The DJ and the War Crimes

  • 2023

  • Digital
    Web Design and Development

Designed By:

Commissioned By:

Rolling Stone

The Starling Lab

Designed In:

New Zealand

“The DJ and the War Crimes,” is an immersive storytelling experience for Rolling Stone which forensically retraces an infamous Bosnian war crime committed by a Serbian Paramilitary Unit. The article combines traditional investigative journalism with blockchain-based tech to identify the soldier and push for accountability and justice.

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  • There are parallel stories in this piece and the challenge was to tell them concurrently. The original text that ran in print needed to be the primary focus, but in digital we had the opportunity to take the reader behind-the-scenes and go much deeper into the source material. Rolling Stone’s investigation turned up a vast collection of images from the photojournalist who witnessed the atrocity plus Serbian payroll documents and Facebook pages connected to Arkan’s Tigers. We needed to allow users to navigate all of this without it becoming overwhelming or pulling them out of the narrative.

  • We separated the deeper stories into three additional pages then interwove them throughout the site in different ways. They form a linear three-part story that the reader can experience from start to finish, but they’re linked at relevant points throughout the original story - as well as in context in an asset archive. We placed all of the supplementary material into the archive, which can be organised into separate “stacks” and lifted into individual story pages using transitions. We used a layering concept as if the reader is the investigator, shuffling evidence around and picking it up for closer inspection.

  • We built the site to tell the story of that day in 1992, the investigation into those involved, and the nascent cryptographic technology that we hope can help to prevent similar massacres in the future. The site also functions as a strong proof of concept for The Starling Lab’s technology, which is looking to solve one of the most critical challenges of our digital era, the erosion of trust and the perception of truth in journalism.

  • To bridge the gap between the analog world of film photography and the modern-day blockchain technology used in the investigation, we chose a dot-matrix monospace typeface that closely mirrors the one on photographer Ron Haviv’s film slides. Bosnian war posters provided inspiration for both the condensed display typeface and the striking colours used at important moments in the narrative. Drawing on the aesthetic of film photographers’ contact sheets, the art direction makes use of pencilled annotations pointing out important details. They act as the hand of the investigator and provide a connecting visual thread through the piece. In collaboration with The Starling Lab, Rolling Stone’s team authenticated and archived a wealth of vital records, ensuring their legitimacy and preservation. The site includes an interactive library of this evidence, where users can explore photos, videos, documents, and social media posts. We designed an “Authentication Certificate” view for their tech; a multimedia “chain of custody” which imprints every moment - from the click of the shutter, to an update in Photoshop - onto an immutable blockchain record.