WRD 288: Digital Storytelling (Winter 2018)

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of digital storytelling, a workshop-based community-arts process in which trained facilitators help individuals to write and produce short videos that combine personal photographs with a meaningful personal narrative. In recent years, communities and organizations worldwide have used digital storytelling initiatives to start important community discussions and to create powerful media for outreach and advocacy.

You will first learn the core values of digital storytelling by reading foundational digital storytelling texts and creating your own digital story. Then, you will develop your capacity to envision and deploy digital storytelling in community settings, by working as a facilitator at a community digital storytelling workshop or assisting our community partners with related participatory digital-media tasks. This quarter, our partners are parent-activists from several Chicago organizations that advocate for equity of opportunity in Chicago’s public schools. Our service will consist of organizing and facilitating a digital storytelling workshop for a group of parents, collecting video conversations from other parents, and creating a beta version of a website to showcase these stories and argue for the important role of parents in fighting for educational equity in Chicago.

Overall, WRD 288 will be an opportunity to learn firsthand about storytelling in the community and to think about the persuasive role that personal stories can play in public debate.

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 as both a digital storytelling workshop participant and workshop facilitator.
  • Summarize key critical theories about digital storytelling—related to ethics, agency, and the public role of personal stories—and use these theories to reflect on your own experiences creating and helping others to create digital stories.
  • Articulate the potential of stories to convene publics around issues of concern and to alter the course of public debate.


Davis, A., & Weinshenker, D. (2012). Digital storytelling and authoring identity. In Ching, C.C. & Foley, B.J. (Eds.), Constructing the self in a digital world (pp. 47-64). Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Ganz, M. (2011). Public narrative, collective action, and power. In S. Odugbemi & T. Lee (Eds.), Accountability through public opinion: From inertia to public action (pp. 273–289). Washington, DC: The World Bank.

Higgins, L., Long, E., & Flower, L. (2006). Community literacy: A rhetorical model for personal and public inquiry. Community Literacy Journal, 1(1), 9–43.

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

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. Written Reflection Theorizing Your Digital Storytelling Experience: After completing your own digital story, you will write an approximately 1200-1500-word reflection that puts our early course readings in dialogue with your own experiences as a workshop participant, to explore the potential and perils of digital storytelling.
  3. Presentation and Handout Assessing the Rhetorical Situation of Educational Equity in Chicago: With a small team of classmates, you will conduct research to better understand the key stakeholders, claims, texts, discourses, and venues for discussion and deliberation about educational equity in the city of Chicago. I will provide each team with some ‘starter texts’ to begin your research; your team will follow up with research of your own. The team will summarize your findings in a short presentation and handout addressed to your classmates.
  4. Workshop Participation and Related Service Activities: You will be responsible for contributing to the successful design and deployment of our community digital storytelling workshop and related community service activities. While participation is a requirement of WRD 288 as an EL course, you will receive a grade reflecting the care, skill, and dependability that you demonstrate in these activities. Your log of service hours, annotated with explanations of the role that you played in each of your service activities, will form the basis for the project grade.
  5. Next Steps Paper: At the completion of the class, you will write an approximately 2000-word paper that explores how the set of stories that we have gathered in the course could be used to influence public debate on the issue of educational equity in Chicago. The paper should outline concrete action steps suggested by our readings and our research, as well discuss potential challenges.