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Digital Storytelling Lab

Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab to Name 2017’s Most Innovative Examples of Digital Storytelling
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On Wednesday, April 4, Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab will announce the 2018 Digital Dozen, its curated list of the most innovative examples of digitally enabled storytelling from the previous year. The program, which takes place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, will culminate in the lab’s announcement of the winners of its Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards, given every year to the projects in any field—whether art, brand marketing, journalism or entertainment—that best exemplify the spirit of inventiveness at work today.

Special guests for the program include NOAH BRIER, co-founder of the brand storytelling platform Percolate; AMY EMMERICH, chief content officer for Refinery29; SARAH HENRY, emotional data expert and user interface strategist for the civic and government technology provider Accela; ELLEN LUPTON, curator at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and author of the new book Design Is Storytelling; KAREN PALMER, creator of the emotionally responsive video “Riot,” and KEVIN SLAVIN, TED speaker and Chief Science and Technology Officer of The Shed, the cultural center that’s being built at New York’s Hudson Yards. The evening will feature Emmerich and Henry in a wide-ranging discussion on the nature of storytelling today with Digital Storytelling Lab co-founder and director LANCE WEILER and lab member FRANK ROSE, author of The Art of Immersion and faculty director of the School of the Arts/Columbia Business School executive education seminar Strategic Storytelling. [links: https://arts.columbia.edu/strategic-storytelling and https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/execed/program-pages/details/831/SS]

Unlike other awards presentations, which are focused on narrow categories such as film or advertising, the Columbia program recognizes innovation across the broad spectrum of media that rely on digital technologies, including cinema, video, journalism, advertising, marketing, games, art, fiction and theater. “We feel that digital technology erases boundaries,” said Rose, “and we see no reason to perpetuate them.” The winner of last year’s Breakthrough Award was “The Swedish Number,” a marketing campaign for the Swedish Tourist Association that paired callers from around the world with random Swedes who had downloaded an app and volunteered to answer questions about their country. Callers might find themselves connected to anyone from a truck driver to Sweden’s prime minister.

Also included in last year’s Digital Dozen were the Laura Poitras museum exhibition “Astro Noise,” Karen Palmer’s video “Riot” and the HBO television series Westworld. In its first year, the program recognized a similarly eclectic mix of projects, among them “The Displaced,” the first virtual reality news story from The New York Times Magazine; “This Is the Story of One Block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn,” a New York magazine cover story that showed the potential for nonlinear narrative online, and “Karen,” a faux life-coach app from the UK art group Blast Theory that quickly veered into inappropriate territory. All projects can be accessed through the lab’s online gallery at http://digitaldozen.io/.

In addition to naming the Digital Dozen and hosting the Breakthrough awards, the Digital Storytelling Lab builds on a diverse range of creative and research practices to design stories for the 21st century. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Lance Weiler and other Lab members staged the world premiere of “Frankenstein A.I.: A Monster Made by Many,” a collaborative, immersive theater experience that reimagines the Frankenstein narrative through the mind of a naive, emotionally aware, and highly intelligent “life form”—an artificial intelligence. The Digital Dozen and the Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards are presented with the support of Refinery29, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Evins Communications and Collaborateur.