Training and Mobilizing Digital Storytellers with Vojo | MIT Center for Civic Media
Edward is a Civic Technology Programmer at the Center for Civic Media. He creates and maintains digital tools for enabling civic engagement and media participation.
Prior to joining the Center, Edward worked as a consultant on web development and civic technology projects in Detroit, MI. He is also a cofounder of the i3 Detroit hackerspace, and the lead developer of the Seltzer CRM hackerspace management tool. His other interests include technology-based art, machine learning, and neuroscience. Edward holds bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Physics from MIT and a master's degree in Applied Math from the University of Waterloo.
Training and Mobilizing Digital Storytellers with Vojo
In the Vojo community call on Tuesday, December 18, we invited organizations using Vojo to to share their experiences and materials for training and mobilizing new users. A few themes emerged from the discussion.
- Actively collecting stories in workshops and in the community is more effective than a simple call for submissions.
- Face-to-face instruction is helpful for new users.
- Printed, take-home guides are a good supplement to face-to-face instruction.
- Good user experience is key for retaining users.
We began with a presentation from Liz Everson of the Incourage Community Foundation. Incourage is using Vojo to collect stories from the central Wisconsin community. Incourage has partnered with a local radio station to solicit and share stories. So far, they haven't received many recorded stories, even though listeners regularly call into the station's shows. Liz suspects that callers may be less comfortable navigating an automated phone menu than talking to a live human. Incourage is seeking partnerships with additional radio stations and community groups in order to reach a wider audience. Sasha pointed out that actively going into the community to find stories and playing those can encourage listeners to submit their own.
We also heard from Anjum Ashari of REV. REV uses Vojo for youth programs in the Rockaways, NY as well as for collaborative research projects with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. They've found that holding workshops where new Vojo users work side-by-side with more experienced users is very effective and generates a lot of enthusiasm. The biggest challenge they've faced is that Vojo is still in beta, so some features don't fully work yet, and the interface hasn't been streamlined, which can be discouraging to new users. Anjum has tried to find ways to demonstrate that Vojo can still be useful. For instance, giving users printed guides to take home helps them remember how the interface works.
Our final presenter was Nicole Belanger from Cambridge Community TV. CCTV has been using Vojo as a tool for organizing citizen journalism. Recently, they've mobilized citizen journalists to gather stories on topics such as the future of Central Square, and the importance of voting to Cambridge residents. They've been very successful in training small groups to solicit story submissions from the community at large. Nicole also echoed the importance of printed guides that users can carry with them.
We were also joined by Denise from Progressive Communicators Network, who is interested in how Vojo can be used to connect communicators with activists.
The call highlighted the importance of actively engaging users, combining face-to-face instruction with take-home materials, and paying attention to user experience. We were also left with several questions to think about as the number of Vojo users grows.
- Do any other groups have stories about training Vojo users?
- Vojo makes digital media more accessible, but how can we make it more approachable?
- What are the best practices for integrating Vojo with existing media campaigns?
- How can Vojo provide a better user experience while it is still in open beta?