Second Story Event Recap

They are rock stars in the interactive and narrative space. Their work simultaneously makes you feel completely overwhelmed and universally connected. You smile at its inclusivity, and gasp at its lofty heights. They change the conversation from technical (how did you do it?) to the meaningful (why did you do it?).

They’re pushing the boundaries of what can be done in the interactive and installation world, and Second Story’s co-founder Julie Beeler and producer Michael Pittman carved out two hours of their time to share some of their work with AIGA Raleigh at Red Hat’s headquarters on the evening of June 5th, 2012.

They began by asking us all to pull out our cell phones, navigate to a URL and draw on our phone screens. Everyone who participated soon found they were actively scribbling along the top of Second Story’s presentation slides. And they continued to graffiti each slide throughout the talk.

We saw so much work, it made our heads spin. But one slide from their presentation helps sum up the inspiration and vision for almost every project shared with the group.

They start everything with engagement and inclusion, and finish with a call for contribution from users who become immersed in Second Story’s work. Users and/or visitors are a part of their surroundings and emerge changed in some way – whether they’ve learned something new or feel like they’re now part of something bigger than themselves.

Second Story’s presentation included several areas of focus:

  • expressive creativity
  • tools to connect people
  • facilitating storytelling
  • interpreting information
  • integrating media and space
  • encouraging understanding
  • nurturing good citizenship

Projects such as the “Secrets of the Vault” project created for Coca-Cola encase visitors in a “bubble-izer” and more immersive experiences that are part Willy Wonka, part Mission Impossible.

The Adler Planetarium work takes our shadows and elevates them from mere shadow puppets into active participants in visual displays. Your hand’s shadow can elevate astronauts into space stations and change the narrative of the projections on walls all around you.

Watching them present is like seeing a magician continue to pull rabbit after rabbit from his top hat. One particularly relevant “rabbit” was their ongoing work for the Institute for Emerging Issues’ (IEI) Emerging Issues Commons + Hunt Library in Raleigh.

From the IEI website:

“…the environment in the Hunt Library will be permeated with virtual browsing, video-conferencing, on-line room scheduling, collaborative projection, whiteboards, video walls, and technology-enabled furniture.”

Visitors to the library will be greeted by a bending blue ribbon that projects the day’s news and current happenings, reflecting the library’s involvement in the ideas and issues of the day. As Second Story introduced the IEI work, they also shared a meta-narrative they created to inspire and inform it.

If you have the pleasure of experiencing Second Story’s work or seeing them present it, you’ll find that the IEI project meta-narrative applies to any interaction you have with this progressive group. You enter, undergo a change and leave the experience with increased energy and purpose.

Sketch notes taken by Libby Levi

The best way to interact with Second Story is to visit their website. They are as generous with their work and process online as they are in person. Thank you to Julie and Michael for staying late and answering every last question from your audience. Thank you to Matthew Munoz for bringing Second Story to AIGA Raleigh. And thank you to the local creative community for coming to the meeting and for this:


By Laura Hamlyn
Published July 4, 2012