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PROJECT IMMERSE a paranoid thriller set in an age of deepfakes and bots

Digital Storytelling III: Immersive Production is a mix of theory and practice. Teams of students work to design, build and deploy a digital storytelling experience that is staged for an audience at the end of the semester. The course combines project work, mentors, emerging technologies and collaborative methods to create a dynamic hands-on immersive environment that mixes story and code.

Due to Covid19 the course has been adjusted. We’ll be working together to create an immersive experience that will be staged virtually via ZOOM and Miro boards.

For the fall semester, we will be exploring experiential futures. Together the class will design and produce an immersive experience that embraces speculative design, worldbuilding, virtual placemaking and MDA theory. The theme/topic for the immersive experience will be determined at the start of the semester. In past years themes/topics have included violence within social media, biases within AI and algorithms and most recently an Existential Haunted House centered on the Climate Crisis. …

“Parking Rooms:” speculation by @Aramique and @town.and.concrete

Zoom-bodies as the perfect antidote to our challenge of creatively enabling a community of strangers to produce collective art in a two hour virtual gathering.

The following was written by Romy Nehme

From the Futures hosted its fourth global virtual gathering Thursday, May 7th. It was our sixth event (including two workshops) since the shelter-in-place orders froze all life around the globe. We started the series to shake off a feeling of collective angst we surmised might be lodged in bodies all over the world in hopes of offering a release through social dreaming and art-making.

The opening “connect” component of each gathering had validated the hunch that 150 people zooming in from different continents and time zones would be longing for that kind of interaction, but we still hadn’t cracked the code on how to get the group sufficiently warmed up to really explore creating collective art pieces, landscapes from near and distant futures vivid enough to make us want to take up residence there. …

Continued experiments in prototyping futures to understand our present

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Sampling of submissions by From the Futures collaborators

The following post was written in collaboration with Romy Nehme of Beautiful Seams.

When we step back and look at what is surfacing within the From the Futures project, we’re struck by the shared ethnography of a unique moment in history. This was especially evident as we entered our “Food From the Futures” session on April 23rd. Like many things in the world at the moment the subject of food is ripe with memories, longings and a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds.

Prior to the event we asked over 800 collaborators from more than 40 countries to share their relationship to food during COVID19. We received stories, photographs and recipes from around the world. …

A rich media moodboard with video, animate gifs, photos and more — created with Miro

Cursors frantically dart across the screen like a swarm of ants. There is a level of confusion at first as everyone attempts to get their bearings. Over the next 20 minutes, participants will be working together in silence to shape a number of possible futures. It is a symphony of chaos and friction as over 120 people from around the world attempt to map uncharted territory.

Welcome to From the Futures, a bi-weekly series of virtual gatherings with skill-based workshops sprinkled in between sessions. A collaboration between Columbia DSL, Fake Artists, Minkowski and Beautiful Seams, the initiative explores prototyping futures in order to make sense of our present. …

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A participant carries an IoT enabled lantern and wears Bose AR glasses during the New York Film Festival premiere of The Raven

The following “how-to” was written by Peter English and centers on the making of The Raven. Drawing from over 50 works by Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven invited 24 guests at a time to explore a darkened early 19th Century Mansion. Each guest was given an enchanted lantern, powered by the Internet of Things, and a pair of Augmented Reality glasses to guide their way. The Raven premiered at the New York Film Festival prior to launching a month-long run.

“The term “immersive” is like a big tent, it contains many disciplines. “When we use the word immersive, we mean embodied, interactive, connecting experiences,” says Kathryn Yu, Executive Editor of No Proscenium: The Guide to Everything Immersive. These experiences can include everything from VR and AR, to theme parks, commercial activations, escape rooms, and interactive theater. …

Experimenting with virtual connection in a time of physical distancing

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Snap Camera enables AR filters and animations within Zoom


Until recently video conferencing was something that one avoided. However in this time of physical distancing what was once a secondary form of communication has been thrust to the forefront. At Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab (aka Columbia DSL) we’ve been using Zoom for a few years in a variety of ways. From online courses to global design challenges to social games and workshops, we’ve harnessed a variety of features found within the platform.

We’ve seen an explosion of virtual events since much of public life has migrated online. Most of the events we’ve noticed fall into one of two categories: conference and talks — where the audience can participate mostly through text based chat, and social gatherings like happy hours, dinners and dance parties — which have been used to keep people connected. We were interested in designing a third kind, somewhere in between: a gathering where people can come together and experience the warmth of a large group with the intimacy of having meaningful interactions with strangers, wrapped in an opportunity to learn, do and share. …

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Storefront at 359 Canal St. Part of OnCanal an initiative by Wallplay

Last year at the Tribeca Film Festival something mysterious took place at 359 Canal Street. …

“Why Tesla’s Cybertruck captures the hearts of millennials” — a look at an obsession with low ploy

Last semester Professor Robert J. King and I co-taught a course at Columbia University on New Media Art designed to mixed theory and practice. For the final assignment, the class created a Medium publication titled “Emergent Concepts in New Media Art.”

Each student wrote an article for the publication consisting of a thousand-word text exploring a concept of their choosing, either from the existing literature covered within class or of their own creation.

Students concepts were illustrated with examples from at least two new media artworks, one of which had to be outside of those studied in this class. To that end, their article needed to be designed dynamically, illustrated with embedded videos, images, gifs, etc., …

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Prototyping with the Internet of Things

This marks the ninth time that I’ll be teaching Digital Storytelling II, a course I developed in 2011. The class gave birth to the Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab (Columbia DSL) as well as helping to inform a new MA in emerging media that mixes theory and practice. We now offer Digital Storytelling I, II, III and New Media Art and soon the offering will expand with additional courses plus Executive Education and Master Classes.

Over my time at Columbia I’ve experimented with creating a lab based atmosphere on campus and within our classrooms. This is directly informed from my time spent helping to design and/or mentor at labs for organizations such as Sundance, Tribeca, Microsoft, PBS, Refinery29, the World Economic Forum, and UNICEF among others. …

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Colony Sound is a multi-room installation by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe

The following is a list of 50 immersive things from 2019 that mix storytelling, performance, play, design and code.

Big thanks to everyone who helped with suggestions! A group of working practitioners from around the globe shared the projects that moved them, stood out and were something that shouldn’t be missed. You can see the list of contributors who made recommendations at the end of the article.

UPDATED December 20th — A few submissions came in late and have been added to the list.

The following are in NO particular order

Spectre Project — Bill Posters & Daniel Howe

“Famous people will say anything these days. Mark Zuckerberg admitting to abusing Facebook users’ information, or Kim Kardashian chatting about manipulating public data for money is a little unexpected though. …


lance weiler

Storyteller working with Code - Founding member & Director of the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab - curates @creativemachines

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