May 5, 2021

Eyes on the Sky: A Transmedia Story World Project | Dr. Moriba Jah, Erin Riley, Sven Ortel, Dr. Lucy Atkinson & Kyle Schonefield

Eyes on the Sky: A Transmedia Story World Project | Dr. Moriba Jah, Erin Riley, Sven Ortel, Dr. Lucy Atkinson & Kyle Schonefield

Are YOU a #spaceHero #spaceEnvironmentalist #OuterSpaceAdvocate? Meet some likeminded people designing Eyes on the Sky A Transmedia story world project.
Are you a #spaceHero
Check out the Crowd Funding Call To Action!

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
- Michel Angelo

What if every artificial satellite suddenly disappeared out of the sky? 

If that is a concern for you then supporting ‘Eyes on the Sky’ and challenging the Space of Strategy of Hope regarding #spaceJunk and #orbitalDebris.

Why not contribute to a future where you will flourish! Be a #SpaceHero.


About the Guests

Executive producer for Eyes on the Sky, Erin Riley, a professor of practice and an inaugural director of innovation and entrepreneurship and author. 

Executive producer for Eyes on the Sky, Dr. Moriba Jah, is a space environmentalist and an activist, associate professor of aerospace engineering, director for computational astronautical sciences and technologies. Moriba is a specialist in orbital mechanics. He created the Astria graph, that checks over 26,000 satellites and objects in orbit around the earth.

Sven Ortel is a creative director, associate professor and expert in designing projections and imagery for immersive storytelling. 

Dr. Lucy Atkinson is a researcher, senior faculty research affiliate and expert in environmental communication. 

Kyle Schonefield the assistant producer. I like how he frames his purpose about he wants his audience to feel emotions and activate their imagination. This group is the leading team on the immersive traveling exhibit called the eyes in the sky, which is an immersive experience. To create awareness around the dangers of space junk and take you on an interactive and emotional journey.

About the Show

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Michelle St Jane

A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.

Social media accounts:


Intro: You're listening to life and leadership, a conscious journey. The podcast that offers wisdom and strength. Join your host, Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people's planet and the wider world. If you want to live a life of intention to be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to life one today at a time you are in the right place at the right time. Let's get started.

Michelle St Jane: [00:00:38] Imagine a transmedia story, let’s look skyward.

 I've been a star and planet gazer all my life. We live in a miraculous world with the right thinking it may remain that way. 

Dr. Ed Mitchell, an astronauts on Apollo 14, said:

All matter in our universe is created in the star systems.

So is the matter in your body.

The matter in the spacecraft.

The matter in your partner's body. That's the product of the stars.

We are all Stardust.

We are all one in that sense. 

(Dr. Ed Mitchell)

For as long as I can remember, I've had a deep desire to explore and to galactic space.  Not surprising as I was a child when men walked on the moon from Apollo 11. I was fascinated by science fiction and love television shows. Like the courageous crew on Jupiter in the series ‘Lost in Space,’ and ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ starring NASA astronauts to name a couple of my favorites.

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger STS-51L (28 January 1986) explosion brought much dis-ease, that still echoes in the back of my mind 30 years on, and consideration for the risks ranging around human safety and the ramifications for the space environment and contamination.  These concerns still sit at the forefront of my thinking as a person concerned with conscious stewardship of outer space and the ramifications for the environment.

[00:02:03] During the 1990s, I was on the fringes of aerospace exploitation/exploration. Living in Bermuda, where NASA was based, the island made the decision for the release of whatever was launched because of where Bermuda is on the world curvature.  I was also considering a career in this area in the 1990s. But let's face it as a 20th Century career woman, I knew the career path could be limited. 

Let's consider more about Eyes in the Sky. I'm joined by a multi-talented, multi-passionate multidisciplinary team full of much super genius. Unfortunately, not all the team could participate in this episode.  Like, Deepak Chitty the director of virtual worlds, Patricio delegator, who was before and behind the camera and Rachel Rullo, who's into media and analytics. I like her core values around curiosity, wonder growth and empathy. We really resonate there.

Joining me in this conversation is:

1.       The head of the team, Erin Riley, a professor of practice and an inaugural director of innovation and entrepreneurship and author. 

2.       Moriba Jah, a space environmentalism and an activist, associate professor of aerospace engineering, director for computational astronautical sciences and technologies. Moriba is a specialist in orbital mechanics. He created the Astraea graph, which checks over 26,000 satellites and objects in orbit around the earth. I will put a link in the show notes. 

3.       Sven Ortel is a creative director, associate professor and expert in designing projections and imagery for immersive storytelling.

4.       Lucy Atkinson is a senior faculty research affiliate and expert in environmental communication. 

5.       Kyle Schonefield the assistant producer. I like how he frames his purpose about he wants his audience to feel emotions and activate their imagination. This group is the leading team on the immersive traveling exhibit called the eyes in the sky, which is an immersive experience. To create awareness around the dangers of space junk and take you on an interactive and emotional journey.

Today I know as a global futurist and posit that:

There is an opportunity to transmute the legacies from last century 

And transform them!

OR the implications of poor stewardship will soon be in full view

in terms of socio and environmental impact on the Earth,

among the stars and planets.

It will not be hard to see the decisions of yesterday

Playing out in the game of tomorrow

And to measure the benefit or the lack thereof.

You too contribute to this future!

Let's talk with the team. Thank you for joining us, Erin. I am so excited to hear about what you do and how you got involved with ‘Eyes on the Sky.’

Erin Reilly: [00:04:53] Great. Well, thank you so much, Michelle.  I got involved in ‘Eyes on the Sky’ by knocking on Moriba’s door after hearing him speak at the TEDx conference. I think it was in 2018, probably the first year I arrived at the University of Texas at Austin. What was interesting it was the same week when India was going to blow up a Satellite. The global news was asking, “why are they blowing up a satellite? Is there a need to blow up the satellite?” 

No! We already have enough space junk in this world. We don't need to create more. In a really realistic metaphorical way, Moriba was able to grasp at my heartstrings and the whole audience’s heartstrings. It could be a piece of space debris circling around our near-earth:

● has the potential of harming our space station 

● has the potential of creating this ripple effect problem with taking down other satellites

And not just for the fun of it, like India wanted to do, but just by accident, like by this chance. Different countries are not talking with each other.

[00:05:57] I'm a storyteller. I am the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Moody College of Communication. I founded Texas immersive. As a storyteller, I work with my students and other faculty and professionals in the industry to find new ways to engage audiences. Encourage them through experimental storytelling and the use of emerging technology. To have more agency in their story. To step them in the middle of a story world so that they can see themselves, embody and experience to make change.

[00:06:32] I, as the executive creative producer, reached out to a couple of my peers in the community here at UT and said, “Hey, we need a whole group of different diverse perspectives. And creators at the table to really address this wicked problem.” That's what we're doing with ‘Eyes on the Sky.’

Michelle St Jane: [00:06:50] The power of these transdisciplinary collaborations is amazing.

Michelle St Jane: [00:06:56.18] Moriba, would you like to:

● Add some statistics? 

● Frame the problem for us? 

● Why should we care? 

Moriba Jah: [00:07:05] you for having us.  Following on with what Erin said. Look, there's probably about half a million objects in near earth orbit that are derived from humans, we call them anthropogenic. Space objects range in size from speck of paint a millimeter in diameter, all the way up to the space station

The thing is that we can't track things as small as the speck of paint. We can only track things as small as the smartphone. Everything that's smaller is pretty much like a random bullet.

Where the strategy is a strategy of hope. We hope that these things don't collide with something that we care about on the space station. 

One of my good friends, the retired astronaut Susan Helmes, said that she remembers being on the front end of the space station. The one that's most towards the front and she would hear things dinging on the side of the hull. That was kind of surreal for her back then. It's only gotten worse since then. 

We can track about a half a million objects. That’s about 1%, about 26,000 objects. About 3,500 of those are things that are actually working on producing some sort of service or fulfilling some sort of purpose.  Whether it's financial transactions, position, navigation, and timing, and everything else is rubbish.

[00:08:23] Like out of everything that's hazardous, we only track 1%. Out of that, 1% only about 6% work. That’s 6% of 1% of the problem actually does something useful

Michelle St Jane: [00:08:35] Holy heck. My son was born early January 1986,  the shuttle challenger blew up late of January, 73 seconds after takeoff taking all of the lives of the crew, which included the school teacher, Christa McAuliffe.

[00:08:52] Now, that was 1980s. I was already primed to be concerned. Then I had the opportunity to be watching initiatives on getting communications up via satellites and what we now know.  Among the questions I’m concerned with, “How can we can support this amazing God-like technology?”   So for me, for decades, my concerns have been circling backward and forward.

[00:09:12] Concerns like, contamination from human access to the stars.  The irreversibility of irresponsible human behavior.  

I've had this long -standing hope that “we evolve towards being conscious human beings, using our capability and service to the universe.” Thank you Moriba for all your space environmentalist and activism.

[00:09:32] Let’s talk about your transmedia story world project: Eyes on the Sky.  How is this going to help? 

Sven Ortel: [00:09:45] I can talk about that. Hi, my name Sven Ortel. I instruct and mentor students in the use of digital technology and how to explore new ways of storytelling.  How  to become better visual storytellers in particular.

Sven Ortel: [00:10:06] I got involved with ‘‘Eyes on the Sky’’ after talking to Erin last summer. We were all kind of scrambling to figure out how to do this. I was researching VR technology. I'm a theater designer by trade. So, I was figuring out how we can use technology to help us? I wasn't finding much, a lot was all cool and shiny, but it didn't engage me on an emotional level. 

I'm a passionate gardener. I love landscaping. I care about the stewardship off the planet. Erin was telling me about this project that she is working on with Moriba and that she's investigating hybridity and how new ways of storytelling, that combines physical and digital, can create an emotional connection with the audience.

[00:10:52] I said, “yes, exactly.” I think this is where we need to go. It's about creating an emotional connection.  Investigating this, the technologies that create that, in a similar way  that when you walk through a garden, and that's something I actually feel. As opposed to you just seeing information. I am interested in that. Finding ways to recreate that in a way. 

We can reach a lot of people who:

● otherwise don't know, 

● nor have access to this information or 

● find it difficult to understand the challenges.

That's a design challenge and I'm a designer and I teach designer. So it seemed perfect. We call that XR or mixed reality these days. A mixture of the digital and physical. We're sort of at the forefront. We have pioneers. There are blueprints and it's exciting to me. But more importantly, it's exciting for the students. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:11:43] Brilliantly said, thank you. 

I was a latchkey kid. I grew up in New Zealand. Television was like 20 years behind the rest of the world. I was watching shows like ‘Lost in Space’ and ‘I dream of Jeannie’ and those types of things. And literally the space program was driving public support through these types of shows. Then we moved on with the cold war of ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars.’ 

[00:12:06] I really appreciate the use of your creativity as opposed to militarization here to create the opportunity for engagement. 

Lucy, could you give us a great introduction on how message components can influence the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. 

Lucy Atkinson: [00:12:24] Yes, I think that's a perfect segue. I'm Lucy Atkinson. I'm an associate professor in the advertising department and my corner of this project is research focuses on environmental communication. How do we understand change individual's beliefs, attitudes, behaviors about the environment and most of my focus has been on things like climate change.

[00:12:50] So what are we doing on earth with respect to the environment? Erin asked me to join this project. I was so excited because it changed my focus from looking down to looking up. And I love the challenge of trying to communicate with audiences about issues that are intractable that are wicked issues.

[00:13:11] Just like this problem. And there's a lot of assumptions or beliefs that we just have to educate people. We just have to give them the information and then they will change their behaviors. They'll do the right thing. We know as communicators that it's not how it works. That's why people continue to smoke. That's why people continue to text and drive. We know we shouldn't, but we do it. 

So it's really about what kinds of messages, “how do we appeal to them?” 

Michelle you've mentioned fear. We know that fear appeals. We use them a lot in communication. But they really aren't that effective. They work sometimes, but it really isn't a motivating way to communicate with people.

[00:13:49] What I love about this project is that it tries to engage with audiences in a really new way being an immersive experience.  Hopefully people can connect with an issue that they might not think about or feels very distant and not salient to them. Hopefully this immersive idea will change that perspective.

[00:14:10] And as a researcher, I like to understand, okay. How do people think before? How do they think now? My focus is on the people as they go through this process. To understand what the outcomes are. What we are accomplishing, what we hope to. I obviously I have a bias, but I think we will. I think we will have a really important effect and let other academics, the mainstream media know about what we're finding out here.

Michelle St Jane: [00:14:37] Oh, I really value what you do, Lucy.  

Secret confession here. I grew up thinking there were nine planets and always been I'm quite curious and engaged with space.  As a child I wanted to be an intergalactic Explorer. Recently, I've been reading about how there is a whole other world off of Jupiter with:

● Diamond planets

● Exoplanets

● Rouge planets

● Planets, without a star.

 This whole amazing vista of trash circling around our world and low earth orbit that we've created without thinking.  
 Now here we are exploring Mars and going beyond with different kinds of technology. So I really appreciate what you're saying because I grew up and had to come to terms with there are more than nine planets. That what I see in the sky is only a little tiny dot of what's really out there. I really appreciate that you work on attitudes and beliefs. 

Kyle, I'm very excited about what you do. You, major in business. I appreciate how you create this media outreach, this research, and encourage people to engage and be inspired to do more. Kyle, I'd love to hear how you contribute. 

Kyle Schonefeld: [00:15:43] I am a student out of the University of Texas, Austin. I am coming out of Erin Riley's immersive program. I'll be graduating next month, actually. So excited about that.

I've been on this project for around a year now and thinking about how are we going to get people to interact with this important wicked problem. And one of the challenges is that people can't see what is happening at above. And so how do we humanize that concept and get people to understand what is happening? And that's where this immersive concept comes into play. Other than that, I, as a person, I believe that people deserve to know about this wicked problem.

[00:16:22] Not just from a student perspective. I've seen that if you ask your friends and your team, a lot of times, not like this team, but like out of the university, a lot of them don't know what's going on up above.

Even like space agencies now that know very well, what is going on? They don't communicate it effectively.  They don't highlight it. That's not their main objective or their priority. This team is making it a priority to let everyone know that, “Hey, you deserve to be a part of this conversation and we're going to let you know what's going on. Not only here on planet earth, but beyond because we need to care about both.”

[00:16:58] I've been working more on the marketing engine of this and how do we get those concepts out to the media, to people and give them a way into this conversation. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:17:10] I'm a big fan of intergenerational collaborations.  I've already confessed that I thought there were only nine planets or so, and was suitably impressed that there were this we've spotted another galaxy of more beyond.

[00:17:21] No one of us, no one country, no one area, no one international organization is going to make a change. We've had UN treaties. There are no longer functional when you've got commercial enterprises doing their own thing. These treaties were driven because of militarization and wanting to conquer.

[00:17:41] Like the flag on the moon. I firmly believe  we are the future. I'm going to do a out and a call to action with my audience. Are you wondering how you can help? There's a new crowd fundraising opportunity here. It will be in the show notes, but I would love for the eyes and the sky team to chime in about how we can help fund this project.

Erin Reilly: [00:18:06] I really love that.  Kyle is here with us because he's a representative of the students involved in this project. Moriba, Sven, Lucy and I, we are faculty and we're professors first. We really all believe in experiential learning and giving this opportunity for intergenerational learning from each other.

[00:18:25] One of the things that the initial funds will do is to allow us to keep on offering this experiential learning, being able to hire some of the students that are finishing up with our classes to continue working on the prototype throughout the rest of 2021, which will then be used to actually get larger sponsors and foundations invested in the Sky Dome.

[00:18:50] You really hit it on the nail. Michelle, this is a very complicated wicked problem, that encapsulates a triad of themes that we're trying to address through a transmedia. We have hopes of Kyle and Lucy reaching our audience through experiential marketing, through different types of social media that we're on right now, but also through short form video. As a starting point to get them interested in informational immersive. Experience allows them to embody the environmental geopolitical and commercial attitudes that are part of this race towards imagining what our future way of life could be.

Michelle St Jane: [00:19:33] 

● How is the funding going? 

● How long is it over? 

● How will the funds be used? 

This is a great place to get some of that information.

Erin Reilly: [00:19:44] We are hoping to raise $75,000 by May 18th 2021. We are 36% towards our goal. We would really appreciate any dollar, every penny counts right now to help us reach this goal. With the $75,000, we will lead a team to build out the prototype of the Sky Dome. 

[00:20:05] Sven Ortel: [00:20:05] The Sky Dome is a immersive dome that it contains imagery, tracking devices, and audio, and some physical items. It acts a little bit like a portal to all those areas where we’d like the audience:

● to connect to the issues 

● take them to the space station

● take them to Mars

● take them to the Pacific garbage patch. 

The idea is, through this sky dome, to create an emotional connection that goes beyond just looking at pictures. You can only prove those ideas and concepts by building the sky dome and letting people experience it.  That is why having the initial funding is so important because words and pictures only take you so far.

It's going to be the students that are going to be building this. They're going to be benefiting from building it because they will also experience themselves as makers of something that will hopefully change the course of future and awareness of this problem.

Erin Reilly: [00:20:58] I believe that 75,000 is a drop in the bucket of what our overall goal is, which is $3 million to be able to spin this out as a company. Then really begin to create it as a traveling immersive exhibit with a complimentary documentary series to really get the word out and to actually introduce the face of the future of space.

[00:21:25] In my opinion, the space environment is an incredible host. You will get to, you know, we're going to hologram them into the Sky Dome. So he will be your guide in actually really understanding this complicated problem and being Moriba he will be able to really put a face to what our future of space should look like.

Michelle St Jane: [00:21:44] Thank you. Erin, Moriba, Sven, Lucy, Kyle, any other thoughts to add? 

Moriba Jah: [00:21:50] I guess one thing that I'd like to lay out there and really appreciate what everybody has said so far.  Definitely happy that Kyle is here representing the students. 

For me, started with me spending some time on Maui with my family and when I went from doing Mars missions, to working for the air force research lab, using the telescopes on top of Mount Haleakala. 

Two things happened for me. 

● One is, using the telescopes, looking up that's when I found out that there was so much trash around the earth, I had no idea that there were all these objects. I had no clue. 

● Then I think living on Maui, being out in the middle of the Pacific, very small place. You've got the native Hawaiians. You've got everybody else. Seeing the disparities between the natives and the other folks on Maui.  Looking around the Island and of all the places in the world you'd think that this place would be very environmentally conscious and friendly, and it was completely the opposite. It was single use plastics with the hotel industry and all this other stuff. The landfills, it made me cry to just see how such a lush, a beautiful landscape was just suffering to the detriment because of what humans were doing without really thinking conscientiously. I'm like, this doesn't make sense.

[00:23:07] That was like a seed, which then got amplified during a trip to Alaska in 2015, where I took my son Denali to see where his name came from.  I saw a similar picture with the natives and everybody else. Being in Anchorage and going down with the main streets, shops lined on both sides with furs for sale and that sort of stuff.

[00:23:30] It was like, wow, it was just tearing me apart. This is when I had kind of this inner shift. I felt really broken inside and I just felt enveloped by a presence that felt very old to me. 

In my mind's eye, I saw the history of humanity along the way on this planet. People going away from this intergenerational contract of stewardship and custodianship to adopt one of ownership of stuff and exercising rights and the colonialism and all this other stuff.

[00:23:56] Seeing that there was some knowledge still within pockets of indigenous people, about the stewardship custodianship about knowing how to live in balance with the surroundings and that sort of stuff. I was asked to do everything within my capability to not let humanity forget about this intergenerational contract and remind folks about the interconnectedness of things.

[00:24:20] That action is best when born from a place of compassion. That's what this project is about. That pretty much sums it up. Yes. We're talking about space, but it's really what space tells us about us. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:24:32] Absolutely. I grew up in New Zealand and New Zealand has some initiatives around night sky sanctuaries.

[00:24:40] One of the things I got to experience was beautiful night skies in the Southern Hemispheres. Then as a late teen, I came to Bermuda because I wanted to surf and discovered NASA, rockets and satellites. Bermuda is a sister Island to Maui. So much valuable knowledge. To lift out of the conversation. It's just amazing. 

Any last words, Kyle, Lucy?

[00:25:10] Lucy Atkinson: [00:25:10] I can add a few words. I think there's an urgency to this project and that's where this crowdfunding comes in. It will be this launchpad to be able to allow us to really move forward with it. I don't want to be the sky is falling chicken little kind of person, but literally it is.

We need to start doing something. The communication environment today is such that there are so many messages out there that we have to get through a lot of messaging clutter. There's not just the near earth clutter, to motivate people, to find that compassion as Moriba was saying. That's where the urgency comes in. This is a project that is so worthwhile, so timely and needed. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:25:57] I totally agree with you. Muting the message. Dominating the message. I love message clutter. 

Kyle, the floor is over to you. 

Kyle Schonefeld: [00:26:05] Coming from all the students that have worked on this project, there has been a time over the past year, that I know every single one of us would be thankful for everyone that is able to either generate the word. Go tell your friends, your family about this project and make a donation because we're ready to take that next step.

[00:26:25] We've been collaborating over the past year. I'm excited and can't wait to see who we can reach. 

Michelle St Jane: [00:26:31] I appreciate all of you. I will be putting all my social media behind this between now and the 18th of May. Hopefully you get the first round of crowd funding.

[00:26:46] Thank you, you all for being here. Thank you for all that you do.

Moriba Jah: [00:26:53]  Contribute, please, everyone. Thank you. 

Outro: Dr. Michelle St Jane is of conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for real talk around life, leadership and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires. Your support is valued. Please subscribe, leave a review and a rating. More importantly, share with your connections.

Erin Riley Profile Photo

Erin Riley

Creator - Strategist - Educator

Executive Producer for Eyes on the Sky, a transmedia story world project.
She is the inaugural Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Moody College. She is an innovator, director, founder, educator, strategist with 20 years of experience inventing new approaches, products, services and experiences. She is founder of ReillyWorks, LLC helping others to understand and strategize about storytelling, engagement, play and learning through emergent technology.

Dr. Moriba Jah Profile Photo

Dr. Moriba Jah

Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, The University of Texas at Austin

Moriba is the Expert / Producer of the team for Eyes on the Sky, creating a transmedia story. He is a space environmentalist and an activist, associate professor of aerospace engineering, director for computational astronautical sciences and technologies. Moriba is a specialist in orbital mechanics. He created the Astraea graph, which checks over 26,000 satellites and objects in orbit around the earth.

Sven Ortel Profile Photo

Sven Ortel

Creative Director

Sven is the creative director for Eyes on the Sky, a transmedia story world project. He is an associate professor at University of Austin, Texas. Sven, a pioneer in his field, is passionate about digital technologies and live in designing projections and imagery for immersive storytelling.

Dr. Lucy Atkinson Profile Photo

Dr. Lucy Atkinson


Researcher on the Eyes on the Sky, a transmedia story world project. Lucy is a senior faculty research affiliate and expert in environmental communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

Kyle Schonefield Profile Photo

Kyle Schonefield

Assistant Producer / Student Eyes on the Sky, a transmedia story world project

Kyle is TikTok's as a Brand Development Manager