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Story Hack 2012

2012 October 17
by Richard Harrington

Over the summer, I participated in a hackathon called Story Hack (that’s me on the far right), run by an organization called Story Code, dedicated to “supporting, incubating and showcasing projects created by independent immersive and cross-platform storytellers.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but the project was really fun. It was actually kind of a two-weekend affair — the primary event was the second weekend, but there was an orientation on the first weekend for the core participants, and some members of the team had several more meetings during the week and actually shot a video.

Unlike most hackathons, this one was focused on storytelling, and was held at Lincoln Center. I get the feeling Story Code is made up mostly of film people who are trying to look at the big picture and figure out what the next dominant incarnation of the art of storytelling will look like, as film slowly morphs into its successor. But maybe that’s just me.

Because it was all about narrative and the use of different platforms to tell a story, some amount of theatricality was encouraged, but most teams still made their presentations more like pitches for products that had not been completely built yet. Ours was a show from beginning to end, complete with a post-apocalyptic storyline with MCs, a hilarious website (futuremate.us), a Twilio setup that connected random members of the audience to each other in conference calls (front-end manifestation at futuremate.us/speed_date.html — it’s a little buggy but you can see what it was supposed to do, and it went by quickly during the presentation so it served its purpose), and then a giant mutant zombie puppet as a deus ex machina at the end (operated by me).

We won the first prize of $1,000. Many of our competitors’ tech elements were as impressive as ours, but only we were in character during our entire presentation.

Now granted, most hackathons are not like that one — they’re not explicitly about narrative, they don’t give you ten minutes for their presentation, and they have more than eight teams. But I would suspect that at any hackathon, all else being equal, judges will give consideration to a project whose presentation was fun for the audience to watch, and participate in. Because we all know those presentation sessions can be pretty deadly, especially for the half of the audience who hasn’t slept.

Something to think about, anyway.

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