Moving from Individual to Collective Storytelling

Moving from the personal reflection to collective storytelling enables new understanding: ATD Fourth World 2013

Moving from personal reflection to collective storytelling enables new understanding: ATD Fourth World 2013

Individual stories have certain strengths—they connect the audience through personal experience.  A limitation of individual stories is that they do not always explain the particular context of the story, or situate the stories in relation to wider political issues.  Collective storytelling often does not have the same emotional resonance found in individual stories, but it is a very good format for situating questions and problems in relation to a context.  Collective storytelling can include elements of individual stories, but can also directly address overarching themes and questions.

Digital stories can be used as a springboard for a participatory video process, and as a way of moving from very personal, individual work, towards a group storytelling project. Central to this shift is a process of reflection and analysis of digital stories by the storytellers themselves.

Participants re-view both their own, and others’ stories, and are asked to look for emerging themes or resonances. They then do a power analysis of their own story – looking at how different forms of power (to, with, within, over) moved through the story arc.

In stepping away from the emodied, creative mode of digital storytelling into a more rational, analytical one, the participants re-view the political content of the stories and think both individually, and then collectively about what the stories articulate about contemporary social and political life. Creative techniques, like those used in digital storytelling, are used to develop the collective stories on the basis of this analysis.

Watch Throwing a Rock at the Moon a documentary of this integrated visual storytelling process using visual power analysis:

IDS and MDPi: Throwing a Rock to the Moon from MDP Inicijative Doboj on Vimeo.


Example: Bosnia and Herzegovina ‘Throwing a Rock to the Moon’ – exploring different forms of power

A project in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on citizen engagement through visual participa-tory processesdeveloped power analysis exercises to explore different expressions of power for the participants. Through participatory video workshops, participants used drama to reflect on the different forms of power they saw in the digital stories. These included the power within individuals; the collective power of groups; the power to create change; and the power held over others by those in control of decisions and resources. Participants also used visual icons and mapping exercises to explore the ways in which these forms of power connected and changed in their own stories.

The exercise provided an important bridge between digital storytelling and participatory video in the project. Participants were able to move beyond the personal narratives of the digital stories to consider wider issues of power and politics in BiH, while still thinking visually and creatively. Through discussing these issues, participants identified the themes for their participatory videos. An intense, challenging and thought-provoking exercise, it provided strong insights into underlying issues of democracy in BiH, and was significant for participants themselves and their subsequent stories.

Reference: OWPSEE and IDS (2013) Citizen engagement through visual participatory processes, upload/link to booklet: