All posts filed under “Walthamstow

Introducing The Story Machine: Part 2


Co-creation of the Story Machine

In Part 1, we discussed some of the challenges and ‘process friction’ in integrating digital storytelling into community activities, and introduced our initial work with The Mill, a community centre in Walthamstow, east London, which provides space and resources for local creative citizens to organise groups, events and activities. The next stage in our engagement with The Mill was understanding how storytelling could best be incorporated into the everyday running of the centre–the groups, events and activities that form the centre’s work.

Through autumn-winter 2013, some of the RCA team–Alan Outten, Lizzie Raby and Dan Lockton (myself) ran co-creation workshops with The Mill community (mostly active volunteers and visitors, young and old), together with Michelle Reader, a local Walthamstow artist whose sculptures and family workshops recycling scrap materials into animals and figures are been an important part of The Mill’s ambience. The workshops centred around the idea of a ‘Story Machine’, which at this stage was loosely defined as some kind of ‘system’ for capturing and sharing “stories about all the amazing things that happen” at The Mill.

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Initial questions included more divergent creative ones (e.g. whether the ‘machine’ should be one thing or several linked things, and whether it could be ‘enhanced’ over time through art and craft activities at The Mill), questions around reducing friction and increasing inclusivity and accessibility (how to make it so as many visitors as possible would be able to use it) and more practical questions relevant to the running of the centre (where the would machine live at The Mill, what security arrangements would be needed for it, how easy it would be to move, etc). We were conscious throughout of the need for the Story Machine to integrate with The Mill’s online presence–for the outputs to be directed to the website and social media in a useful way–but also of the possibilities of ‘lower-tech’ uses for the Story Machine that didn’t entirely rely on this integration.

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Introducing The Story Machine: Part 1


Friction in integrating digital storytelling into community activities

For some community groups, the use of technology and digital media is built into the work they do–for example, the Wards Corner Community Coalition‘s very successful use of Stickyworld and social media to tell their story, integrated into the organisation of a whole range of community events.

For other groups, it’s something they would like to weave better into their activities, but which can be difficult to do strategically, for reasons including not just the diversity of skills within the group, but the time and organisational requirements for volunteers to coordinate everything alongside actually running the events. The challenges are rarely ones around motivation or engagement–volunteers are almost by definition engaged in what they are doing–nor indeed, in an era where many group members will regularly use mobile phones, social media and so on themselves, it is not necessarily solely a trite ‘digital divide’ problem.

Instead, in some cases it seems to come down to something like process friction: the route from someone taking photos or video or talking about what they’re doing at a group event, to those photos or videos or stories (in whatever form) being turned into an ‘output’ such as a blog post, an update to the group’s website, or being shared more widely beyond the group (perhaps even to promote it), can be strewn with gaps and bumps and contingencies which make it slow or fractured, from technology incompatibility to issues with user accounts to mental models of how systems work. The route probably involves multiple people, each with his or her own interests, skills and time commitments.

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