Digital Storytelling Lab to Present Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards

March 28, 2018

On April 4th, 2018 at 6pm, the Digital Storytelling Lab (DSL) will host its third-annual Breakthroughs in Storytelling award at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in Lincoln Center. The award recognizes the DSL’s Digital Dozen of 2018, which is “a curated list of the most innovative examples of digitally enabled storytelling in 2017,” 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.


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. 



A more light-hearted question: Have you watched the BBC show, Black Mirrors? If so, what are your thoughts?


I love Black Mirror. Did you see the Cambridge Analytica episode? Just kidding. But seriously, I think it’s a brilliant satire of digital society as it exists next week. My favorite episode is “Be Right Back,” the one where Domhnall Gleeson runs out for an errand and is killed in a car crash, and his grieving lover ends up bringing him back as a bot. She didn’t want to, and yet she did want to, desperately. Spoiler alert: Not everything goes as she might have hoped. 



What are other upcoming events for the Digital Storytelling Lab?


Our biggest project is Lance's Frankenstein AI: A Monster Made by Many. It premiered at Sundance in January, and is a collaborative, multi-year project that reimagines the story of Frankenstein through the lens of a naive, emotionally aware, and highly intelligent “life form”—an AI. It’s meant to provoke conversation about AI and what it means to be human. But more than that, the long-term goal is to develop a process that will help to humanize algorithms, and combat algorithmic bias—which is an increasingly obvious challenge around the world.


The winner of the 2018 Breakthrough Story Award will be announced April 4th, 2018 at 6pm at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in Lincoln Center. Drinks will be served afterward.


With special guests Amy Emmerich, Chief Content Officer of Refinery29, Sarah Henry, emotional data expert, and Ellen Lupton,author of Design Is Storytelling, Kevin Slavin, TED speaker and CSTO of The Shed, Karen Palmer, creator of the emotionally responsive video RiotNoah Brier, co-founder of Percolate, hosted by Lance Weiler and Frank Rose of the Digital Storytelling Lab.


Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

144 West 65 Street

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

6:00pm doors open | 6:15 program begins

8:15-9:30 reception



For more information and to view previous winners, visit