Amplify your Voice: Digital Storytelling for Social Change

“The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo sapiens (‘wise man’). In any case it’s an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.”
― Terry PratchettThe Science of Discworld II: The Globe

Humans have always learned through stories. Myths warn of hubris, fairy tales teach children to stay out of the woods, novels in English class…are presumably good for something. It is only natural, as we communicate increasingly via technology, that storytelling also migrates to the digital stage.

South Side Stories, for instance, gives a voice to African American youth living on the South Side of Chicago by helping them make videos about their personal experiences, with music, artwork, and video clips. The project was presented at the YTH Live panel “Gaming for Health” this past April. Beyond Bullying helps people share their stories through videos as well. They set up storytelling booths in schools, where LGBTQ students can have a safe space and privately share their experiences.

Other organizations are more activism-focused. The 1 in 3 movement lets women share their stories of getting abortions. Not only does telling such stories build a caring, sharing community of women and let people put faces to the pro-choice campaign, but it normalizes the whole concept of abortion—1 in 3 women, after all, will have one at some point in their lives. Julia Reticker-Flynn spoke about 1 in 3 at the YTH Live “Online Abortion Activism, Pro-Choice and Pro-Voice” panel. Exhale was there also, with stories from their National Pro-Voice Tour.

screenshot_Tue_Aug_12_16.16.44Sample of stories from 1in3campaign.org

Many social media sites also provide a stage for people to share their stories and experiences with social activism. NARAL Pro-Choice America leads a Tumblr campaign to expose Crisis Pregnancy Centers, anti-choice “health clinics,” which deliberately misinform young women in order to prevent them from learning about and accessing comprehensive reproductive health care.  This past May, Twitter blazed with #YesAllWomen, a response to the “Not all men…” defense that sprang up after the blatantly misogynist Isla Vista shootings. Women everywhere are still posting their experiences with everyday sexism.

Stories connect people, make abstract concepts concrete and enable those who have never experienced things like discrimination or sexual assault to emphasize with those who have. It’s no wonder that the online community, already joined by wires and wifi, has embraced these further connections. Only when we unite can we truly achieve change. Start a blog, post a tweet, and share your own story!

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