Digital Storytelling Essay – Listening, Love, and Identity

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As we transitioned from discussing documentary and ethnography to digital storytelling I found myself connecting these two types of media via my own experience creating my family-focused mini-documentary. When I made my documentary I expressed that I was not looking to capture any objective truths or teach my audience anything. Rather, I set out to create a family artifact that said “we were here”. While I was working on my piece, I asked my mother if there was anything she wished she had done to preserve her Italian-American heritage, and she said that she wished she had interviewed her own parents as I had interviewed her. I told her I wished she had too. Most of my grandparents passed away when I was very young, and I would love to hear their voices and their stories even though they are gone. This sentiment is echoed by StoryCorps founder David Isay in an introductory video about the program. He shares a memory of one Thanksgiving when he interviewed his grandparents and two great aunts, only to lose the tape. Even years later, he still looks for this tape because “it would make me so happy to hear those voices again”. Like my mini-documentary and Isay’s lost interview, digital stories, specifically those about families, are a way to say “we were here” and to preserve the memories of loved ones. I wanted to explore what else might result from the storytelling process. Apart from a finished digital piece that can be shared with future generations, what else is there to gain from telling our family stories?
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