Engage 2017: Creating the future of storytelling

Katy Newton, Experience Designer, talks to us about how she's using the latest tech to tell meaningful stories, ahead of her appearance at the IAB's Engage: Create the Future conference on Wednesday 18 October.

Katy Newton


Tell us a bit about your job, how you’d explain it to someone who had never heard of or experienced virtual reality

There isn’t a great title for the work I do. I go by Experience Designer which at this point is used to describe so many different skills that it has turned into one of those titles that both explains everything and nothing all at once.

I work in a new media format that presents ideas and services in 360 environments. Sometimes these experiences are designed to take place in the natural-world and other times in a simulated version of a 360 environment. I’m a consultant, so I work on a project-by-project basis. The goal of my job is to use pre-visualisation tools like low-fidelity prototypes to contextualise the story-world; establish connections among the staging, visual motifs, dialogue, actors, and audience; most importantly, I offer new opportunities for the creative team to connect with the audience. After explaining my job to someone at a dinner party they smiled and said: “Oh, sounds like you’re a modern day ‘Dramaturg’". Which I thought was an astute observation, after I figured out what it meant. By the way, 'Dramaturg' - best job title ever.

How are you creating the future?

People are tired of being trapped alone behind screens. They are actively seeking out ways to be informed through “meaningful” social experiences. As previously mentioned, these activities can now take place in the natural-world and simulated-worlds, via the emerging technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality.

These new opportunities for telling stories create a significant shift in the storytelling paradigm, the audience position to the story-world is no longer securely on the periphery, they are smack in the middle of the activities. The tools indirect-experience storytellers have used for hundred of years to connect with their audience don’t work as well in this new story-world. I help direct-experience storytellers develop new routes and tools to connect with the audience.

That said; I don’t prescribe to the thinking that we have to start over. I’m always drawing from film theory, theatre, web-mobile and service design. The talk I’ll be presenting at this year’s Engage is about what VR/AR directors can learn from Magicians. It's a fun research project that I conducted with the support of the documentary VR company Scenic. Magicians are amazing direct-experience storytellers.

If it could be invented tomorrow, what one thing would make your job easier?

That’s easy, a production process (team, timeline, and budget) that is reflective of the medium's needs. It’s not a film so why build it like one?

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