Digital Storytelling in Chinese Skateboarding Community

Intentional digital storytelling approach

In the meanwhile, Chinese skateboarding community as a unique subculture group inChinasurely gets attention from certain brands and companies. Since there are few non-profit organizations who advocate digital storytelling among certain communities, consequently there are not many workshops and facilitators about digital storytelling inChina, companies and brands have noticed the commercial value of skateboarding to their companies’ developments inChina, which pushes them to focus on the Chinese skateboarding community.

It is common for brands and companies to use digital storytelling as forms of promotion in the advertising and public relationships events, since it is more authentic and cordial, easily for the audience to accept and usually get good responses. Therefore, the stories of members in the Chinese skateboarding community become the best footages associating with the brand concept, certain products and services related to youth culture, facilitated by professionals, become more formal digital storytelling. Nonetheless, though the person within the Chinese skateboarding community is unchanged, with the certain theme of campaigns, he or she has to tell own stories with some changes, thus the authority and authenticity are changed.

Here is an example of a digital storytelling facilitated by Nike’s professions to advocate its brand concept”Just Do It”, the digital storyteller, Wu Yi, is a Beijing skater in the Chinese skateboarding community. As a representative in the community, Wu Yi’s life is cool in most Chinese people’s eyes, he loves skateboarding, and he is a DJ, he raises reptiles, etc. His free spirit of doing whatever they like kind of fits Nike’s brand concept, thus Nike hopes that by using him as the digital storyteller, could transmit brand value in a more effective way. However, the change of authenticity is still indicated through the clothes he wears, and the Nike Logo in the trailer.

This is another example of a digital storytelling facilitated by Meters Bonwe , a local clothing company inChina, which tries to add certain subculture elements to their brand value to attract young consumers. Yunyun Jin, aShanghaiskateboarder in the Chinese skateboarding community, narrating how his personal life changed by skateboarding, expressing his willing to advocate more people join in skateboarding culture. Likewise, he wears Meters Bonwe’s product during his narrative, and present it in the assigned time, similarly there are slogans and brand name in the trailer, which reminds the audience of the fact that it’s a commercial advertisement.

In my opinion, the collaboration of people in the Chinese skateboarding community with brands is an exchange to some extent, just like skaters hand over their authentic stories and authorize the company to adjust it, getting a framed and elaborated digital storytelling work from the brand. However, the exchange of authenticity and authority to the brand brings the Chinese skateboarding community more attentions, since these well-known brands have large amounts of budget in their advertising campaign, enabling these digital storytelling works to be available to the public, getting the community more exposures.

However, compared to those brands that interrupt directly and obviously in the digital storytelling works, there are marketing research companies like Youthology holding some focus groups to get insight of the current young people. Especially, such focus group will invite the audience to join in, listening to those young people’s life stories. Besides, the staffs of Youthology records the process of their focus groups, putting them online, shared with more people. In this meaning, the recorded story told by storyteller is a digital storytelling, since people who share in the focus group use their photos, narratives, and staffs from Youthlogy use digital camera to record and edit as facilitators. Though sponsored by company, such digital storytelling is more authentic since the marketing research company also wants to find some insight from their real life experience and stories.

Above is an example of a Beijing skateboarder, Siyu You, who narrated his love to skateboarding, shared with the audience in a certain Youthology focus group. Apparently, the digital storytelling in the focus group face the challenge of provision,

In this perspective, it is brands and companies that have noticed the influence of digital storytelling on business in China, collaborating with representatives in the Chinese skateboarding community. However, the facilitators from the companies are not those people who help “ordinary people” with creative and technique assistances tell their own stories, they just have “ordinary people” tell their brand’s story. So they are intentional to change the authenticity and authority of the digital storytelling works, making them close up to the requirements of certain advertising campaigns, and the selected skaters are aware of it, they are willing to hand over certain authenticity, to exchange for payments and a better chance to show themselves in a wider platform.

It is a shame that Chinese skateboarding community members tell their stories with less authenticity in these commercialized premises, but in the mean time, their storytelling is more organized and formal. What’s more, judging from the amounts of viewers, the digital storytelling works certainly helps the Chinese skateboarding community get more attention from the public, once it is displayed, it might well be read as standing in for wider communities rather than a representative[i], available to reach a wider audience who don’t even skate, help expanding and enriching the community in an indirect way.

Go to The conclusion


[i] Lundby, Knut. Digital storytelling, mediatized stories: self-representations in new media. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 2008. Print. 

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