Storytelling in the new Digital Renaissance

A vision of Science, Art and Technology for Cultural astronauts

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Great storytelling is the cornerstone of successful people and how they’re able to captivate us. Engaging stories move people, influence what we buy, and drives businesses. Branson, Beyonce, Obama, Rowling, Neistat, Sandberg and Jobs have equally mastered a spectrum of techniques and emergent technologies to leverage their reach and utility.

Learning artistic practices, digital skills, coupled with neuroscience approaches is a prerequisite for crafting well designed stories which carry broad emotional connections and deep audience’s appeal. Marshall McLuhan who said the ‘medium is the message’, understood before his time how Snapchat would alter the perception of content. Perception is probably the right word as there are core characteristics of storytelling that are unique across any platform, such as plot, characters, exposition, and restoring equilibrium.

McLuhan also understood how art too was advanced knowledge for extracting social meaning from the next technology. Many can snapchat, bur few master it in a way that makes it irresistible — electronic art.

Digital and interactive storytelling is viewed as an emerging and fast growing field, but is it mutton dressed as lamb? Is it just siphoning content through the net, distributing it as ones and zeros? Is it an illusion? I see it as analogous to the ferment of radical ideas towards tackling, say, climate change with new alternative technologies, compared to reviving non-sustainable solutions to carbon fossil consumption. Yet it is also the electronic DNA which skilfully woven into the Bayeaux Tapestry of traditional practices guides them in realising new potentials and goals.

It is a science involved in the testing of rational hypothesis towards reality and an art that interrogates science and tech’s deterministic logic to find creative expressions in the truth. It confronts cultures acknowledging universal story principles, but that rules and styles differ from East to West, North and South. My Ghanaian heritage exults me with here memories.

From the multiplicity of online digital communications; a matrix of media forms encapsulating journalism, interactivity and data, to social media activism, enterprising documentary, contemporary image making and mobile content entrepreneurs — the story, its discursive narratives and delivery forms, is a critical skill.

Society has moved through iterations of communication renaissances, namely the alphabet; Gutenberg’s movable type; ARPANET, the proto web; the Internet, its shared hypertext and interactivity of the 1990s, and now the augmented, simulated and virtual realities embracing new visions that include VR and AI. In digital storytelling, innovate or atrophy is the strong mantra within our agile economies.

Luca Giordano’s 17th century masterpiece seeped in Greek mythology is equally an exemplar of prototypical multimedia on a 2D planar . Look carefully and there are multiple stories occurring in the frame. Three hundred years later, this photo taken at the BBC captures invited multimediasts engaged in harnessing future media and laying foundations for new myths, which Carl Sagan describes as “the inherited memories of a race”. 3D, mobile, and virtual and beyond is now the rage. I am there literally in the photo. How many others spot themselves?

A year ago, as university lecturers and professional media makers, we pondered the achilles in modules and study programmes and how we could further enrich the student experience. To quote the Canadian Hockey Player Wayne Gretzky who said “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be”, we asked you, and this led to the launch of disLAB.

disLAB, an acronym for digital and interactive storytelling lab, is an exciting new course designed for the inquisitive and curious MA student interested in problem-solving within the new, as well as transforming industries, whilst future gazing their contributions for tomorrow.

Graduates who are committed to a new journalism, activism, the Meta Image in storytelling (what comes after the image?); i-Docs, the exploration of interactive narratives in media; and Cinema Journalism, my discipline, which mines ideas and practices beyond nominal documentary and videojournalism using world cinema.

disLAB mirrors an agency rooted in academic enterprise, where experimental practices are framed by adaptive theories and nimble hybrid productions. Delivered by experts who’ve shared international stages, for instance presenting at Apple, to the UN, and large interactive symposiums e.g i-Docs, our team have fashioned their craft skills for an intimate environment bringing the student closer to shared knowledge.

Their work is both an a public exhibition of them, as well as one of the currencies for their cohorts to examine and build upon, such as this promo made of their course, on a mobile in a couple of days.

I am deeply grateful to former students who speak warmly of mine and my colleagues methods and delivery of blended and multiple teaching methods, how we frame problems in practice-based projects, supported by our PhD research philosophies, which enables theories in trend extrapolation.

From launching the disLAB presents, a conference tech hub where professionals from the BBC, Al Jazeera and Forensic Architecture shared intimate details of their work, to collaborative associations with industry which impact the confidence of cohorts, disLAB’s ambition is to embrace technologies brilliant white heat with a vision to be with like-minded cohorts, students and collaborators in the lead for storytelling in the digital age.

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Please join us, whether as collaborators or next cohorts. We’re currently running a free workshop. Here, for more information

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David with team members D Sandra Gaudenzi and Dr Massimiliano Fusari

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah, a designer, digital entrepreneur, and digital journalism cum filmmaker is a graduate in Chemistry and Maths. He’s been in the media for for almost thirty years in several roles, such as as journalist for the likes of the BBC, ABC News and Channel 4 News. An Artist in Residence at the acclaimed Southbank Centre, and member of the UK’s leading think tank Chatham House since 1994, his doctorate pushes against the moving image, particularly video journalism, in its historicity and meaning making, and evolution of different forms. A recipient of several international awards, he publishes the Knight Batten viewmagazine.tv He leads the disLAB.

Written by

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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