Digital Storytelling at an Educational Nonprofit: A Case Study and Genre-Informed Implementation Analysis

Lisa Dush, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

This dissertation has been moved to the following series:


Digital stories--two- to five-minute videos consisting of a first-person voiceover set to a slideshow of personal photographs--combine personal reflection with digital technologies. The stories and the process of making them appeal to many organizations, particularly those with a mission of outreach or education. However, despite the inexpensive and fairly easy-to-use digital technologies involved, organizations have typically had difficulty implementing the practice. This dissertation presents a case study of one organization that hoped to implement digital storytelling, detailing the 15 months after its Writing Director completed a digital storytelling train-the-trainer workshop. The case study organization, Tech Year, is a one-year intensive college and job-readiness program for urban 18-24 year-olds. The case study aims for descriptive detail, and reflects 300+ hours of site visits, 29 interviews, and extensive document collection. Everett Rogers' theory of organizational innovation is used to frame the case study description. Tech Year hoped to integrate digital storytelling into its Business Writing curriculum and imagined a number of other utilities for digital storytelling related to fundraising, recruiting, and student development. During the 15-month research period, a wide range of digital storytelling-related activity happened at Tech Year, including a pilot of digital storytelling in the Business Writing classroom. At the conclusion of the study, however, Tech Year had not settled on a sustainable organizational use or uses for digital storytelling, and organizational members were uncertain whether the practice would persist. Besides telling an implementation story, the study has a second major aim: to explore theoretically informed reflective tools that might be used by researchers and organizations to assess and direct ongoing digital storytelling implementation efforts. A novel methodology that examines digital storytelling pilots through the lens of North American genre theory, called genre-informed implementation analysis, is both described and applied to the case of Tech Year.