Bit Camp for Storytellers

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday February 27, 2014

Two weeks ago artist and illustrator Ellen Weinstein contacted me regarding a week long program she is participating in at Columbia University. Basically the event kicked off with a day of Experiments in Digital Storytelling last Saturday. Storytellers, journalists, designers, engineers, architects, hackers and makers came together to explore a new grammar in storytelling. Ellen is one of the storytellers.

So I asked Ellen to tell DART subscribers more about the program, which culminates with a presentation this Saturday that is open to the public. Information. This is what she wrote.

I was invited by The Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a joint venture between Columbia and Stanford Universities, to participate in the “Bit by Bit” conference as a storyteller. “Bit by Bit” pairs seven well-known storytellers with seven well-known technologists to create something new—perhaps a story, a platform to make stories—it’s very open ended. The only constraint is time, essentially two days to create, with the results of the collaborations being presented to the public on Saturday, March 1. The event is based on the Seven on Seven hackathons by Rhizome, an organization that combines emerging artistic practices with technology.

Ellen Weinstein, Parenting (detail)

On the first day of the program, a marathon hackathon last Saturday that ran from 9am to midnight, I served as a mentor to one of the student teams. The participants were Columbia students, filmmakers, journalists, photographers, interaction and game designers, and multi-media artists. The day was spent generating ideas and building a prototype for a new way of telling stories. The teams then competed for a cash award and a spot in the March 1 event.

The team I worked with consisted of a journalist from Brazil, a journalist originally from Entria, Africa, and a multi-media artist from France. Their idea was to create an app that would aggregate stories and images of protests from around the world in real time. My role was to guide them and ask probing questions to focus their thinking. The emphasis was on process and exploring possibilities, which is what I expect from my collaboration with NYPL Lab today and tomorrow.

I was informed this week that I have been paired with the New York Public Library Lab team for the two-day workshop. This for me is a match made in heaven as I have logged many hours looking at the NYPL Digital Collections under the guise of research. I will be working with the team of six, who cleverly composited their faces into one profile picture for the event website.

Technology and storytelling are part of our everyday lives, and feed back and forth into each other. As an illustrator, I’m looking forward to exploring different media and new platforms for storytelling. In many ways, this is part of a larger conversation happening in the industry as illustration continues to not only thrive in print but expand to many other areas as well.

Saturday, March 1. The Brown Institute for Media Innovation/Columbia University presents: Bit by Bit: Experiments in Digital Storytelling, with Storytellers Vito Acconci, Diana Balmori, Nina Berman, Joel Gibb, Nicholas Lemann, Asim Rafiqui, and Ellen Weinstein. Lecture Hall, Floor 3, Pulitzer Hall, Columbia University, 2950 Brodway, NY, NY. Information. Free/RSVPrequired.

Ellen Weinstein is a New York-based illustrator whose work has been recognized by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts Illustration Annual, Print’s Regional Design Annual, Society of Publication Designers, and The Art Directors Club. Ellen exhibits her work in local New York galleries as well as galleries in the US and Italy. She lectures and conducts workshops in various art schools and internationally and is an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. Ellen is the President of ICON8, The Illustration Conference that will be held July 9-12, 2014 in Portland Oregon. Blog. Read her DART Q&A here.