Nonlinear Narratives: Design and build innovative storytelling applications in a competition from the Innovation and Research group at Al Jazeera Media Network.


Al Jazeera Innovation Challenge is an initiative of Al Jazeera’s Innovation and Research group. It is intended to open a platform for new ideas about storytelling to surface from a global community of software designers and developers.  

The Challenge

Here at Al Jazeera we want to challenge storytellers, developers, and designers to come up with the most innovative nonlinear storytelling application. The application can be a Web or mobile application (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows Phone).

If your application allows for a new form of storytelling, it should be reusable. That is, it should support any number of different stories in the future, and not be hard-coded to tell one story for the purposes of this challenge.

Entries will be judged by our network’s Innovation and Research group, on categories of Innovation, Functionality, Design, and Potential, and the top three entries will receive a cash award and prizes. A fourth “People’s Voice” cash award will be given based on community voting.

In the spirit of Open Innovation, we require that any software written for submission to this challenge is licensed by submitters under one of the approved open source licenses from the Open Source Initiative. We recommend the licenses listed under "Popular Licenses."

"Wait, I have to Open Source my app?"

This challenge will reward great creativity through the prizes we are offering, but beyond that, we want to make a difference for the broader innovation network around the globe.

Your submission to the competition is your contribution to the broader world of media and technology research. Others could build on your creations just as you can build on existing open source projects to bring your idea to life.

With this continuous cycle of Open Innovation we can keep up the momentum in years to come, extrapolating and enhancing great ideas. The best ideas even have a chance to become start-ups in the future through our planned incubation process.

We look forward to seeing what you can come up with!

Nonlinear Narrative: Topic Background

Nonlinear narrative is a storytelling technique used in literature and film where events are portrayed in nontraditional ways, such as non-chronological events or parallel story lines. We see nonlinear narrative as a real opportunity to innovate in storytelling, especially in our modern, technology-enabled day and age, where we use multiple powerful media devices, from laptops to phones, tablets, and even wearables. 

Typically, the stories and content we create and consume are linear, and follow a logical, cause and effect structure. Yet our minds and memories work in a nonlinear way, and this offers an opportunity for new types of storytelling, and new methods of media consumption.

As examples, imagine an story that changes how often it includes a particular character, for each reader, based on interactions with the story elements. Or a TV show filmed with six cameras that the viewer can flip between? Or a timeline that presents an entire topic without forcing the user to start from the beginning?

Some questions: How can we make storytelling better based on a context like location, device, or time? Why should stories follow a chronological order anyway?


View full rules


  • Participants: Individuals (over 15 years in age); Teams (up to 4 people); Organizations (employing no more than 10 people)
  • Location: Global


  • Challenge Topic: apps for the creation and/or consumption of nonlinear narratives.
  • What to create: functioning, reusable software application or mature prototype, with any or all of the following: demonstration video; presentation; screenshots
  • Platforms: iOS; Android; Windows Phone; Mobile Web; Web; Hardware/Wearable
  • License: We require submissions to be licensed under one of the approved open source licenses from the Open Source Initiative. Select a license listed under "Popular Licenses."
  • Code Repository: code should be made available via GitHub or Google Code.

How to enter

  1. Click “Register” to access the submission form and start drafting your submission.
  2. If your idea could use some teamwork, check out the Registrants tab or post your thoughts in the Discussions area.
  3. Keep an eye on the Updates tab for important announcements from Al Jazeera.
  4. Create a working mobile or web app that meets the requirements above.
  5. Take some screenshots of your app, or create a presentation or video that explains your solution.
  6. Provide a way for us to access your app for testing.
  7. Submit your app before the deadline - check the Dates page for more information. 

Still have questions? Email us at


Al Jazeera Innovation and Research

Al Jazeera Innovation and Research
Al Jazeera Media Network

Judging Criteria

  • Innovation
    Evaluates the degree of innovation present in the solution, with a focus on both completely new ideas and also new implementations or combinations of technology.
  • Functionality
    Measures the level of functionality found in the solution, including completed or simulated feature sets, back-end behaviors, and integrations with other systems.
  • Design
    Includes visual and interaction assessments, judged according to the impact and appeal of the solution's final design.
  • Potential
    Considers the eventual impact made possible by the solution, including social, economic, academic, and environmental potential.