This week we got to explore the roots of digital storytelling with Joe Lambert in his book Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community. Chapter 3 of the book is titled A Road Traveled – The Evolution of the Digital Storytelling Practice. It is a fascinating look at how Lambart evolved from an early participant in the American folk song scene to his later involvement with the San Francisco theater scene and on to involvement with early storytelling in short films and eventually landing in the middle of the early days of the revolution in digital storytelling with computers. He ended up as the founder of Story Center where he continues to ply his craft of teaching storytelling to others.
Reading Lambart’s story brought a sense of how all of these different phases of his life are tied together by one common theme – telling the story. As he points out, coming out of the folk music movement there was “the sense of significance that resulted when a person ‘found their voice and made their story heard’ was fundamental to our healthy living.” It was the voice of the common person that mattered to them, not the wealthy or elite.
This voice of the common person was also found in the San Francisco Bay area in the progressive theater culture that was thriving in the 1980s. According to Lambert this was a time of experimentation and it was a struggle for him to make ends meet, but it was also a time when many artists were interested in telling their own stories as a counterbalance to the commercialism of the 80s.
And there was a new force that was coming into play – computer technology. With the advent of personal computers a “Digital Tsunami” started in the early 1990s that would change how stories would be told. Interactive multi-media became something that everyone could work with to tell their stories. Creating web sites and presenting stories in the new format became the focus of his work. And teaching this skill to others was where he focused his talents.
But it was always about the stories. As he said, “I am moved by the stories more than the organization required to get to the stories.” This is lesson for all instructional designers. That in the end, we need to tell the stories, and help others tell their stories. The methodology is a useful, but whether it’s folk songs, or theater, or web sites, we need to keep the focus on what brings us to these methodologies in the first place – the story.