2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photo by Mariah Wilson

Digital Storytelling Festival celebrates immigrant voices

By Kristy Koehler, March 2 2020—

The Language Research Centre in the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures (SLLLC) is hosting a Digital Storytelling Festival on March 4. Hosted by Hortensia Barrios and Karina Hincapie, research fellows at the Language Research Centre, the event features stories that are all created by immigrants and refugees in the city of Calgary. 

Barrios is also a Master’s student and Hincapie is working on her doctoral degree. 

“I study applied linguistics and my project is focused on understanding the immigrant experience,” said Barrios. “The method that I use is digital storytelling. Through this, we teach our participants how to create digital stories.”

Barrios says that participants were taught how to write a good script for their stories, then discussed those stories in a group setting and were then taught to use software to create videos

“The most important part about digital stories using our methods is that they are created in community,” said Barrios. “You have a story that is narrated in first person and then you come to a group and you share that story with the group and discuss the meaning of the story. It’s not like any other video that you might see online where you’re sharing just basic information — it’s actually sharing a story that has been discussed in community.”

After they’re screened at the festival, the videos will be publically available. Barrios says this will be helpful in her own research, as well as future research by other linguists.

“I’m looking into trying to understand how language connects with society and what are the social rules that you have to know to be able to use the language,” she said. “Having these videos will contribute to academia because at the end, we’ll have all this information that you can’t get through any other methods and it will be open and accessible to the public and other researchers.”

“The most important part of this and the most beautiful thing was sharing and community,” said Hincapie. “People gain a lot — not only because they gain practical knowledge of using technology to make their video, but they also gain a sense of belonging inside a community. Some of the stories were happy and some were sad but they were all empowering.”

“Instead of people telling us what they felt, we gave them the tools to share and use their voice that we heard many times they had lost,” echoed Barrios. “We created a space where they can share whatever their experiences are without being judged.”

The event is a pilot project, but Barris is already in talks to produce another event. This year, Barrios and Hincapie worked with the Venezuelan Canadian Association and the Middle Path Temple and the videos were made in either English or Spanish. The stories produced represent five countries including China, Costa Rica, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. In the future, there are plans to work with other organizations and expand to other languages and communities.

“We want to continue doing this as a community outreach project,” said Barrios.

They already have a team of volunteers trained to facilitate the workshops that were necessary to teach participants the technical aspects of digital storytelling.

“For the short time we’ve been doing this, we’ve grown in ways we didn’t expect,” said Barrios, who credits her supervisor, assistant professor in the SLLLC Angela George, with helping bring the project to life.

“She is always accessible and always there for us, no matter how big the idea,” said Barrios of George. “She’s always there to listen and guide us all the way through. Also, the Language Research Centre has been a really important part of this. For us, this is the first time that we are getting monetary support to run an activity. We’re also getting the sense of recognition that what we’re doing is something good.”

Barrios and Hincapie are also thankful to Martin Wagner, director of the Language Research Centre, for his support.

“You can have a lot of money but if you don’t have the support behind you, you won’t have successful research,” said Hincapie. “The combination of Angela George and Martin Wagner and the members of the community were essential to get this project going.”

The Digital Storytelling Festival runs from 3–5 p.m. in the Nickel Galleries Hall at the Taylor Family Digital Library. The event will also feature a panel discussion with storytellers, students and professors who will speak to how they approached the project and their thoughts on how to make the city of Calgary more welcoming for the immigrant community.

The event is currently waitlisted, but Barrios and Hincapie say there will likely be a second screening if interest continues. More information is available online.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet