Carson Center’s STORY CITY can be experienced throughout Lincoln

The geolocative STORY CITY projects are a way to experience the city through a variety of stories created by students in Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Arts Ash E. Smith's Story Lab course. Courtesy photo.
The geolocative STORY CITY projects are a way to experience the city through a variety of stories created by students in Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Arts Ash E. Smith's Story Lab course. Courtesy photo.

Carson Center’s STORY CITY can be experienced throughout Lincoln

calendar icon18 Nov 2020    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Lincoln, Neb.--Take a walk downtown, in the Haymarket or across Lincoln and experience the geolocative STORY CITY projects created by first-year students in the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts’ Story Lab course this semester.

“The project is a combination of fiction, reality and real-fiction,” said University of Nebraska–Lincoln Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Arts Ash E. Smith. “Come outside and enjoy these immersive audio walks and enjoy everything from role-playing games to noir-ish nighttime meditations. A phone and a pair of headphones will lead you on the journeys in STORY CITY.”

Listeners can begin by downloading the free Echoes interactive sound walks app, available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Visit to get started finding the stories. 

“STORY CITY really combines a few different aspects of storytelling, which I think is really exciting. Plus, it’s COVID-19-friendly, both in terms of production and in terms of experience,” Smith said. “I think that’s something we’re all thirsty for is how to still have cultural and art events in this time.”

Hannah Pedersen, a freshman emerging media arts major from Phillips, Nebraska, said listeners should expect to hear a variety of stories as they explore Lincoln.

“Since the STORY CITY project is audio-based, the participant can move at their own pace as they find themselves listening in on the hidden stories of the city,” she said.

The concept of these geolocative stories is that GPS (Global Positioning System—or your location) triggers hearing the story on your phone through the app.

“Imagine on your phone, you download this Echoes app, and then each of our students have created and designed their own almost imagine like a radio play, however it’s super site-specific. So you’re walking, you put your earbuds in with your phone, and you wander around the city. You have these layers of what’s real, and then you have the story layers, which you’re listening to, and they’re quite fantastically all over the place,” Smith said.

The app will guide you where to stand to begin the story.

As an example, Pedersen created “The Audition,” which begins at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at 13th and Q streets.

“My project is an audio immersive experience where the participant is trying to prove themselves worthy of being a secret agent in the Punctuation Corporation,” Pedersen said. “My inspiration came from exploring the downtown Lincoln area. I wanted to create a project that encouraged the participant to visit businesses and locations they may not have otherwise. I’ve always loved the idea of becoming a secret agent, so I decided to give my audience the chance to do so.”

There are several physical components that the agent must do to complete their mission, so Pedersen recommends starting her story between 3-5 p.m. She partnered with local youth culture agency, Archrival.

“Archrival is a youth culture agency that helps design and create immersive experiences for major brands such as Red Bull and Adidas. With the help of their team, we were able to add another layer to the audio experience to make it feel even more real,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen said creating this world in audio form was very different from any other project she has done.

“Usually, I create stories in a written or visual format for people to read and/or view,” she said. “Before starting this project, I had listened to very few podcasts. I was not sure how to approach this new way of audio storytelling. In the end, I decided to approach it similar to an audio book and then build on it from there. I had to keep in mind the participant would be hearing both the sounds of the city and their secret agent soundtrack as I created the audio pieces.”

Other stories begin at locations such as the Lincoln Station at 201 N. 7th St. in the Haymarket; Stransky Park near 17th and Harrison Ave.; the north side of the Nebraska State Capitol at 1445 K. St.; and Holmes Lake, among many other locations throughout the city. Many of the stories begin on campus, in downtown Lincoln and in the Haymarket.

Smith said this format is an interesting way to experience storytelling.

“It’s also getting at this idea of thinking how there are always these story layers everywhere,” Smith said. “When people were bringing in their articles, on a piece of land, there’s everything from indigenous peoples that were and are here, and then prairie or homesteaders that were moving through. And then thinking all the way into future narratives. So that urban exploration and urban ecology really help us think through and excavate past layers and past histories, but then also contemplate the future and let us experience them in the present, and I think that’s very cool. It’s a tool for reimagining the city, and that’s why we call it STORY CITY.”

Smith hopes a lot of people get outside walking and experience these audio projects.

“I want the city of Lincoln to come and experience this,” Smith said. “That is what they created this for—the city of Lincoln. It’s almost like a love letter to the city of Lincoln. It’s another way to have an adventure or to experience the city. I think it’s really fun.”