The Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards, Summit and Symposium honor the most innovative approaches to narrative from the past year.

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.

Breakthroughs in Storytelling

APRIL 5 - 15, 2023 


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.

For previous years' winners, please visit our archive at

The 2023 Digital Dozen

View the Awards


Live at Lincoln Center
5:30 to 8:00 PM Eastern Time

On April 12, the Breakthroughs in Storytelling Summit at Film at Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center delved deeper into the themes of the 12 award-winning projects, exploring the challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies for storytelling. In a highly interactive program, an intimate group of practitioners and tech industry personnel debated the issues technology is raising, from the development of the metaverse to the controversies aroused by the release of such A.I. programs as ChatGPT and RunwayML's Gen2.


5:30 PM - Welcome & Intros
5:40 PM - Open Discussion
6:00 PM - Explore Digital Dozen Themes
7:00 PM - Crafting Interactive Stories: Sam Barlow
7:45 PM - Closing Remarks

Lincoln Center


Virtual via Zoom and Miro
11:30 AM to 3:30 PM Eastern Time

The Breakthroughs in Storytelling Symposium, hosted by Digital Storytelling Lab founding director Lance Weiler, brought people together from around the world in a virtual gathering in which we explored these developments further. DSL member and awards director Frank Rose summarized the themes emerging from this year’s Digital Dozen—A.I. chief among them. Previous award winners—including Karen Palmer from the UK, Yasmin Elayat from the US, and Sutu from Australia—joined Fortugno, A.I. expert Yves Bergquist and other Lab members in a series of discussions on such issues as the potential of blockchain technologies and of A.I. as a creative partner, after which people in the audience joined speakers in virtual breakout rooms to discuss these questions among themselves.


11:30 AM - Open waiting room
11:35 AM - Opening remarks
11:40 AM - Connect
11:50 AM - Breakthroughs in Storytelling
12:15 PM - A Look at A.I. in Practice
1:00 PM - Break
1:05 PM - Lighting Talks
1:45 PM - Augmenting Creativity
2:30 PM - Debate
3:00 PM - Town Hall
3:30 PM - Closing Remarks


The Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards, Summit and Symposium honor the most innovative approaches to narrative from the past year.