Exprima Talks: Hacking the Story with Nate Herzog

In Tech Digest by Corey Pressman

exprima talks logoExprima Talks, led by Corey Pressman of Exprima Media and conducted for Publishing Perspectives, is a series of discussions with people thinking and tinkering in the space of reading.

By Corey Pressman

Nate Herzog is the creator of StoryHack Media, whose mission is to reimagine storytelling using digital media. SHM held its first competition last October called StoryHackVT, a 24-hour, hackathon-styled cross-media event involving 15 teams of 55 participants from Vermont, New York, and beyond. More information can be found at www.storyhackmedia.com. Outside of StoryHack, Nate is a writer, storyteller, and technology consultant. He lives with his wife and family in Burlington.

For this interview, I provided Nate with three prompts:

Prompt 1


Herzog: This reminds me of how I chose the hash sign as a logo. The story starts with choosing the name StoryHack Media. Back when I was designing our first hackathon event, I was working with a small group of people. I needed a name for the event so we could start marketing it without calling it “that hackathon-like event but for story tellers instead of programmers.” We were using all kinds of hash tags on Twitter to talk about it, but the most popular one was #StoryhackVT. We went with that one and I dropped the hashtag right into the logo. After the event when discussing what we should do next, everyone inside and outside of the planning group was referring to us (the group) as Storyhack. It was tough for me to grab that as a name because a storyhack is an event, not an entity. But everyone knew us as Storyhack and there was some value to that. Eventually I settled upon the name StoryHack Media, breaking it out as three words in the logo, which are the three words I use most often to describe how I work.

I kept the hashtag as a logo as well. I like it for two reasons. In social media, most notably Twitter, people use the hashtag to organize like thoughts together or to give context to a awkward thought (#firstworldproblems). There isn’t anything in English writing and composition that is so easy for adding context and organization like the hashtag. Footnotes and endnotes come the closest, but they’re both awkward. I love that digital media can suggest an elegant compositional tool.

Also, in many coding languages, the hashtag is used for commenting. Whenever the hashtag appears, the complier or interpreter ignores anything that comes after that symbol on the line. That means you can put anything behind a hashtag and the complier will skip it. The hashtag becomes shorthand for “human eyes only.” It is a symbol that calls special attention to itself. It’s saying, “There’s a message here from one human to another.” #StoryHackMedia. Stuff for humans. Maybe that should be a new tagline.

Prompt 2

Herzog: I recently attended a talk by Intel’s futurist Brian David Johnson. This was one of his last slides in the presentation. I was so taken by the thought I took a picture of it. It really grabbed me that, in this context, people looked into the future and defined how they wanted to live and perhaps who they wanted to become with the stories that they told. As far as I know, story is one of the few tools at our disposal that can so powerfully shape our world and ourselves. For so long, stories (especially fictional ones) have been sidelined as entertainment. This statement says the opposite. Story is one of the few ways, perhaps the only way, in which we can truly master our fate as humans. I remember that each time I pick up a book or describe how I use story to bring communities together.

Prompt 3


Herzog: Here’s a bit of useless trivia: my first job working in technology was at 3M, which invented Post-it Notes. I always get upset if I’m working somewhere else and there isn’t a stack of Post-its on the desk. I use them all the time. There are so many different digital tools to organize our thoughts and yet none of them can rival the Post-it note. You can write or doodle anything and then stick them almost anywhere. You can use them for brainstorming, editing, organizing, even creating. I suppose when we give the future a widely accessible augmented layer, there will be a digital version of the stick it anywhere Post-it note. Until then I’m unconsciously reaching for them. I think it’s a sign of an organized mind to have a stack of Post-it notes handy.

Pressman: Can you tell me more about some Post-it-cenetric brainstorming methods you prefer?

Herzog: I use them a lot for analog tagging. When I’m organizing notes or ideas, particularly after a brainstorming session, I write down categories and slap them against a particular bit of info. It all has to be transcribed later, but works well if I started with a whiteboard.

I also use them to cluster “like thoughts” together. Have a thought – write it down, stick it to the wall. Have a related thought – write it down, stick it next to the previous note. Imagine bushes of thoughts growing on the walls. I’d send a picture, but I recently cleaned and transcribed my wall in fear that I was losing ideas because they kept falling down. This can be done digitally too. I use Evernote a lot. But I find that I don’t pay attention to Evernote ideas the same way I pay attention to my walls or desk. I find I’m still straddling the digital and analog world and it will likely stay that way for some time. Old habits…convenience.

About the Author

Corey Pressman

Corey taught anthropology for 12 years before founding Exprima Media, a software design and development company that partners with content providers to envision, design, and develop compelling and effective interactive experiences. Corey delivers presentations on a variety of topics including the future of publishing, interaction design, and global mobile initiatives. He is also a Fellow of the Imaginary College at Arizona State University's Center for Science and the Imagination.