digital storytelling

The data in storytelling

This week I looked into how I can utilize data, interactive databases and data visualizations to make my digital storytelling blog better. In terms of using data, I struggled to find any numerical data that would describe digital storytelling or any specific numbers that note the significance of storytelling beyond a few research articles. So instead, I am going to experiment with the idea of how storytellers are using data in digital stories. I read a few interesting blog posts about how storytellers are not just including data in their stories, but exploring how the data about a topic can become the story. In addition, I am going to search out specific digital stories that use data as a large component of the story in order to see if my audience finds this type of story more interesting or engaging.

In terms of interactive databases, the field of digital storytelling actually has a lot to offer that I could utilize to reach more of my audience. I’ve already actually shared a few of these on my digital storytelling blog, such as the holocaust museum survivor database. A few resources I will use are Mashable, Econsultancy, and a Huffington Post media blog. Showcasing more of these interactive databases will help me enhance my topic blog because they are incredibly visual and can help attract more eyes to my blog. These more media-driven databases will enhance my blog more than visually. These types of databases are becoming more popular, which can assist me in gaining a bigger audience.

I did a lot of reading this week about data visualizations and digital storytelling. Most of the articles I read said to focus on context. This video gave great advice for how I could use data visualizations on my topic blog.

Then I explored a project conducted by University of Colorado journalism students on digital storytelling. This project highlighted interactive infographics that are told in the form of a story. While showing these data visualizations may help enhance my blog, the idea of context is important to include as well. Thus, I’ll be using the interactive stories, as part of a post. The other part of a post will be a video digital story concerning the topic of the interactive web story. For example, for a interactive web story about Pakistan drone attacks and kills, I will supplement the post with a video digital about the same topic that is more personal in nature. This way I can enhance my blog though data visuals, while remaining true to the original concept of my blog.



Based on class readings, experience with social media and interest in digital storytelling, I have a good understanding of the social media demographics and motivations of my audience. The demographics of a digital storytelling blog are interesting and have a slight spilt. There are two groups that really share an interest in digital storytelling — high school and college students and academics. There is also a third emerging audience for digital storytelling and that is PR and marketing professionals. I know less about this audience, as it is less popular.  The list below explains these groups more specifically and notes their motivations.

High School and College Students:

  • Demographics: Between the ages of 15 – 28. Predominantly white, African American or Hispanic. Most have, will have, or are pursuing a college degree. According to Pew, there are equal numbers of this age group in urban, rural and suburban. From my own research and Pew data, there may be a slight difference in numbers for the rural students, which could be due to a digital divide issue.
  • Motivations: High school and college students are only lightly motivated to have an active interest in digital storytelling. These users are more passive because digital storytelling — whether they realize it or not — is a part of their daily life. These users are constantly online and bombarded with media images and videos. According to Pew, 97% of 18-29 year olds are online and about 90% use social media. Social media is a popular place for digital stories to appear, especially on YouTube. This part of my audience is more difficult to motivate to follow a blog, so a better strategy for this group is to seek students who are already familiars with the concept of digital storytelling, possibly through a class or workshop.


  • Demographics: Age is difficult to pinpoint, but it is likely to be younger academics. These academics are from all over the country, although here again there are more likely less rural academics who are invested in this topic. For example, urban and suburban schools are already much more active in digital storytelling over rural schools. For example, the University of Southern California has a digital storytelling academy with backing and funding from different departments.
  • Motivations: Academics are obviously motivated to pursue digital storytelling because the topic originally emerged as an academic field. Numerous colleges have courses or events related to digital storytelling. In addition, it is becoming more important for professors to understand and to be able to use media, especially in fields related to the arts. Again, because digital storytelling is so immersed in society, academics have become motivated to understand digital storytelling in order to be able to teach the idea.


Topic Blog Reflection

This week I am assigned to reflect on the advantages or disadvantages of the sites I’ve used for my digital storytelling blog. Let’s start with my blogroll on the site. The sites or blogs I follow all have some quality material and are helpful resources as I continue to post about digital storytelling. One advantage to the blogroll is the diverse nature of the sites. For example, some of the sites are actual depictions of digital storytelling, while others are explanations, information or resources on the topic. On the flip side, the main disadvantage of some of the sites is that they are not maintained or as recent as I would like so there is not a ton of new information coming from them. But for viewers who need new resources, the sites may still be quite helpful or at least a good starting point. 

Then there are the sites I use for my research or posts on the blog. These sites have been fairly useful and one advantage to the blog is having access to a multitude of digital stories on YouTube, which I can use as examples on my blog. The other advantage for YouTube is that it has a Center for Digital Storytelling channel where digital stories are divided into different categories. A disadvantage to the sites I use for the blog is related to academic research. There are some interesting articles out there that may interest my audience. However, while I can give a synopsis of the article, not everyone may have access to it depending on where it was published and if you need to be a university student to access the necessary online database. I’ve decided to include this information in posts about academic research in the form of a disclaimer so I alert my audience upfront that there may be an access issue.

In terms of using photos to continue to enhance my blog, I am already doing this with nearly every topic blog post. As digital storytelling is such a visual field, the majority of my posts will have visuals in terms of video or photos. However, with posts that don’t already include some sort of visual — such as my academic article synopses — I will find an image that relates to the article to include, as a way of increasing engagement and to make the posts look more consistent to those with lots of media.

 Professionals in the field could utilize these sites productively in several ways. First, journalists are always trying to find the best way to tell the story. These sites provide a different look at how a story can be told and allows journalists to see the importance of covering a story from a personal aspect. Second, as a public relations professional, I utilize these sites to come up with more creative ideas for my job. There are many sites related to digital storytelling –such as PostSecret — that have a gigantic audience. Pulling ideas from such sites can be a good way to find out what works and what doesn’t work for your audience as a professional PR person. In addition, PR is often about telling a story to instill some action in your audience. Digital storytelling has found a way to do this. PR professionals can utilize digital storytelling sites to foster ideas on how to make their own digital stories.