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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Power of Storytelling
by Gensler, Lior David, M.A., Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, 2020, 120; 28315051
Abstract (Summary)

Thesis + Exhibition Project Document Introduction: This document contains two parts. The first explores the thesis of using narrativized design to deeply connect audiences of virtual exhibitions to the content. The second part of this document applies that thesis to a proposed satellite exhibition for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum honoring the 20th anniversary of the attacks which seeks to tell the story of 9/11 to the generation born afterwards. The proposed site is at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, located blocks from where the Towers once stood. Through the thesis and the applied project, this paper suggests that physical exhibitions need to be designed in tandem with a virtual counterpart in order to maximize their impact on a wider audience. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum was conceived not only as a space to share the story of that tragic day, but as a communal space to grieve and process what transpired. Through my applied exhibition, I strive to bring that same communal element to people participating virtually. A virtual design must have narrativized design elements which will result in the participant gaining a deeper connection and understanding of the content that will result in an experience as satisfying as an in-person visit to the museum.

Thesis + Exhibition Project Overview: Narrativized design is a method that seeks to present or interpret something such as an experience or theory in the form of story1. Museums have traditionally served as a space to exhibit artifacts in a manner that generates a story to disseminate knowledge to the viewer. More recently, narrativized design has been successfully applied in physical exhibitions as a vehicle to more deeply engage viewers and connect them to the story presented. As the demand for virtual experiences has grown, museums have endeavored to translate their physical exhibitions to an online format to both reach a wider audience and, most recently, to maintain a connection with an audience hamstrung by a pandemic. It has proven challenging to create a virtual experience that mimics the depth of personal connection that occurs during a visit to a museum. Museums need to design their physical exhibits in tandem with their virtual counterparts, applying engaging and interactive design elements to both the physical and virtual experience. Through extensive research, I have identified and developed a number of effective design elements to achieve this goal. Specifically, the use of sensorial elements to engage people in a visceral way, both in the museum and at home, as well as the development of a guiding persona that makes each participant’s experience unique and individualized.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, the exhibition “My 9/11 Story”, seeks to impart the story of 9/11 to the generation born since the tragedy. Recognizing the challenge of dealing with a subject as fraught with trauma and loss, the exhibit will include components that attempt to engage with a younger audience both emotionally and technologically. The exhibit will include sensorial elements as well as technological innovations that will engage the viewer completely. Likewise, the design of the virtual counterpart creates a seamless transition whereby a solitary virtual viewer will feel connected to the larger audience. This model of narrativized virtual design can be used as a model for future exhibitions that similarly seek to present content in meaningful ways to a wide ranging audience.

Thesis + Exhibition Project Summation: Human beings are natural storytellers. We use narrative to impart complex information to each other. The goal of this applied exhibition project is to use narrativized design to impart a comprehensive understanding of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to the first generation born post-event:Generation Z.

Gen Z is technologically oriented. They have never known a time without the internet, the smartphone or social media. In order to satisfy and excite this audience, exhibitions need to incorporate digital elements that promote engagement. Moreover, physical exhibitions need to have meaningful online counterparts in order to adequately reach this audience. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, museums have had to close their doors and transition to a virtual platform making the need for online exhibitions even more imperative. In order to provide a digital experience that both satisfies and amplifies the physical exhibition, they need to be designed in tandem from the outset.

Over several months time, I have developed and designed this exhibition which is rooted in extensive research. From the defining details of effective storytelling, to discovering the value of improvisational theatre in storytelling and meaning making, to participating in virtual museum programming via Zoom, I have taken in all aspects of what it takes to truly reach a wide audience, both in person and remotely, through a rich narrative. All this has led me to create with informed design decisions in my applied exhibition project, which will ultimately be used as a model for future exhibitions that similarly seek to present content in meaningful ways to a wide ranging audience.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cowan, Brenda, Waisman, Kate
School: Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
Department: Exhibition and Experience Design
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: MAI 82/7(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Design
Keywords: Design, Engagement, Narrative, Narrativized, Story, Storytelling
Publication Number: 28315051
ISBN: 9798569907748
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