'The methods and ethics of reading occasioned life narratives: the case of digital storytelling'

Anna Poletti

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


    The rise of participatory media technologies has resulted in a rise in the production and circulation of life narratives, and increasingly many cultural institutions, such as libraries, museums, government departments, and universities, perceive a need to use these technologies to diversify their engagement with the community and, in some cases, extend their acquisition practices and strategies. One result of this has been that many cultural institutions are now engaging in the solicitation, collection, construction, archiving and exhibition of life stories from people in the community by opening themselves up to 'user generated content' and, in many instances, actively seeking out contributions from specific community members such as young people and migrants. In my current research into the practice of digital storytelling ' undertaken by organisations such as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the BBC, and Sydney's Powerhouse Museum ' I have come up against a methodological conundrum regarding how to interpret and theorise the role of cultural institutions in the occasioning and archiving of life narrative through the framework of participatory media. This problem is to be able to clearly articulate the ethical dimensions which are inherent in the institutional occasioning of life narrative.This problem is complicated by the discourse of democratic participation which comes with participatory media, which appears to elide attention to the ethics of representation by replacing it with an assumption that (democratically achieved) representation is inherently good. When looking at digital storytelling, in the first instance we can recognise that the institutions seek to enact the democratic potential long associated with digital technologies by opening up their traditionally highly managed and curated cultural spaces to 'everyday people' by soliciting their contribution. However, as Liz Stanley, Julia Watson and Sidonie Smith (among others) have noted, the thorny issue of power cannot be overlooked when examining sites of narrative construction which are institutionalised or intersect with institutional interests and practices. In this paper I will outline the ethical issues I perceive to be present in the practice of digital storytelling, and invite contributions on how best to theorise and articulate these issues to avoid a good/bad dichotomy in assessing the practice of institutional occasioning of life narrative.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationStory of The Story
    Subtitle of host publicationEthics, Therapy and Life Writing
    EditorsKate Douglas, Kylie Cardell
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    PublisherFlinders Humanities Research Centre
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    EventStory of The Story: Ethics, Therapy and Life Writing - Flinders University
    Duration: 28 Sept 200930 Sept 2009


    ConferenceStory of The Story: Ethics, Therapy and Life Writing


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