June 21, 2019

Digital Diaspora: Building a New African Storytelling Tradition

A new wave of storytelling in Africa and the Diaspora is reinterpreting and globalizing narrative traditions, using digital tools and the power of the internet.

Being a creator in the African Diaspora means looking back. We look back at the stories we heard from our elders. As a child of the Tiv tribe in Nigeria, I heard a lot of folk-tales- they were about animals, humans and sometimes magic. In that classic Nigerian narrative tradition, people performed these stories during festivals, dressing up in costumes, assuming the identity of the characters, immersing the audience in the narrative. As a member of the Diaspora, looking back at these stories, and holding them tightly.

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November 22, 2016

Interview on Revision Path

I was recently interviewed by the amazing Maurice Cherry for his podcast Revision Path. I was one of the first designers Maurice interviewed way back in the day for Revision Path, so it was wonderful to chat with him about the state of design today, and what I have been working on. Most interestingly for me, we had a chance to talk about science fiction, Afrofuturism, and "that black rights in space..."

Check it.

May 20, 2015

Pixel Fable Featured on The New York Times

Imagine my surprise when I woke up last month, to a Google Alert about Pixel Fable in the New York Times! The project has been a long-running one, and has allowed me to stretch my illustration and dev skills. So I was very happy to see it featured in April, as part of a story about interactive children's apps.

You can read the article here, and purchase a subscription to the iPad app.

April 12, 2014

Webvisions Portland 2014

Ill be speaking and holding a workshop at Webvisions Portland in May. If you're in the area, I'd love to see you there.

My talk is called Hyperlinks and Storyarcs, and will be about non-linear storytelling on the web. You can read more about it on the Webvisions blog.

May 13, 2013

Converting Our Stories Into Multi-Screen Experiences

if you have a few minutes, check out the article I wrote on Smashing Magazine about multi-screen storytelling. I've spoken about this topic before, at Webvisions and NYUXPA, so I'm really glad the topic is being seen by a wider audience.

April 12, 2013

I’ll Be Speaking At UXPA NYC on the 16th of April

Just a quick note to say I will be speaking at the New York City User Experience Professionals Association next week, on the 16th of April.
The talk is one that is close to my heart, and is entitled The Art of Effective Narrative. I'll be looking at examples of effective digital storytelling, and asking some pointed questions to help attendees use storytelling to create unique user experiences.
Thanks to Rodrigo Sanchez and all the UXPA crew for hosting me, hope to see you there!

You can register here: The Art of Effective Narrative

December 2, 2012

The Reality of Stories

Last year, I started on Pixel Fable, taking children’s stories from my native Nigeria and putting them online. For the very first one, I hit on using augmented reality and webcams to show additional content within the story. While it wasn’t ever crucial to the story arc, it added animation and illustration that was otherwise not there. The technology proved ultimately to be ineffective (only 12% of visitors even opened my AR popup), but I found it a great experiment in the art of the possible.

But why even bother? That goes back to how these stories were transmitted in ancient Nigeria. Oral literature has always been a critical part of our culture, serving to transfer morality, history, myth, and proverbs to each new generation. It serves to remind people of who they are, and the rich fabric they are a part of. Every member of society old enough to understand would remember these stories, but only a few people were qualified to tell them publicly. Griots, or professional storytellers, were our ancient cloud storage, before such a thing technically existed.

The video above was shot with a Super-8 by Arnold Rubin in the 60s, in central Benue. This was the original augmented reality. The use of props, masks, natural lighting, and acting- they all served to create an additional view of the listeners world. Even in traditional societies in Africa, the physical and the fantastical worlds were entwined, not considered separate things. This weaving of experience also happens today, in our digital, augmented lives, and it was the same back then.

Pixel Fable takes this and attempts to overlay it digitally instead of aurally, transferring information over the web and not from memory. Billions of stories are being enmeshed and collectively saved on our cloud storage every minute. I wanted my stories to be within this modern cloud, an interleaved part of our physical world, a digital facet.

African communities are now, more than ever, able to save, disseminate, and speak of their collective history. Pixel Fable, for me, brings that history fully into the modern. It is not digital dualism, the splitting of a digital and physical world, but rather an intricate layering, with access and endpoints, cubbyholes and tangents of content, as well as a strong common story that runs through it all.

©Senongo Akpem. All Rights Reserved.