Breakthroughs in Storytelling

The Columbia University School of the Arts' Digital Storytelling Lab presents Breakthroughs in Storytelling, a series of events honoring the most innovative approaches to narrative from the past year.

The Awards

Presented by the Digital Storytelling Lab at Columbia University School of the Arts, the annual Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards pay tribute to the year’s most innovative examples of digitally enabled narrative. In 2023, for the first time, the Awards presentation on Wednesday, April 5 kicked off a series of events designed to celebrate and explore the possibilities of digital storytelling. On Wednesday, April 12, in conjunction with HUB Montréal, we hosted an in-person Breakthroughs in Storytelling Summit at New York’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, and on Saturday, April 15, we presented the Breakthroughs in Storytelling Symposium, a virtual gathering that featured conversations with Lab members and past and present award winners on such topics as A.I. and blockchain technologies. In the process we left a trail of breadcrumbs designed to lead us not back the way we came but forward into the future.

The awards program, led by DSL founding director Lance Weiler and awards director Frank Rose and produced by Aaron Matys, was launched in 2016 to spur creativity and further the Lab’s educational mission. It recognizes 12 signal achievements across the broad spectrum of media that rely on digital technologies—the Digital Dozen. Digital technology doesn’t respect boundaries, it blurs them, so the DSL has dispensed with categories. The Breakthrough Award goes to the project in any field — be it art, advertising, brand marketing, film, fiction, games, journalism, opera, television or theater — that best exemplifies the spirit of inventiveness at work today. The Special Jury Prize, presented at the discretion of the awards committee, is given to the project that we feel most directly involves forward-leaning concepts and technologies, even at the expense of being widely understood today. The 2023 awards were presented virtually by the Emmy-nominated comedian and critic Baratunde Thurston; Andrea Lipps, curator of contemporary design and head of digital at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; and DSL members Nicholas Fortugno, chief creative officer and cofounder of the Brooklyn game studio Playmatics, and Shar Simpson, who teaches the lab's digital storytelling and world-building classes at the School of the Arts.


The Digital Dozen