The Digital Storytelling 2014 Workathon

by Wendy Ann Mansilla

An inspiring and productive event where we could try out different tools suiting different purposes. 

We arranged a two-day seminar on digital storytelling and workshop for evaluation and validation of digital storytelling tools and we called it a “workathon”.

Four groups participated in the workathon – NRK headed by Bjarte Johannesen, Addressavisen led by Hilde Østmoe, Sunnmørsposten and Trønderavisa led by Liv Jorunn Håker Ottesen, and IKM / HF headed by Barbro Rønning.

The workathon was inspired by various successful front-runners in digital storytelling in journalism such as the New York Time`s Snowfall and the Guardian`s Firestorm which provided the glimpse towards the future of digital storytelling in the Internet.  However, these digital stories are not something that non-programmers, storytellers, or journalist can produce easily or quickly. These digital stories were initially developed by various teams of journalists, designers, photographers, filmmakers, and programmers to put the package together for several months to even half a year.

But that’s not always the case, our evaluation of various digital storytelling tools together with the survey of user requirements proved that various readily available toolkits are already present in the market and can be used to explore what can be accomplished without being a multimedia and/or coding expert.

Furthermore, the workathon served as a basis to further evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the various chosen digital storytelling toolkits.

Here are some of the participant`s comments about the storytelling tools and references to their developed projects during the workathon:

When it comes to the tools, we decided on doing it the hard way – with javascript based on the jquery-library, together with some plug-ins. The tools presented looked ok, but in general we find these free and cloud-based tools a bit limited. We need tools and solutions that easily can use media from our internal databases/production systems. There are a lot of editorial issues when it comes to “moving” content to e.g. YouTube. Other issues are related to output, and the missing/limited possibility of freely using the output together with our internal CMS-system/templates (e.g. without linking to another company website). There are no guarantees with javascript, and it is more work and time consuming doing it this way, but it’s the preferable workflow.

- Bjarte Johannesen, NRK
NRK`s “Det brenner i Trøndelag” screenshots
Sunnmørsposten`s “Fjellmannen“
[The toolkit used for Fjellmannen] not a perfect software, but definitely the coolest software we
tried during the workathon. A bit hard to
understand at first, but with a bit of help we managed to create something that looked ok… We tried it again at home after the workathon, and suddenly it fell much easier. We are going to present it in a workshop in the newsroom and we might use it further… The problem with…[free/commercial digital storytelling tool] is that it cannot be implemented in our CMS and we have to post it on an external server. Then we will lose links to the rest of our content and spots for commercials.

- Sunnmørsposten/Trønder-Avisa
An inspiring and productive event where we could try out different tools suiting different purposes. For me I found… [the digital storytelling tool] an eye-opener and look forward to teaching my students in high school this intuitive and flexible way of creating web pages. In my project I wanted the photographies to stand out – as a mean to tell a story in combination with words.

- Andreas Schille, Kunstakademiet i Trondheim KIT
Andreas Schille`s “A quiet evening” website

During the workathon our team also briefly presented various prototypes that we developed within the Digital Storytelling Tools and Experiences project and these are:

The digital storytelling prototype using Lise Hovik`s “The Red Shoes” content was initially develop in JavaScript but it was hard for the end-user to update the online material since it requires few coding knowledge. I tried to build another prototype combining free/open toolkits to demonstrate the design and functionality of the environment. However, with the free/open toolkits, it was not possibility to include some functionalities that JavaScript can implement such as dynamic menus and video materials. Free or open toolkits however are good in rapid prototyping and to get a quick overview of the design of the digital story.

- Wendy Ann Mansilla
Wendy Ann Mansilla developed a digital
storytelling demonstration for Lise Hovik`s, HF/IKM “The Red Shoes”
In this Workathon Stian also demonstrated his Oculus Rift project as a digital storytelling tool