Right now, all over the world, folks are telling stories to each other.
It’s World Storytelling Day, a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling. Observed each year on the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and the on the first day of the autumn equinox in the southern, World Storytelling Day is a chance to reflect on the storytelling power of the human voice.
So why choose today to focus on technology? Because at Living Proof Advocacy, we’re always looking for ways to help you get deeper into your life stories and find your power as a storytelling advocate. That includes searching out tools—technological or Old School—that help you practice speaking your stories with confidence and impact.
Thus, in honor of World Storytelling Day, here’s a quick round-up of a few storytelling apps we’ve explored for their potential to help storytelling advocates make a difference with spoken personal stories.
Since our focus is on the use of real-life stories, we’ve skipped by the many apps designed to help create fictional narratives, such as the many educational tools and games for kids. And because we’re primarily interested in spoken communication, we’ve passed over technology designed for visual or text-based storytelling, such as the popular iOS app Steller. Steller enables users to create, save and share elegantly-designed mobile content using photos, videos and text and is a popular tool for broadcasting vacation adventures, healthy recipes, inspiring travelogues and more. Backspaces is another lovely app for telling stories using only pictures and words.
But if you’re looking to technology to help you find and craft a personal advocate story, one app we recommend is the robust offering from StoryCorps. Advancing the organization’s well-respected mission to “archive the wisdom of generations,” the app guides amateur oral historians through simple steps: 1) Choose someone to interview. 2) Pick great questions. 3) Find a quiet place to record. Listen closely. 4) Share your interview with the world.
Obviously, with its emphasis on oral history, the app is geared toward story-gathering and the relationship between storytellers and story-listeners. But with a little hacking ala Living Proof, the StoryCorps app can also be a great tool for any advocate wanting to make a difference with his or her personal story.
For example: the app allows you to choose among categories of interview questions such as “Growing Up & School,” “Working” and “Love & Relationships.” But it also lets you add your own questions. That means you can repurpose and customize the app as a self-interviewing practice tool to help you explore your advocacy stories. Take the exercises in Living Proof such as “Link to your Goals and Audience” (p. 54) or “Making Language Live” (p. 97). Type the prompts and questions from those exercises into the StoryCorps app and you have a ready-made practice aid. Set the app’s voice recorder for whatever recording length you’d like and interview yourself about your advocacy story. If you’re working with a team of advocates and preparing them to speak on behalf of your organization or issue, you could design questions that have them link their stories directly to specific issues, themes or advocacy goals.*
That’s essentially what the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities did when they created their simple, free app, Telling Your Story. The app is specifically designed for persons with disabilities, family members and other advocates to use as they compose and practice the personal stories they’ll present to public officials or other policymakers when seeking policy changes or increasing awareness about disability issues. Like the StoryCorps app, the app guides the user through steps: from introducing yourself to identifying the specific issue to suggested methods of presenting a compelling personal story. After you’ve entered the text of your story, an audio recording feature allows you to rehearse.
Used in conjunction with the Five Qualities of a Well-Told Advocacy Story in Living Proof, the Telling Your Story app can be a powerful aid in crafting and practicing your story, especially in preparation for legislative advocacy.
Note: the app also includes a video excerpt of U.S. Representative Tony Coelho’s testimony in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the examples we discuss in Living Proof.
Adobe Voice is another app we really like, even though it is primarily designed for visual storytelling. However, unlike Steller and Backspace, Adobe Voice combines the power of oral and visual storytelling. Available only for iPad, Adobe Voice is an incredibly easy tool for creating professional-looking animated videos that combine still images, text, music and your voice. It has some ready-made story arcs like “Promote an Idea,” “Tell What Happened” and “Personal Growth” that guide your storytelling. Many are applicable to advocacy.
We liked playing with Adobe Voice so much we created our Living Proof book trailer with it. But even if video storytelling is not the aim of your advocacy and you’re preparing to speak to a community group or a local reporter, you can use the story arc templates in the app to explore different ways of approaching your story. The prompts are great for some technological coaching.
So, this World Storytelling Day—or any other day—take the opportunity to explore some of these storytelling apps. Or, if you’d rather keep it a bit Old School, flip open Living Proof to the “Seven Practice Runs” on page 173, hit record on your smart phone and start talking.
See also: CrowdVoice, a web site that tracks voices of protest by curating and contextualizing eyewitness videos, photos and reports to raise awareness of social justice movements worldwide.
*In 2008, StoryCorps started The National Day of Listening, our second favorite holiday after World Storytelling Day. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks everyone to take a few minutes to record an interview with a loved one.