This is a guest post from LabDreams, an ASU student venture currently seeking crowdfunding through Kickstarter. To learn more about LabDreams and contribute to their project, visit their Kickstarter page. You can also check out their video at the end of this post.
Want to get people interested in science? Start with a good story. Enter LabDreams: a team of scientists, writers, animators, musicians and voice actors producing an animated web series explaining science through storytelling. Our pilot series Antibody Evolution Machine begins with scientists trapped in a zombie-infested laboratory, and along the way, teaches viewers about basic concepts in computer science and genetics. The characters will even have an impromptu conversation about Stephen Wolfram’s book A New Kind of Science.
We’re exploring new possibilities in educational entertainment – not to be confused with edutainment. LabDreams is designed to be a healthy balance of technical and educational content combined within an engaging narrative. We harness the power of narrative to ignite people’s imaginations, using scientific facts as our building blocks.
We’ve been asked if the series will be like Bill Nye the Science Guy, or maybe The Magic School Bus. We studied the elements that make educational entertainment effective, and areas where it falls short. We noticed that host-driven shows like Bill Nye place a lot of responsibility on a single person, like a professor giving a lecture. This host is responsible for fully understanding the content, being entertaining and engaging, and finding the most effective mode of presentation for the audience. The viewer assumes that this professor is all-knowing, and expects that the he or she will take them by the hand and lead them through the scientific jungle. In contrast, narrative-driven series create a dialogue between multiple people: different characters step in to ask questions for the audience, provide ideas, form opinions and display character development. They tend, however, to focus on story at the expense of science.
LabDreams uses a cohesive narrative to place characters in a situation oriented around scientific and technical content. The characters do more than a single host like Bill Nye or Carl Sagan can: they act as both the teacher and the student, not just sharing their expertise but actually learning along with the viewer. Our characters demonstrate the processes of investigation inherent to the scientific method, and an interesting narrative emerges from these characters seeking out information, reacting to it in relatable ways and searching for solutions.
The production of our first episode is an experiment for a larger theory. With positive results, we plan to have more scientists contribute to new series and online games. We think the combination of fact and fiction is a very powerful formula, and we aim to create a new method for creatively and financially supporting scientific research. LabDreams will go on to produce scientifically relevant games and research applications that harness globally connected data gathering.
But for now, we’re starting small, one idea at a time. The first episode of Antibody Evolution Machine is looking for funding. We have the talent, the script and audience. With the right support, we can start production this fall! Why not donate a modest amount to support our idea? Help us spread the word or send us your thoughts – we’d love to hear your feedback.