In the pre-Internet days of multimedia publishing, pioneer digital storytelling enthusiasts showed people how to digitize the old photos in their family albums, interview their relatives and digitize the interviews, then arrange the audiovisual elements into a narrative, often with voiceover narration. While this technique can be applied to personal genealogy and history of pure entertainment, digital storytelling, when used to construct a narrative presentation of true historical events, personages, and geographical locations, is one way of introducing students to participatory media, to the communication basics of compelling narrative production, and to local civic affairs. Journalism doesn't have to be global. Hyperlocal journalism that delves more deeply into local events than mass media does can also serve as a springboard for civic engagement.
I had been reading these MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning books online and enjoying them quite a bit before realizing just how badly I wanted to actually hold one of them while I read it. Not just because I can establish a more meaningful, in-depth dialogue with a text when its medium is a book with tangible weight and scent, but because I wanted something to covet as an object, to hold this nifty little collection of essays exploring so much of what had been kicking up all this dust in my own head the last few years.
Howard Reingold's essay, "Using Participatory Media and Public Voice to Encourage Civic Engagement," from which the above quote comes from, deftly explores some of the issues concerning youth, civic engagement and digital journalism/storytelling that I've been haphazardly exploring over the last few years. Namely I've been kicking around how we take these elements and make them part of our library programming. What would such programming look like? A series of workshops? What are our goals? Do we explore this first with a round-table of local teens? What do we discuss and are they even interested in the first place? I'm pretty confident they are. In fact, the hyperlocal journalism Reingold mentions is already happening in after school and community-based programs lucky to have, more often then not, foundational support.
Public Libraries aren't looking to stir the pot of community controversy (their very existence is often controversy enough), but I do think they have a vital role to play in offering their patrons with the tools necessary to tell their stories (even controversial ones) and, ideally, engage their communities. Because after all, once the story has been crafted, it needs to find its audience. Which is why I've also been kicking around so much dust thinking about DIY marketing and distribution models.