Using Digital Storytelling in Participatory Research With Refugee Women


As a researcher focusing on the health and well-being of people from refugee backgrounds, I strive for genuinely participatory research approaches, and digital storytelling represents one creative and useful way to achieve this aim. Digital stories are short narratives combining images, videos, or music, and a voiceover about one’s particular experiences. I draw on my experiences undertaking a visual ethnographic project with a small group of single refugee women with children in Brisbane, Australia, to discuss some of the intricacies of using visual-based research methods in this context. There are many benefits of using digital storytelling as a research method in health contexts. Essentially, the major advantage relates to giving participants the opportunity to shape the research process and content in ways that are beneficial to them, hence facilitating a sense of agency. Researchers are mere facilitators in this participant-driven process. Concurrently, the use of this method also implies extensive time and energy so that the process is supportive and beneficial to participants, and researchers should always remain genuinely concerned about ensuring that the story that is told fits with participants’ aspirations. Another consideration involves assessing key ethical concerns that are unique to the use of digital storytelling and warrants further reflection on the part of researchers. I conclude by offering some thoughts about the nature of genuine or meaningful participation in health and well-being research to ensure that, rather than being a tokenistic notion, participation remains a central concern of the digital storytelling process from beginning to end.

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