It seems like digital storytelling is taking over the world – or at least my world. Last time I wrote for this blog, this past June, I had just come back from a day’s conference in Aberystwyth, discussing the promises and the challenges of California-style digital storytelling as it spreads around the globe.

Now I’m just back from Newcastle and a day at the Culture Shock! conference, discussing the outcomes of a large outreach project in the north east of England, using digital storytelling in the world of museums and archives. I got to hear from Peter Wright and Rachel Clarke of Newcastle University’s Culture Lab, who kindly hosted me for a couple of days, and to take part in a story circle workshop by Barrie Stephenson of digistories.

What about results? Well, the keynote at the June conference was by a digital storytelling evangelist in Singapore. She has created a fledgling company whose purpose is to bring together people from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. I’ve just heard that her project – young and small though it is – was endorsed a couple of weeks ago by none other than the prime minister of Singapore during his National Day Rally speech. Now she and her team are knee-deep in stories, trying (successfully, I hear) to keep up with their success.

The Culture Shock! project might be over, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a similar story from any of the participating organisations I heard from last week.

And maybe it will all rub off on my thesis…

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After a manic spring dashing from one event to another, I thought I was going to settle down to a long, slow summer of reading theory at the lakeside and coming indoors (whether from the heat or from the rain) to add to the word count on my annotated bibliography. Instead, I’ve been dashing around again. In June it was ds6 in Aberystwyth, last week it was EVA London 2011, today I’m off to see The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic at the Manchester International Festival, and next month I’ll be a student volunteer at MobileHCI in Stockholm.

The ds6 conference was the annual festival of digital storytelling in the tradition of the Center for Digital Storytelling in California. Their model is to get people who aren’t performers or media professionals to create their own short film of their life story using their own personal photos. The ds6 participants believe passionately in the power of narrative in the digital age to bring people together across any number of divides: geographical, racial, social, generational.

EVA London 2011 was a somewhat more academic and cerebral event: three days of papers and demonstrations on electronic visualisation and the arts. Ruth Gibson’s motion capture visualisations of dancing stillness using the Skinner Releasing Technique (http://ewic.bcs.org/content/ConWebDoc/40639) and Donatella Barbiere’s film of her experience in the V&A’s performance archive (http://ewic.bcs.org/content/ConWebDoc/40636) would have captivated everyone in our PhD programme, I’m certain.

Tonight’s performance by and about the grande dame of live art, as Marina Abramovic has been called, will doubtless be written up all over the internet, and MobileHCI promises to blow my mind with new developments in the ways we use mobile devices, including applications in the arts.

If you triangulate (quadrangulate?) these events, you get an interdisciplinary mishmash that I’m trying to turn into a thesis. I couldn’t possibly have turned down these opportunities to get new perspectives, meet new people and gather more resources and references.

I still wouldn’t mind a couple weeks of reading theory in the sun, though.

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