Columbia’s Digital Storytelling Lab Announces Annual Digital Dozen

Life after Bob

Columbia’s Digital Storytelling Lab earlier this week announced its “Digital Dozen,” its annual list of the most innovative examples of digital storytelling. Unlike other rewards programs, this one doesn’t have categories, so what you saw was a typically eclectic mix of XR, immersive theater and interactive installations, this time with some NFTs as well. But the Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards, as they’re officially called, always come with a few surprises, and this year was no exception.

DSL’s highest accolade, the 2022 Breakthrough Award, went to “Life After BOB: The Chalice Study,” a narrative animation by New York artist Ian Cheng that premiered last June at Luma Arles, a new art park in the South of France. Rather than a conventional movie or video, “Life After BOB” is built on the Unity game engine, which means it’s re-generated every time it’s released. It also means that viewers can interact with him, exploring the world created by Cheng by clicking on objects with their smart phones.

BOB is an AI, his name is an acronym for Bag of Beliefs. “The Chalice Study” – the first of several planned episodes – is the story of a ten-year-old girl named Chalice whose father, a mad inventor named Dr. Wong, implanted a BOB into his nervous system shortly after he was born. Cheng, who studied art at Berkeley and Columbia and cognitive science at Berkeley, had previously created a series of BOBs – constantly changing quasi-sensitive red spots that were displayed behind glass in art galleries in London and At New York. Presenting him with the DSL’s Breakthrough Award, Aramique Krauthamer, himself a renowned installation artist, observed that Cheng’s work “benefits from being told by someone who is not just an artist, not just a storyteller, but who has a background in cognitive science and actually created AIs.

An undercurrent of anxiety about the future was present in many of the works cited by the DSL, including not only “Life After BOB,” but also the Special Jury Prize winner, a series of generated humans. artificially called “Dates” that are currently on sale. as NFT on the OpenSea platform. Created by Ben Ditto, a journalist and creative director who lives in London, the work uses AI and cryptography to create barbed commentary on sex work and the metaverse in a future where the boundary between data and biology has been erased.

The theme of anxiety was particularly present in another work cited by the DSL, a one-on-one online theatrical experience called “TM” by the famous Belgian troupe Ontroerend Goed. When meeting someone from the “TM movement”, participants are faced with a deluge of questions and assignments to determine if they could become a member of this organization. The experience is reminiscent of the current wave of bizarre conspiracy theories such as QAnon, which argues that Donald Trump is fighting to save America from a cabal of devil-worshiping Democrats and other elites who feast on the blood of children.

The other members of DSL’s Digital Dozen 2022 are:

“Forest of Us”, by Es Devlin: A maze of mirrors draws parallels between the bronchial trees of humans and the trees that exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen in the world around us.

“Neurocracy”, by Joannes Truyens: a hypertext novel that uses articles from an online encyclopedia to tell a story of intrigue and assassination in the midst of a pandemic in the near future.

“Raining Stories”: Created by V8 Architects and storytelling experience designers Kossmanndejong, the Dutch pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai (which took place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic) was a circular climate system – a biotope – which housed a multi-sensory narrative experience that tackled questions such as, how can we make it rain in the desert?

“Breonna’s Garden”, by Lady PheOnix and Sutu in collaboration with Ju’Niyah Palmer: an augmented reality experience in honor of Breonna Taylor, the medical assistant from Black Louisville who, in 2020, was shot and killed by police in a botched drug raid.

“The Changing Same”, by Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster and Yasmin Elayat: an immersive room-scale virtual reality experience that takes you through time and space to witness historical experiences of racial injustice in the United States, ending with an Afro-futuristic world that imagines an equitable future for all.

“Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up”, from Aardman Animation and Fictioneers: Britain’s beloved claymation characters have been updated for the 21st century in a highly participatory AR adventure. Wallace and his unfortunate pooch have started a new business called Spick & Spanners; your job, as an employee, will be to help them fix the city of Bristol. Good luck!

“Lizardly,” by Kat Mustatea and Heidi Boisvert: Vincent and Rebecca’s marriage crumbles as they prepare for an impending hurricane — and if that’s not enough, they also turn into lizards. A mixed reality play that explores the effects of AI, environmental collapse, and interspecialty.

“Obsidian”, by Jónsi: When the Icelandic volcano Fagradalsfjall suddenly erupted after lying dormant for nearly 800 years, Jónsi was unable to return from Los Angeles due to pandemic travel restrictions. He therefore evoked his enormous strength through a series of installations that combined sound, perfume and sculpture.

“Otherly”: Created for Instagram Stories in a first-ever collaboration between POV Spark, the PBS showcase for independent non-fiction films, and the National Film Board of Canada, “Otherly” is a series of short documentaries on how to find your place in the 21st century.

In an online presentation moderated by DSL Founding Director Lance Weiler and Awards Director Frank Rose and produced by Aaron Matys, this year’s Digital Dozen was introduced by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design and head of R&D at the Museum of Modern Art; Jake Sally, COO of Jadu; Ziv Schneider, winner of last year’s Special Jury Prize for “Sylvia”; and Krauthamer, Executive Creative Director of Whatever. The awards themselves were created by Weiler and Takaaki Okada and co-created by the public in real time before being created as NFTs.

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