Trailblazing Storytellers: Meet Sundance New Frontier Story Lab

When it comes to technology and creativity, one of the big ways technology can change how we perceive the arts is its impact on storytelling. How can breakthroughs in software and hardware assist an artist in how they want to tell and relate a story? Storytelling is as old as humankind, and the way we experience it changes with the tools we have to hand. From the oral traditions of Homer and the Ancient Greeks to the multimedia, interdisciplinary methods artists have at their disposal today.

Exploring the potential of new technologies in relation to storytelling is the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, a retreat for artists and technologists in the snowy pastures of Park City, Utah. “We’re in one of the great sea-changes of how work is created, how work is seen and consumed” says founding director Michelle Sadder in the opening of the video above. And what the lab does, is facilitate this change by offering artists support and a place to stay where they can be free from distraction—encouraged to experiment and innovate and play around with new ideas.

Ideas like audience interaction and the advent of tablet and smartphone devices have allowed us to experience a narrative in new ways. This has given rise to projects like The Silent History, a novel designed specifically to be engaged with on an iPhone or iPad—rather than, say, adapted from a book. The novel takes the form of serializations that are sent to the user as a daily update, and these segments are augmented with location-based stories which can be experienced only when you physically take your iPad to the location specified, blending the capabilities of a digital device with the physical experiences of everyday life to create a new narrative experience.

It’s these kinds of hybrid experiments—blurring the lines between old and new media, high and low culture, digital and physical, storytelling and technology—that the New Frontier Story Lab is supporting and pioneering through an eclectic range of artists, from Adbusters co-founder Michael Simons to Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie.