Tribeca Hacks <Story Matter>

Dates: March 15-19
Partner: CineGlobe Film Festival at CERN
Location: Switzerland

The Story Matter Hackathon at CERN brought together 43 uniquely qualified individuals from all over the world—including Brazil, the US, France and Portugal—for five days to work on scientific storytelling. The Hack did not only focus on building active projects, but included sessions to create cross-team communication and a true community of interdisciplinaries.

The hackathon took place as part of the CineGlobe Film Festival at CERN, with the culminating event presented at CERN's renowned Globe which attracted an audience of over 150 people. Each team presented their project overview and the audience got to physically interact with the prototypes. The final projects ranged in topics of antimatter, convergence, biometric storytelling, viruses and diseases. See the projects below.

Special thanks to Neal Hartman and the CineGlobe Festival, the IdeaLab and to the participants for their amazing work!


[Anti] Matter
We are creating an interactive experience concerning the AEgIS experiment at CERN that engages with a general audience through a website and game-interface. AEgIS is investigating how antimatter is affected by gravity. Antimatter atoms or particles should interact gravitationally just like ordinary matter. But if they don't, then theoretical physics including Einstein's theory of General Relativity will need major modifications.

The audience can influence the narrative of the story in a way that helps explain the possible outcomes of the experiment (e.g. antimatter falling down, up or differently). All stories will begin with a similar explanation of the important research being conducted at CERN and end with an outline of how antimatter experiments might influence the world at large, including health and other scientific applications.

The story ends with a call to action to encourage audience members to participate in a citizen science crowdsourcing activity that helps the AEGIS experiment to analyse its measurements.

Scientist: Ben Segal
Storyteller: Rose Meacham
Blackbox: Duncan
Designer: Pietro Gagliano
Technologist: Thomas Morris



The Naughty Gene
You think you know where you’re going, but suddenly, life has other plans. 'The Naughty Gene’ is a multi-platform narrative exploring the hidden stories around an incurable and fatal brain disease, affecting children and young adults. The project is inspired by the real life stories of the families, teachers and nurses who care for the children and the scientists who are searching for a cure.

The Naughty Gene is experienced as an interactive installation in which participants face the difficult decisions of the scientists and the parents. The user enters the installation to find themselves in a doctors waiting room. There, there receive the shocking diagnosis. From the waiting room, the user has the choice to enter through one of two doors. One door will take them into the world of The Scientist, the other door will take them into the world of The Parent. As the user progresses through the installation, they move through different environments such as a lab or the child’s bed room, where they are faced with true-to-life choices. The decisions they make determines the exact story that will ensue.  At certain key points, there will be over-lap beween the two parallel worlds, allowing the user to appreciate the other side of the story. As well as interactive props, the installation will use video/audio via projection mapping and at the end of the live installation, participants receive a printout with the choices they made.

The aim is that participants leave the experience with a better understanding of the interconnected stories of patients, carers and scientists battling an incurable disease. See Trailer

Team Swarm
Scientist: Yewande Pearse
Storyteller: Erinma Ochu
Storyteller: Caroline Ward
Blackbox: Peter Lång
Designer: Théo Le Du
Technologist: Steven Melendez
Technologist: Philippe Rivière



An exploration of the transformation of matter and its relationship to human metamorphosis. It is a fundamental law that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. Both matter and mind occupy many states, some of which remain impenetrable. We present the user with a meditative visual progression, each stage a metaphor for a state of mind and matter. While this loop repeats several times, the sequence of the states of mind/matter is affected by the user's biometric feedback. The content of each element evolves and tells the story of dark matter research. We blend visual poetry and authentic scientific language, illuminating the creative and speculative nature of dark matter theories. We leave the participant not with answers, but with a sense that it is necessary to be uncertain - that science is not the source of ultimate answers, but rather the discovery of new questions.

Storyteller: Jason Wishnow
Blackbox: Ivaylo Getov
Designer: Jasmine Idun Lyman
Technologist: Rain Ashford
Technologist: Julian Maciejewski
Scientist: Kyle Gustafson




Climate Anxiety

Climate Anxiety is a non-linear branching "Sensory Based Narrative" that reacts to brainwave and heart rate signals. In this way the participant is able to immerse themselves into an interactive film without breaks in the scene or touching the screen. The story explores environmental science and climate change.

To experience Climate Anxiety, the participant first puts an EEG sensor on her head to detect the brain wave signals. Next she enters a long dark box, which isolates the viewer and puts them in a calm and meditative state. Once in the box, the participant starts the story by placing her hands onto a heart rate monitor, which starts the video and plays a heartbeat sound that is synchronized to the viewer’s pulse.  The video is projected at the end of the box on a phosphorescent screen.

The story begins with a relaxing introduction and the participant is presented with three blocks of narrative, each associated with a different topic. The EEG sensor reads their brainwave activity level for each block of narrative and determines which block causes the highest neural reaction, or simply receives the most attention. The program uses that information to decide the next block. This pattern repeats for a given number of scenes.

Our aim is to follow the topic,  Earth, Ocean or Atmosphere, that the viewer has the strongest reaction to in order to provide them with personalized and powerful story. At the end, the aggregate values of the user's subconscious choices throughout the film are tweeted by @ClimateAnxiety on twitter along with a picture of the viewer and a randomized message such as “Vera is a friend of the ocean.”

The narrative was adapted from scientific research and data on climate change and the planet. Data from sources such at the IPCC report is included. The perspective was changed from that of a scientist reporting data to a first person narrative told by the different parts of our planet - Earth, Ocean and Air, representing the three non-living spaces in the planet. The designers hope the project impacts the viewers by creating effective and entertaining ways to communicate climate change data and increases public awareness. See Trailer

Scientist: Erin Lamb
Storyteller: Ana Carolina von Hertwig
Designer: Charles Ayats
Blackbox: Alex Herrmann
Technologists: Clay Ewing / Oliver Keller



Enter the molecular world. Learn its rules.
Play. Spread. Survive.

Vector is a educational game aiming at raising awareness of virus related issues and at spreading knowledge of cellular and immunology mechanics. After scanning social networks to assess the virality of their activity, it assigns the players the role of either a virus or a white cell. Vector then incorporates augmented reality to turn the device into a window onto a scientifically correct model of a cellular environment. From that point on, it’s up to the players to enter the amazing nano-world of cells and proteins, and learn the rules that do actually apply deep inside ourselves, before spreading their virus or repelling attacks on their white cell across social networks and geolocated battles.

Team VHacksin
Scientist: Monica Zoppe
Storyteller: Eric Drier
Blackbox: Mark Melnykowicz
Designer: Sébastien Brothier
Technologist: Paulo Martins
Technologist: Ben Collins


Peter's Bubble
Enter the skin of a little boy and show him why diversity is essential.
Peter's Bubble is one of the shape-shifting stories you can experience on our peer-to-peer storytelling platform. Inspired by the true story of the "Bubble Boy", a child born without an immune system, it ties deeply into recent developments in immunology that show how our bodies thrive in co-existence with a diversity of microorganisms. The same could also be said of diversity on other scales. Users exchange peer produced video fragments that make up the narrative in Peter's Bubble.

Scientist: Sachiko Hirosue 
Storyteller: Luc Walpoth
Blackbox: Laurent Kempf  
Designer: Natalia Lazarashvili
Technologist: Basile Simon
Technologist: Minn Soe



Emergence, the live installation and online experience, unlocks a series of narratives that reflect the scientific and philosophical concept of emergence. Sonic and visual stories show increasing complexity from the dawn of life to political revolutions. This experience encourages physical contact and touch with strangers in a public space while at once animating the emergent properties of one’s own motion in space. As participants navigate the story logic in unison, they observe live feedback of their pathway through 4D space. As a parting artifact, a branching, emergent neuron-like path is presented as a talisman of this converging moment.

Emergence is our attempt to merge scientific stories of increasing complexity with a new type of storytelling interface that calls on people to do what comes naturally: to come together, to touch, to converge.  In this way, Emergence allows embodiment of storytelling practices by participants and serves as a metaphor for increasing coherence and complexity, or emergence. Human bodies collide like particles and create new stories, together. Each new person entering into a confined space, either virtually or in physical space, will allow the group to view the next segment of the story, projected or online. Without new people converging, the stories loop. The stories can be changed, but the concept of convergence of people driving a narrative remains.

By separating the human machine interface from the content, Emergence is flexible across platforms. The installation version used Kinect and Unity as the software/hardware components of interactivity, but the system is designed and intended to use other forms of input. A web-based implementation will require the audience to physically share a space in front of a computer. A mobile version will use proximity to to drive unfolding stories. We envision the content and the logic that drives the content as a sort of transportable suitcase. Have physical closeness, will travel.

Use your arrow keys (right key) here to simulate individuals entering into a confined space in a recreation of the Emergence storytelling installation for #tribecahacks.

Team Can’t Matter
Scientist: Nadja Oertelt
Storyteller: Juliacks
Blackbox: Adria Le Boeuf
Designer: Laura Bortoloni
Technologist: Mike Robins
Technologist: Joao Pequenao

Saturday 4:00AM
15 Mar 2014