Digital Media Master’s Alum Laurie Marion Works on Team to Win Midtown Buzz Storytelling Hackathon

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In February, Digital Media Master’s alumna Laurie Marion worked on a team with three others to take on the challenge of the Midtown Buzz Storytelling Hackathon. The Hackathon was hosted by Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) as part of the Midtown Buzz experiment in mobile innovation. This experiment is the result of the collaboration between Georgia Tech and the Midtown Alliance.

Marion’s group was composed of two current Georgia Tech students, Giancarlo Valentin and Ryan Kerwin, and sound engineer Rob Skipworth. The team also had support from Laura Levy of the Interactive Media Technology Center and Matt Sanders of the Research Network Operations Center.

The result was Storyoke. Storyoke is an app that allows users to tel the stories of Midtown’s history through the improvisational fun of karaoke. Users visit historical sites and receive a script that they can interpret and record as they see fit. The app stitches together videos made by you, your friends, your neighbors, and visitors to Midtown to form a crowdsourced narrative. This app encourages users to get out and enjoy Midtown by participating in the retelling of its history.

“I started by describing my Master’s project,” Marion says, “which was a mobile augmented reality tour of downtown Atlanta that overlays videos of imagined interviews with early 20th century architects on the screen of a mobile device when it recognizes the images of the buildings they designed. Others contributed to the idea until we finally had a a concept of blending history with karaoke.” With the added idea of allowing users to “jump” into pictures a la Mary Poppins, the team started to make their idea a reality.

The Storyoke app allows users to put themselves inside historical stories. “The user is presented with a map indicating where stories may be found,” Marion describes. “Once a user has walked to that location, a screen will offer a set of choices of stories from the history of that location. Upon choosing a story, a screen appears that allows users to make a video of themselves performing a script that appears below the square area serving as a monitor for their recording session.” The user can then choose to share the performance with friends or the public or to keep it private. The user can also view videos made by others and can rate them.

The goal of the Storytelling Hackathon was to improve the art of storytelling. The call to designers was for “ideas for mobile applications that tell a story and enggage with a community to the benefit of Midtown.” Storyoke accomplishes that with its features.

“Some features that we plan to add will greatly enhance the storytelling experience by making it possible to weave music, video, and other information from the web into the video presentation the user creates,” Marion says. “We gave an example of this in the video we made to pitch our idea– the Fox Theatre showed Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie the day it opened, and Giancarlo’s sample Storyoke about opening day at the Fox included a link to a YouTube video for the cartoon. The app gives users the tools to craft their own interpretation of a snippet of local history by combining the information in the script with the multitude of resources afforded by the web.”

Marion credits the Digital Media program for giving her the background and experience to prepare her for this project.

“The experience of collaboration within the project studio courses was perhaps the best preparation for the process of designing the app during a hackathon,” Marion explains. “None of us had actually worked together before, but we were able to synergize fairly quickly and put together an effective and entertaining presentation for the judges.”

“The Digital Media program also provides a great vocabulary for contextualizing a project so that its significance can be readily communicated to other designers,” Marion concludes. “Familiarity with this vocabulary enabled us to make a very strong presentation that connected well with our audience.”