The Storytelling Machine

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  • 2018

  • Digital Design
    Interface

Designed By:

  • PluginHUMAN: Betty Sargeant and Justin Dwyer
  • Exertion Games Lab
  • Centre for Game Design Research
  • RMIT University
  • Florian 'Floyd' Mueller

Commissioned By:

Co-Produced by: ACI Asia Culture Centre (South Korea) Supported by: City of Melbounre

Knowledge Melbourne Creative Victoria

VicArts Copyright Agency

Cultural Fund City of Port Phillip

Cultural Development Fund

Designed In:

Australia

The Storytelling Machine is a digital system made from crowd-sourced content. The public draw characters, place them into our custom-made photo-booth and watch as their characters are instantly animated across video worlds. People also contribute short-story texts in any language. The machine randomly displays public contributions creating a collective story.


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  • People are often more connected online than offline. Digital platforms can make us less active and can negatively influence social and emotional development. Social platforms also have a cultural impact, they dictate how we write, publish and consume our stories and these automated systems often collect our personal data. Many people don't understand the implications of contemporary digital systems. We invite audiences to consider the role that automated systems play in shaping our digital interactions and culture. We created an automated system that encourages co-located social and physical interaction and allows the public to contribute creative rather than personal data.

  • Using participatory art and co-design methods we created a system that blends analogue and digital processes. The Storytelling Machine is easy to use, at the press of a button a person’s hand-drawn character comes to life. The system stores all story data that has been entered. The more people who contribute, the bigger the collective story becomes. During workshops and exhibitions participants consider current digital practices, learn about the design of automated systems, engage socially in co-located spaces, and contribute non-personally identifiable creative content. This extends knowledge on how to design digital interfaces that oscillate between virtual and non-virtual realities.

  • Children, teens, seniors, special needs participants, regional participants and individuals have been delighted by this ground-breaking installation. Thousands of people from diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds have contributed to The Storytelling Machine. During two-years of free international exhibitions and workshops we have educated, upskilled and strengthened connections between people. Our social enterprise demystifies digital processes and invites diverse participation. This design also strengthens connections between people and their environment. Our system embeds people’s characters into custom-made videos of iconic local and international locations. This links people to their surrounding environment and also connects them to remote, culturally diverse geographic locations.

  • The Storytelling Machine is visible on social platforms but people can’t enter data remotely. People have to physically attend a workshop or exhibition to contribute. This provides a unique experience. People form deep bonds with this installation and social connections are created between participants as they see their personal character interact with others’ characters. The Storytelling Machine is a custom designed system that randomly selects characters and texts and projects them onto exhibition surfaces. It also randomly selects from over 1000 custom-designed animation states and applies animations to each character. Audiences may feel that characters are being uniquely animated, as if they are interacting with an artificial intelligence; this system randomly curates and delivers a real-time collective narrative. This unique system is scalable. It has been presented as an intimate small-scale installation at public libraries. It has also functioned as a large-scale interactive installation. i.e. Over 400 people per hour have contributed story data during installations. This system is robust and flexible. For each new installation we shoot new video that features an iconic local setting. We combine this new footage with other custom-made video footage to help people solidify connections to their known geographical realities and to remote locations.