Culture Hacker

Bridging the gap between storytelling and technology. by Lance Weiler

  • VidCon (Photo by Lance Weiler) VidCon (Photo by Lance Weiler) YouTube, We’re Watching You

    As I pull up to the front of the convention center, a man in a fluorescent vest struggles with some orange cones. I roll down my window to see if there is room in the parking garage, but before I can ask he says. “We’re full. Twenty thousand people, too many cars. Welcome to VidCon.” As I try to talk, the long line of vehicles behind me begin to honk. Drowned out, I drive off. It was only five years ago that more than 1,400 YouTube creators and fans crammed into a hotel in Century City, Los Angeles. The first…  Read more

    On Jul 17, 2014
  • Book one of Penguin's Lyka's Adventure series Book one of Penguin's Lyka's Adventure series Rewriting with Rapid Prototyping

    In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be in Australia traveling the country with a small plush connected toy named Lyka. A robot scientist with a big heart, Lyka is from another planet decimated by climate change. Sent to Earth in a last desperate attempt to save her home, she relies on students to help her travel the globe. Together, the students and Lyka explore Earth as they search for insight that prevents her planet from dying. At its core, Lyka’s Adventure mixes purposeful storytelling and play. The project strives to teach 21st-century skills by utilizing collaborative problem solving, rapid prototyping,…  Read more

    On Apr 28, 2014
  • The Kano computer The Kano computer Plug and Play

    We are in the middle of a hardware revolution. Inexpensive processors, memory and sensor technologies are now accessible to the masses. Long gone are the days of expensive fabrication and manufacturing processes. Maker culture and crowdfunding have ushered in a new cottage industry of manufacturing, one that enables entrepreneurs to go direct to consumers. As a result, innovation is pouring out of garages, basements, bedrooms and makerspaces around the world. My favorite hardware innovation of the last year is a latecomer. Just last month, a startup named Kano launched a crowdfunding campaign for a $99 computer aimed at teaching kids…  Read more

    On Jan 17, 2014
  • Cronenberg 21st Century Writer’s Room

    The last few years have seen a rise in filmmakers who are extending the stories they tell beyond a single medium. At the same time, festivals, schools and organizations are starting to nurture work that mixes story and code. Tribeca has a program called Storyscapes, which highlights new trends in digital media and recognizes cross-platform approaches to story creation. While Sundance’s New Frontier section has highlighted experiments in storytelling since 2007, they recently added a Story Lab to help incubate forward-thinking, platform-agnostic projects. At Columbia University, where I teach, we are in the process of developing a digital storytelling lab…  Read more

    On Oct 23, 2013
  • Visualized through data: a childhood in foster care. Visualized through data: a childhood in foster care. Turning the Tables

    Nervous laughter fills the air as a box of surgical masks is passed. Everyone is instructed to take one and place it over their mouths. With masks in position, the group of 12 is quickly ushered into an elevator. After a few moments there is a jolt — the doors open and everyone slowly funnels out. The seventh floor of the New School has been transformed into a sci-fi world. Debris covers the ground, and strange sounds echo down the halls. A lone girl staggers forward, her face concealed by a long mane of black hair. With head hung down…  Read more

    On Jul 18, 2013
  • POD_angle3_RGB Pod Wants to Know You

    Cinematic innovation is often driven by creative needs. The desire to help viewers connect to stories has resulted in the development of new camera systems, visual effects processes and advancements in audio capture and presentation. Stanley Kubrick’s determination to shoot by candlelight, in order to be authentic to the 18th-century setting of Barry Lyndon, birthed the Zeiss high-speed prime lens. A frustration with the state of theatrical sound in the early 1980s inspired George Lucas to develop THX to ensure pristine audio playback in theaters. When James Cameron wanted a realistic look for Pandora in Avatar, he innovated “performance capture”…  Read more

    On Apr 23, 2013
  • An architect's projection of the IFP Made in NY Media Center An architect's projection of the IFP Made in NY Media Center Story as Software

    We are swimming in a sea of data. In 2012, Facebook passed the one billion-user mark, 48 hours worth of new video was uploaded to YouTube every minute and Apple received their one-millionth app submission while the Android store listed more than 600,000 apps with more than 20 billion installs. These stats represent an incredible amount of online activity with a decent percentage attributed to a rise in smartphone and tablet usage. Fame and riches await those who can effectively capture and monetize even a small percentage of this activity. In April, Facebook announced that they were acquiring Instagram, a…  Read more

    On Jan 29, 2013
  • code2 Creative Code

    Developing an understanding of code is a valuable skill. In fact its now a 21st century storytelling reality. While it’s not critical for you to rush off and learn how to code, it wouldn’t hurt to become more familiar with the terminology, process and realities of producing digital / interactive projects. As filmmakers expand their work beyond a single screen new roles such as creative technologists are emerging to bridge the gap between tech and story. The role has been adapted within ad agencies, interactive firms and media companies as a way to plan and execute digital strategies. At the…  Read more

    On Jan 8, 2013
  • twine620x349 Twine Unboxing

    Last year I wrote about Twine, an easy-to-use sensor kit that broke out on Kickstarter by raising 1,500% over their initial ask. The interest in Twine was so strong that their goal of $35k ended up bringing in over $500k. The concept taps directly into the “internet of things,” where interactions involving everyday objects are given a voice. Since contributing to the project, I’ve been waiting anxiously for my Twine to arrive. In December, it finally came and I immediately put it to work in a storytelling context with my students at Columbia University. Listen to your world talk to…  Read more

    On Jan 2, 2013
  • Culture Hacker: Is Story Simply a Utility?

    Ext: Night – Suburban Cul-De-Sac – In the not-so-distant future  Welcome to the quintessential suburban neighborhood — manicured lawns, two cars in each driveway and a bluish hue flickering from each window. Inside, families watch screens in a state of entertainment bliss, enjoying vast catalogs of content as they shop to their hearts content inspired by what they see onscreen. For well over a decade, this has been the dream of cable, telcos and satellite companies. The promise of merging the best of what the Internet and TV have to offer has been attempted by players big and small — as…  Read more

    On Nov 1, 2012