11 — Digital storytelling: Taking the reader on a journey
In this sequence the students learn about processes related to the development of digital stories and explore the power of storytelling using the digital text Welcome to Pine Point.
Pine Point was a mining town in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The town was founded in 1962 as a project jointly developed by the Canadian Government and the mining company Cominco. When the mine closed in 1988, the single-industry town closed and most buildings were destroyed. Welcome to Pine Point was created by Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The story grew from a pre-existing website built by Pine Point resident Richard Cloutier. This digital story is the story of the impact of corporate decisions on individual lives. It is a gentle story, allowing its audience to draw their own conclusions. Its message of protest operates in an almost subliminal way.
Activity 1: Exploring the digital story
In this activity the students compare some of the different ways texts tell stories. Talk to the students about whether they have ever had an experience where a place they have lived has disappeared. Discuss how this might happen in different contexts (for example, people from areas reliant on finite resources for employment, people who have been affected by major construction projects such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme, or refugees forced from their homes). The students should analyse the wikipedia entry on Pine Point as well as Richard Coulter’s Pine Point Revisited website, before engaging with the digital story Welcome to Pine Point. Through this process, they should explore the following questions about this text:
- Have you ever seen a text like this before? Where? When? Why?
- What means of communication are evident in this text? Where have you seen these kinds of means before (images, interactive elements, text)?
- What differences do you notice between Coulter’s website and the digital story?
Closely examine the Welcome to Pine Point digital story. In ‘The Goggles’, an article or as the writers call it, a manifesto about this story, the creators outlined a series of elements they believed were essential. The following observations from this document could be used as a basis for a close textual analysis by the whole class. The digital story:
- tells interesting stories (more than one)
- creates every page as an entity with a specific purpose, tone and digital techniques appropriate to its content
- has a written narration which is written in an interesting voice
- is linear, very similar to TV, radio and books (the story unfolded)
- has a strong character in Richard
- challenges conventions around the digital design for an aesthetic (slick, straight, perfect)
- uses sound to build the digital experience: ‘it surrounds users, pulls them into the story, moves them along, makes them comfortable, gives them continuity, surprises and saddens them’
- uses the tour guide principle: ‘Readers want to be taken on a journey. Preferably on your back. With you pointing out interesting things along the way.’
Activity 2: Class discussion
Inform the students that they are going to read the digital story and generate some questions for class discussion. Explain the different types of questions to the students and ask them to create some questions during their reading. For example:
- prompting questions: What is the author’s viewpoint in this story and how does it relate to the idea of protest?
- questions that invite justification: What evidence do you use to support your response to the statement that the authors established a human-to-human connection?
- carifying questions that check on key details
- comparative questions that require drawing parallels and contrasts with other texts such as Wikipedia and the website or other digital stories
- connection questions: Where do you think this situation might be happening today? Why?
Group the students and invite them to discuss the text based on the questions they have developed.