Story is how we make sense of the world.

In a holistic narrative, the design of a well-researched, richly-detailed world precedes the emergence of story, becoming a platform for visionary and predictive imagination. Fiction built on deep knowledge allows us to construct a disruptive space for multiple stories to emerge logically, organically and coherently from the coding of its design. The emergent worlds create Story that can change the real world.

The World Building Media Lab (WbML) was established in September 2012 at the University of Southern California’s famed School of Cinematic Arts. It is directed by award-winning designer and professor Alex McDowell, a Royal Designer for Industry. It defines an experiential, collaborative and interdisciplinary practice that integrates imagination and emergent technologies and creates new narratives from inception through iteration and prototyping into multimedia making.

In the past decade, the Lab has worked on multiple funded-research projects that demonstrate the principles of cinematic storytelling woven within dense and unique worlds and how applying the lab’s processes define the multi-layered capabilities of each world.

In each project the WbML has explored best practices for designing vast storyworlds that unfold across multiple media platforms, including those that do not yet exist, and explore and invent new systems of storytelling.

Narrative disruptions intersect with new technologies to shift author-directed control of the viewer’s gaze to a dynamic relationship between designed worlds, the characters within them, and the human lens.

We focus these developmental tools on solving real-world problems, to create new futures in partnership with funding partners that include Fortune-500 companies and cross-disciplinary institutes. The WbML’s unique position at the intersection of academia and industry provides a fertile common ground for narrators, thought leaders, artists, scientists and designers and engineers to collaborate. The World Building Media Lab has yielded insights that have led to breakthroughs in story-worlds, business models, policies, and patentable technologies.