Culture Shock Story a project by Meri Collazos Solamerismail@gmail.com

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Digital Storytelling

Digital Stories can serve to describe the process of adapting to a new culture. You can learn more from some of the people that are participating in Culture Shock Story and 5 Toys Story have already done their own digital story explaining those transitional experience. First of all, let’s try to disclose what are the basics of Digital Storytelling and put a couple of examples of how those project are useful in “culture shock” experiences.

What is Digital Storytelling?


*FROM UMBC NEW MEDIA, SHOT IN INTERNATIONAL MEDIA CENTER 2011

Digital Storytelling basically consists of inviting people to produce their own true-life stories in a media format (a video of 5-8 minutes using their own voice over for their own narrative account and using their own pictures). It is a participatory event where experts, institutions and the participants meet.

An essential part of the workshops is that the participants join together and share their stories in what is called the “story circle.” That part is designed to warm up everyone’s storytelling capacities and may include verbal games, informal personal introductions (in the last workshop I worked in we started asking about the origin of each of our participant’s name), making lists of likes and dislikes among other activities.

It is a way to engage the people in a creative dialogue that will help to construct and re-construct their memories to get ready to script their own personal story, which they will turn into a movie. During the workshop, some examples of other Digital Stories are shown and commented to clarify how to use images, texts and sounds to build their own story.

Finally, another aim of the workshop is to provide technical skills to get people gathering their own images and sounds for the video production. Participants will review and deal with memory materials such as film footage, pictures, and documents and will be also pushed to produce their own new materials taking pictures and recording audio to get the best results for their digital stories.

The use of Digital Storytelling (DST) as a tool for data collection has various functions. It is useful as a source for observing cultural production (and reproduction). It is about giving people access to the basic human instinct of “narrating” or story telling while moving towards new media literacy. One of the motifs for the participatory practice can be that “Everyone loves a story. Not everyone loves a computer” (Hartley and MacWilliam, 2009). With DST, people have the opportunity to learn how to produce their own story and the community materializes worthwhile narratives and memories of their members in a valuable new media product.

Using the new media to support the community heritage among institutions is a well-established practice that has been used all over the world since the mid 1990s, the time when Digital Storytelling practice among institutions began flourishing (museums, schools, and libraries). Finally, the digital stories are a valuable tool for data collection since it helps us locate the presence of various cultural patterns in the narratives, using language and concepts of participants.

It is a way to engage the people in a creative dialogue that will help to construct and re-construct their memories to get ready to script their own personal story, which they will turn into a movie. During the workshop, some examples of other Digital Stories are shown and commented to clarify how to use images, texts and sounds to build their own story.

Finally, another contribution of that type of workshop is that it can provide technical skills to get people gathering their own images and sounds for the video production. With the help of a facilitator, participants will review and deal with memory materials such as film footage, pictures, and documents and will be also pushed to produce their own new materials taking pictures and recording audio to get the best results for their digital stories.

IRC Bhutanese Refugee DST project in Baltimore



Cultural awareness of the facilitator is very important for not conditioning the results. It is for that reason that in most of the cases, the facilitator should work together with a local mediator who knows the culture of the group and works hand by hand with the facilitator. That is the case of the DST workshop sponsored by the International Rescue Commintee (IRC) and the Association of Bhutanese in America. As part of the UMBC New Media, I could participate in that workshop  and I  documented the process to release a short movie that can help understanding the basics of Digital Storytelling.

Intercultural Communication DST project in UMBC

“One of the most effective ways to learn about oneself is by taking seriously the cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate them from you.” Edward T. Hall (1959)

It is important to notice that knowing one ’s self is to a certain extent to realize one’s own cultural background, which leads one to becoming intercultural competent, which is one of the purposes of the MA in INCC itself. During the first course of the MA in Intercultural Communication in UMBC (University of Baltimore, Maryland County), students are encouraged to produce a digital story related to one of their cross-cultural experiences. It is a chance for the new students to get closer to the field of Intercultural Communication using a personal experience as a starting point.

In this core course for the MA program in the Fall 2009 semester, the students worked with undergraduate students in Visual Arts 395 to developed  stories about an intercultural incident or encounter that was a crucial factor in motivating them to study intercultural communication. Accompanying a final paper, in which this incident was the framework for an analysis of intercultural competency, sensitivity, and awareness, the stories tell of very personal encounters of US students either in the US or abroad, or international students in the US*. They relate some of the painful and embarrassing, but also enjoyable and stimulating difficulties they have had adjusting and adapting to cultures that were other than their own.

*Source: http://www.umbc.edu/blogs/digitalstories/2009/12/digital_stories_from_mll_605_t.htm

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About Culture Shock:

"Culture shock is the difficulty people have adjusting to a new culture that differs markedly from their own." (Wikipedia.org)

"Many of us are striving to produce a blend of all the cultures which seem today to be in clash with one another. No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive". -Mahatma Gandi

"Culture is a mold in which we are all cast and it controls our daily lives in many in suspected ways...Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough, what it hides, it hides most effectively from it's own participants" -Edward T. Hall

"America is a poem in our eyes" -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow"-Lin Yutang