Columbia DSL
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Columbia DSL

Digital Storytelling II: Building Storyworlds the art, craft & biz of storytelling in 21c — Spring 2020

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.

The Columbia DSL brings together students and faculty from across the University along with outside practitioners to collaborate on a series of complex problems. The outputs from our classes often make their way into the world through public exhibitions, open resources and monthly meetup events at Lincoln Center hosted by Film at Lincoln Center.

The following contains details on the course as well as a series of resources that have been updated for 2020.

Digital Storytelling: Building Storyworlds
Prof. Lance Weiler
Columbia University School of the Arts
Mondays 2pm — 5pm
Office Hours: available before or after class

Welcome
Welcome to Digital Storytelling “Building Storyworlds: the art, craft & biz of storytelling.” This syllabus is intended to be a living document that will evolve over the course of the semester. In order to accomplish this we are utilizing medium.

Course focus
The democratization of the tools to create has enabled anyone to become their own media company. Disruption has ripped through the entertainment industry, challenging how things are made, distributed and consumed. But what does it take to build engaging stories in a fragmented digital landscape? What models will emerge and how can one take advantage of new opportunities?

Digital Storytelling II: Building Storyworlds examines the art, craft and business of storytelling in the 21st Century. The course takes a deep dive into theory, process and design as it combines practical experience with insight into emerging trends. A mixture of lectures, collaborative design exercises and guest speakers, Digital Storytelling: Building Storyworlds provides a detailed overview of what it takes to produce projects that combine story and tech.

Grades are based on prototyping assignments, class participation and a final team presentation based on a RFP (request for prototype) which will be provided in the four class of the semester..

The RFP and a note about the final presentation
Over the course of semester teams will work to craft a pitch presentation as well as develop a prototype that represents a moment from the experience. At the close of the class teams will pitch to a panel of industry experts. Teams will have 10 minutes to present. Full details about the RFP will be presented within class.

In this course, students will learn . . .

  1. About emerging trends and technologies and their impact on storytelling
  2. About design thinking, narrative design and simple game mechanics
  3. How shape design questions
  4. How to identify design principles
  5. Methods for feedback and critical review of interactive work
  6. Methods for scripting interactive narratives
  7. How to utilize conditional statements to craft meaningful interactions
  8. How to craft a user journey
  9. How to craft user personas
  10. How to prototype and test ideas
  11. Collaborative methods to build strong teams
  12. How to ideate, vet, package and pitch interactive/immersive concepts
  13. About emerging business models and new opportunities for reaching audiences
  14. Best practices for developing, producing and distributing interactive/immersive project
Students prepare an “Existential Haunted House” centered on Climate Change at Wildrence. In the fall of 2019 my Digital Storytelling III class collaborated with Wildrence’s co-founders Yvonne Chang and Jae Lee

Syllabus

PLEASE NOTE: The following is subject to change.

RECOMMENDED EXPERIENCES
“Sleep No More” http://www.sleepnomore.com
“Then She Fell” http://thenshefell.com

RECOMMENDED READING
While there is no required reading for the course there is a recommended reading list that works as a nice companion to the class. You can see the list at the end of the syllabus below.

CLASS #1 — Building Storyworlds (1/27/20)

Welcome and Intros
An overview of the course, how it will work and what is expected

Opening exercise
The class takes part in an opening exercise

Lecture
Building Storyworlds: the art, craft & business of storytelling in an ever-shifting digital landscape

Play Test
Browser Based Stories

Checkout
Closing remarks and assignment for the following week is given

CLASS #2 — Story Thinking (2/3/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Lecture
Story Thinking: designing for emotion and feeling

Collaborative Exercise
Surfacing Design Principles

Play Test
Narrative Based Games

Checkout
Closing remarks and assignment for the following week is given

CLASS #3 — Emerging Trends & Opportunities (2/10/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Lecture
How emerging trends are impacting film, TV, gaming and publishing

Fireside Chat
Rachel Ginsberg, Head of the Interaction Lab at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum joins us for a discussion on harnessing emerging trends.

Play Test
Mixed Reality

Checkout
Closing remarks and assignment for the following week is given

CLASS #4 — Experience Design (2/17/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Lecture
Finding the story you want to tell and crafting the world that will support it — an in-depth look at the making of Body/Mind/Change

Design Sprint
The class will be divided into teams. Each team will design and build an AI Chatbot

Overview of final pitches
An RFP (Request for Prototypes) is provided to frame what is required for the final project.

Collaborative Exercise
Rapid ideation around RFP begins

Checkout
Closing remarks and assignment for the following week is given

CLASS #5 — Frameworks for Crafting Immersive Experiences (2/24/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Lecture
Exploring Frameworks for Crafting Immersive Experiences

Fireside Chat
We’re joined by an award winning team who are developing and designing immersive experiences that mix story, play, design and code.

Framework session
Teams explore frameworks to develop their final projects

Play test
Demo and testing session

Checkout
Closing remarks and assignment for the following week is given

CLASS #6 — Story & Code (3/2/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Lecture Working with Story & Code

Fireside Chat
A conversation with Creative Technologist pushing at the edge of story and code

Workshop
Creative Code: Finding a New Grammar for Storytelling

Checkout
Closing remarks and assignment for the following week is given

CLASS #7 — Story & Play (3/9/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Guest Lecture
Narrative Design at the intersection of story and play

Play test
An opportunity to experience some games that are mixing storytelling and play

Group Work
Teams develop a “play like” experience for their final projects

Checkout
Each team will determine assignments based on what they feel needs to be accomplished. Teams also will prepare to give a status report during the next week’s check in. Status reports must include team documentation.

NO CLASS — 3/16/20 — Spring break

CLASS #8 — Field trip to an Immersive Storytelling Company (3/23/20)

Field trip to a top immersive storytelling company in NYC

CLASS #9 — Creative Producing (3/30/20)

Check in
Discussion around previous week’s assignment

Lecture
Embracing Ambiguity: How to Produce Immersive Experiences

Fireside Chat
The role of Creative Producing in emerging media

Group Work
Teams work with our guests to vet and refine their concepts through a creative producing lens.

Checkout
Each team will determine assignments based on what they feel needs to be accomplished. Teams also will prepare to give a status report during the next week’s check in. Status reports must include team documentation. We’ll also discuss logistics for the next class which will take place off campus.

Class #10 — Teams Present Prototype (4/6/20)

Class trip to a leading new media company. We’ll be getting an inside look at how a new media company operates. Please note that teams will be expected to present their work. Please be prepare to present your pitch and prototype offsite.

CLASS #11 — Disruptive Biz Models (4/13/20)

Check in
After reflecting on their prototype presentations from the week before teams give status report on final projects

Lecture
An overview of emerging and traditional business models for entertainment properties.

Fireside Chat
This week’s Fireside Chat will include experts working on disruptive business models in various industries.

Group work session
Teams work on their final projects

Checkout
Each team will determine assignments based on what they feel needs to be accomplished. Teams also will prepare to give a status report during the next week’s check in. Status reports must include team documentation.

CLASS #12 — Finding and Telling Stories with Data (4/20/20)

Check in
Teams give status report on final projects

Lecture
Finding and telling stories with data — a special look at the making of a project that tells a emotional story from over a million of points of data.

Class Exercise
Filtering and feedback loops — understanding what participants are thinking, feeling and doing.

Group work
Teams work on their final projects

Play test
Please make sure to bring a laptop and headphones. We’ll be play testing a number of projects that tell stories with data.

Checkout
Each team will determine assignments based on what they feel needs to be accomplished. Teams also will prepare to give a status report during the next week’s check in. Status reports must include team documentation.

CLASS #13 — Breaking down the Pitch (4/27/20)

Check in
Teams give status report on final projects

Lecture
Pitching and the art of listening

Special presentation on pitching
Nick Braccia (Former Creative Director at Campfire) will share his process for pitching. He has successfully pitched studios, game publishers and major brands. Nick will spend time with each team to help them hone their pitches.

Group work
Teams work on their group pitches and Nick visits each team acting as a sounding board.

Checkout
Overview of logistics for final presentations at Google. Each team will determine assignments based on what they feel needs to be accomplished.

CLASS #14 — Final Pitches (5/4/20)

PLEASE NOTE THIS CLASS WILL TAKE PLACE AT GOOGLE

Final team preparation for pitching

Teams pitch to a panel of industry experts.

Final session: Q&A with our industry experts

Stepping into a Disruptive World — what can one expect in a changing digital landscape?

Recommended Reading List

“Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free”
Author: CORY DOCTOROW Publisher: McSWEENY

“MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research”
Authors:
Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, Robert Zubek
https://users.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/MDA.pdf

“The Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Tales of Informal Ingenuity”
Authors: ALEXA CLAY & KYRA MAYA PHILLIPS Publisher: SIMON & SCHUSTER

“The Art of Immersion — how the digital generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories”
Author FRANK ROSE Publisher: NORTON

“Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals”
Authors KATIE SALEN TEKINBAS & ERIC ZIMMERMAN Publisher: MIT PRESS

“Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming”
Authors ANTHONY DUNNE & FIONA RABY Publisher: MIT PRESS

“Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries”
Author PETER SIMS Publisher: SIMON & SCHUSTER

“Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.”
Author ED CATMULL & AMY WALLACE Publisher: RANDOM HOUSE

“Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things”
Author: DAVID ROSE Publisher: SCRIBNER

These titles were pulled from a list of 41 books on story, design and play compiled by prominent and industry leaders working in film, tv, games, theater and publishing. To see the full reading list click here.

Additional resources:

List of immersive shops, creative technologists and folks who are making amazing things with story and code.

Digital Dozen: Breakthroughs in Storytelling

A gallery of projects that are innovating with story and code

View the Digital Dozen

RFP overview for final presentations at Google

Will be made available within class

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lance weiler

lance weiler

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