How We Run Our Future Lab in Pictures. Problems without borders.

Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah
Mar 1 · 7 min read

We watch the scene in Interstellar. Great film. You know the one. This above. Welcome to Emerging Journalism or what others call the Future Story Lab.

We figure this is a rare interdisciplinary programme bridging storytellers, tech-data people, creatives and entrepreneurs in the same space, in a university working with industry.

That scene! The question why the world doesn’t need more engineers is relevant to the film’s plot. Food is in short supply. It’s what is needed. What about “the world doesn’t need more traditional journalists?” It’s a rhetorical question, yet let’s humour it for a while.

  1. AI is the rear mirror that will automate some journalism jobs ahead.

Hence there’s room for either a new form of 2030 journalist — an interdisciplinary storyteller. The term given to such actors is multi-hyphenated. Management consultancy PCW and linkedin tell us what the in-demand skills are in the 2020s.

  1. Creativity

So we invite a group that are interested in creativity and building things; they are interdisciplinary. They may not even know yet. But if you have that streak it’s a blast. By the time you’ve finished the 10 week ( 4 hour a week) programme you might not have built a new VR environment, but you’ll be a cognitive gymnast. Just like Fermi’s problem solving approach, you’ll be able to use analogous thinking to solve complex problems. This is our approach.

That’s Tramshed’s Innovation Manager, the brill Jess Phillips who we’ve partnered with. Thanks Tramshed.

That’s JT and I on the right below. We’re the lecturers, though we don’t like using that term, because this a collaborative ideas space. The drawing on the right was an unexpected gift from one of the students. More on that in a min.

We’re looking to help foster T or Pi -people. T/ Pi-people have a skillset that runs deep in one area with broad wider interests atop.

They debunk the understanding that being a specialist is key to solving varied real world problems. You can find more of this in Range by David Epstein.

Steve Jobs was your archetypal T/Pi -person visiting art galleries for inspiration that prompted thinking across domains.

Our hack approach has deep roots in experimenting and that’s what we like to share. In 2005 it led to me receiving an award for innovation in journalism from one of the US’ respected bodies, J-Lab the Knight Batten Awards.

There are similarities in what we do with any number of institutions like the BBC which runs regular hacks which we’ve participated on over the years, like the one below (see here).

But there are differences. We ask you to engage in the pathways in problem solving, and presenting, but also in the storytelling ( similar to what you’re reading now or the story above. Also we have mentors that will guide you. Mentors are the unsung heroes of learning.

Thanks to Robin and Thom and BBC Lab judges for letting our students participate in the BBC Hack in December 2020. One of the BBC’s senior designers texted me and said this:

‘Your team did well in the hack. Well done. If I were in your team, that could be the real thing. Are they all your students? Very talented’

Competing against revered companies like the FT and veteran international news innovators the students received an honourable mention for “Best User Experience!” for the concept of hyperlinking radio called Mojomec.

Imagine listening to the radio and controlling the output with your voice. “Er Mojomec, could you go back 10 seconds?”

We aim for broad collaborations in human centred design thinking and problem solving, breaking down epic ideas into smaller ones quite quickly!

We encourage the idea of the “we” principle. Another word might be diversity in kind and thought and we share skill sets like resilience.

That’s Robin Moore (below right) one of our mentors. Until recently he was the head of tech at BBC Wales. Toby, bottom right, is a 24 year-old genius in AI and devised a new tech solution that writes automated copy for tweeter and advertisers. Then there’s Derek building a new global platform.

We’ve developed an approach to problem-solving — a guide called STACKED that underpins the program. It merges multiples disciplines from both lecturers across maths, dotcoms, art, tech, economics, news, docs, storytelling, cinema journalism etc..

It’s helped students take ideas and develop them swiftly. On the right below are some of those ideas. From a mood app, educational training app to a new saving system for those who don’t traditional save with banks. Our student pitched this to a VC after it caught his attention.

We set up a similar system at a previous university and Nick Pollard was so excited to see what the students were doing he agreed to be one of our mentors. The Guild of Entrepreneurs — one of London’s most dynamic gatherings of successful businessmen and businesswomen mentored students.

Here’s some of the feedback from students…

Here’s what other students said in the art of storytelling

When we first launched the programme couple of years back, students presented their work in a show we devised called the ‘Angels Table’. Nasma (middle) built a mobile prototype game, the Journey, with help from her mentor Stephen Wheatley and a creative agency.

You can find more of the Journey here, but here’s her promo too. Nasma is now part of Clwstwr’s programme in Wales developing her idea.

We’re really proud of our mentor partnership. Frankly every student should have a mentor. To say thank you to our mentors we do a gift-giving scheme. It comes from 19th century practice in Paris. Students are not allowed to buy their mentor’s a gift. It must be something they’ve thought through for their mentor to thank them for their coaching. It fosters humility, empathy, as well as a critical awareness.

Bowen on the right (below) now works at HSBC as one of their global stars. Her gift to Lee her mentor was a series of professional portraits. Lee is the CEO/founder of Octo 8 and a member/ former Master of the Guild of Entrepreneurs. Stephen Wheatley, not in this photo; thank you too.

Thanks for reading. Here’s some more on me in the link here which includes comments from people I’ve produced like Jon Snow. I run the lab with JT, please, leave a message, do get in touch, so we can collaborate.

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Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah

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Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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