Welcome to Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things

They resemble a line of ants transporting food back to a colony. Some carry rolls of tape, others clutch massive reams of butcher paper and a select few are the keeper of the scissors.

Over a 100 people follow me out of the National Stadium located in Warsaw. We’re on a collective mission. Over the course of 90 minutes the group will create a massive crime scene complete with victims, killers and motives. Together they will transform into a collaborative Sherlock Holmes as they scour through clues and attempt not to containment their crime scenes.

Welcome to Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things, a prototype of the Columbia Digital Storytelling Lab that experiments with shifts in authorship and ownership of stories while exploring the ethical and political implications of IoT (Internet of Things). For the last 10 months, Nick Fortugno and myself have staged meetups throughout NYC. A steady stream of storytellers, game designers, hackers, makers and fans of Sherlock Holmes have flowed through the meetups, in an attempt to reimagine the works of Sir Arthur C. Doyle. From a few hours to full day sessions – we’ve designed, built and prototyped the foundation that will be used to stage a series of connected crimes scenes around the world later this fall.

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“The Power of Immersive Media” featured in strategy+business magazine 

Digital Storytelling Lab member Frank Rose has published a feature-length essay in the spring issue of strategy+business, the global business quarterly, on immersive storytelling as a tool for brand marketing. Titled “The Power of Immersive Media,” the article defines immersion as “the process of losing oneself in a fictional world” and traces its evolution in history from the 17th-century adventures of Don Quixote (who went tilting at windmills because he’d lost his mind from reading too much) to the 21st-century development of virtual reality devices such as the soon-to-be-introduced Oculus Rift. In addition, the article summarizes recent neuroscience and cognitive psychology research suggesting that storytelling in general, and immersive storytelling in particular, is more effective at changing people’s opinions than traditional advocacy messages such as advertisements.

Rose, a frequent speaker at film festivals and marketing summits, is the author of The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories. He teams with marketing expert and Digital Storytelling Lab member Paul Woolmington to lead DSL’s executive education seminar “Digital Storytelling Strategies,” a full-day program that’s co-sponsored by the Columbia University School of the Arts and Columbia Business School. “The Power of Immersive Media” documents and expands on much of the content of the exec ed session.

The full article is available for download. And feel free to share the infographic below, which presents the main themes of the article in capsule form.

To view the full infographic click the image below



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“The Power of Immersion” by Frank Rose is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Based on a work at

Sherlock Holmes IoT featured by World Economic Forum

Digital Storytelling Lab director Lance Weiler recently had work presented at Davos. The following post along with a new report on The Business of Creativity was released by the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering. Weiler spent the last three years on a steering committee for the WEF focused on Norms and Values in Digital Media.

Sherlock Holmes IoT holds monthly meetups throughout NYC and in other parts of the world. If you’re interested in holding a meetup in another city please contact us.

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In 1887, an eccentric detective named Sherlock Holmes appeared in print for the first time. A literary creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes and his companion Dr Watson captured the imaginations of readers and quickly grew in popularity.

Fifty-six short stories and four novels later, Doyle’s work has seen numerous adaptations. From films to television to stage plays, Sherlock Holmes has stood the test of time. But beyond the fiction, Doyle’s stories have had a lasting impact on the way that crimes are solved. Holmes’ obsession with protecting crime scenes from contamination and his use of chemistry, ballistics, bloodstains and fingerprints helped to shape what we now consider to be the foundation of forensics – an interesting case of story driving innovation and fiction influencing fact.

Motivations are at the heart of storytelling. They fuel characters and propel plotlines forward. However, somewhere along the way the desire to commercialize stories gave birth to formats, running times and platforms. As theatre owners realized that audiences considered the length of a film a measurement of quality, works with longer running times replaced short form. Feature films meant that audiences could be charged higher ticket prices and distribution platforms were established to exploit the emerging opportunity. But the length of films hit a threshold as theatres implemented intermissions to account for the audiences’ own physical limitations. Alfred Hitchcock would famously say decades later, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

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Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things

On September 28th, a group of 25 storytellers, game designers, developers, makers, academics, and students came together for our Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things launch event. Over the course of the day teams explored ways to re-imagine the world of Sherlock Holmes.

Starting in October, Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things will be holding monthly meetups. We welcome collaborators from various backgrounds to step into an open design space. The goal of the experiment is to prototype something that’s presented at Lincoln Center during NYFF 53 in 2015. If you’d like to learn more please sign up.

One of the goals of Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things, is to open up and share collaborative design methods that can assist diverse teams of creatives. As story and code continue to mix, there is a struggle to find common language between collaborators. Our hope is that this year-long experiment can do so in a fun, social and innovative manner.

We welcome your comments, suggestions and questions. For more information visit

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Bit by Bit: Experiments in Digital Storytelling

The democratization of creative tools—code, data and algorithms—have changed the relationship between creator and audience. Stories are spilling off screens and into the real world and a new storytelling grammar is being shaped due to shifts in media consumption and device penetration.

bit by bit is a week-long exploration and reflection on the powerful pairing of story and technology and the roles they play in society—discovering and reimagining the poignant and the persuasive, the confining and liberating.

On Saturday, February 22nd a group of storytellers, hackers, makers, game developers and experience designers came together for a day full of experimentation, coding, networking and fun. Designed to push at the edges of form and function, Experiments in Digital Storytelling invited participants to challenge the way stories are told and experienced. Over the course of the day teams worked to design, build and present a plan for a project of their choosing. The challenge – harness storytelling and technology as a way to create a storytelling experience that evokes emotion and empathy.

Bit by Bit: Experiments in Digital Storytelling is a joint effort between the Brown Institute of Media Innovation, Columbia School of Journalism, the Digital Storytelling Lab @Columbia and Reboot Stories. Special thanks to our sponsor AOL.

What could a Digital Storytelling Lab at Columbia look like?

This past week we held our first Digital Storytelling Lab @Columbia event. Almost a year ago we started organizing a number of think tanks around what a digital storytelling lab at Columbia University could look like. Over time, that lead to the formation of a working group within the school. Through the working group, we’ve started to partner with a number of schools within Columbia. One partner is the Journalism School, who hosted the evening.

The structure of evening consisted of a number of speed talks by

Mark Hansen (telling stories with data)

Nicholas Fortugno (empathy within gaming)

Debika Shome (measuring impact)

Dennis Tenen & Tamar Lando (Illicit Knowledge)

Katie Torn (Hacking Hollywood)

Lance Weiler (data generative stories and story artifacts)

After the speed talks concluded participants were asked “What do you think a digital storytelling lab @columbia could be?” The responses were then clustered on nearby windows.


In order to help harvest the collective intelligence of the room we staged a world cafe exercise where participants engaged in 3 rounds of discussions as they rotated tables. Each round utilized a question to help focus the conversation. The only rule – you must write on the table as you talk.

The evening concluded with a social mixer and drinks. Over 100 people attended the event in what was a mix of faculty, industry and storytelling practitioners.

The hope is that the Digital Storytelling Lab @Columbia can grow over time. We’re always looking for collaborators who are interested in exploring the current and future landscape of storytelling.