In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Digital Storytelling for Social Work Interventions

  • Introduction
  • Journals (Related to Digital Storytelling)
  • Journals (Special Issues)
  • Production and Editing Tools
  • Media Sharing Platforms
  • Organizations Practicing Digital Storytelling
  • Organizations Studying the Phenomenon of Digital Storytelling
  • Theoretical Basis for Digital Storytelling

Social Work Digital Storytelling for Social Work Interventions
Chitat Chan, Carmen Yau
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0273


Digital storytelling is a storytelling method that is interwoven with digitized images, texts, sounds, and other interactive elements. It can be used for social work intervention purposes. Digital storytelling activities can be applied at different levels of practice: i) micro-level: individuals, families, and small groups; ii) meso-macro-level: community, organization, society, and culture; and iii) multiple-level: targeting micro, meso, and macro levels in the same intervention. Digital storytelling practice emerged with the advent of accessible media production hardware, editing software, and media sharing platforms. In addition, there are sustainable organizations that have gradually developed their unique methods and funding models. This growing network has popularized the concept of digital storytelling. Further, there are academic networks studying the phenomenon, which have further positioned the field in scholarly discussion. Digital storytelling faces challenges that are common to all other forms of technology application in social work, but a key debate is over the extent to which digital stories are representations of service users’ voices. Since digital storytelling practices adopt diverse terminologies with various media tools and methods, future research is suggested to have rigorous experimental designs, theoretically based research, and critical appraisal of its effectiveness. The references here were selected based on their quality, as well as their contrasting differences. In order to illustrate the development of the field, the annotated references introduced are generally discussed in a chronological order.

Introductory Works

Digital storytelling is an extension of the traditional storytelling method that is interwoven with media production with digitized images, texts, sounds, and other interactive elements. Digital storytelling for social work refers to the use of digital storytelling for intervention purposes, in which service users use digital tools to tell their stories. Digital storytelling has been increasingly adopted in practice and research, as it can enable users and informants to participate in the organization and analysis of their lived experience, thoughts, and feelings. In order not to risk omitting relevant studies, this article uses the term “digital storytelling” in a broad sense, which refers to the nature of the practice rather than the writers’ wordings. Some authors may not explicitly name their work as “digital storytelling,” but their work essentially involves digital productions and storytelling activities. For instance, DeCoster and Dickerson 2014 adopted the term “phototherapy” and explored its use in clinical social work. Catalani and Minkler 2010 adopted the definition of “photovoice” used by Wang and Burris 1997. Johnston-Goodstar, et al. 2014 (cited under Theoretical Basis for Digital Storytelling) used the term “youth media practice” to specify media production practice with youth. De Vecchi, et al. 2016 used the keyword “digital storytelling” as one of the selection criteria in a scoping review. This article shows that the term “digital storytelling” is thus far the most preferred option to refer to this set of practices, because it is the most common and inclusive concept that explicitly addresses the storytelling nature of such practice and can cover a wide range of media modalities. Based on this broad definition, some common characteristics about digital storytelling can be generalized: i) it refers to the use of digitized images, texts, sounds, and other interactive elements; ii) it usually involves service users, who are not technical experts, to share their stories with others; iii) it usually refers to a wide range of genres, such as time-based short media clips, interactive texts, and photo essays; iv) it involves user-friendly media production and editing tools, in forms of hardware (e.g., mobile phones) and software (e.g., free photo editing apps); v) it is distributed via diverse platforms, including websites, social media (e.g., YouTube), and offline screening; vi) it adopts both group and individual formats; vii) it can serve different purposes, having different program designs; and viii) it may involve facilitators using specific steps or work models. This “introductory works” section will introduce selected articles and books that can provide some basic overviews of the subject. Specific approaches, concepts, and themes will be introduced in other sections.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.