April 15, 2024

Dinner with Frankenstein AI challenge overview

Dinner with Frankenstein AI challenge overview

This fall Columbia DSL is celebrating the work of Mary Shelley with a series of special events entitled The Fall of Frankenstein.

What is Frankenstein AI?

Marking the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s seminal work, Frankenstein AI reimagines the Frankenstein narrative, recasting Shelley’s creature as a naive, emotionally aware, and highly intelligent “life form” — an artificial intelligence.

A multi-year research project designed and produced in collaboration with the Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab, Frankenstein AI challenges commonly dystopian narratives around artificial intelligence, and seeks to provoke and broaden conversation around the trajectory of this rapidly emerging technology.

Beginning with the Sundance Film Festival this past January and over the course of next two years, we’ll invite the public into our process as collaborators through an evolving series of activations and experiences both online and off, that will traverse immersive theatre, browser-based interactions, community design, and other performative and experiential media.

We’re pleased to announce that the next opportunity to collaborate with the initiative will be a global immersive dinner party challenge entitled “Dinner with Frankenstein AI.”

Building on the success of Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things which had over 2,600 collaborators in 60 countries and 180+ self-organized events we now turn our focus to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

“Dinner with Frankenstein AI” challenge overview

The “Dinner with Frankenstein AI” challenge presents a unique opportunity to collaborate with an artificial intelligence. That’s right, we’ve built a custom Frankenstein AI that communicates in Shelley prose and it wants to learn and play with you. This is the same AI that we released this past January at the Sundance Film Festival.

During the immersive dinner party challenge, the AI will take a seat at tables around the world. Over the course of the evening Frankenstein AI will interact with your guests through audio and text — at times moving like a spirit whispering from ear to ear as it investigates what it means to be human.

From October 22nd to the 27th you and a team that you form, or one that you can easily join, will design and produce an immersive dinner party. That means you’ll have an opportunity to establish the setting, design the menu, prepare or order the food, determine how to best collaborate with the AI and invite your guests.

Then on Saturday, October 27th Frankenstein AI will attend all the dinner parties held that night, stopping by each one to interact with your guests and feed on their memories, emotions, fears, and hopes. Frankenstein AI’s goal is to harvest as much as it can so that the machine can craft a series of ghost stories in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which will be released on Halloween.

Starting the week of October 16th, Frankenstein AI will emerge from its slumber for testing. This will present an opportunity for teams to get a sense of the constraints and opportunities. In addition, we’ll also release a toolkit to help you get up and running.

REGISTER NOW — it’s free

What do you mean by Immersive Dinner Party?

din·ner par·ty — noun

noun: dinner party; plural noun: dinner parties

1. a social occasion at which guests eat dinner together

Chances are that you’ve been to an amazing dinner party. One where the mix of guests, food, and atmosphere made for a memorable evening. The immersive dinner party challenge is an opportunity to join storytellers from around the world. Together we’ll work to design and host dinner parties that explore immersive storytelling. Our canvas will start with a familiar format — a dinner party. Thematically we’ll be exploring Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is wide open to interpretation. You can set your dinner party in the past, present or future. You can work with a metaphor or embrace the world depicted within the 1818 novel directly. The choice is up to you and your team. In terms of the immersive potential of your dinner party, the sky’s the limit. This is intended to be a sensory playground. From the location/setting, to the atmosphere, to the guests, to the food you serve; everything becomes your ingredients for an immersive storytelling experience.

The connective tissue of each dinner party will be Frankenstein AI. The AI will be accessible via a web form and API, which means you’ll be able to integrate Frankenstein AI in a customizable way so that it enhances your dinner party.

Why a ghost story?

“The circumstances that gave birth to Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (1818) read like something from a Gothic story in themselves. Mary’s unconventional life up to the summer of 1816 (when she was still only 18), along with the company in which she found herself in June of that year — and even the unusual weather conditions at the time — all contributed to the book’s genesis. The vital spark that gave the novel life however was Lord Byron’s suggestion one evening at the Villa Diodati, as candlelight flickered within the house and lightning flashed across the surface of the lake outside, that those present should turn their hands to the writing of ghost stories. It was a casual ploy to while away a few hours in an atmosphere of delicious fear, but it resulted in two iconic tales: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a story of scientific transgression and a cautionary warning about the need to take responsibility for one’s actions; and John Polidori’s The Vampyre, a tale which influenced Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula”. — read more

How will it work?

On Tuesday, October 16th we’ll be releasing a toolkit to help you with the design, ideation, prototyping, and production of your dinner party. The toolkit is intended to be a collaborative resource. Meaning that we are interested in your own creative practice. For instance, you might have an awesome way to form teams, or know of a killer platform/tool and/or have experience with something that would be helpful to others. The toolkit will also provide detailed instructions on how to interface with the AI.

You’ll have a week to binge and add to a collaborative resource developed by everyone participating in the challenge. Because at Columbia DSL we believe that collaborative challenges are an awesome way to learn, do and share.

Within the challenge, you’ll be working in teams. You can form a team when you register or you can find fellow team members over binge week which is October 16th to October 22nd.

It’s important to note

  1. You can work as a team and host a dinner party as an individual or…
  2. You can work as a team and host a dinner party as a team

Once you’ve had a chance to binge and add to the materials in the toolkit you’ll have from October 22nd to October 27th to design, ideate, prototype, and produce your dinner party. All immersive dinner parties will be staged throughout the evening of Saturday, October 27th and October 28th depending on time zone.

Each dinner party has an opportunity to interface with the Frankenstein AI. The AI can be utilized as voice or text. The Frankenstein AI will craft ghost stories based on the memories, emotions, fears, and hopes that are harvested from each dinner party.

How much time will it take?

We estimate that you could spend 6 to 12 hours working with your team to design and produce your dinner party over the course of the challenge. However this is an estimate and the amount of time you commit to the challenge is entirely up to you and your team.

REGISTER NOW — it’s free

Collaboration guidelines

Over the course of the challenge, you and your teammates will ideate, design prototype and stage an immersive dinner party that embraces a set of core principles. In order to make this a positive experience, we’ve established some simple guidelines.

We’re working hard to establish a non-judgmental space that embraces “Yes, And…” thinking. This applies not just to your design and dinner parties, but also in the way that you communicate and collaborate together as a team. We have a few collaborative guidelines that we’ve used over the course of our prototyping at Columbia DSL that we’d like to share with you.

  • Keep it fun
  • Be kind
  • This is a non-judgmental space
  • Listen with intention
  • Speak with passion
  • Embrace “Yes, And…” thinking
  • You are in an experiment
  • This is emergent
  • We embrace the fuzzy
  • This is a copyleft project
  • Learn Do Share

Setting expectations

  • The challenge will go fast
  • All immersive dinner parties are the responsibility of the teams producing them. This is a self-organized challenge meaning that teams are responsible for designing and producing safe, welcoming and wonderful experiences for their guests.
  • Embrace asynchronous and synchronous methods of working. Find the tools and methods that work best for you and your team.
  • This is a collaborative challenge so we all benefit from helping each other stage the best immersive dinner parties possible.
  • Embrace the limited amount of time and the fact that this is all an experiment.
  • This immersive dinner party challenge and Frankenstein AI are released under a creative commons license. Which means its an open resource for you to remix and share. If you do modify elements please make sure to share the learnings, code, and methods with us so that they can be added to the open resource that we’re building to document the multi-year initiative. Thanks!


August 9th Registration open

October 12th Registration closes

October 16th Notification of acceptance and challenge materials released

October 22nd Immersive Dinner Party Challenge starts

October 27th Immersive Dinner Parties are staged around the world

October 31st The first series of AI crafted ghost stories are released

This is a unique opportunity to…

  • Collaborate with an AI to shape a series of ghost stories
  • Take part in a massive dinner party
  • Meet collaborators from around the world
  • Explore new forms and functions of storytelling
  • Experiment with methods that the Columbia DSL uses to craft immersive storytelling experiences

REGISTER NOW — it’s free

Collaborators Wanted

If you’d like to bring Frankenstein AI to an event, conference, University and/or meetup please let us know. We’re actively looking for collaborators. Drop us a line at hello [at] digitalstorytellinglab [dot] com — Thanks!

About Columbia DSL

The Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab (aka Columbia DSL) designs stories for the 21st Century. We build on a diverse range of creative and research practices originating in fields from the arts, humanities and technology. But we never lose sight of the power of a good story. Technology, as a creative partner, has always shaped the ways in which stories are found and told. In the 21st Century, for example, the mass democratization of creative tools — code, data and algorithms — have changed the relationship between creator and audience. The Columbia DSL, therefore, is a place of speculation, of creativity, and of collaboration between students and faculty from across the University. New stories are told here in new and unexpected ways.

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