Ethics in DST at CPUT

This project is set at CPUT involving colleagues from the Centre for Innovative Educational Technology, Community Engagement and the Faculty of Education. We collected stories in a range of workshops with students, lecturers and community engagement people on ethical dilemmas in digital storytelling projects. From these stories we developed guidelines for teaching and learning, research and community engagement.

What skills and resources were you able to draw from the community for this project?

These guidelines are the result of a one-year consultation process at CPUT led by Ass Prof Daniela Gachago, Jacqui Scheepers, Dr Candice Livingston and Pam Sykes. It draws from lecturers’ and students’ experiences with and perceptions of digital storytelling. We also draw on our own experiences as digital storytelling facilitators and those of colleagues outside our institutions. Our thinking around the ethics of digital storytelling was shaped by the Ethics Working Group participants at the 2017 Untold Conference. In particular, this experience allowed us to recognise the many DST practices with all their different ethical concerns and encouraged us to work towards specific guidelines for higher education. A special thanks to our digital storytelling friends and colleagues Kristi Stewart, Brooke Hessler, Antonia Liguori and Michelle Van Wyk, who gave detailed feedback on these guidelines. We would also like to thank the SA Story Worker Group, who helped us think through some of our ethical dilemmas. And finally, our colleagues, students and community partners - without their passion and stories there would be no DST practice at our institution.

The challenges

Introducing DST at our institution has improved digital literacies and student engagement, provided a space for critical reflection and enhanced multicultural learning and an engagement across difference. However, adopting this sometimes emotional and process-oriented practice into an educational context, with its constraints of course objectives, assessment regimes, timetables and large classes, raises ethical concerns. We have put the personal in brackets in the above definition, as although there are some ‘flavours’ of DST which focus on the deeply personal, others, and in particular in HE, combine the personal with curriculum content. This can be where much of its power lies, in creating personal connections to curricular knowledge. This leads to a continuum of DST, from highly personal to purely content-based stories. Many of the guidelines listed below are drawn from projects that are more personal and hence more ethically charged. Thus, the guidelines below target the most ethically risky models, but will also be helpful for lecturers aiming for less emotionally charged stories, with a stronger curriculum/content focus. It’s useful to stay mindful of the fact that the personal can surface unexpectedly, even when it has not been specifically invited.

Addressing the challenges

We are hoping that these guidelines will open up a space to reflect on possible ethical questions and dilemmas academics may encounter in planning and running a DST project. We offer a list of questions or issues to consider rather than fixed solutions because context is critical: it’s important to ask the questions, but different constellations of lecturer, students, discipline and access to resources will require different answers.

The achievements

development of guidelines presentation at various conferences publications in journals and books