Grahamstown, Dec. 3 (talk) At first glance, storytelling and science may seem like strange partners. Scientists often share the results of their research through academic journals and books or at academic conferences.
But storytelling is an effective way to share scientific research with a non-expert audience.
Today, stories can be constructed digitally: photos, videos and audio clips create visually and emotionally charged stories that are relatable and accessible.
There are several reasons for this approach. One is that making scientific research accessible is critical to citizen participation in democracy.
And, rather than having researchers share people’s insights and experiences in journals that aren’t read by many, they can work with participants to create stories that give a voice to marginalized and oppressed communities.
Good digital storytelling is a way of imparting different forms of knowledge in a way that stimulates action.
For example, it can influence policy. However, the tool needs to be used by personnel trained to report aspects of research findings accurately, ethically and sensitively.
We trained ten early-career researchers from six African countries (Senegal, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, and South Africa) on digital storytelling.
This work was carried out by the Alliance of African Research Universities Water Center of Excellence and the Center for Social Innovation at Rhodes University in South Africa.
All participants study some aspect of water such as pollution, distribution and access.
The researchers created digital stories based on their academic work. The videos were shared on multiple platforms such as email, WhatsApp, Youtube, stakeholder workshops and symposia at the International 2021 AURU Biennial Conference.
what participants told us
The researchers are all postdocs; they have earned their Ph.D.s within the past ten years. This is their opportunity to develop science communicator capabilities early in their careers.
First, they took a week-long online digital storytelling workshop accredited by Rhodes University. Among other things, they learned how to structure a narrative and how to do basic video editing.
Several months after the training, after the digital stories were distributed through various platforms, we interviewed ten participants.
We wanted to understand how using digital storytelling helped them and where there was room for improvement.
They overwhelmingly described digital stories as a useful tool for rapidly sharing research work and findings with local and international colleagues.
It also helps them advertise their research to potential future funders.
Training has even inspired institutional change. In Uganda, Makerere University’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Department of Geography have started using digital stories as teaching aids – including stories developed during training.
Makerere is also partnering with the Mastercard Foundation to set up a digital studio to help produce stories.
This is an acknowledgment of digital storytelling as an important tool in academia. It enables students to share their research findings with peers, the community and policy makers.
Participants also found digital storytelling helpful in highlighting multiple stakeholder experiences. This kind of nuanced and moving story does not usually appear in traditional research outputs such as journal articles.
This approach gives stakeholders a significant voice for those who may not have much power in water management decisions.
some gaps and concerns
However, there is room for improvement.
First, not all community stakeholders who gain experience in digital storytelling have access to digital platforms.
There are also language restrictions. For example, Senegal is a French-speaking country – should the video be in French or English? Our Senegalese participant decided to make a French video with English subtitles.
There are also concerns that digital stories are too simplistic or present idealistic narratives.
Participants were concerned that their stories did not adequately reflect how decisions related to water quality, water use and distribution management in the context of each case study led to the marginalization of some stakeholder groups.
Participants also suggested that digital storytelling skills could be taught to stakeholder communities.
This will allow the community themselves to paint an authentic picture of their experiences.
Collaboration and Communication
We believe that digital storytelling can be an invaluable tool for water researchers in Africa. This is a way to strengthen scientific exchange and cooperation to address water challenges.
But training is key. Digital storytellers must be able to report accurately and sensitively on the issues at hand and the impact of those issues on those affected.
Accessibility must also be considered. Some of these are linguistic; some have to do with the availability of digital resources.
And, as our participants suggested, digital storytelling is likely to work best when local communities gain the skills to lead in creating digital stories about their specific contexts, issues and experiences. (conversation)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)