“What makes a great story?” I am currently investigating the answer to this research question as a full-time doctoral candidate (ABD) at York University in the York and Ryerson Joint Program in Communication and Culture. My dissertation is focused on understanding the impact and potential of digital storytelling as a social change strategy. Digital stories are usually created in a video format, but can be created with any digital format, or tool, such as a cellphone camera, a web-based story, and so forth. The stories are often about personal, lived experiences, and some digital storytelling workshops focus on advocacy, for example, so that the resulting digital stories from a group can be shared together to influence public policy.

Since January, I have been conducting in-depth video-elicitation interviews over Skype with key informants working in the arts, health care, social services, and digital storytelling facilitation sectors. The interviews begin with viewing three digital (video) stories created by young adults who ‘aged-out’ of foster care and are starting their independent journeys to adulthood after foster care.

In the summer of 2017, I had an opportunity to co-facilitate three digital storytelling workshops in Toronto, Moncton, and Winnipeg, with youth who were adopted, or in foster care. Facilitators from the Adoption Council of Canada, CAMH, and a digital storytelling lab at Guelph University assisted the youth with creating a video-based story about their adoption, and/or foster care experiences.

My interest in this research topic is three-fold: I have lived experience as an adoptee; I am a digital media artist and have created artistic works in video installations and documentary video; and I am interested in learning about interdisciplinary adult perspectives on digital stories to study the impact of this medium on their work.

Map of interview locations since January 2019.

The results of this study will be shared widely, and primarily with: the youth participants who created the videos, with adult participants in this study who are interested in reviewing a summary of the study, with my dissertation committee, and with research partners at the Adoption Council of Canada, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I hope that this research will increase awareness about the experiences that youth in the Canadian adoption and foster care system face, as well as provide insights on the diverse perspectives and similarities across professions, on the medium of digital storytelling as a platform for this population of youth storytellers.

Dissertation Committee


Dr. Sarah Flicker, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning & Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Committee Members

Dr. Allison Crawford, Psychiatrist and Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, and Director of the Northern Psychiatric Outreach Program and Telepsychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Dr. Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof, Assistant Professor, School of Image Arts, Ryerson University

Dr. Steve Bailey, Graduate Program Director, York & Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, and Faculty of Humanities, York University