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Five things I learned in the Sandbox

The ninth Sandbox Summit has come and gone. All attendees are safely back in their offices. Hopefully, some of the collaborative spirit of the conference has seeped into their worlds and webs and connected everyone in new ways. For those of you who missed it, here are just five of the lessons I learned from the two idea-packed days.
April 24, 2013

The ninth Sandbox Summit has come and gone. All attendees are safely back in their offices. Hopefully, some of the collaborative spirit of the conference has seeped into their worlds and webs and connected everyone in new ways. For those of you who missed it, here are just five of the lessons I learned from the two idea-packed days.

1. Creativity often begins with copying.

Dale Dougherty, President and CEO of Maker Media and co-creator of Maker Faire, explained that the maker movement is based on a very simple idea: getting people to admit that they CAN do things.  That’s an empowering thought. Most people see themselves as users, rather than makers, but Dale claims we are all makers. When we have a new idea, it often begins by copying something we know, then transforming it into something better or completely new. Think of any invention. Work backwards to figure out what it “improved.” Then work forwards and imagine what the next iteration could be.

Watch Dale’s presentation here.

2. Listen up: There’s a reason we don’t have earlids.

Fred Newman, soundman extraordinaire, showed us how to tell good stories—something we all want to do. Content may be key, but sound is a close second: The buzz of the bees; the whoosh of the wind; the bagpipes’ drone; the raindrops’ plop. His presentation convinced us that the richness of sound conveys images stronger than pictures. He also told us to always tell stories in the present tense. Be there now. Check out Fred’s website for a sense of what he means.

3. Storyscaping adds system thinking into storytelling.

Alan Schulman from Sapient Nitro delighted and enlightened us by showing how linear stories can evolve into interactive story systems. In the “old days,” a good advertisement told a tale in 30-60 seconds. Today, we are moving more towards content-based marketing vs. campaign-based marketing. By using technology, we can transform story telling, and engage customers way beyond a minute.  The key is to first intrigue your audience, then immerse them. (Think lure and capture: Alice going down the rabbit hole.) With storyscaping, a viewer retains more from the total experience than the simple story. Watch this Bandaid video to see what he means.

4. Games need to be fun. Even when they’re serious.

Margaret Robertson, from the game design firm Hide & Seek, first caught our attention by showcasing a game about Chlamydia.  Her point was that games can teach just about anything, but for them to work, they have to be dynamic, engaging, a little escapist, and competitive. She went on to show some of the games her company made that turned learning and play upside down. Check out Tate Trumps, which engages museum goers to think about art in totally different ways, as well as Searchlight, a fast-paced, 2-person physical game enabled by technology that’s just plain brilliant.

5. In addition to ice cream, technology makes kids (and parents) really, really happy.

Gregg Spiridellis and his brother Evan, cofounders of JibJab Media Inc., achieved fame in the pre-Facebook days of 2004 when their This Land is Your Land video went viral during the Bush/Kerry campaign. Their latest venture, StoryBots, brings the irreverent JibJab style to a much younger audience. Using personalization, humor, and catchy tunes, they’ve managed to create content for kids that will have parents singing along. Technology lets us have fun together. And that’s one of the things we never outgrow.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post more nuggets from Sandbox Summit.  In the meantime, check out the speakers’ videos on our website. Questions, comments or just interested to learn more? Email me at wendy@sandboxsummit.org

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