Columbia's Digital Storytelling Lab to Present Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards

Zoe Contros Kearl
March 11, 2019

On April 3, 2019 the Digital Storytelling Lab (DSL) will host its fourth-annual Breakthroughs in Storytelling award at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in Lincoln Center. The award recognizes the DSL’s Digital Dozen of 2019, which is “a curated list of the most innovative examples of digitally enabled storytelling in 2018,” spanning across disciplines such as “cinema, video, journalism, advertising, marketing, games, art, fiction, and theater.” Projects selected for the Digital Dozen are ones that “best exemplify the spirit of inventiveness at work today” and use digital technologies to tell powerful, timely, and immersive stories. The ceremony will also recognize winners of the Special Jury Prize.

Last year's winners include a wide ranging selection of innovative and captivating entries. 

Founded and directed by Lance Weiler, the Digital Storytelling Lab’s mission is “ to explore new forms and functions of storytelling while encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration, focused specifically on the ways in which story can be harnessed as a tool to innovate, educate, mobilize, communicate, and entertain.”

Frank Rose, a Senior Fellow at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and Faculty Director of the executive education seminar in Strategic Storytelling, is also a member of the Digital Storytelling Lab. Rose was a part of the committee that selected the Digital Dozen and the Special Jury Prize. We spoke with Rose to learn more about the upcoming award.

What criteria did the Digital Storytelling Lab have in mind for selecting the Digital Dozen?

The key criterion is innovation. Each project should represent some sort of move forward. It's not enough to tell a story really, really well in a familiar format. You have to break new ground somehow. And it has to be digitally enabled. That doesn't mean it has to be viewed through a smartphone or in a headset. It means that somewhere along the way it relies on digital technology. Then there are other questions that have to be addressed. Is the story entertaining or informative or emotionally moving? Is it effective at what it set out to do? If it’s a marketing campaign, does it increase brand awareness? Does the story invite participation? Does it engage the audience in a way that makes them more than just an audience? And most importantly, does it encourage us to immerse ourselves?

How is the Special Jury Prize different from the Breakthrough Award?

The Special Jury Prize is awarded by a—you guessed it—special jury made up of a subset of the Digital Dozen jury. Right now that jury consists of Lance and me and another lab member. The prize is a free, daylong workshop at the lab, so we try to pick the one project from the Digital Dozen that we think would most benefit from that.

The Digital Dozen awards will be announced the evening of Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65 Street
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

For more information and to view previous winners, visit