:: our rationale
Silence Speaks draws not only on the Center for Digital Storytelling’s extensive history of exploring the relationship between personal narrative and multimedia, but also on an eclectic, interdisciplinary body of theory and practice in public health, feminist media studies and cultural studies, and human rights advocacy. We hope the following points clarify our approach to participatory media:
1. Sharing stories in a group can be transformative. An abundance of academic literature and anecdotal evidence from trauma studies, oral history work, and global movements for justice has made it clear that speaking one’s truth to a listening audience, if done with appropriate preparation and follow up support, can have a profound impact on a person’s ability to thrive, sustain mutually healthy and loving relationships, and participate in civil society in meaningful ways.
2. First-person narratives have an important role to play in the promotion of social and economic justice. Hearing an individual’s story and watching it unfold with images often moves viewers more deeply than does simply reading words on a page. Making a beautiful piece of visual and/or sound art out of an experience of human suffering can give dignity to pain, promote learning, and inspire compassion and action within families, communities, and institutions. But attention to context is critical – we believe that it is our responsibility as facilitators to assist storytellers in situating their lives within broader frames, so that stories do not reinforce the misconception that “problems” reside within individuals but instead implicate broader social, economic, and political structures.
3. Cheaper production tools are just the beginning. The steady global advance of neo-liberal approaches to information and communications technology (ICT) education and media production and distribution has largely ignored the need to critically analyze the underlying economic structures that determine who has access to media training and tools and who does not. Rather than glorifying gadgetry, we propose an alternative vision for media – one that emphasizes clarity of purpose in making and sharing media, champions the transfer of concrete knowledge and skills, and approaches production processes in a participatory and ethically responsible way.
4. “Participation” is complicated. In our collaborations, we strive for transparency in determining what participation looks like and how it will be impacted by the inevitable power dynamics that arise between and among project partners, facilitators, and storytellers. Rather than assuming equal ground, we work to acknowledge privilege and inequality, promote reflection and cultural humility, and identify strategies for accountability and empowerment as stories are revealed, produced, and shared.
5. The benefits of authorship can be elusive. Giving workshop participants ownership of their stories and images is crucial, but knowing precisely what they will gain from the workshop experience is impossible. In an effort to maximize benefits and maintain transparency, we consult carefully with our collaborating partners on how and where stories will be shared, emphasizing the need to involve storytellers to the extent that they are interested in being involved. Note: Silence Speaks is a nonprofit endeavor; proceeds from the compilation DVD offered on this site cover duplication and postage costs and contribute to a fund to support future projects.
6. Creating meaningful spaces for watching stories is essential. Amidst the explosion of online video, we question the notion that enabling isolated individuals to view media on the web will on its own lead to substantive change. When does the passive consumption of stories about distant suffering simply encourage pity or compassion fatigue, and how can the power of the Internet and social networking spaces be harnessed effectively to support justice? We see Internet distribution as merely one option among many; we emphasize strategic venues for sharing digital and/or audio stories, such as at counseling sessions, trainings, or community education events; as part of social marketing or media advocacy campaigns to promote individual, institutional, or policy-level change; and within longer-term movement building strategies that view personal storytelling as essential to community development and political activism.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 19:18|