The following online handbook provides conceptual reflections, practical experiences, and methodological guidance on transformative creative and visual storytelling methods.
These creative storytelling approaches combine a participatory, collaborative methodology with the creative use of technology to generate stories aimed at catalysing action on pressing social issues. They are important, as they contain all these elements, to help us respond to key political, technological and cultural trends in our societies.
Why do we need transformative storytelling approaches?
‘our strategy should be not only to confront the empire but to mock it…with our art…our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness.’ – Arundhati Roy
In many parts of the world, the gap between citizens and their governments is increasing. Apathy, alienation, and hostility characterise much of the interaction between the state and citizens. At the same time, there is growing acceptance of the importance of citizen participation in shaping policies and forms of governance. But the biggest political shifts currently are happening through waves of unruly politics: Tahrir Square and the Arab spring, the 2011 riots in UK cities, the Occupy movement, los indignados in Spain demanding real democracy, Greek riots over austerity measures, food riots in Mozambique, Haiti and India, protests against corruption and bad governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, demonstrations in Brazil over the World Cup and Olympics, and more. Creative storytelling approaches can provide insight into not just politics as usual, but can converge with emerging forms of activism and expression—allowing people to tell stories that challenge the status quo.
Digital and social media are changing the velocity with which images and information move and are exchanged. New technologies are redefining everything, but many institutional power structures remain relatively unchanged. There is a convergence of the old and the new. The explosion of social networking, the ubiquity of affordable digital technology that allows people to document, capture and create visual imagery, and the multitude of ways people are accessing and engaging with information is unprecedented. Equally, those who become more visible through on-line communication are at risk of being silenced and more easily censored because of their visibility.
Creative storytelling approaches take advantage of the potential that digital technologies can offer by enabling a different kind of relationship between people and technology, allowing people to express themselves using technology, while still paying attention to how technology can be used to control and exclude.
This is a visual age. Images are everywhere and move across space and time very quickly. At the same time, there is increasing scepticism and sophistication in the way that we create, read and respond to images. Art as a form of social protest and engagement, as a new language of politics, seems to be experiencing a boom. The visual pervades our lives from mass media to the hyper-local.
The opening of visual information in online communities through the use of social media has led to critiques of saturation and banalisation of images, potentially perpetuating stereotypes, norms and identities that exclude marginalised people. However, through creative storytelling people are empowered to reclaim spaces of visual expression; they allow people to generate their own images and give them meaning and power in order to tell their stories.
Furthermore, people are inherently story-driven – the way we understand the world is through narrative. First person stories are very powerful and emotive, particularly when they offer us a view on the world that we have not encountered previously. Because there are so few authentic indigenous voices in mainstream media, digital storytelling, for example, provides us with genuine, non-stereotypical and often unexpected representations of people, gender roles and relationships.