‘I am’ Digital Story (method 5): screening and sharing as a drive to enact positive change

Presenter(s): Sarah Parsons and Samantha Holt

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Creating ‘I am’ Digital Stories with participants enables researchers to explore different aspects of people’s identities and lives, giving marginalised voices an opportunity to be seen and heard.

For participants, creating and sharing their ‘I am’ Digital Story can be an important and powerful process, enabling agency and reflection. The Stories can also provide validation for participants when their experiences and perspectives are shared and heard. For example, a ‘screening’ of the ‘I am’ Digital Story with those who know the person well can be a very positive and affirming experience. Some people may choose to only share their Story in this way and / or with a small, selected group of people. Participants can invest a significant amount of time and energy creating an ‘I am’ Digital Story and may choose to share their Story more widely, often citing the reason for sharing their lived experiences to bring about positive change within the services they use and to the attitudes of others.


Literature demonstrates that digital storytelling as a general methodological approach can promote empathy amongst viewers of the stories, for example, when younger people viewed digital stories created by older adults (Sljivic et al., 2022). Indeed, de Jager et al. (2017, p.2552) describe digital storytelling as ‘uniquely suited’ for knowledge translation since lengthy analysis is not needed before sharing with an audience: in other words, the stories ‘speak for themselves’. In our own research, the co-creation and sharing of ‘I am’ Digital Stories with participants and their advocates led to positive changes in attitudes, awareness, and practice (Parsons et al., 2021, 2022; Wood-Downie et al., 2021). This makes ‘I am’ Digital Stories an important method in building a pathway to impact in research through promoting positive changes beyond academic audiences.

It is this drive to enact positive change that we have found compels some people to want to share their ‘I am’ Digital Stories publicly at the end of a research project. Therefore, consideration should be given to what will happen to a person’s Story beyond the end of a research project i.e., whether, how and with whom it can be shared. Usually, an ‘I am’ Digital Story is owned by the storyteller so this phase of the method is about respecting participants’ wishes and supporting the self-advocacy and autonomy of storytellers in sharing the ‘self’ they would like others to see.

> A prompt sheet key questions for your own research context.

Ways to screen and share ‘I am’ Digital Stories

There are many ways in which the Stories can be shared with others and thinking about this with the participants is an important part of the methodological process. Ideally, this should not be a discussion or decision that is left to the end of the project but something that is anticipated and planned for from the early stages.

You should support participants to think about:

  • Who they would like to share their ‘I am’ Digital Story with;
  • How they would like to share their ‘I am’ Digital Story (online, in person, small group); and
  • When and where they would like to do this (time of day, specific context, location or activity).

In our work, for example, parents and staff were invited to an online screening of an entire class of children’s ‘I am’ Digital Stories created at school as part of their end of year celebrations and transition to a new school; and guests including family, friends and support staff were invited to an online screening of a young person’s ‘I am…’ Digital Story, where the Story was met with much applause and positive feedback. The Stories can also be shared more widely (subject to the appropriate consents being secured) within presentations, teaching, training, on websites, and via the UKDS ReShare service.


- Our thanks to Dr. Gil Dekel for his support in preparing this resource. 





De Jager, A., Fogarty, A., Tewson, A., Lenette, C., & Boydell, K. M. (2017). Digital storytelling in research: A systematic review. The Qualitative Report22(10), 2548-2582. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol22/iss10/3/

Parsons, S., Ivil, K., Kovshoff, H., & Karakosta, E. (2021). ‘Seeing is believing’: Exploring the perspectives of young autistic children through Digital Stories. Journal of Early Childhood Research19(2), 161-178. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1476718X20951235

Parsons, S., Kovshoff, H., & Ivil, K. (2022). Digital stories for transition: co-constructing an evidence base in the early years with autistic children, families and practitioners. Educational Review74(6), 1063-1081. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00131911.2020.1816909

Sljivic, H., Sutherland, I., Stannard, C., Ioppolo, C., & Morrisby, C. (2022). Changing attitudes towards older adults: Eliciting empathy through digital storytelling. Gerontology & Geriatrics Education43(3), 360-373. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02701960.2021.1900838

Wood-Downie, H., Ward, V. C. S., Ivil, K., Kovshoff, H., & Parsons, S. (2021). Using Digital Stories for assessments and transition planning for autistic pre-school children. Educational and Child Psychology38(3), 62-74.


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About the author

Sarah Parsons is Professor of Autism and Inclusion at the University of Southampton. She is a member of the Centre for Research in Inclusion, and Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton (ACoRNS).

Dr Samantha Holt is a Visiting Research Fellow (Psychology) at the University of Sussex. She is a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology’s Children and Technology Lab.

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