Greek mythology was the source of some of the most enchanting storytelling ever created – the kind that absorbed people, immersed them and made them obsessed enough to kill and die for.

Greek mythology offered a complete (although inconsistent) cosmology that included explanations of how the world came to be, how it was organized, and the logic that dictated how it behaved.

Floating as a flat disk on the encompassing river of Oceanus, the Earth housed the subterranean house of Hades below it and the sun, moon and stars above it. This universe was populated by a cast of gods, each with their own genealogy, characteristics, personality and expertise. Poseidon was the god of the sea; Aphrodite the god of love, beauty and sexuality; Hades - the god of the underworld; Hera - the goddess of women; Dionysus - the god of wine, who inspires madness and ecstasy.

Greek myths were accounts of how events would unfold within the parameters of a world inhabited by a population of humans and some wildly mythical creators.

5D: The Future of Immersive Design is a global community of multi-disciplinary creators that are fascinated by a similar pursuit of worldbuilding for the sake of generating new storytelling experiences.

The process that is being developed is one that begins with the construction of a world.  Before a specific narrative is even imagined, a parallel, fictional world is created for that story to take place in. Complete with an ecosystem, a world of characters and some general governing laws, this place of fiction becomes the platform for stories to unfold.

This panel hopes to debate and discover this emerging design process.

Alex McDowell, a world-renowned production designer, will elaborate on how worldbuilding is transforming the role of design in storytelling professions. Alex develops universes where stories take place.

Jer Thorp, an incredible master of data visualization, will discuss how by weaving together strings of data found in the world, new stories can be created. Narratives, after all, are chains of data that are put together in special sequences.

John Underkoffler, a futurist and the inventor of the Minority Report interface, will reflect on how these stories get experienced as our interfaces transform. Both the media delivery systems and the way we interact with our data can have a huge effect on how we think and design.

Ben Kreukniet UVA, a spectacular lighting designer, will discuss how the process of worldbuilding, its contents and interfaces, can be experienced in new ways when placed in the physical world.

Alex McDowell

Minority Report

MINORITY REPORT is a film made from art and science. Directed by Steven Spielberg with production designed by Alex McDowell it imagines Washington DC in the year 2050, where an experimental police program PreCrime has been set up based around the unique talents of three precogs who by previsioning the future are able to prevent violent crime and murder.

The design parameters were expanded by the director’s impetus to create a future reality rather than science fiction, requiring the terra- forming of an interconnected world conceived as a container for linear narrative.

As well as triggering the first fully digital design process in film, and McDowell’s continuing development of an immersive and non-linear virtual design process, Minority Report was also a proof of concept of the idea of a narrative developed as much out of the interior logic of the film landscape as from the traditional script process.

Fight Club

FIGHT CLUB, the renowned film by director David Fincher and designed by Alex McDowell exemplifies the notion that the film language of space and place is based less in architecture than in narrative structure. In constructing film reality the designer creates something completely different - each unique world is made of geography, social context, reflection, history, feathers and tar, glued together by interior logic; a machine for storytelling which may at the same time resemble a house.

Death and the Powers

DEATH AND THE POWERS: A Robot Pageant is a new opera currently in development at MIT Media Lab by composer Tod Machover, with libretto by poet Robert Pinsky, directed by Diane Paulus, and designed by Alex McDowell.

It tells the story of Simon Powers, a great and wealthy man, who is conducting the last experiment of his human life. He is passing from one form of existence to another in order to project himself into the future by becoming the System, an organism beyond the bounds of humanity.

The elements of realtime media, lighting, animatronic set pieces and the robot performers are all an extension of Simon’s new being, per- formed though a vast interconnected intelligent system. The System, programmed to create sculptural images, moving pat- terns, and even human-like gestures and expressions, will show the audience the disparate, fleeting thoughts and memories from Simon’s inner world.


Just Landed

[vimeo 4587178]

Lately, a lot of progress has been made by epidemiology through the study of social networks. Spread of disease can be tracked by modeling the ways in which humans travel and interact. This project scrapes Twitter for phrases like "I just landed in Tokyo!" and renders the resulting trips on a 3D plane.


[vimeo 6239027]

A more whimsical visualization of Twitter, 'GoodMorning' shows the world waking up - and greeting each other on Twitter. This render shows 24 hours of AM greetings, showing us how (and when!) the world says 'Good Morning'.

NYTimes 360/365

The NYTimes publishes thousands of articles every year, both online and in print. Can an entire year of news stories be compacted into a single image?

John Underkoffler

[vimeo 2229299]

Oblong Industries is the developer of the g-speak spatial operating environment.

The SOE's combination of gestural i/o, recombinant networking, and real-world pixels brings the first major step in computer interface since 1984; starting today, g-speak will fundamentally change the way people use machines at work, in the living room, in conference rooms, in vehicles. The g-speak platform is a complete application development and execution environment that redresses the dire constriction of human intent imposed by traditional GUIs. Its idiom of spatial immediacy and information responsive to real-world geometry enables a necessary new kind of work: data-intensive, embodied, real-time, predicated on universal human expertise.

Ben Kreukniet UVA


Volume is a large scale semi-permanent installation that was installed in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s John Madejski garden from November 2006 to January 2007. A collaboration between UVA and onepointsix (Massive Attack’s special projects arm), Volume consists of 47 columns of light, each with their own audio output. As visitors moved through the space, they triggered a spectacular display of light and sound - made up of six audio-visually distinct movements.

Volume won the 2007 D&AD Yellow Pencil in the category of Digital Installations and has been nominated for the Designs of the Year at the Design Museum.

Massive Attack tour 2008

For our fourth tour with Massive Attack, UVA created a new stage set, with a wide, sculptural LED screen as the centrepiece. The visual treatments, created in collaboration with Massive Attack, are the group’s most explicitly political yet. Flickering references to rendition flights, detention without charge and surveillance societies light up the stage, and computer-controlled lights, also designed by UVA, allow perfect synchronisation between the music and the visuals.


Chorus’, UVA’s kinetic installation with sound by Mira Calix, was recently featured in Artichoke’s ‘Lumiere’ in the world heritage site of Durham Cathedral. An array of motor-assisted pendulums weaves through space emitting light and sound. The rhythm of the work evolves through chaos and returns to unison, producing a hypnotic and seductive performance that heightens the viewer’s awareness of the space and their relationship with it. More than 75,000 people visited the festival, over the 4-day period.