The it impacts the creation of amateur media we

The world nowadays is surrounded
by media and technology, and no one can deny how fast and immensely it has
developed over time. Media and storytelling have advanced from professional
only creations to a vast field where every individual can tell a story. With
the growth of social media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, we
have entered a time where it is much easier to create and share your own
stories. The idea that only qualified media professionals have the right or the
ability to tell a story has long been left behind as amateurs have surfaced in
social channels telling their own stories through a way of self-representation
or to call upon a bigger audience. Storytelling now entertains both
professionals and amateurs. The idea for my own digital story surfaced as I
realised that most of us have at some point in our lives lost a piece of our
childhood or a safe space that we used to rely on. A Scattering Space is a
story about how growing up can make you see the world differently to what you
did as a child. I focus particularly on my hometown’s group of scouts and our
place by the woods. As children in an organisation whose ethos is to make the
world a better place, we believe we are making the world a better place. It is
only as I grow older that my perspective changes. As I realise that the woods I
used to spend most of my weekends in are now empty and degrading, so is my
belief that we are still changing the world. In this essay I intend to further
argue my own digital story as a way of self-representation. I will also be
discussing Digital Storytelling in general and how it impacts the creation of
amateur media we have access to today.

Digital Storytelling is everywhere,
and it can start as easily as someone seeing something on TV or navigating the
web, finding something that interests them and then going on to create
something of their own based on that topic. “Media consumption is fundamentally
a creative act” (Jenkins in Lambert 2013:39) as every person will interpret a
piece of media differently. The original concept ends up being deconstructed by
the individual and constructed again as their own idea or thought. Digital
Storytelling is now becoming more involved with different worlds, for example
the gaming world and the fan base world. Fan-based media is a massive creative
expression where fans will use snippets of TV shows or films and modify it to
fit what they interpret from it. In the gaming world, although a slightly
different approach is used, it is still clear the use of digital stories. Game
developers now create a narrative for the game with a variety of media tools
with the aim to engage the players even more.

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Digital Storytelling can overall be
defined as “combining the art of telling stories with a variety of digital multimedia”
(Robin 2006:709). It is easier to think of Digital Storytelling as four
different concepts. It can be seen as a practice, whereby a group of people are
working together to make these stories or where there is a facilitator guiding
them. It can also be considered a form, where we look at which digital tools
have been used in the story and the shape it takes. Thirdly, it can also be
seen as a textual system which can be analysed and read. Lastly, and perhaps
the one I agree with the most, it can become a movement. A movement in which we
refer back to the intention and reason for Digital Storytelling in nowadays’
media burst.

As all of these different
scenarios come into play, we can see the impact of the rise of amateur media. Although
amateur media can be considered to have been around for quite a long time, as
in the words of Fred Turner, it can “trace its roots back to the cultural practices
of the cyberculture of the 1960s” (Turner cited in Jenkins 2009:112), digital
amateur media has only just more recently surfaced amid media culture. Digital
Storytelling in particular is arguably only dated back early to mid-1990s where
it was developed by Dana Atchley and partner Denise, Joe Lambert and partner
Nina Mullen, and the programmer Patrick Milligan (Hartley and McWilliam 2009:3).
It started with the desire of non-professional individuals wanting to create
their own digital media productions. Digital media and digital videos were
already around at the time but there was a need for ordinary people to be
involved rather that professional filmmakers only. An amateur is someone who
has a taste for something and takes part in an activity not in a professional
way but rather as a pastime, as a pleasure. So, when ordinary individuals
started wanting to be creators, the movement was due to begin. The creation of
YouTube helped develop this rise even more, as suddenly people were given a
platform where they could not only watch videos and content made by
professionals and other amateurs, but they could share their own.  YouTube meant a chance for individuals with all
sorts of backgrounds to finally share their own amateur content in a platform
where they are free to do so. Jenkins (2009:110) makes a strong a point that
“many groups were ready for something like YouTube; they already had
communities of practice that supported the production of DYI media”.  

Being something with such a significant
impact, the growth of amateur media can definitely be seen as a positive.
However, some people still argue that the opposite is also true. Gauntlett
(2011:84) raises a very relevant point upon the idea of real content; he argues
that “(…) being a perfectionist isn’t actually a good thing.”. He strengthens this
statement by explaining that while watching a YouTube video he realised that he
didn’t mind that it wasn’t too edited or cut to only have the best shots in it,
Gauntlett “(…) liked the unshowy, rough-and-ready nature of the whole thing. It
was liberating.” Amateur media represents something that isn’t perfect or
professionally made but rather “messy”, an amazing creation based on individual
experiences and imperfections. This is one of the positive sides of amateur
media, it encourages people to not only consume it but to create their own. A
participatory media culture is exactly that – a culture in which the barriers
of participation are low but the creation, sharing and engagement with the
public is incentivized. It is encouraging practitioners to be more involved and
self-reflective. Keen (2008:17) on the other hand, expresses his negative view
of amateur media in a straightforward way. He argues that amateur media
threatens the quality of the public discourse that cultural gatekeepers are
putting out and that it is creating a platform where it is easier to plagiarise
and steal creative and intellectual property. All we will get from the rise of
amateur media is “(…) less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless
information” (Keen 2008:16). The critic also makes another negative stand
referring to social media platforms themselves as a way to replace the reliable
information and culture with the individuals creating amateur media. Keen
(2008:7) states that social media platforms like YouTube and MySpace are used
not to connect with others but “(…) so that we can advertise ourselves.” Gauntlett
seems to believe otherwise and puts a positive spin on the matter. Gauntlett (2011:80,
81) states every piece of amateur media will showcase the individual creating
it, not because you are advertising yourself but because everything you create
inevitably has a piece of you; it is a “craft process” and “the personality of
the maker always comes across in the finished thing.”. It is hard to have a
creative product that doesn’t reflect something about the creator’s self;
self-representation will come into play in any amateur media product.

My own digital story is an act of
self-representation. It is a coaxed act of autobiographical storytelling that
came to life due to my lecturer, my classmates and myself. Being in a
University setting, I was encouraged and coaxed by my lecturer to create it. My
digital story “A Scattering Space” is autobiographical as it is theorised by
the telling and the told. The telling is the space-temporal perspective of the
story which in my case is arguably in a spectrum. The story is set in a
specific place by the woods in my hometown where Scouts used to camp and spend
most of their time; it starts off at the time of my childhood but as the story
develops it comes to join present time. The told refers to the characters,
genre and narration. The space and time of my story are perhaps the most
important features to pay attention to as they are the ones that enhance the
feeling of loss of childhood and loss of a safe space. However, I wanted my
story to be narrated with a calm and emotional voice. There are a few
characters in my story, but my childhood self and the woods are the main ones. My
story doesn’t particularly have a happy ending, nor did it need to – it is a
story of self-reflection and about how child and adult perspectives differ so
much. It is the realisation that the wonderful and idealistic views we have as
children we often drop somewhere along the road to becoming adults, and how
this feeling linked to a space brings out an idea of somehow having failed to
fulfil your childhood self’s dreams. I tried to demonstrate this by including a
line in the script that read “Did I make the world a better place?”, I wanted
the viewers to reflect on this line and think to themselves what it is that
they’ve loved and lost from their childhood and how that impacts the person
they are today.

Smith and Watson (2001:59)
propose the idea of the autobiographical ‘I’ having more ‘I’s’ within itself –
more voices through which we tell each story. There is the Real or Historical
‘I’ which refers to the author/producer of the story. In “A Scattering Space”,
the viewers don’t have access to or even know this ‘I’ – it is me as a real
person in real time producing the story but who is not in it. The Narrating ‘I’
is the one the viewers/readers have access to, it is the one “(…) who wants to
tell, or is coerced into telling, a story about himself.” (Smith and Watson
2001:59). I am the narrator of my own story however it is only a small part of
myself that is available to the viewers. There is also the Narrated ‘I’ who is
the protagonist or main character in the story. In my case, the Narrated ‘I’ is
my childhood self; she is not the one telling the story or the one remembering
all the details, but she is the subject of it. Lastly, there is the Ideological
‘I’; this “‘I’ is the concept of personhood culturally available to the
narrator when he tells his story.” (Smith, P. cited in Smith and Watson
2001:61). It refers to the identities and culture that influences the story,
and for mine, it is mainly age. The concept of loss of childhood while aging is
one the biggest highlights of my story, it is what constructs my Ideological
‘I’. My digital story is a product of digital amateur media with strong and
clear self-representation.

Media communication is no longer
a professional-only field. Amateurs are now a large piece of the puzzle who, by
the means of participatory culture and the development of social media, are
able to share their views, opinions and passions. Their voices can be heard,
and they can connect with others to continue creating more stories and to
continue sharing.

Digital Storytelling is all about
a sense of connection. It’s about more than just someone creating something for
themselves and sharing it online, it’s about passing on a message. Of course,
the message might be constructed and deconstructed by different individuals based
on their perspectives but it all comes down to the fact it relates to universal
themes. My digital story was something personal to me, but it doesn’t mean
someone else can’t relate to it. When we watch digital stories, most of us
won’t relate to the specifics of the story – we will relate to the bigger theme.
Not everyone had a piece of land in the middle of the woods where they went to
every weekend and where they learnt and talked about making the world a better
place, but certainly a lot of people have had something from their childhood
that has been taken away from them once they reached adulthood. I believe it is
important to understand that Digital Storytelling is more than a personal story
brought to life with media tools, it is even more than just an act of
self-representation and autobiography – it is a mean for individuals to connect
through shared experiences that come across as a hidden message in digital
stories.