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Dear FoST Friends,

Though much of the world has changed since our last FoST in Thought newsletter went out at the beginning of March, the work of great storytelling goes on. In fact, with so many people seeking entertainment and human connection while stuck at home in isolation, the world of storytelling and immersive technologies is changing faster than ever. Below, we’ve collected some of the most fascinating articles from the past month about how the Covid-19 pandemic and its ensuing cultural shifts have affected the digital creative sphere.

But first, we’d like to share some exciting news: Earlier this week, we were honored to learn that the Future of StoryTelling podcast had been highlighted as a top “New & Noteworthy” selection on the front page of Apple Podcasts. We started our show with the hope of sparking conversations and providing a way for our community to stay virtually connected, and so far the response has greatly exceeded our expectations. To all our subscribers, thank you for your support. If you haven't already subscribed, you can do so here.

We’ve also been brainstorming further ways to keep the community together while we’re all physically so far apart, and that’s why tonight, at 9pm EST, we’re trying something new: a virtual film-screening party that anyone can join, hosted by our most recent podcast guest, Brian McDonald. Details are below.

We hope you can join us tonight. Until then, be safe, and story on!
FoST Presents: Films with Friends
Tonight, master storyteller and recent FoST podcast guest Brian McDonald will be hosting the pilot of FoST’s virtual film series, Films with Friends, where we’ll be gathering online to watch and discuss a movie led by a different master storyteller each week. Tonight we’ll be watching Tootsie at 9pm EST/6pm PST, and Brian will be sharing his insights about the much-beloved comedy’s storytelling structure. Instructions to join are below. And don't forget to follow us on social, where we’ll be announcing the rest of our Films with Friends lineup!

Join FoST’s Films with Friends Watch Party:

  1. Before the screening, make sure to download the Netflix Party extension (only available on Chrome).
  2. Add the party to your calendar using this link.
  3. Tonight at 9pm EST/6pm PST, join the Zoom link provided in the calendar invite.
  4. If you’re unable to add the party to your calendar, you can join directly by clicking here when the party starts.
Livestream Platforms are a Home for the World We’ve Lost Under Quarantine // Quartz
Normally a haven for gamers, Twitch, the world’s largest livestreaming platform, is now flooded with streams from entire industries cut off from their normal source of income. While the biggest trend is a massive influx of livestreamed concerts (viewership in the “music and performing arts” category has spiked from 92,000 daily hours to over 574,000 daily hours in the last month), other growing categories include fitness classes and even live theater. The question now is whether these groups, who are largely offering their streams to fans for free, will be able to monetize them in order to stay afloat until it’s safe to return to the real world.
VR Takes the Stage as Conferences Cancel // Forbes
While Covid-19 has brought the world of in-person events to a grinding halt, some organizers are finding that virtual reality offers a ready and, in some ways, even preferable alternative to their previously planned gatherings. Designers of virtual event platforms point out that virtual worlds are distinct from the real one, not just imitations but separate entities with their own unique possibilities. It’s quite possible that even after the virus has subsided, many events will stay virtual.
Animal Crossing Becomes a Hub for Virtual Protest // Wired
It’s hard to imagine a better time than March 20, 2020 for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to have been released. The game offers a charming, escapist world that has provided a welcome balm to millions, and it’s now well on its way to becoming one of the best-selling games of all time. Yet China has banned its sale completely, because in the absence of physical spaces to gather, Hong Kong protesters have begun using the game to spread their pro-democracy messages.
Compiled Perspectives on Quibi // Multiple Outlets
Amid the vast societal disruption caused by the coronavirus, a new star-studded streaming platform debuted with much fanfare and over 1.7 million downloads in its first week. With so many people now stuck at home, one might think it’s a great time for such a launch—but as The Verge points out in their breakdown of this unique timing, Quibi was never intended to compete with Netflix, and may suffer as a result. Of course, there’s another question beyond timing that may dictate Quibi's fate: Is it a good idea? Two TV critics ponder this exact question in an article for The Ringer. Meanwhile, a critic at the BBC asks whether, for better or worse, Quibi could change how we watch films.

 FoST speaker and longtime collaborator Ari Kuschnir debuted a new web series, Together, about contemplating the important questions our current situation raises.

 FoST exhibitor Stuart “Sutu“ Campbell was interviewed for an article in Immerse about how Covid-19 is impacting creatives in the immersive space.

 FoST collaborator Niantic acquired tech startup, an augmented reality company with the bold ambition of building a 3D map of the world using smartphone cameras.
 FoST collaborators Within made their full Wonderscope AR children’s story library available for free to help keep kids entertained and learning during the pandemic.

 FoST Curriculum guest speaker Tina Sharkey joined the Board of Directors of PBS.

 FoST speaker Resh Sidhu discussed the “double-edged sword” of immersive tech at The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival.

 FoST performer Lin-Manuel Miranda made a surprise appearance on John Krasinski’s new web series, Some Good News.

Normally, in each issue of our newsletter, we offer a selection of events occurring around the world that we think our community of readers might enjoy attending. Now, of course, such a list is not forthcoming. Instead, we’ve curated a selection of virtual events and experiences to keep yourself entertained and inspired without ever leaving the house. Enjoy!

Vote in an AI-generated song contest: The AI Song Contest is a public project researching the creative abilities of AI and its impact on humans as musical animals. From now through May 10th, you can vote on songs created by 13 teams from around the world, all attempting to create the mathematically perfect pop hit using artificial intelligence.

Take a dance class on Instagram: Since his LA studio closed due to coronavirus, FoST workshop leader Ryan Heffington has been offering wildly popular, free dance classes almost every day of the week on Instagram Live. All you need to join is a phone, tablet, or laptop and a desire to dance!

Play indie games in a virtual arcade: A Pittsburgh-based arcade-meets-art-gallery called LikeLike has created a tiny, free MMORPG based on their now-closed physical space. Their current show, “An Itsy Bitsy Crisis,” features indie games based on themes of catastrophe and rebirth. The show will run until May 1st, when a new show will begin, mirroring the gallery’s real-life schedule. 

Try AirBnB's new Online Experiences: In 2016, AirBnB debuted Experiences, a platform for signing up for tours and activities hosted by locals in cities around the world. Now, with most of the world practicing social distancing, the company has moved its Experiences online, offering activities such as magic shows, art classes, and even a virtual tour of Chernobyl.

Get cultured with the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine series: On March 25th, the BBC announced its virtual festival, Culture in Quarantine, with the aim of keeping public access to art and culture alive during the pandemic. The program includes new commissions, treasures from the archives, exclusive performances, virtual access to now-closed museums and galleries, and more. We’re particularly excited about FoST speaker Margaret Atwood’s puppet show and BAC Beatbox Academy’s performance of Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster, which we saw and loved at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. 

Attend HTC Vive’s virtual GDC sessions: Every Tuesday from now through May 12, HTC is hosting a live webinar and Q&A based on a session they otherwise would have hosted at this year’s cancelled Game Developers Conference. These are valuable opportunities for anyone interested in XR to learn from some of the industry’s leading producers of XR content and hardware.

Experience the Tribeca Film Festival 2020 VR selections: From April 17th to the 25th, Tribeca Film Festival will bring 15 of this year’s VR selections to Oculus devices via the Oculus TV app. If you‘ve got an Oculus headset, don’t miss out!

Browse a collection of 20-second stories for washing your hands by: This episode of The Memory Palace, a member of the Radiotopia podcast collective, offers 20 stories, each 20 seconds long, that you can listen to while you wash your hands—assuming that, like us, you’ve gotten a little sick of singing “Happy Birthday” every time.

and of course:

Subscribe to the FoST Podcast, and join us tonight for Films with Friends!
Bonus: Angela Ahrendts’s FoST Film, Authentic Branding for a Global Audience
The Future of StoryTelling podcast is an exciting new way for us to share insights from our global community of world-class storytellers, but long before it existed, we were already sharing knowledge in a different way: through our self-produced FoST films. We were lucky enough to have Angela Ahrendts join us not only in the very first episode of the podcast, but also as the subject of one of our FoST films back in 2013. Check it out here.
Got updates? Want to share them with the rest of the FoST Community?
Send us your good news, calls for submissions, humble brags, shout-outs, and more at
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