Category Archives: collaboration

The Tech Pentagram

This workshop explores and excavates the landscape of where technological innovation meets established industries such as media, manufacturing, energy and health. It’s a living, thinking event that uses game mechanics and future scenario design to unleash the imagination of its participants while teaching how to integrate concepts in relation to the systems they span.

2015-09-14 12.17.48Group size: 40 – 200 pax
Playtime: 1h

Combined with a futurist talk by Future Crunch, this workshop is designed to remix the use of different technologies. It gives participants a visceral experience of just how quickly small teams of people can come up with world-changing ideas.

We begin by giving a broad overview of the technological intersections and their potential impacts on a specific sector. Then the true fun and creativity starts! Up to 200 people from mixed sectors prototype some potential agents for change. In groups of 2 we dive into a technology of your choice. In groups of 4 we prioritise relevance of different aspects you discussed. In groups of 8 we begin integrating different technologies in order to come up with radical new possibilities. Throughout the workshop – like by magic – you will create a geometric shape containing the peaks of your thinking. Expect spontaneity, bouncing messengers, human knots, inspiration, and mind expanding ideas.

The Unorthodox PhD

This is the raw version of my thesis, which I changed quite a bit after I got the feedback that it’s a bit too creative and wild. Both versions are fully written. This one is more eclectic and transdisciplinary, the other is more orthodox and less complex (see other version here).

Creativity Unbound: Parables of Co-Creative Process Under The Premise to Open Everything

This thesis examines the intersection of social technology and open storytelling. At its core is what drives experimental co-creation among creative entrepreneurs. Open storytelling is a field of interactive arts that seeks new methods and contexts for co-creation. Opening access raises questions around promises and discomforts of such seemingly unplannable co-production. A central theme is self-organization through performance and exchange. The core problem is: How does a focus on innovating process shape the way individuals approach life and work? Answers can be found in this ethnographic case on the design and performance values expressed by members of the Reboot collective. Reboot attracts collaborators, who come to learn, imagine, do and share.

Each chapter indicates a field of tension in which principles of co-creation are discussed and evidenced by practice and design examples. Chapter B takes [play/labour] as a framework and looks at civic engagement and project organization (learn). In chapter C, the bracket [discipline/affect] offers a view on aesthetic reasoning through the principles passion and empathy (imagine). In chapter D, the bracket [story design/performativity] highlights principles of incompleteness and synaesthetic mimesis, poiesis and kinesis (do). In chapter E, the bracket [potential space/affordance] delineates community cultivation and project-based co-entrepreneurship (share). At a meta-level, five axioms can be derived: (a) practices corroborate synaesthetic reasoning to make sense of the digitized world; (b) activities are situational and ephemeral, defying systemic stabilization; (c) online and offline practices open up an omnidextrous third space through which techniques flow across from one domain to the other; (d) if constraints are not outside the body they come from inside (self-discipline) and in-between (empathy); (e) incomplete designs invite engagement.

As a theoretic framework, the author develops a dyad concept drawing on Kress and Leeuwen’s multimodality and Lury et al. and Lash’s notion of topology. Her methodology uses a rigorous and multi-layered activity research design, which adds new perspectives to current academic practices in media and design ethnography. Spanning media, arts, design, social sciences, cultural studies and anthropology, the thesis is placed amongst – and adds rich insights – to current debates on human activity in socio-technical environments.


Screenshot 2014-02-16 15.23.03

2.1 Reboot Creativity
2.2 Creativity as Play
2.3 Creativity as Remix
2.4 A Taxonomy of Co-Creativity
2.5 Co-creativity is Emergent
3.1 Considering Design and Process
3.2 Cultural Topology
3.3 Topology as Abstract Language
3.4 A Fledgling Pattern Language
3.5 Style and Reflexivity in a Topological Approach

// LEARN – Subversive Play: Free Labour as Civic Engagement
2.1 Pervasive Play and Free Labour
2.2 Serious Play and Experiential Learning
3.1 Principle 1 – Deviate: Disruption and Intervention
3.1.1 Trad-Schooling
3.1.2 Alt-schooling
3.2 Principle 2 – Improvise: Speculation and Grit
3.2.1 Contingency
3.2.2 Complexity
3.3 Principle 3 – Augment: Iterate and Transform
3.3.1 Prototypes
3.3.2 Dehabituation

// IMAGINE – Affective Reasoning: Heuristic Sense- And Decision-Making Through Empathy And Passion
2.1 Affect
2.2 Self-Discipline
2.3. Between Affect and Discipline
3.1 From Meme to Theme
3.2 Conceptual Language
3.3 Balancing Literal And Associative
3.4 Empathy As Compass
4.1 “Choosing” Intensive Engagement
4.2 Hurdling the Arduousness of Self-Discipline
4.2.1 Deep Affect: The Personally Meaningful
4.2.2 Fleeting Affect: Collective Momentum
4.3 The Power of Oscillating Discipline and Affect

// DO – Performative Storytelling: Narrative Design As A Purposeful Utility
2.1 Performativity
2.2 Purposeful Storytelling
2.3 Design
2.4 Narrative Design as Performative Agency
3.1 Focus on Poiesis: Incomplete By Design
3.1.1 Science-Fiction, Otherness and Imagination
3.1.2 Story Beats
3.2 Focus on Kinesis: Intervention by Design
3.2.1 Messiness
3.2.2 Hacking
3.3 Focus on Mimesis: Appropriation
3.3.1 Transportation and Transformation
3.3.2 Declining Performativity?

// SHARE – Community Cultivation: Co-Entrepreneurship By Affording Project-based Micro-Businesses
2.1 Potential Space
2.2 Commons-Based Peer Production
2.3 Affording A Common Potential Space
3.1 Franchise: Network and Change over Income
3.2 Incubation: Social Good over Monetization
4.1 Power Share: Letting Go of Control (Individual)
4.2 Goal Share: Balancing Self-interest & Commonality (Collaborative)
4.3 Skill Share: Lending Talent (Collaborative)
4.4 Knowledge Share: Circulating Assets (Public)

// CONCLUSION – Learn, Do, Imagine, Share: Towards A Collaboration Methodology
1.1 Recap Cardinal Principle 1: Learning
1.2 Recap Cardinal Principle 2: Imagining
1.3 Recap Cardinal Principle 3: Doing
1.4 Recap Cardinal Principle 4: Sharing

Tags: outside the box, design fiction, purposeful play, participatory storytelling, design thinking, media ethnography, new media, new commons, indie punks, share culture, networked economy, collaboration, co-creation, experiential learning, liminal threshold, activity based learning, DIY, peer production, social innovation, artistic research, digital boheme, crowdsourcing, crowdsharing, social experiences, agile management, social entrepreneurship, collaborative entrepreneurship, Gen Flux, creative entrepreneurship, media commons, labeling, digital humanities, human-centered design, storification, avant-garde

learn do share #5

It amazes me every time how much love and imaginence DIY Days participants give to make these books happen. This edition is special as we evolve our format. It features the 1st out of 4 steps of our EDIT co-design process: E stands for Empathy, the following books will cover Define, Ideate and Test. In L.A. we collaborated with the Goldhirsh Foundation to substantiate the empathy phase. Looking into an extensive report on the status quo and trends for L.A., our group discussed, mapped and created 9 new projects that are well and truly underway now. You can get in touch if you’re keen to shape the world around you!

LearnDoShare_LAbook_5Another treat are the metamaps that are scattered throughout the book. The entire event, and most importantly, our design challenges, were mapped as browser-based amplified mindmaps on If your work is related to sense- and decision-making, you should check it out!

Lastly, a big shout out goes to Designful Studio for giving the book an absolutely loveable design and helping us re-brand Learn Do Share. We think they captured LA’s “diversity as identity” in every aesthetic stroke.

You can open the book by clicking on the image. And see our previous books here.

On Performatism

Writing about the opacity of project documentation with respect to the sensational rhetoric that surrounds them, I searched for an essay I had written a few years ago. Raoul Eshelman’s book Performatism or the end of Postmodernism is at the heart of my argument. Apologies, my writing style follows a German narrative arc, in which the academic resolution comes at the end and is not revealed in the intro. 

Here’s how it starts.

The thing about performance, even if it’s only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities.  
Sydney Smith 1771-1845

It seems as if Sydney Smith had already looked at performance from a postmodernist and performatist perspective long before both had been conceptualized. I can only speculate if ‚the infinite possibilities within ourselves’ refers to the interpretative volatility of postmodernism or the author-centered transcendence of performatism. Both explanations make sense, although Eshelman contains that postmodernism contradicts performatism. In this article, I will try to assess ‚performance’ within theoretic classifications, starting with classical concepts that link theatrical and everyday behaviour.


learn do share #4

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 4.54.22 PM

With no resources, just passion and purpose an amazing group of people created another book, and we remain stunned by the impact of open collaboration.

Learn Do Share is a book, a documentation, reflection and learning resource about narrative experiments and social innovation efforts ventured at diy days New York City. We explore participatory systems, collaborative spaces, share culture, and self-propelled creativity. Written and designed by volunteers, the aim is to spread storytelling, empathy and collaboration as a way to “learn, do and share,” and to have a positive effect on creative communities within an open design environment both locally and globally.

Diy days is a social innovation hub and a vehicle for creative sustainability. It is an internationally roving gathering for those who create, free to participants and run by volunteers in the spirit of collaborative culture. Reboot stories designs these gatherings around sharing ideas and resources that help creators to fund, create, distribute and sustain their work. its experimental elements are attempts to explore the future of co-creation embedded in talks, networking and collaborative activities that are meant to spark the imagination of many.

[click image to download book]


a case in design and behaviour: generation 20+

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 11.11.09 AM

How do millenials use media? And how do they produce media?

Generation 20+ answers parts of these questions and explains an unusual ethnographic process developed to find deeper answers to recent media developments. The year-long project was developed at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in conjunction with Raimo Lang, Head of Content Development at Finnish Public Broadcaster YLE. The program included a conference, focusing on emerging media formats in a converging media landscape, and workshops, diving into qualitative research done by students on user profiles and media habits. I documented and interpreted the whole process and am very excited to share the results.
{click image to download pdf}

premiering the world’s first story-led open design game, maybe

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 2.11.07 PM

Imagine a neighbourhood being collectively evicted. Councils have tried and failed to come up with a solution that alleviates gentrification; urban planners have given up, other authorities shun responsibility. What if the answer can be found in a simple game that can be applied to any problem? A fun game that can be downloaded and printed at home, a collaborative game that ignites the greatest power we all have: our imaginence (imagination + intelligence). Could local solutions created by friends and neighbours trigger landslide change?

Vivid Ideas in Sydney invited us to play the game with a groups of 19 participants from policy, social housing, and areas such as architecture, filmmaking, arts, media, and social work. They joined us in the ambitious endeavour to co-design solutions to developments issues in Australia’s social housing policy.

Inspired by 1-hour prototyping workshops, the game itself works like a handbook that guides players and can be applied to any problem. Combining storytelling, collaboration and game mechanics, the concept uses absurdity to inspire divergent thinking, and applies design principles to ensure realistic outcomes. By also creating a collective narrative that explains the solution, it can be easily explained to outsiders, so the ideas can travel. Results are creative commons and can be shared on a website to increase chances that solutions are implemented widely. We premiered in June 2013 at Vivid Ideas in Sydney.

The game was developed to help neighbourhoods, friends and other communities to come together for a social night to ideate and create around shared concerns. Therefore, the game itself is released under a non-commercial share-alike creative commons license, so you can download, print and play, no pay! (Warning: at the moment the game still needs facilitators, who know a bit about open design. We’re working on it.)

The concept was created by Ele Jansen and Lance Weiler, both Reboot Stories. Additional game mechanics were designed by Deepti Raavi and Purnima Iyer, Pinaka Interactive. Graphics by Northern Army (wishforthefuture logo) and Monique Coffey (game boards, The specific session at Vivid was co-created with Jordan Bryon, who works with members of Sydney’s housing communities in a participatory storytelling project called TURF.

This game is part of Reboot Stories’ and will be available on the site once it is ready to be played without a facilitator.

The game can be downloaded at

keynote at diydays new york

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 12.36.53 PM

These are slides I made for my first ever keynote. At diy days New York City 2013 we shared a day around the themes creative entrepreneurship, open design and foster care. In my talk I’m walking through my PhD approach, doing ethnography on open design, using pattern language to detect dynamics and relationships between collaborating creatives. With a look towards power I discuss what it means to balance introvert and extrovert. Suggesting new forms of work organization, I conclude listing collaboration fundamentals, suggesting that my observations indicate the need for new social contracts.

THNKR filmed the entire event and will publish the talks on their channel soon.
[click image to open prez in a new tab]

new changemaker conversation


In this episode of our learndoshare Changemaker Conversation I asked Dr. Joanne Jakovich (Sydney) and tech visionary Gunther Sonnenfeld (L.A.) to share their experiences with design thinking, big data and social innovation in a collaborative times. Joanne comes from an urban development perspective and Gunther brings in a tech and business development stance. One factor that unites them is their constant search for creative ways to changes people’s ways and ethos when working together.

{Start audio}

Dr Joanne Jakovich is an architect, facilitator, researcher, educator and exhibiting artist specialising in crowd-share innovation. She is a co-founder of u.lab at UTS and producer of a new generation of urban engagement projects such as Groundbreaker, BikeTank and CitySwitch that embed design-led innovation and entrepreneurship into the city.

Gunther is internationally consulting in social technology and business innovation, running labs in a variety of markets. He has co-developed over a dozen proprietary platforms in the search, social media, business intelligence, digital content and analytics domains, and has won several awards for his innovation work, including a Forrester Groundswell Award in 2010. As a Venture Partner at K5, a startup accelerator based in Southern California, Gunther advises a number of disruptive startups, along with his strategic efforts for the Fortune 1000. He speaks around the world on the topics of digital convergence and emerging markets, and has keynoted alongside of visionaries such as Sir Richard Branson, Guy Kawasaki, Arianna Huffington and Jonathan Harris. He is currently co-writing a book entitled “The Big Pivot”, a blueprint for companies looking to build sustainable customer relationships and sustainable markets within this shifting media and technology landscape.

In their 35-minute conversation, Joanne and Gunther discuss
– public-to-private crowdshare innovation at Sydney’s u.lab
– collaborative decision-making and hierarchies
– coalitions with ownership of domain
– new hybrid of coalition and committee
– multiple stakeholder cooperation
– open design and people sourcing
– bringing big data to physical open design
– network analysis: digital anthropology and the big data value of social media tribes
– socializing intelligence

You can find more on Joanne’s and Gunther’s work here:
Joanne: and

case study: robot heart stories

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 6.10.56 PM

A tweet of 140 characters sent out to a community of creatives marked the starting point of a storyworld that engaged two classrooms in Montreal and LA for a 10-day period in October 2011. The students and 50+ collaborators from eight countries helped shaping both story and project. Initiators Lance Weiler and Janine Saunders were interested in experimenting and rapid prototyping, so their team created a lose framework that allowed participants to step in and create both the project and the story itself.

The goal was to apply storytelling as a purposeful means to improve education. This case study outlines the build of the story with a special emphasis on collaboration. It’s part of my PhD research and aims to share process and show how 21st century storyworlds can be a tool for experiential learning through creativity. Enter: Laika.

[click image or here to download]

A short survey made by Anthea Foyer and Siobhan O’Flynn is available on the {TMC resource kit website}.


and another book

LDS#3 cover

Learn Do Share Gothenburg is out! Coooooooeeee!

This is the 3rd book in a series about global diy days events run by Reboot Stories and collaborators. This edition was produced in Gothenburg, Sweden, and it is free to download. Big thanks to Jasmine Lyman and the talented team of collaborators, who dedicated time and love to share their knowledge!

[Click image to open pdf]


new learn do share book

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 4.45.16 PM

We’re all keen to LEARN, right ?
We love to roll up our sleeves and DO stuff, no ?
And who doesn’t love to SHARE it all ?

That’s how we run diy days, as a gathering for creatives to learn, do and share. It’s a tradition now that we run a booksprint after each event, in which we gather a few volunteers to harness what we learned. After diy days Ghent we ran our 2nd booksprint. The overall topic is purposeful storytelling. We asked speakers, participants and artists to share their big ideas and insights with us. The result is a book with short stories, small manuals and longer reflections.

We had a fantastic team of volunteers contributing their time and love. The design is by talented Ruben Denys ( from Ghent, Belgium. Many thanks for the help go out to:

Ruben Denys, Josephine Rydberg Lidén, Jordan Bryon, Sander Spolspoel, Karin Vlietsra, Michael Geidel, Bert Lesaffer, Nick Fortugno


The event series is held by Reboot Stories and the gathering in Belgium was organized by MEDIA Desk Belgium and idrops.

The next issue from Gothenburg is already in the making and will be released this month.

how to…


…engage participants? There are many ways and all throughout 2012 our team had a strong focus on developing story-led design challenges. We developed several models and I wrote a basic manual for two of them.

How to run a StorySprint:
Here’s an article that describes the session.

Download manual [1.1 MB, pdf]
Download templates [3.3 MB, pdf]
Download creative commons tag [0.6 MB, pdf]

Manual for an Open Design Challenge:
1. Find a wish for the future and us it as a design question or theme for the story.
2. Build 3 groups (storytellers, prototypers (designers), and 100% committee)
3. Use the wheels and the cards to guide you through the session. Assume the wheel to be a clock. (see materials)
4. Use the prototype (solution) to trigger the turning point in your story
5. Write down your story including an explanation of the solution, add photos and sent it to

Download walkthrough
 [1MB, pdf]
Download materials [14 MB, pdf]
Download creative commons tag [0.6 MB, pdf]

learn do share book #1

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 8.00.54 PM

We’re currently building a directory for diy days. Lance Weiler and I work with 88MPH’s Kieran Masterton to offer a platform where creative folks can share their goals, suggest their projects, call for collaborators and offer their skills. Very excited to share and test soon. The prototype will be released at diy days NYC on April, 27, 2013. Participants of the event can sign up when they register, so that the online community mirrors, who gets together at various diy days events around the world.

Since we’re also about to release two new books for diy days Ghent and Gothenburg, I remembered the first edition we released almost a year ago. If you havn’t read it:



design thinkers

Just made another list on collaborative materials. Feels as if this can be extended massively. There’s no completion in this world, so I might just add to this successively.





online collaboratories


hubs and events


collaboration tools

to design a purposeful story by many


I recently thought about our recent experiments with open design and story as Purposeful Storytelling. Stories have long been used for the purpose to inform, sell or persuade, but we’re onto something that involves story to ignite action and THEN do all of the above. I mean using storytelling to solve problems, to create a fun experiential learning environment and use it as a tool to covey a complex solution.

Lance Weiler, Jorgen van der Sloot and I played a bit with designs and prototyping sessions, one of which I was invited to run at U.Lab’s Groundbreaker series. Our 60-minute Open Design Challenge (ODC) is a little bit different each time since we’re refining the process with each session. But every time we use storytelling, game mechanics and collaboration to design a solution around a Wish for The Future.

The ODC has three purposes:
1. participants experience what agility & collaboration mean in today’s culture industry
2. we R&D a system to solve problems using collaboration, game mechanics and story
3. we test and refine storytelling as a way to transfer knowledge, create empathy and call to action

Here’s a rundown of what we did.
Start absurd. First, the entire group had 4 minutes to generate 100 wishes around the premise to make the world work for 100% of humanity. Yep. We broke the group down into eight categories (urbanization, economy, education, humanity, culture, health, sustainability, government) to have each group focus on one area. A couple of minute later, we read out the wishes and decided the best wish collectively by cheering. Then – in the same manner – we turned the wish into a design question.

“Attempting the impossible widens the mind. Lateral thinking happens when you can’t possibly imagine an immediate answer to a question.”

Then we broke out into three groups: one would build a prototype that helps solving the design question; the storytellers craft a hero’s journey; the third group were the scribes. Their task was to communicate between the groups and to converge the outcomes on a storyboard. We gave every group a simple template that explained the basics of storytelling, design thinking and scribing.

“It was paramount that everyone had a task in the process to give a sense of agency and accountability.”

 53 minutes left. Imagine everything happening at the same time: Some scribes started planning their storyboard while others chose a target audience aka stakeholders, which we communicated to the two other groups. Within the first 5 minutes the scribes received the main characters from the storytelling group, which they passed on to the prototypers after they had given their first pitch to the scribes (within first 10 minutes).

Generally, nobody was allowed to talk without creating something with their hands at the same time. We provided play-doh, pens, butcher paper, paddlepops and other props. We like doing that because tactile activity enhances creativity by igniting both sides of the brain.

“Mayhem and confusion. The ODC leaves participants partly in the unknown to simulate how reality, too, only unfolds gradually. Chaordic time pressure requires us to adapt to change flexibly and creatively.”

The idea was that prototyping and storytelling group couldn’t communicate directly, only through the scribes aka social media. This way the scribes acted as ‘chinese whisperers’, so information between storytellers and prototypers would be filtered and reinterpreted – like in a collaboration between various teams in a company or a creative collective.

To communicate between groups, we had storytellers and prototypers pitching to the scribes. This was combined with a narrative game, in which the answer could only be ‘yes, no or maybe’. This had the purpose that content had to be anticipated and interpreted: empathy in practice. We made sure that information didn’t always flow clearly in order to imitate real life situations. At certain points we appointed narrators to help clarifying crucial aspects, in case the scribes would get stuck.

“One group ensures the flow of information between scattered teams. They are the connective tissue, the keeper of all knowledge, making sure that all elements come together in the end.”

The 2nd pitch later on would allow the scribes to ask questions but no answers were allowed. This had the effect that the prototypers went back and refined their work according to what was still too complex for an audience to grasp.

After 30 minutes we disrupted the flow asking the groups to include sensor technology, an Arduino or Raspberry Pi into their prototype. After ten more minutes the scribes got another brief to tweak and bend story and prototype into one coherent storyboard.

“The prototype is embedded as the significant object of the story. It’s the narrative spark that marries a solution to a strategy.”

Final pitches: We had the scribes tell how they saw the story play out using what they had gotten from the prototyping group. They pitched using their storyboard, which was a scripted wall, like an RSAnimate. The drawings were AMAZING!! After we had heard their story, the storytellers and prototypers explained their approaches and added to the converged version of the story with annotated drawings on the wall. Groundbreaker attracted such a varied bunch of talented people, we had a fantastic outcome.

“We can simulate collective intelligence by ascribing each group one of the three fundamental human brain functions (cf. Peter Kruse): connect deep knowledge (storytellers) and spontaneous creativity (prototypers) by building new unexpected synapses (scribes).”

The session was developed by Ele Jansen (, Sydney), Lance Weiler (, New York) and Jorgen van der Sloot (, Amsterdam). We’re refining the process further to develop a solid rapid prototyping model for experience design but also for kids as a playful approach to collaborate and to learn creative problem solving skills in conjunction with story. Results will be used on two levels: lessons learned about process feed into Ele’s PhD research and into our design for Lance’s Story Design Lab at Columbia University. They will also be published on The prototypes that are generated throughout each Open Design Challenge will be featured for others to pick up on it and develop it further (launch end of October 2012).

new changemaker convo at learn do share

In our second changemaker podcast, we invited Jochen Schweitzer and Jörgen van der Sloot to share their experiences with design-led innovation, engaging the public and their perspective on business futures.

Both experts in design thinking and business, they talk about future sensing, business development, the role of empathy, technology, and engagement; about bike tanks, crowdshare innovation, and the necessity to adopt cultural change to stay ahead in a networked economy.

Jörgen is Senior Research Director at FreedomLab Future Studies in Amsterdam and lead developer of their ThinkLab methodology that challenges teams to deal with wicked problems in intensive small group power-settings. As a host of such sessions Jörgen helps the team to take an outside-in look from a future perspective and helps to build a mindset to generate new ideas and create alternative visions

Jochen is Senior Lecturer of Strategy at the Business School of the University of Technology Sydney and co-founder of u.lab, a multidisciplinary innovation hub. He has also worked as a management consultant, production-planning engineer and cultural program coordinator with extensive experience in business planning, organisational transformation and change management. His work now focuses on teaching and researching strategic management, collaboration, entrepreneurship and innovation with a special interest in design thinking and social enterprise.

After we stopped recording the two kept on exchanging a few thoughts on alternative business models for research-led organisations and will get back in touch soon to speak more. That’s when our program really serves its purpose; when the right strangers get in touch, share their experiences and start collaborating.

Listen to the conversation at

the power of detachment

Do we produce better stories together, or alone? Do we actually know of stories that are created solo? Auteur theory has always neglected the fact that every film is made by a creative pool of producers, writers, directors, actors, designers, programmers, camera person… These established routines are challenged by mass collaboration, audience engagement and immersive storytelling.

I wondered. What does it mean to collaborate with a diverse range of people, from all over the globe, who all bring different skills, cultures and sense of accountability to the table?

To find that out, I immersed myself into the production of Robot Heart Stories, an experiment that was facilitated by 5th-graders as well as among 50+ collaborators from eight countries. My case study of it premiered a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to present my results in an interactive session at DocLab in Auckland. The New Zealand transmedia tribe around the Documentary Edge Film Festival had called for a 3-day incubator to train their finest doc-filmmakers. I combined my talk with an interactive storysprint and connected both thematically, first speaking about my research on collaboration and experience design at Robot Heart Stories. For the second part Jordan Bryon helped me running a 60-minute storysprint that involved everyone’s imagination. The goal was to teach transmedia design and to experience firsthand what it means to collaborate with teams that have different horizons, objectives and pragmatics.

Apart from having tons of fun, we tapped into the power of detachment. To exemplify why detachment is so important for a good story, I’ll describe the workshop briefly. It was the third time we ran the session; and apart from prototyping a multichannel storyworld, we experienced how letting go of ownership and control can benefit a story greatly.

Here’s a rundown of what we did
First the entire group had 4 minutes to generate 100 wishes around the premise to make the world work for 100% of humanity. We broke the group down into eight categories (urbanization, economy, education, humanity, cuture, health, sustainability, government) and with quick cheers we decided which one we would go for. Then – in the same manner – we turned that wish into a theme for a transmedia story. Ours was:

Make art not money.

We then broke out into three groups: the prototypers would build a transmedia structure, choosing platforms and channels; the storytellers would choose characters and trope to design a hero’s journey; the third group was a mix between scribes and social media, let’s call them the storyboarders. We gave every group a simple template that explained the basics of storytelling, media channels and scribing.

Imagine everything happening at the same time: Some storyboarders started planning their scribe wall while others choose a target audience, which we communicated to the two other groups. 

Within the first 5 minutes the storyboarders received the main characters from the storytelling group, which they passed on to the prototypers after they had given their first pitch to the storyboarders (within first 10 minutes).

The idea was that prototyping and storytelling group couldn’t communicate directly, only through two narrators in each group, who could talk to the storyboarders only. This way the storyboarders acted as ‘chinese whisperers’, so information between storytellers and prototypers would be filtered and reinterpreted – like in a collaboration between various teams in a transmedia production. Generally, nobody was allowed to talk without creating something with their hands at the same time. We provided play-doh, pens, butcher paper, paddlepops and other props. Tactile activity enhances creativity because it ignites both sides of the brain.

To communicate between groups, we had storytellers and prototypers pitching to the storyboarders. This was combined with a narrative game, in which the answer could only be ‘yes, no or maybe’. This had the purpose that content had to be anticipated and interpreted, empathy in practice. We made sure that information didn’t always flow freely to imitate real life situations. At certain points the narrators could help clarifying crucial points, in case the storyboarders would get stuck. The 2nd pitch later on would allow the storyboarders to ask questions but no answers were allowed. This had the effect that the prototypers went back and refined their work according to what was still too complex for an audience to grasp.After 30 minutes we disrupted the flow asking the groups to include their audience as collaborators. After ten more minutes the storyboarders got another brief and ten minutes later we merged storytellers and prototypers to converge their work. This way we developed two versions of the same story.

Final pitches: We had the storyboarders tell how they saw the story play out on the very platforms they had gotten from the prototyping group. They pitched using their storyboard, which was a scripted wall. After we had heard their story, one of the storytellers and one prototyper explained their converged version of the story.

The power of detachment
It was electrifying to see the gentle power of collaboration. The storyboarders had merged story and transmedia platforms coherently, dropping some elements, and tweaking others (given they missed out on using some of the transmedia channels proposed). They had no problem to do so, because they weren’t emotionally attached to any of the ideas. This was completely different when storytellers and prototypers came together and tried to merge their work. They were invested in their personal ideas and seemed to struggle to slaughter their darlings. I thought that outcome was a really powerful takeaway.

Thanks to all the participants for all their enthusiasm. I was blown away by the buzz and ideas we co-created! Transmedia activist Lina Srivastava had so much fun that she will integrate parts of the session at the Lincoln Center Film Society’s Convergence Program in New York. Yaysa!

The session was developed in collaboration with Lance Weiler (, New York) and Jorgen van der Sloot (, Amsterdam). After running several 72-hour sessions, we condensed our method, so that teachers can use it with their students in a 60-minute class ( We’re refining the process further to develop a solid rapid prototyping model for experience design but also for kids as a playful approach to collaborate and to learn creative problem solving skills in conjunction with story. If you have a wish for a better future, post it at We’ll curate and prototype the best ones.

is the crowd a feasible design partner?


At u.lab’s opening session for their 2012 GroundBreaker series in Sydney we asked how collaboration can work best with external stakeholders. In an interactive session I had the honor to stir the crowd with David Gravina (Digital Eskimo) and Eric Folger (AMP). 50+ participants rolled up their sleeves, discussed with us, broke out into groups to assess and evaluate the possibilities and pitfalls of design thinking and collaboration. Organizer Joanne Jakovich and her u.lab team created a productive environment that included everybody in a creative way and facilitated a vibrant discussion. A reprint of this article was also published in GOOD magazine.

They asked us to be provocative. Here’s a transcript of my talk:

Collaboration is a $1 billion industry and is projected to grow to $3.5 billion by 2016, according to an ABI Research study. In its wake, there’s much talk about share culture, much excitement about a rising maker culture, and much hope that design thinking and peer production are panacea to a world in crisis.

Yet still we are a long way from knowing how to harness larger teams effectively. Of the many things that may work, I’d like to suggest four attributes that we should dare more in collaborative design.

Structure is the first. Consider imperfection in your design. We’re so used to everything being packaged so impeccably, even the most eager wouldn’t see how to unwrap and engage with it. My proposition is that if we create loose structures with a clear goal—one that gives direction but doesn’t direct—we might see others take action much quicker. Imperfections are inviting: they help overcome inhibitions, purvey a feeling of being needed and create a sense of belonging. It’s about giving creative freedom and agency to those who are self-propelled and invested.

The second is Understanding. While misunderstandings can spark unexpected discoveries, slack use of words can water down their meaning and purpose. Take ‘innovare,’ for example, the Latin for “renew, restore, change.” Current rhetoric around innovation is that it ‘bubbles up’ when we use the crowd. I disagree. Ideas might bubble up; they’re lighter. They can happen in a flash and pop easily. Change might start with an idea, but real innovation is plain-old hard work. To innovate means to implement ideas in smart ways that are meaningful to many, so they adopt them and change behavioral patterns. An innovation is based on an elaborate process and such endeavors don’t bubble up; they thrive with persistence and diligence and patience—and with a shot of playfulness.

Number three is Attitude. We’re very diplomatic and polite, praising each other’s work more often than being constructive critics. In spite of Americans having a strong debating culture, strategies of positive psychology and ‘looking away’ seem to prevail when it comes to creativity. Collaboration needs conflict to come up with something new. We need controversy to get over a hump, disruption to spark something unexpected. We should try to synergize the counterintuitive and integrate the paradoxical, and that means being candid and sometimes playing the Devil’s Advocate, even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone—which is rather exhilarating, because life really begins at the edge of our comfort zone.

The last one is Education. Many want to use the crowd, but nobody knows how to collaborate properly., u.lab, and Learn Do Share are initiatives that do research around it. Their how-to guides help spreading techniques. Nonetheless, we’re still just beginning of find out how we can collaborate best. Educational R&D on collaboration is an investment that every corporation—and everybody who wants to use the crowd—needs to make before they start crowdsourcing.

These principles are put into practice in various experimental storytelling workshops run at diy days ( We call them Wicked Solutions For A Wicked Problem. These sessions invite interdisciplinary teams to work together on finding solutions to local problems using methods that fuse storytelling, speculative scenarios and design thinking to inspire collaborative action and social good. We encourage participants to be absurd, to browse, and build, to teach and be taught, to challenge each other, to shape arguments, to test designs, and to implement them together with those who are affected by the wicked solution: everyone. At the same time, diy days gives participants a firsthand experience of what it means to create a better future with peers that have different horizons and objectives.

My wish for the future is to see crowds a feasible design partner, enabling each other’s passion projects, embracing them as learning experiences, harnessing shared assets to spin off various independent revenue streams, and developing a moral ecology that allows us to trust in circular skill exchange.