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updated 9/20/2012 3:18:33 PM ET 2012-09-20T19:18:33

Storytelling has been with us since gatherings around Stone Age campfires, but in recent years, it’s become an industry unto itself. Live storytelling shows are taking off like stand-up comedy nights, companies use consumer “stories” to sell products, and now it’s even possible to earn a master’s degree in storytelling.

The Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) in Berkeley, Calif., wants to further advance the art. Its concept: Storytelling with the goal of motivating, not just entertaining.  

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The center recently announced StoryLab, an initiative aimed at raising awareness and dialogue around five crisis areas it has identified as facing society today, from aging to violence. The program will emphasize creating stories using digital means, as websites like Cowbird and HistoryPin do. Those sites allow users to work with images, text and, in some cases, music to organize their stories. The project will also capture and add those stories to an online media bank. The launch is planned for 2013, corresponding with CDS’ 20th anniversary.

“People can connect with each other, find and share stories, images and movies with their friends, and create a legacy of stories for their families and friends,” said Joe Lambert, CDS founder and director.

CDS is now seeking contributions. If you give $250 or more via the center's website, you can direct that pledge to your favorite pilot project, upping its chances of getting developed first. (Contributions are tax deductible.)

Currently five pilots are in the works.

All Together Now: CDS is soliciting stories from two generations, which it will take and weave together into single stories with multiple viewpoints.

The Learning Awareness Project: Raising consciousness about violence through tales of random shootings, hate crimes and bullying.

The Desire Paths: Storytelling to encourage citizen activism.

SharedTime: Inspiring stories of volunteerism.

Fathers & Sons, Pathways to Change: Targeted stories aiming to end generational cycles of violence, with pilots in Brazil, Nepal, South Africa and the United States.

"StoryLab will show how things would change if everyone lifted their voices as citizens of the world, calling out what doesn't reflect their deepest values and standing up for what does," said Lambert. "Our motto is 'Change the story, change the world.'"

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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