Chapter 4

How do narratives and interactivity help demographically changing communities come together?

Lucia's storyIn Chapter 4 of our Global Lives Initiative, AV Lab wanted to learn how communities could use a documentary and an online storytelling platform to have a different kind of conversation about immigration. (Chapters 1-3 dealt with the trends in film storylines about changing demographics.)  Could technology, relationships, leadership, and creativity work together to shift attitudes and even policy? How can in-person and online community building complement each other? What kinds of resources do groups need to use various media strategically? And importantly, how can they — and AV Lab — tell if they’re making a difference?

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We started with the two filmmaking teams — Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng, co-directors of the feature-length documentary, I Learn America, and Theo Rigby and Kate McLean, co-directors of Immigrant Nation, an online multimedia storytelling platform. Then, using ACTivate as a planning framework, we helped two local affiliates of Welcoming America in Long Island, NY, and Omaha, NE, strategically use both projects — separately or combined — in municipal settings, schools, galleries, and public spaces where people typically gather.

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IMG_2732While AV Lab collects responses and anecdotes from the various local efforts, a small ad hoc “learning community” has formed composed of the mediamakers, journalists, grassroots organizers, and national immigrant integration leaders we have engaged in this project. That means that in addition to what we’re learning about the user-friendliness of various media formats, I Learn America and Immigrant Nation are reaping the benefit of using a long-form documentary to “hook” students, educators, and neighbors, and then steer them toward an immersive “tell your own story” experience online.

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