Digital Storytelling

In Dean Shareski’s latest post on his blog ‘Ideas and Thoughts”, he passes on the idea [with credit to Doug Peterson, ZeFrank, Stephen Downs among others] that Google Streetview and its ever growing database is an exceptional tool for storytelling.  Dean created and shared a video about his small hometown of Morden in Manitoba, which emphasizes the point about Google’s growing database – even relatively small towns have now been ‘Streetviewed’.

Dean also shares a link to a video by Jim Groom, saying that, “Watching Jim Groom’s video, was like literally like going for a walk with him.”  It was Jim’s video that really hit me with the power of Google Streetview.  Jim tells his story about growing up in a tight-knit community in Long Island.  This is a part of the world that I know almost nothing about, and yet after watching his video,  I feel that I would ‘know my way around’ if I was to go for a walk in his neighbourhood.  I feel that I’ve learned something about the culture that is associated with the place.  Now Jim’s story is not particularly exciting or interesting, although I do feel that I have learned about that part of New York.  It is the power of this technology that I have found exciting and interesting.  If this technology was used by someone who did have an interesting story to tell, it could be quite powerful.  Google Streetview allows anyone with the right technology, and a bit of time, to create engaging videos to support a story of a place.

So I got to thinking about place, and stories of place.  What place would I love to tell a story about, and share with my students?  I first Googled my house, and switched to Street View.  I thought that it was pretty cool that my property was on Street View, although not interesting enough to share with anyone.  Then I thought about one of my favourite places on this planet… the artists’ market square in Montmartre, Paris, France.  I Googled Montmartre, and sure enough Street View was available.  I had to call upon my memory from walking the streets of Montmartre several years ago, and eventually found my way to the artists’ square.  If done right, some very interesting stories could be told with the Street View images of this heavily trafficked place.

The man in the green shirt in the center of the image below is a painter by the name of Cawian Mahmud.   When I visited this square about six years ago with my wife, we bought four paintings from Cawian to decorate our newly purchased house.  It was quite interesting to me to ‘find’ him in street view, as I have often wondered if he still worked and painted in Paris.  Cawian’s story is just one of the details that could be interwoven into a Google Street View walk through Montmartre.

I doubt that my small attempt is a great example (especially since I haven’t yet made a video of the ‘streetview walk’), never-the-less, I think the power of Street View is evident.  Whether used by teachers, or by students, Street View can be used to create interesting stories about the culture of a place.

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Hope in Corporate Partnerships?

A few years ago, after watching the documentary, The Corporation, I remember feeling that I no longer had any faith in democracy.   463px-Movie_poster_the_corporationThe Corporation, which is the most successful Canadian documentary of all time, is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan.  The film and book explore the history and rise of corporate power in the western world –  from small businesses to the giant global powerhouses that we have today.   Throughout the film, the message is clear; corporations in North America have become enormous, and enormously powerful.  Corporations are patholical in their pursuit of profits, and corporations are doing serious and irreperable damage to our planet.  Perhaps the most disturbing outcome of the film is the knowledge that a large number of globe-spanning corporate giants have clearly become more powerful than our systems of government.  Corporate greed and power has grown so strong, that it has managed to manipulate constitutional laws in order to protect the interests and profits of these great giants.  This leads to serious questions of coruption of government and faith in democracy; concerns of whether democracy is serving the people or serving the interest of greedy corperate power houses.

A newer book by Peter Senge (and others), however, sheds a more positive outlook on corporate power.  Necessary RevolutionHis 2008 book, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World portrays countless examples of a new kind of organizational partnership.   Giant corporations around the globe are partnering with NGOs (non-government organizations) and not for profit organizations in order to counter or eliminate the harm that they are doing to the planet.  At first, many of these partnerships are very shocking; as an example Coca-Cola is partnering with WWF (the World Wild-life Fund – not the wrestling federation).  Many large corporations have made such partnerships and serious commitments to work towards a sustainable future.  Nike, Google, Costco, Ikea, DuPont, BP, and countless others are forming partnerships with environmental and social justice organizations to ensure better stewardship of the earth and better livelihoods in the developing world.  Now, stop imagining – that world is already emerging.  These partnerships have already begun, and they are beginning to make headway in making substantial difference.  Amoung the most shocking of these partnerships may be the recently announced partnership between Walmart and the Suzuki Foundation.

cokewwfIt seems more logical for the world’s largest beverage manufacturer and bottler to team up with a wrestling federation than with the World Wild-life fund.  Selling beverages at wrestling events would generate revenue, but what does Coca-Cola have to gain from a partnership with the World Wild-life Fund?  Sustainability.  The hope for a sustainable future is what Coke has to gain.  The fact is that Coca-Cola is one of the world leaders in polluting our planet.  It has an enourmous carbon footprint, with manufacturing plants all over the planet.  More importantly, it is an emormous consumer of fresh water, one of our most precious resources.  By partnering with WWF, Coke is doing more than simply making a financial contribution, they are demonstrating a shift in corporate thinking.  This shift is an awakening to the realities that corporations have to face; the reality that current practices are unsustainable.  Coke, as one of the greatest consumers of fresh water on this planet, simply cannot sustain its current production.  This partnership is a realization that the company needs to change how it operates, and that it can benefit from the knowledge of leading NGOs like WWF.

walmart-logoWal-mart, Coca-cola, Costco, Ikea, Home-Depot, McDonalds, etc… these powerhouses aren’t suzuki_logogoing away any time soon.  There seems to be an acknowledgment by many of the leading non-profit organizations in the world of this fact, and a realization in essence that, “If you can’t beat them, then join them.”   Will the partnership between Coke and WWF result in sustainable water use, and health to watertables the world over?  Will a partnership between Wal-mart and the Suzuki Foundation result in sustainable transportation of goods around the planet?  This is a rather new development in the corporate world, and it is very early to see any significant outcomes.  However, there is hope in these partnerships, as they are steps in directions towards living sustainably.  HOPE.

Your thoughts are important.  It’s time to SPEAK UP.  What do you think?

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UPDATE:

This post is receiving significant traffic, often in the amount of several hundred reads each week.   Do me a favour.  Just leave a quick response, and let me know who you are and how you came across this article.  I’m curious to know who’s reading.  If you’d like to share your thoughts about the article, that would be great.

Thanks for reading,

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Ryan