Art inspired by Blockchain Fairy Tales a prototype by Columbia DSL

Fall 2022 — Digital Storytelling III: Immersive Production

lance weiler
Columbia DSL
Published in
6 min readSep 10, 2022


Digital Storytelling III: Immersive Production
Prof. Lance Weiler
Columbia University School of the Arts
Office Hours: available before or after class

This syllabus is a living breathing document that changes during the semester based on the needs of the class, in order to support the development of their team project. In addition the syllabus is published to medium and frequently updated throughout the semester.

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. We’ll be working together to create an immersive experience. We may also integrate a physical component within the experience however this will be dependent upon safety recommendations and protocols provided by the University.

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.

Finally, the class offers an amazing opportunity to collaborate with leading industry practitioners working in film, TV, theatre, gaming and emergent technology. Guests will join the class and become active participants in the development of an immersive experience that will be staged at the end of the semester.

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.

Industry experts join us for candid discussions about their creative practice. In addition, our guests will act as sounding boards for the class as students work to design and produce their final project.

Past speakers have included…
Matthieu Lorrain — Global Head of Creative, Google Immersive
Rachel E. Ginsberg — Director, Interaction Lab Cooper Hewitt
Fri Forjindam — Chief Development Officer, ECD MYCOTOO
Yasmin Elayat — Co-founder Scatter, Immersive Director
Loc Dao — Executive Producer, NFB Interactive
Frank Rose — author The Art of Immersion, The Sea We Swim In
Milana (Rabkin) Lewis — Co-Founder, CEO of Stem
Ted Hope — award winning producer
Christine Vachon — award winning producer

The following is a living breathing document that will change over the course of the semester.

Week 1
- Welcome, Intros & Goals
- Lecture: An introduction to Immersive Production
- Group Exercise
- Check out: Reflection and next steps

Week 2
- Check-in
- Lecture: Worldbuilding — balancing storytelling & interactivity
- Playtest
- RFP (request for prototypes) is shared and explained
- Check out: Reflection and next steps
- Story I/O collaboration opportunity is introduced

Week 3
- Check-in
- Lecture: Decentralized Storytelling
- Prototyping exercise
- Check out: Reflection and next steps

Week 4
- Check-in
- Lecture: The Art & Craft of Finding the Core
- Class starts the design process
- Team forms
- Design Constraint #1
- Check out: Reflection and next steps

Week 5
- Check-in
- Lecture: Designing for an Aesthetic
- Playtest
- Class continues to ideate
- Check out: Reflection and next steps
- Columbia DSL Meetup Opportunity

Week 6
- Check-in
- Case Study: Pulling back the curtain on an immersive production
- Work on core concepts
- Teams iterate
- Check out: Reflection and next steps

Week 7
- Check-in
- Lecture: Bridging the analog and digital divide
- Exercise: Building experiences that work for One & Many
- Playtest: the class presents their work for a small group of working practitioners
- Our guests work with the class to improve the prototypes
- Check out: Reflection and next steps

NO CLASS Monday, November 7th — academic holiday

Week 8
- Check-in
- Playtest a current Columbia DSL prototype
- Prototyping Cafe — teams continue prototyping
- Check out: next steps

Weeks 9–12
- Check-in
- Mentors/Guest Speakers based on class needs
- The class continues to prototype and test their digital storytelling experience that they’ll stage at the end of the semester
- Check out: Reflection and next steps

Week 13
- Class setups up the experience
- Guests arrive and are briefed
- Immersive experience is staged
- Guest feedback
- Open discussion on next steps and possibilities
- Check out: Final Reflections

Learning Goals
In this course students will:
- Gain an understanding of team-based emergent media production through lecture content, mentoring, and hands-on experience in the creation of a significant digital storytelling work.
- Practice critiquing digital storyworlds through regular peer review during the design, implementation and deployment of team-based works.
- Develop deeper design research and thinking methods through ideation processes in the creation of their specific piece.
- Practice digital production processes that exercise iterative testing loops, minimal viable product creation, and agile methodologies.
- Learn emergent business models and skills in order to prepare them to be adaptive leaders and team players within a constantly shifting digital media landscape.

How the course works
- Students work as a team
- An RFP (request for proposals) is presented to the team
- The RFP details a theme, location and time of a live event that will be staged at the end of the semester.
- The class works together and with mentor/guest speakers to design, build and deploy an immersive storytelling experience

Mentors/Guest Speakers
The course has mentors/guest speakers who are accessible to the students throughout the semester who cover the following subject areas…
Experience Design
Creative technology
Artificial Intelligence
Decentralized Storytelling
UX strategy & design
Service design/product development
Data Science

Course Requirements
- All skill levels are welcome and the course is open to students across the
- Students who seek to earn credit may register for independent study.
- Please note that this class is limited to 15 students and a full syllabus will be provided in advance of class.

The course provides
- An introduction to immersive storytelling through a group project that will live beyond the classroom
- An opportunity to collaborate with experts working at the forefront of storytelling, game design, immersive theatre and social impact
- An opportunity to test work outside the classroom at events such as Story I/O (a special fall gathering taking place in October) and at a series of events this coming fall at Lincoln Center

For those receiving grades, they will be based on the following…
50% collaboration and teamwork
30% based on the final project
20% based on documentation

Office hours are available upon request. They can be scheduled on Monday’s before or after class.

Class is held Mondays 6 pm — 9 pm Eastern time
Story I/O *optional opportunity
Monthly Meetups — Columbia DSL meetups *optional opportunity

Class will make use of the following…
Courseworks — course-related communication
Miro — for design and project development
Google Documents — for documenting our prototyping

Recommended Readings, Viewings & Experiences

There are no required readings for Digital Storytelling III. Instead, we recommend that you read something from the following.

For inspiration make sure to check out the Columbia DSL’s Digital Dozen gallery. For more info visit

The following episode of the American Theatre Wing’s Emmy nominated series “Working in the Theatre” features the work of Columbia DSL and our Frankenstein AI prototype. Of particular note is the Dinner with Frankenstein AI section which starts at 12:50. An earlier Immersive Production class prototyped dinner parties with AI.



lance weiler
Columbia DSL

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