Storytelling is a collective art. Narratives are created in conversation and in relation to our local and global contexts and those we encounter in them. At its best, storytelling combines a myriad of artistic modalities in captivating and passionate performances. Even oral storytelling traditions embrace the use of gesture, movement, and vocal performance as methods by which to impart meaning and create effects. Today’s technologies make it possible for a variety of learners to author narratives in different mediums and through the combination of modalities. This sense of holistic storytelling informs my research and work in the classroom.
In my research and practice, I look at how storytelling plays into broader local and global contexts, how it can inspire and create social change, and how it is used to shape our personal and universal understandings of who we are. In so doing, I strive to foster a greater awareness of self and society which at the same time fostering a respect for the humanities and artistic processes of learning and growth. Examining storytelling in this way inspires creative critical thinking, empathy and an empowered sense of self in local and global contexts, and cooperation through shared narrative production. I strive to help people discover a greater sense of self through an appreciation of their unique artistic voice and to actively listen with an open mind during story generation and sharing processes.
At the heart of my research and practice lies a desire to engage participants actively in a reflective and analytical process about their personal lives and their understandings of their communities, societies, and the world to promote social change and tell community narratives. Over the 2014-2015 academic year, I worked with high school females and facilitated a theatre and digital storytelling creation experience that challenged societal conceptions of gender, identity, and performed femininity. Additionally, residencies I facilitated with homeless youth have allowed them to evaluate the ways society perceives them as homeless and to give voice to a population that exceeds these stereotypes and instead focuses on the youths’ progressive, hopeful, and determined natures. In another project, I used digital storytelling to bring to light an Orlando restaurant owner’s personal narrative about the slow disintegration of the community he called home for over sixty years. In valuing citizen voices such as these, DS becomes a tool by which to combat stereotypes, explore the value of community history and heritage, and bring people together.