In preparation for our next Reading on Screen workshop in Brighton next month, I was reflecting on the fabulous three days we had with our participants at Bournemouth University.
When approached to contribute to this innovative and unusual project, I have to admit that I wondered how on earth we were going to stimulate people to tell stories about reading – digitally or otherwise – and whether we would end up with … well, a bunch of stories about what people liked or didn’t like about Kindles, accompanied by shots of people reading on their devices!
Of course, when the whole team met to plan our first workshop and explored the research that had already been undertaken by Bournemouth University, the possibilities of interesting angles and an enormous range of topics soon enabled us to find creative ways of tickling the imagination. We discussed how people might think about how they read as children, and how they read now; we discussed how the new possibilities for interaction with authors and with other readers through online book clubs, for instance, blurred the acts of reading and writing and perhaps brought authors closer to readers by their presence on social media. We talked about how reading ‘old style’ books is gaining the same credibility with younger generations as owning vinyl. And we talked about marginalia – what people write or draw in books – and bookmarks – train tickets, shopping lists, a fancy label from a designer shirt. All of these ideas fed into our planning for the Bournemouth workshop.
The Story Circle element of the Digital Storytelling workshop is the most important aspect of the whole process. We spend time enabling participants to get to know one another, feel comfortable together – enough to develop, share and contribute to each and every story that is being created. We use story prompts to enable participants to imagine and focus on an idea; we use photographs in an exercise designed to explore how images make meaning and how to combine them with voice-over, sound effects, music and text. And we ask people to bring along an object with a special meaning for them – a photograph, a piece of jewellery, an ornament, a book. After the sequence of games and exercises, usually towards the latter part of Day One, we ask participants to start to construct their own script, with the team on hand to help.
On day two, some people have spent the evening before honing their scripts and they’re ready to record their audio tracks. Others need more time to test and try out, perhaps to articulate ideas, which we write down and then co-edit together. Others have a complete mind change – at this workshop, for example: “I think I’d like to do an animation between a Kindle and a Book instead – I’ve already got the idea for the script!” That is quite a challenge – we only use the most basic equipment, to keep everything accessible. But a bit of lateral thinking, a tripod, a camera and a lot of creativity all round and this was achieved (you can see the story on this website!).
Two and a half days after we first introduced ourselves to one another, signed some consent forms and started a rather unexpected journey, we were able to put 11 completed, creative, incredibly different, funny, moving and intriguing Digital Stories on a big screen for our celebration event: an amazing achievement all round.
Can’t wait until the next one. And next time, we’ll be bringing an extra pair of hands!
Some images from the magic that is Story Circle, and just a hint of technology.