Section 2: General Safety Considerations in Choosing Technology for Storytelling and Sharing Your Stories

Unpacks the general safety and security considerations in digital storytelling.

Learning Objectives

This section aims to unpack the general safety and security considerations in digital storytelling, and to highlight strategies, tactics and decision-making points in the use of technology in the digital storytelling process.

This session will tackle the safety of the storyteller as well those in their stories, and the safety of the stories they are telling in terms of their potential impact on audiences, interested parties and authorities.

By the end of this section, the storyteller will:



The general arc of digital storytelling is to gather photos and videos, record the narration, edit the visual and audio elements together, and then share the completes digital stories with other people. In thinking about safety and digital storytelling, storytellers are encouraged to:

Thinking about safety before beginning

When it comes to safety, there are two main considerations a storyteller should think about before production begins:

Imagining the impact of the story. The storyteller has to try to foresee how the story will affect whoever sees it. In this way, they can anticipate negative responses to their story, as well as make plans to avoid potential threats from those who are negatively affected by their story. 

The Impact Field Guide has a guide to exploring a story environment for documentary films. In it, themes are categorised into four types: 

FRESH: an unknown issue to your target audience and little or weak opposition.
FAMILIAR: a known issue that still has little or weak opposition.
HIDDEN: an unknown issue (to your target audience) but with strong and organised oppositional forces may require your film to prove the case - to INVESTIGATE.
ENTRENCHED: a known issue (and so possible fatigue from target audience) with strong opposition to your story and campaign - often need to offer no more new facts or assertions but simply to HUMANISE the affected communities.

It is a good idea to have storytellers think about where their stories fall into these five types, and then start thinking about what does that mean in terms of their and their story´s safety.

Some questions for storytellers to ask themselves:


Sharing of the story: Location and people. Next, based on the previous considerations, the storyteller then can think about who they want to share their story to, and how. 

Generally, there are two ways that a digital story is distributed and shared. The most usual way to share digital stories is by uploading them on a commercial platform (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). Another way to distribute digital stories is through external storage devices (DVDs, USB sticks, external hard drives).


Safety considerations in uploading digital stories on commercial platforms

 The two main safety issues in sharing digital stories on commercial platforms are: the lack of control over the content and its ownership; and the lack of control over how the audience will react. 

This is further explored in Section 3: Safety and Online Videos


Safety considerations in sharing via physical devices

One of the biggest issues in sharing stories via physical devices is the potential for the device to be corrupted with either malware or just reach the limit of its capacity to function. It is important therefore to have multiple copies of the content being shared, and a main back-up of the final digital story.


Safety considerations in screening your digital story

Face-to-Face Screening

If the storyteller decides to hold a face-to-face screening of their digital story, the first area of decision-making is about how private or public they want the screening to be. In order to make that decision, storytellers need to think about the following:

If the storyteller feels that their stories are more controversial, will put people at risk, and / or put they themselves at risk, then they can consider doing a private screening among trusted communities instead of a public one, and to be doubly sure, have a pre-registration list vetted by people whom you trust.

The next level to think about in doing face-to-to-face screenings (both private ones and public ones) is who does the storyteller want to share their stories with. In making decisions about this, the storyteller needs to reflect on a few questions:

Safety in Content Gathering and Production

Collection of Images and Videos

A typical digital story contains images and audio narration, edited together to tell a personal story. Sometimes, the storyteller will have the means to take photos, record videos and audio. Sometimes, the storyteller will have to choose to use existing photos, video  and footage, and audio found online.


Protecting Digital Stories by Using Free to Use Content

There are some strategies and tactics to make sure that storytellers are using material for their stories that do not violate copyright laws.

For images that are free to use and adapt:

Do an advanced Google Image Search