USC students competed to use transmedia storytelling strategies to raise environmental awareness in South Los Angeles communities at CRUNCH Hackathon over the weekend.
The 24-hour event was organized by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Innovation Lab, and held at WeWork, a co-working office in Hollywood. Co-working offices are spaces where mobile employees can go to work with others who do not work in their companies’ offices.
The hackathon was divided into two parts. For the first part, on Friday afternoon, participants formed teams and came up with transmedia storytelling designs.
For the second part of the event on Saturday morning, participants presented their environmental protection projects and competed to win the final prize. Their projects were judged according to several criteria including the originality and creativity of their proposal, the integration of transmedia storytelling strategies and how much the project would increase awareness of the environmental issue at hand.
The judges for the event were Aaron Koblin, creative director of the Data Arts Team at Google and innovator-in-residence at the Annenberg Innovation Lab; Kamal Sinclair, senior manager of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab; Shauna Nep, social innovation manager at the Goldhirsh Foundation and Erin Reilly, creative director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab.
“It’s a value exercise. It allows you to quickly think about a lot of different things,” Koblin said of the event. “It’s an opportunity to try something you might not otherwise.”
The winning team was made up of four USC students: Alex Zelenty, a senior majoring in film and television production; Sonia Guggenheim, a sophomore majoring in film and television production; Althea Capra, a junior majoring in film and television production and Luna White, a junior majoring in sociology.
The group’s design was a game for children, in which players build their own communities and raise their environmental awareness by planting, watering and fertilizing plants virtually.
“I think the most interesting and challenging part is that you have to incorporate a story across different media and that is the core of the event,” White said.
The first-place prize was a six-month membership to the WeWork co-working space, three Google Nexus 7 tablets, and priority admission to next spring’s Digital Design and Innovation course.
Other groups’ projects included a “Disaster Strikes L.A.” game, in which only Metro bus riders survived an apocalypse and had to build a new Los Angeles, a “Four Colors of the L.A. River” game that incorporated the viewpoints of Native Americans, and a game in which users played as Johnny Appleseed to remove graffiti and plant trees.
Andrew Schrock, head research assistant of this year’s hackathon, explained the origins of the event.
“The [Annenberg Innovation] Lab is really interested in engaging with the local community, and transmedia storytelling is something that would be helpful to address the environmental problems in South Los Angeles,” Schrock said.
The hackathon also attracted professionals in the media industry. Attendees found the topics of the event applicable to many different fields.
“I am a public policy student, so I will think more creatively about what is the policy planning behind urban development,” said Kim Kweder, a second-year graduate student in public administration.
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