April 15, 2024

A Sherlock Global Challenge

A Sherlock Global Challenge

Design concepts for Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things from our first lab on Sept 29th, 2014

we were to stop right now Nick Fortugno and I would be thrilled. Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things has exceeded our expectations. Always intended to be a pilot for what will expand in 2016, the project has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year. At its core is the desire to create an open R&D (research & development) space; one that experiments with new forms and functions of storytelling while providing a unique opportunity to explore collaborative practice, experiential learning, storytelling and the Internet of Things.

Some of the guiding principles for the project that have evolved over the last year are as follows…

Welcome open-ended questions as a feedback tool

Embrace “Yes and…” thinking

Invite Diversity

Ignite the imagination

Encourage collaboration

Challenge the notions of how stories are authored

Challenge the notions of how stories can be owned

Build, Test, Break & Repeat

Document & Share

A Connected Crime Scene

When the Sherlock Global Challenge unfolds on Oct 24th & 25th there will be a number of events staged around the world; a mix of gatherings that are cross-generational and self organized. Some will harness technology and others will concentrate on paper prototyping. One point of simple comparison is a Global Service Jam, in the sense that events around the world have a similar theme and their participants are working towards a common goal. In our case, the theme is a re-imagination of Sherlock Holmes through three distinct creative approaches: story, play and design.

Over the last year, we have worked hard to establish a creative space where there isn’t one answer, method or way in which the final output is being created. In that respect, it is more of a collaborative storytelling experience as opposed to a crime scene game that has to be solved in a certain way. Instead, it is about providing the best alchemy of experiential inputs (playspace, rules, rewards, game mechanics, objects, clues) in order to help participants craft amazing stories together.

An iterative process

Since the beginning, we have been asked how are we are going to connect each of the crime scenes together that are unfolding around the world. In one sense, we have approached this whole project through the lens of detective narrative. Like a crime scene, we are piecing together the clues in an effort to make meaning. Through experimentation and situated learning, we have engaged in inquiry and discovery as we progress. Our meetups and events around the world over the course of 12 months have presented a unique opportunity for us and our participants in the MOOC to experiment and test their theories about story, play and design while providing room for the project to evolve in an organic way.

Bystanders stumble upon a body at Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center Crime Scene Test

On Sept 26th & 27th, we staged our first crime scene beta test at Lincoln Center during the New York Film Festival. “Killers” provided a “cat-and-mouse” script remotely from four different continents via a live streaming application owned by Twitter, Inc. called Periscope. These Killers lead the audience members who were grouped together as small teams of Sherlocks at Lincoln Center. Together, the Killers and Sherlocks co-created crime scenes, clues and “whodunit” mysteries.

We tested the magnifying glass application for the Android smartphone and didn’t quite get to test the Rotary Phone due some technical issues. Both of these objects are intended to be common objects across crime scenes in 2016. After testing during the New York Film Festival, we observed what I would term “dependency” on screens and we are considering removing screens in upcoming tests later this year and into 2016. We do feel that the common objects will be a critical element in 2016, as we see them interacting and “communicating” (providing location-aware context, printing messages, playing audio files, connecting participants and teams) between other objects. Our hope as we move forward is that objects within the crime scene can begin to sense each other in ways that help to evolve the story and experience. For instance, that could be in the form of providing accompaniment (sounds, lighting changes, triggering media) to the stories that are shared in the final phase of the experience.

The results of our experimentation can be seen here. The big take away — designing for the human element and striving to ignite the imagination of the participant made for a more powerful experience.

Power to the Pixel Crime Scene Test

Our next crime scene test takes place on Oct 13th during Power to the Pixel

At Power to the Pixel on Oct 13th in London, we have an opportunity to experiment yet again. However, instead of two full days to test a stand-alone experience with dozens of small groups, we are limited to a 20-minute interaction with an audience of about 400 people.

Our current plan for testing at Power to the Pixel is as follows:

Place your object in the mix  Participants at Power to the Pixel will share objects that they have an emotional connection to. Each participant is asked to draw an object on an index card and title it. On the back they will write up to 5 keywords that they feel the object represents to them.

Did it make it into the story? — A couple hundred objects are narrowed down by participants to about 30 to 50 that are then included in the crime scene experiment. Selection is based on objects that participants feel will be interesting story sparks. In other words, do the objects help to ignite the imaginations of the participants?

The Game is Afoot — A small group of about 5 to 6 participants take on the role of Sherlock. They stream live via the Periscope app as they investigate a special crime scene. They are guided by an audience of 400 participants who represent the mind of the killer. The audience of 400 sits in a theater and watches the live stream from the Sherlock team’s on the large screen.

An active crime scene — The Sherlock team enters the crime scene and finds it populated with 30–50 objects. As they select objects of interest, the audience playing the role of the killer engage in a clue generation speed round.

Clue generation speed round — Based on the objects selected by the Sherlock team, the the Killer team come up with clues / descriptors for the objects. This is done through a rapid generation of clues and voting. The goal is to help narrow it down so that the top two clue / descriptors can be communicated to the Sherlock team via periscope.

The last two to three minutes of the test the Sherlock team presenting their crime story to the 400 people in the theater, including the who, what, where, when, how and why of the crime. As the Sherlock team presents their crime theories, an actor in a black body suit recreates the story through pantomime.

Social Mixer At the end of the day-long conference, Power to the Pixel participants will head to a social mixer. In the event space we will establish a wall installation that has all the object cards provided by the 400 participants earlier in the day. Attendees are asked to provide some simple feedback by placing colored stickers on the objects that they feel best answer the following questions.

BLUE STICKER Storytelling — Does the object evoke curiosity or empathy in a way that you could tell an engaging story about it?

GREEN STICKER Play — Does the object encourage playfulness, collaboration and/or social interaction?

RED STICKER Design — Does the object leave room for discovery, inquiry and/or imagination on the part of the audience members who will be interacting with it?

The results of testing in both Lincoln Center at New York Film Festival in New York City and at Power to the Pixel in London will help to inform what is staged during the Sherlock Global Challenge.


“Get a Clue: This Sherlock Holmes Adventure Is the Best Thing You Can Do This Halloween in NYC. It’s a superbly creative and futuristic experiment designed to connect “hacker/makers” and “storytellers” worldwide via the mysterious project.” — SPOILED NYC escapes

Sherlock Global Challenge Oct 24th & 25th

Events are being staged in the following cities, with more being added over the coming week or so.

NYC, LA, Boston, Washington DC, Montreal, London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Warsaw, Inverness, Berlin, Rome, Turin, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Sao Paulo…

There is no “right” way to stage a Sherlock Global Challenge event. In fact, all 1,000 Sherlock collaborators to date are encouraged to experiment and have fun. The experience can last 90 minutes or a full day or two, if they are ambitious. The only thing we ask is that all Sherlock collaborators use the #SherlockIoT hashtag so its easy for folks to find you. We suggest making use of this tagboard link https://tagboard.com/sherlockiot/%20237354 as it aggregates posts using the #SherlockIoT hashtag onTwitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Flickr and Vine all in one place.

Since this is an R&D project, we are trying to capture as much of the process as possible. If you are hosting an event, we encourage you create a Hackpad for it and share your collaborative document. This is a great way to work between and among various cities and teams. To create your Hackpad, please visit http://sherlock.hackpad.com to make it easy to find please name your Hackpad “Global Challenge City Name” for instance “Global Challenge New York City”

The analog prototype is fun, social, entertaining and simple to run

Here’s a sampling of what some Sherlock collaborators are doing at their events…

Run the analog prototype if you have 10 to 100+ attendees, you can run the analog prototype. It’s social, fun and entertaining. It takes 2 hours to run it comfortably. Feel free to modify it as some meetup groups have used it as jumping off point for prototyping connected objects. To see a detailed running order including supply list and step-by-step instructions about the analog version of the experience, here.

Run a crime scene and connect to others in the world via Periscope or another live streaming solution. This is similar to how we ran the event at Lincoln Center in New York City. For more details on the Lincoln Center beta test, please click here.

Stage a Sherlock Hack by designing, building and prototyping a connected object to place in a crime scene. Those staging Sherlock Hacks will be given Object Design Documents created over the course of eight weeks by the MOOC participants that woud serve as a jumping off point for your hackathon.

Stage a youth version a number of events are running versions that are tailored for middle school and high school-aged students in 7th — 12th grade. If you’re interested in connecting to another youth event or staging your own, please contact us hello@digitalstorytellinglab.com with the subject “Sherlock Solve.”

Help test designs and ideas — Are you an individual who isn’t in a city where an event is taking place? Are you part of a MOOC team or Hackpad team that is looking to test your ideas with others around the world? If so, please follow @ColumbiaDSL on Twitter and use the #SherlockIoT hashtag in Twitter to connect with others looking to test their connected objects or those who are in need of testers.

Where to stage an event? People are running their events in parks, libraries, cultural centers, universities, schools, makerspaces, fab labs, clubs and theaters. Please make sure that you secure proper permission and meet the space’s requirements for holding an event. All Sherlock Global Challenges are self-organized and the hosts running them are responsible for, and carry sole liability for, their own events.

For a more detailed FAQ around the Sherlock Global Challenge please click here.

Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things (Sherlock IoTis an ongoing prototype developed and run by the Columbia University Digital Storytelling Lab that explores new forms and functions of story. Developed out of the Film Program at the School Arts and powered by Columbia University School of Continuing Education (SCE), Sherlock IoT is designed to be an open R&D space that experiments with shifts in authorship and ownership of stories, the massive collaboration also uses a detective narrative to examine the policy and ethical issues surrounding the Internet of Things.

The goal of Sherlock Holmes & the Internet of Things is to build a massive connected crime scene consisting of smart storytelling objects. This fall teams will create, design, build and test prototypes that will be plugged into a number of crime scene locations around the world.

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