Response to Lambert’s “Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community” – Chapter 1

*I am currently working my way through my fourth semester of the Information and Learning Technologies master’s program at University of Colorado, Denver.  This is the second post within a series of critiques on various readings that I’ve been assigned to write for a course titled Digital Storytelling.

Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community – Chapter 1: The Work of Story, by Joe Lambert

  • Book CoverWhat are your main insights and ideas from the given chapter?

There were actually a few insights and ideas for me in this chapter:

  1. Explaining an idea versus telling a story:  “When I am explaining an idea to you, I want to be clearly understood.  I want very little distance between my intended meaning, and your personal meaning.  To accomplish this, I need to be precise.  I need the ideas to be substantiated by argument, where each example, each concept, builds upon the other, toward a coherent conclusion.  But when I tell a story, reflecting on moment in time, and reflecting on that reflection, I am not so concerned about interpretation.  Perhaps I imagine my meaning is evident” (pp. 6-7).
  2. Sustaining memories:  “The more we rehearse, in our conscious mind, but also in our dreams and subconscious, the deeper the pathway, the more the memory is sustained (Kandel 2006: 129-33)” (p. 8).
  3. Genres of stories and what they convey/explain to us:  “With Disney and others, they borrowed directly from the folktale to contemporize children’s stories to the experience of modern existential alienation, showing us hipster heroes and wise-cracking damsels battling corporatist monsters and dictatorial tyrants” (p. 9).  The writer also talks about Westerns and frontier ethics, science fiction and technological innovation, crime and mystery and the psychology of social dysfunction, and romantic narratives and exploration of differences and juxtapositions.
  4. Identity construction:  “The process of identity construction in the twenty-first century will be as accelerated, fluid, and dislocating as has been virtually all aspects of our current economic and social experience within our societies” (p. 12).
  • What unique terminology, jargon, buzzwords, and other concepts appear in this reading that required your careful attention and definition?  What are your interpretations of these words and concepts?

The concept that required the most attention from me was the transition from the Biology of Story to the Hollywood Century and the American Myth (pp. 7-8).  Lambert went from discussing his interest in cognition and memory, short term and long term memory, the process for sustaining memories, and how stories set the scene for learning, to a very long section on myths.  There was no transition here and it took me awhile to grasp what was being introduced. I still don’t think I fully understand…all stories stem from myths?  The act of storytelling is really just human interactions involving passing down myths that are all the same, but with different meanings, endings, and emotions?  He also wrote quite a bit about  mass-media mythologies and how the twentieth century can also be called the Hollywood century.  I think because Hollywood is who/what originally digitized storytelling?  I am still a bit confused.

Lambert also has a large paragraph that refers to several authors and playwrights on page 11.  I have a degree in English Literature and I only recognize 70 percent of the names mentioned.  What if a reader does not recognize any of them?  I read this section four times and I still don’t understand what the author was trying to convey in relation to storytelling.

  • How does this reading challenge/expand/contradict your definition of (digital) storytelling?

Aside from a bit of history, I don’t think we’ve delved too deeply into the actual digital aspect of storytelling just yet (I do realize that this is just Chapter 1), but Lambert did make a point about the creative process of storytelling that stood out to me.  In reference to everyone’s stories being their own and a sort of mash-up, Lambert wrote, “In the end, they are my own, and whether they evolve in stages, or manage to integrate into a single mash-up identity, the creative process of narrating a story, with image, voice and sound, becomes a way to mark these changes and make sense of them” (p. 13).  I take from this that digital storytelling is also a means of creative expression, helping us to not only express our stories, but to figure out what exactly they are as well as what they mean, for us and for our audiences.

This reading did of course expand my understanding of storytelling in general.  I very, very much enjoyed Lambert’s summary at the end of the chapter which explains it perfectly:  “As suggested, story has many jobs, as a learning modality through memory, as a way to address our connection to the changing world around us, as a form of reflection against the flood of ubiquitous access to infinite information, as the vehicle to encourage our social agency, and finally, as a process by which we best make sense of our lives and our identity” (p. 14).

  • Additional thoughts…

I didn’t realize that the author, Joe Lambert, was the founder of the Center For Digital Storytelling until after I read the chapter.  You can read a critique that I wrote on one of their stories here.  I enjoyed reading this chapter, I really did!  But I was extremely distracted by the errors in grammar and sentence structure.  That has absolutely nothing to do with the content of this chapter or my take-away from it, but I struggled to focus throughout reading the entire thing.  I found myself having to reread various sentences to even begin to figure out the meaning they were intended to convey.   For example, “Story in this sense, works biologically to insure the total recall of those events which define we have ingrained as of greatest emotional importance to us” (p. 8).  Um, what?  Is it missing a word?  And doesn’t “insure” refer to financial insurance policies??  Maybe it’s just me (it usually is), but I get distracted very easily by things like this.

*Lovely header image from here.