The YEAR OF POE, a global collaboration mixing storytelling & emergent technology

By Lance Weiler


What is the Year of Poe initiative?

Building upon the success of prototypes like Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things and Frankenstein AI, the Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab turns its focus to Edgar Allan Poe.

Similar to the design of Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things, the Year of Poe will provide a creative framework for storytellers around the world to form teams and craft immersive adaptations celebrating oneof America’s most enduring writers.

Start by forming a team

Ava Lee Scott (co-writer, lead actor, producer), Lance Weiler(co-writer, director, producer) and Nick Fortugno (narrative designer, technical producer) have formed a team in NYC to help model what an immersive adaptation could look like. Together with the Actors Theater of NYC, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the American Irish Historical Society, the team will be documenting their journey to design and produce an immersive storytelling experience that will premiere later this fall.

The team is focusing on an adaptation of The Raven which will provide the foundation for an exploration into Poe’s mind, his work as well as historical accounts surrounding his life and untimely death.

Set within a mysterious 18th century brownstone, fifty participants wearing Bose AR glasses will move through the building and “Poe’s mind” with Internet of Things lanterns in hand. The experiment will be released under a Creative Commons License. The goal is to develop, document and release our code so others can remix and share.

How to get involved

In 2019, the Columbia DSL will be running meetups/workshops designed to help storytellers explore Poe and emergent technology. These gatherings will also serve as a way for storytellers to meet collaborators so that they can form teams and create their own adaptations. For those not in NYC, you can participate through the Columbia DSL’s Sandbox. The Sandbox is a prototyping community with almost six hundred members from around the world. So far teams are starting to form in Athens, Sydney, Paris, Manchester, Austin and Los Angeles. To join the community please visit columbiadsl.mn.co

The next Year of Poe meetup is Wednesday, March 6th at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Visit the Columbia DSL meetup group for more details.

The Year of Poe is a celebration of Poe’s life and work

This year marks the 170th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s mysterious and untimely death.

“… the beleaguered, impoverished Poe was found, delirious and in distress outside a Baltimore tavern. He was never coherent enough to explain what had befallen him since leaving Richmond, Va., a week earlier. He spent four days in a hospital before he died at the age of 40.” — New Jersey Herald

On October 3, 1849, Dr. Joseph E. Snodgrass received the following note:


Baltimore City, Oct. 3, 1849 

Dear Sir,

There is a gentleman, rather the worse for wear, at Ryan’s 4th ward polls, who goes under the cognomen of Edgar A. Poe, and who appears in great distress, & he says he is acquainted with you, he is in need of immediate assistance.

Yours, in haste, 
JOS. W. WALKER 
To Dr. J.E. Snodgrass.


*written four days before Edgar Allan Poe’s death

Establishing a collaborative space

The Year of Poe project builds upon the Columbia University of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab’s collaborative design framework.

The Digital Storytelling Lab (aka Columbia DSL) designs stories for the 21st Century. We build on a diverse range of creative and research practices originating in fields from the arts, humanities and technology. But we never lose sight of the power of a good story. Technology, as a creative partner, has always shaped the ways in which stories are found and told. In the 21st Century, for example, the mass democratization of creative tools — code, data and algorithms — have changed the relationship between creator and audience. The Columbia DSL, therefore, is a place of speculation, of creativity, and of collaboration between students and faculty from across the University. New stories are told here in new and unexpected ways.

Join Columbia faculty and industry innovators as we explore the current and future landscape of digital storytelling.

Year of Poe documentation

January 9th, 2019 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

Overview of the evening’s running order

  • Welcome & Introductions
  • Dramatic Reading of The Raven
  • A Historical Look at Poe and his work: a lecture by a prominent Poe Scholar from Columbia University

Teams of performers, storytellers and creative technologists are

  • Assigned specific rooms with the AIHS
  • Together they will craft a small immersive experience based on some creative constraints
  • Teams take turns running their experiences for each other.

Here’s the presentation deck from the evening. Click the arrow to the right of the image to view embedded deck.

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