage: Queer everyday activists negotiating privacy and publicness. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56(3), 362-377.


  1. Your Digital Story: Using the production process devised by StoryCenter, you will craft your own 2-4-minute digital story, on a personally meaningful topic of your choice.
  2. Short Paper: You will submit a short, but polished paper (approximately 1000 words), which articulates the key values of digital storytelling and analyzes media from your nonprofit partner organization with respect to these values.
  3. Theory/Practice Paper: In a longer paper (approximately 2500 words), you will engage our course readings and your own experiences to reflect critically on both the potential benefits and the potential perils of producing personal stories in organizational settings and/or for organizational purposes. Your experience as a participant in the production workshop of our class and as a consultant and facilitator to your nonprofit partner will both inform this paper.
  4. Nonprofit Partner Project: On a team with two or three other students, you will create a digital story for a Chicago-area nonprofit partner organization. Along with the story, your team will also submit several associated, team-authored, client deliverables, including a Scope of Work (SOW) document, a written Distribution Plan, and any necessary distribution materials and documentation. Each team will formally present their completed stories and Distribution Plan to an audience of our nonprofit partners.