Building Digital Transformations

The agility of branding, communities and website modelling.

design and photo by david dunkley gyimah

That idea you have, that over three months will draw one full house after another, which of course no one knows yet and you’re not getting traction — how’s that working out?

Sandra Gaudenzi had an idea. It’s one not uncommon to her work organising conferences around tech, such as i-Docs, but in a new university with student cohorts stretched for time, and the unfamiliar terrain of resource logistics, would it work?

She rolled up her sleeves, sourced professionals in the industry and ran the idea through a list of colleagues.

Advice was forthcoming, but it became apparent she would be the midwife. Her course team, Massimiliano and I offered our support, from being on hand, taking cues and contributing to the event’s recordings.

With the running order dully mapped out, a free hour-talk found itself pitted against lemonade-summer weather, when frankly the best place to be was outside, or inclement Monday in which rain you’d expect would arrest anyone’s attempt to leave home.

DisLAB presents — a series of tech-minded talks with professionals talking about their work was open to the public on Eventbrite.

Then something happened. They came. Yes a moment from Field of Dreams. People came, made the speakers feel appreciated and shared ideas.

The first one, the second, the third and finally the forth - which Sandra thought would be the trickiest as it was “effectively a book launch” with her co-writers/ friends from i-Docs — no lectern delivery with a screen of knowledge.

Hannah Gelbart from the BBC showed developments in Social Media production and won over a new fan base reported here. Al Jazeera’s Juliana Ruhfus deconstructed her award winning pirate documentary.

Full house again.

Last month Stefan Laxness and Ana Naomi de Sousa from #ForensicArch provided an insight into investigative journalism through modelling and stuff you’d see in a Hollywood special effects movie.

And then the book launch, in which panelists and audience would answer the question “Why do interactive stories matter?” The response was animated and intriguing. Interactivity is as much about choices you make about yourself, a gamer recounted, which yielded thoughts of the Milgram experiment. If you were told your actions would hurt someone you didn’t know, but were told to do it, would you?

DisLAB presents had carved out a space, the semblance of brand loyalty and now could it be over?


All of this was no coincidence, the scheduling of talks that is. In our airy, white-walled office, we’ve asked various questions that frame a milestone. The end goal is a one year Masters course — a new kind of MA. “Agile business innovation is not only continuous it’s relentless”, says Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham in Building the Agile Business through Digital Transformations.

We’ve been relentlessly steering disLAB through what is a digital fusion — entrepreneurs meets academic enterprise, with the support of our faculty. The Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB is a platform of tech with story and factual narrative, with cognate fields: philosophy, sociology, history and behaviour orbiting the nucleus.

Inside that nucleus its mitochondria comprise the image microscopically inspected by Dr Massimiliano Fusari whose passion is the continual investigation of its elasticity beyond its shape and form, both pragmatically and theoretically — the meta image.

Dr Sandra Gaudenzi’s expertise brings into sharp focus a historicity of i-Docs enveloping a multiplicity of moving image forms and how artefacts and projects are guided to completion, and then there’s me, a peripatetic journalist-artist-technologist who sees the answer to future journalism’s form in the DNA strands of factual cinema and Art. It’s a construct, where filmic principles may be similar but the nuances in culture open the way for creative forms of expression.

David after presenting at SXSW

If the biological references seem over done, perhaps that’s because our coming together frames another interesting facet, that is our lab ethos writ large in our title.

The question isn’t just about equipping cohorts with skills to make it into the musical chairs of employment made available by job hopping and retirements in main stream media.

The idea is to support cohorts to ambitiously develop their interests as innovators, hence diversity of ideas and people is greatly encouraged. In his best seller Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson writes that innovation is served by connecting people in an environment that ‘expose[s] a wide and diverse sample of spare parts — mechanical or conceptual — and they encourage novel ways of recombining those parts’.

As a team we’ve come to practice what we hold dear. Hence when we’ve looked outside for answers, we’ve been able to also pull on our own resources; the disLAB conference, or a video promo are examples.

The latter was completed in five days from concept to fruition — shot on a mobile phone and drone. In the video, there are multiples assets at work.

Photos curated in a professional photographic studio, typography, MTV cuts, and a tech-aesthetic from an interactive white board. It’s as much our calling card as what awaits any potential student joining; the art of promos, alongside innovatory news-based productions.

At the final disLAB meeting, Simon P.P. Williams, COO at Mitenkai expressed the view, echoed by others, that the disLAB event could have been longer. What if we actually did that? What if we held an open day of disLAB lecturing and experimenting, taking the community we’ve come to know on a fresh journey.

The word that might come to mind is hackathon, but I see it as an opportunity for something else. If you frame a lecture or a practice, the use of practical, commercial and theoretical skills buoyed by, say, spot research yields something akin to a a lab research programme.

Imagine for instance inviting ‘thick description’ research into product building supported by classical and contemporary book club reads? Imagine leaving the lecture room for the locations to problem-solve? And then documenting them as an epic interconnected media fest. “How to be a top writer in Journalism,” I asked in a previous post after @medium informed me I was on their top writers list. That needs sharing.

Current books I’m reading

Just a thought! Again, agility and innovation last Tuesday took centre stage. Following an upbeat meeting, we needed a new website to reflect our plans and to announce to cohorts our intentions .

Five days later and a couple of death marches, hacking at HTML and CSS often from Six in the morning to One at night, I’m back in my dotcom days. The first phase of the new site is nearly ready [see screen shots below].

Meanwhile, Mass has just completed created a video presentation to the UN for one of his projects, and next week we’ll be creating a series of short videos we’re calling ‘great tips’. Sandra demonstrates how to prototype a virtual reality framework before stepping into the real thing.

That idea we had that we knew had legs. It’s starting to run. Your company would be very welcome.

To know more about the disLAB, you can find us on our twitter feed DisLAB or from our website/individual accounts at disLAB. That address will change in a couple of days when we officially launch and make the comments section active.