Columbia university school of the arts' digital storytelling lab

Ongoing strategy and partnerships for an academic program at the intersection of story, play, design and code.  


The Digital Storytelling Lab (DSL) is a ground-breaking program within the School of the Arts at Columbia University. The Lab’s mission, to "explore future forms and functions of storytelling" is elegant in its simplicity, while expansive enough to accommodate storytelling’s wide range of design applications.

On the one hand, this dual focus concerns itself with forms that stories take now, and those they’ll take in the near and distant future – considering emergent technologies, new creation models, distribution and consumption platforms, and the reframing of the relationship between storyteller and audience as one of collaboration and participation. On the other hand, DSL explores functions of storytelling, i.e. how stories are might be surfaced, shared and used for various applications beyond entertainment, things like shifting culture, driving action, provoking discussion, bridging divides, creating understanding, and as tools for healing.

Rachel’s initial connection to DSL was a chance encounter while hosting one of her favorite conferences in spring of 2016. At that time, the Lab had already established this powerful mission, built an engaged community, initiated a fascinating body of work, and developed a set of innovative methodologies, mixing storytelling, collaborative practice, play, design thinking, emergent technology, and social impact.  

Over two and a half years (to date) of ongoing collaboration, Rachel has supported DSL in developing an architecture that codifies the Lab’s genre-defying offering of prototypes, programs and thought leadership across creative and academic disciplines within the arts and beyond. Rachel’s work with the Lab has profoundly informed and expanded her approach to the strategy process and bears significant responsibility for her emphasis on collaborative co-creation.